essays, commentary, how-tos, field guides and other miscellany mostly about using social media tools to build communities for causes or companies #meta for sure but also useful for start-ups and sparkplugs
From a response to a discussion somewhere at some time…
“Like the venerable Mr. Christopher Trottier (@atomicpoet) pointed out,… the crazy thing is, if you make awesome art, the stats (i.e. likes, tweets, subscribers, followers, paycheques, accolades, trophies…) automagically come.
It’s when you go chasing stats that you might get the quick sugar-high of cheap satisfaction but no one’s going to give a shit in a week, let alone 100 years from now.
Of course I understand that “business objectives” require performance and things going “up and to the right,” but that is accomplished by being interesting, pushing your envelope, being true to your authentic self, and respecting your audience.
Ergo: Roll your own media. Fuck stats, make art. Create for yourself, let others look over your shoulder. Personal expression is the pinnacle of the assortment of digital creation tools and distribution methods we (albeit awkwardly) call social media.
A riff in reply to a conversation with Isabella Mori and others (FB iirc) about the notable conference/event/happening called Northern Voice and the reasons it sparked such goodness.
My thoughts about what makes events successful and satisfying:
It starts with people wanting to be “part of something bigger than themselves” but then must be coupled with the reality of “getting things done” from logistical standpoint.
This is where communities so often struggle/fall apart with diverging visions – once dreaded money enters the scenario, the fun dissipates.
With this is mind, I find the best solution is finding ways to do things for “cheap and cheerful”… like in someone’s cabin, outside in a park, whatever venue is free, or no venue at all (as we did for True North Media House during the Vancouver Olympics).
As far as this organizational wrangling goes, (and this is something Northern Voice did so well), is having well-delegated committee to move things along.
I do know that there was different strong opinions within the organization, which can be useful, but as soon as any organization starts going to much into the “philosophical” boundaries of the event and/or starts pandering to sponsors, rather than letting the event happen organically (“event” being used very loosely here and could be replaced with campaign, activation, happening, be-in or whatever), the magic dissipates.
Northern Voice was magic because of the freeform parts like “Moose Camp“ and there was an element of randomness which was embraced rather than resisted.
Sponsorship was lightweight and clear and not over-bearing, and the fact that “almost anyone” could be a presenter was super important as many people had their first chance to express some selves in front of a crowd at that event.
This is a big difference from the various models of “sponsors get to speak” or a bunch of free speakers and then paying some out-of-town knucklehead to show up and do their stump speech and fly out immediately afterwards. #NotAGuru
The other part is of course is the undefinable “moment of time” which provides a container for the magic to happen.
In this case, we were obviously on the verge of something new and undefined and unbearably interesting. Certainly this timing is hard to duplicate except when the gut/heart/head all tell you the time feels right – and looking at these warm sentiments expressed by such lovely people here, maybe this is a time in which something is needed (again).
“It” will be different sure, but the difference makes it unique for its moment in time and the community which builds around it.
And remember, this doesn’t have to turn into an organize/branded/annual/sponsored event. It can just be a “potluck/salon/hang out” with wisdom sharing baked-in.
My experience wrangling suggests: Keep *it* lightweight, as simple as possible, focused on the one critical thing (personal expression or what have you…) rather than let the organization organize for the organization’s sake and get bogged down in the *business* of the organization.
Harnessing the passion and enthusiasm for business or artistic pursuits requires most importantly, giving respect to the community itself.
It’s a common mistake of taking the audience for granted must be avoided by:
frequently communicating about forward momentum
As well as off-line tactics, including:
unique meet ups
other events like workshops, conferences or even concerts
And – depending on the community’s purpose – fundraising,.. ergo: whether for political campaigns, new businesses, or artistic pursuits, there are also lots of methods for soliciting funding using technology, social messaging and pledges.
The common string between all of them though is having a ability to articulate a clear message of what the money is for, and what the giver gets out of the deal whether that be stock, prestige, good karma or a pre-release of goods operations marketing strategy.
Any successful marketing campaign will have:
a sensible timeline
and many forms of messaging tune for specific channels and audiences
One size or message does not fit all… so reach your audience on the medium they desire to be communicated through, and with a message that’s custom tailored to what they want, not what you want to say.
Beyond language translation, communicating across geographical and cultural borders requires an understanding of the audience, their needs and desires and an understanding of conventions in order to share messages with nuance and authenticity.
This can’t happen in a vacuum – rather requires true integration and understanding of the culture in order to importantly show respect, and also importantly, avoid gaffes which cause embarrassment and send you backwards on your quest.
Can often be a fuzzy difference between craft and art / technique vs idea – I feel that art requires intent, honesty, integrity and emotion, plus the element of considered craft to execute vision.
Sure tis one thing to play an instrument, write words, apply paints to substrate…, it’s a whole other thing to open up your heart and guts to expose to the world.
Dangerous, beautifully so – even when not beautiful – although often not noticed immediately.
Consider doing so daily. If you want your creations to live a legacy of centuries rather than moments.
Indeed, pressure from others implies our creative work is worthy only when validated by a “gatekeepers” (publisher, label, printer, award etc) – this a false assumption and the opposite is exampled by heroes like Vincent van Gogh, Henry David Thoreau, and dozens more who “self-published/distributed” and made what was inside them because that was their yearning desire.
Ignore the Gatekeepers, Don’t get Precious, Publish it all and let the future sort it out.
These note cards are residual evidence of a “lunch ‘n learn” and/or other spiel presented in some context or another.
As it goes, i can’t cover all of my Social Marketing Kung Fu(n) topics o’ wisdom in one session, so i make a “game show” where attendees choose their own adventure by choosing from these little prompts.
Shared here for future reference.
PS You can hear loads of my spiels about topics including: marketing, start-ups, PR, renegade social community building etc. via the Community Feasthouse podchannel if inclined.
Two separate things happened on August 9, 1995, both by chance emerging from Northern California though they had little else in common. The first was a scheduled event: the initial public offering (IPO) by Netscape, a startup tech firm designed to make software to power the Internet.
I remember walking through the hallway at work that morning, probably heading for a coffee refill, when I saw a clump of co-workers and magazine editors talking anxiously. I thought they were talking about the Netscape IPO, but they weren’t. “Jerry Garcia died,” one of the editors said to me. “We need to replace the front page and get a new headline up, stat.”
Jerry Garcia. This one hit home.
Nobody said “going viral” yet by the summer of 1995, but that’s exactly what Jerry Garcia’s death did, and it was pretty much the biggest anything had gone viral anywhere up to this point.
Jerry Garcia’s death was the first major spontaneous news event to break big on the Internet, and the first of many to follow. There is one simple reason why it took a Grateful Dead member’s death to inspire the world’s first flash mob: the Internet’s early-adopter user base was heavy with educators and scientists and technologists, and educators and scientists and technologists tend to love the Grateful Dead. There was also a remarkable preponderance of Deadheads at magazines like WIRED as well as among the Internet’s most well-known early voices, like lyricist John Perry Barlow, who had recently emerged as the co-founder of the freedom-minded Electronic Frontier Foundation.
It’s because the World Wide Web and the Grateful Dead loved each other so well that August 9, 1995 turned out to be the first day I ever used the Internet to find out where I would be going that evening.
This day was pivotal for me and the day *everything* changed for me. I was a Deadhead and living on th e island of Guam after leaving Japan for a visa run and, after finding i was somehow very employable, i stayed on. Then, 1995 came and instead of joining my pals from BC, Canada and Utah and all points in between, i figured i’d work one for season as a Japanese speaking host at a private beach club – which sounds like a dream job but i could feel my brain atrophying and i’d imagine myself 20 years later as a character from a Jimmy Buffet song…And then in the weird time shifted hours of a 17 hour difference, i got the call that Jerry died. I was crushed and flummoxed and didnt go to work and instead starting making calls to find out “what happened? when’s the tribute? what the fck?” etc.
I couldnt learn a thing and the newspapers operating on a day or two delay was no help – of course this hippie didnt have a TV and then again, watching some make-upped clown on CNN tell me the generic anecdotes was not what i needed. So i went down to a park where i thought i might find some other Heads and sure enough, i found tribe of wide-eyed wonderers in the same state of mind.
I passed around a few little pinner joints – not worthy of the big man but did what i could – and commiserated with the assembled mix of oddballs who end on the island avoiding <something>. And then 2 haoles walked up and started asking questions. By that time, despite my heritage felt mostly local and raised eyebrow with the others at the intrusion and instead starting asking them questions: how? where? wtf? and they had all the answers. Mouth agape, i asked how they knew all this and they replied, “We work at the newspaper (Pacific Daily News for the record) and we have the internet.” “Ummm… The internet?” my reply. “Yeah its send words and pictures of any kind over phone lines and onto a computer,” they explained and i thought “whoa computers can do that?”
The next day, their write up was in the paper including a few of my quotes talking about how (paraphrasing) i’ve travelled all around the world and always found community with Deadheads to celebrate the music and counter-culture lifestyle.”
I realized there was no way i could physically get from Guam to San Fran in time for any memorial and instead tried to call friends who i’d roust at 3AM and barrage with questions quickly as i was paying like $8/minute or something. Still no real sense of understanding so i went to an ISP called Kuentos.Guam.net and took a one night workshop to connect to the internet using Win 3.1 and Trumpet Winsock. I couldn’t have cared less about the tech but wanted to see the words and pictures… and over the 9600 baud modem, i began to see Dead.net appear with words and pictures. The page was about 1/2 way loaded when the power went down on the whole island after a (endemic & invasive) brown tree snake bit into the one of the warm electric wires and shut it all down. I had seen the future enough to know that this was something for me.
Since i was a kiddo, i’d made ditto-machined newspapers, punk rock fanzines, the best school reports, and shared little chap-books of poetry and sketches with pals and now, i realized, i could do this at a bigger scale… take all my weird bits of knowledge and share with a larger audience. Head melted i started my first web page a week or so afterwards, a treatise and clearinghouse about the history of Hemp in Japan. The page was endlessly long as i didn’t realize the concept of multiple pages linking together but like the endless scroll feeling of the page — mountains and rivers without end, its seemed organic and right away, there was conversation and community sparked as i quickly met other folks exploring nascent hemp culture. Within a month, i was importing hemp surf trunks and trucker wallets to sell on island and also sending my research out to publications.
Realizing the my lifestyle/hobby of the Grateful Dead was no more (ostensibly anyhow), i made plans to leave Guam and head to Olympia Washington where i could mop up a long overdue college degree and find a place in all of this new web stuff.
Within 24 hours of landing in a strange climate and town, where i set up a tent in the woods by Evergreen College, i met some heady looking guys setting a booth to sell tie-dyes the next day at an annual campus fair. I asked them for change for the laundry and they asked “are those hemp overalls?” Yeah man,… of course this led to the usual passing of the bowls and swapping tales of tour. The next day i learned they also had just opened an ISP called OlyWa.net. “Come on by,” they said. I did and joined up and crashed coursed myself in TCP/IP, POP, PPP, HTTP and all the other acronyms i could and, seeing the 3 dudes werent exactly “people persons”, i worked my way into the biz as the marketing guy. This was a wild great ride from 1996-2000 when we sold it (a whole other story including the acquiring company requiring me to take a drug test… they tried anyhow).
Then moved back up to Vancouver, working for Raincity Studios making new-school database driven content rich, community building sites, Warner>Rhino was a client and was able to do some work on the site which brought me to the Internet in the first place. I added my fuzzy photos and hazy memories to the list of shows and felt something about full circle. Also by this time, my first web project about hemp in Japan had been published extensively and i had High Times staying at my house and related fun and chaos.
Then, moving on i was the first Marketing Head at Hootsuite – a social media tool in full startup mode. We were 10 in a dingy office and i was charged with growing the audience with basically no budget. But years of hustling the Grateful Dead lot and making enough to get to the next show and have a good time doing it, came in handy as i recruited an international team, fed them stories and together built community around our users including epic campaigns at SXSW where i went back to my Dead roots and created the Hootbus which was a modified short bus turned into a party on wheels as we’d roll the streets of Austin getting people “On the Bus” just like on tour — well kinda anyhow. In my barrage of public speaking which came along with the ride, i shared stories (to tech heavy audiences) of building community on tour, the resourcefulness needed to build and move, the “one hug at a time” ethos which i espoused to treat each user like our favourite.
Then last year, The Grateful Dead did the 50th anniversary shows and Hootsuite reached a Billion dollar valuation. Im still the same guy, sitting on a porch with a smoke and cut off jeans wondering when the next show is and how i can share the story.
Ever since performing alongside my Mom in old folks’ homes as a little leprechaun, I’ve always seemed close to a stage, a lectern or front of a classroom — although it’s never been exactly my job per se. Though working at various high-tech-focused start-ups and participating in the surrounding creative community as a whole, I’ve come across a number of opportunities to share my stories through presentations in front of groups of all kinds. And throughout, i’ve challenged myself with audiences, topics and methods to “increase the degree of difficulty” and, as a result, become more a master of this craft.
I’ve spoken to conferences of Financial Services Ombudsman’s, destination tourism pros, two solo “core conversations” at Austin’s South by Southwest filled with the smartest, techiest people around who i managed to engage and educate despite using no technology expect boardgames, onto conferences for both the dying daily newspaper industry and the still plucky alternative newsweeklies, plus telling stories of revolutions at Toronto’s NxNE after a rock and roll train trip in which i mentored bands, and all other speaking series who would give me stage time including 4 times at Pecha Kucha (including headlining the Vancouver All-Star edition), a killer TEDx romp, dozens of endearing student groups, and all sorts of others.
I’ve never been taught how to do this and I’ve never really read a book about public speaking. I also don’t watch others too closely as i want to create my own way of presenting.
So, for what its worth, here are tactics and distillations of what works for me. I expect you’ll remix, re-envision and re-create your own way and share on with others.
Mantra: Edutainment and Inspiration
First of all, no matter what kind of presentation you’re going to give to whatever kind of audience, you have to think of your chance as a little bit of performance art, not a “talk” not a “presentation” — this is storytime. You’re there to entertain as well as to educate. But there is also a piece of inspiration, that something more that’s going to get people talking about you and what you had to say, which will of course turn into more gigs and more success for your tour or other aspirations. Remember this as you read on. Entertain, Educate, Inspire.
Slides Are Not The Talk
Think about your goal, it isn’t just to tell people about your topic. They can find the information in other forms elsewhere. Your goal is to find a little bit of a state of flow with your audience and take them on a journey. Along the way, they pick up nuggets of knowledge.
To commit to this throughout your talk, I give them something more than they’re expecting.
Here’s how to get them there:
First of all your slides are not your talk. Over the last bunch of years as various presentation software tools emerged with handy pre-planned templates of bulleted lists and flashy transitions, public speaking in the corporate world has (often) turned into reading from bulleted lists over a blue marbled background on a dreaded PowerPoint slide and trying to interpret poorly displayed graphs and apologize for bad clip art. This is ridiculous and should never be done. In fact, this destroys storytelling and i’d suggest is amongst the poorest ways to share information. The inspiration is lost, the entertainment gone in a series of groans from the audience as they spend the time checking emails before flaccid clapping at the end.
Instead, there are many different ways to augment and add a mixed media component to your talk if you choose. Do you play accordion? Bring that up for a little bit. When I saw Josh Fox, a documentary filmmaker sharing stories about the negative impact of “fracking” on health and communities, he lightened the heavy topic with a banjo accompaniment. Unexpected and changed the mood and made for a talk no one spaced out on.
Either way, don’t depend on your slides. Let me give you an example: When I spoke at South by Southwest in Austin, Texas,I knew the audience would include many of the most digitally curious and technologically connected people really on the planet. They’ve all seen the gadgets and gizmos and they have all sat through loads of talks at dozens of conferences that pop up for this industry. So I knew I had to do a little something different.
So instead of a slide deck and a microphone, I went a little “acoustic” as it were and brought an old, timey suitcase (made in Alcatraz with prisoner labour) filled with various props for a talk called “Fck Stats, Make Art.” Some of props were collage art, some hardback books, a smoking jacket, postcards, letters and artifacts all arranged in the suitcase as it corresponded with my talk.
This gave a real intimate tactile experience, as I was able to interact and walk around with these props through the audience which building anticipation about “what would come out next”. People could get an up-close look, pass it around amongst themselves and even participate in an interactive component where they reached into an envelope to pull out a card — the kept the cards as a momento which also provided a reason to come say hello to me and ask more about the image on the cards or just get a signature. These artifacts all supported the educational points which would otherwise lived as a bulleted list on a PowerPoint slide, but instead the “analog” components kept the audience involved in a very tactile way that they weren’t expecting.
It was so much fun that i recreated the vibe two years later at the same conference in which i channelled Mark Twain and shared stories about crowd-sourcing while using Tom Sawyer’s story of white washing the fence as the over-arching metaphor and then articulated the examples of projects with boardgames boards which were liberated and decorated with artifacts. I could stroll the room, in smoking jacket and pipe, while giving up close views who were eager to see the details rather than rolling eyes at a fancy slide transition.
Make Awsum Slides
I often times do use slides, so don’t get me wrong. But these images are meant to be wallpaper, decorations, and inspiration behind you, not to be the notes or the cliff notes of what you’re talking about.
My usual style for slides is simple: one interesting picture which i can build mystery and metaphor around (stretched and bled out to the edges) and three words (usually in white san serif on a black bar towards the bottom of the image. I keep the slides simple and this also gives me a chance to dig into my own photo collection from over the years and pull out all those weird photos that somehow you can tie a story to which has nothing to do with the original image.
My Mom scanned in thousands of childhood photos (including all the dorky ones you’d never want anyone to see) which provided me a rights-cleared stock archive of interesting images which no filters or disclaimers required.
Another way to prepare slides it to “papercraft” each into unique works of art which can “storyboard: your points out with a variety of imagery. And these images all act as reminders of the stories and points to cover without relying on cue cards or teleprompters.
In some cases (i.e. SXSW) when i was in a more intimate sized room, i could walk around or pass around the paper artifacts. The audience were gentle as they realized the care of the construction and could “find their favorite,” take a photo to share because they experienced a physical connection to this information which is usually created and displayed digitally and coldly. Holding something made from scissors and glue creates an entirely new emotional reaction and sensory hit which harkens back to early days when we all used seemingly rudimentary materials for art projects.
The other benefit for you as s speaker (besides having a set of wicked paperpoint slides in your files) is: when preparing the slides, we easily fall into a state of clear understanding of your talk. You’ve spent an hour or more on each slide, so you no longer need the scaffolding of cue cards, the stories are self-evident in the art you’ve created.
When presenting the same talk in a larger venue requiring slide (Pecha Kucha), my pal, the noted photographer @kk, took photos of me in his brick walled loft holding each sign. My hands, my sweater, the wall, and occasionally a bit of my beard appears but, this too allows the audience to see the analog/digital remix process which went into the creation.
Even though I work (often anyhow) in social software technology, and I’m often talking about software, I very, very, rarely ever show a screenshot unless it’s to support a story — and heaven forbid — please never add another pie chart or graph going up and to the right. Those results can be a great thing to tell in your story, or pass along resources that people can download later, but don’t burn a slide on a visual which has lost meaning due to overuse.
Overall, the sentiment that “serious technical information needs to be presented in a linear, serious way which we’ve always done (since Office 95 anyhow)…” to be is simply wrong. I’ve seen engineers, programmers and scientists be candid, insightful, and even funny by tailoring their remarks to the audience in a compelling, calculated manner using stories the attendees could relate to.
Let Robots Help
It used to be at the beginning of talks, the moderator would politely ask, “Please turn off your cellphones, pay attention, and put those laptops down.” But i protest! I want you using devices and amplifying my thoughts and sharing the bits you found useful. Whether they are taking notes, sending tweets, live blogging, mind mapping or drawing pictures, taking photos, whatever — encourage the audience to get up and participate.
Sure at some conferences, there are people who are tuned out and checking their e-mail — I don’t even know why they show up, or others who may get prickly at the rights and atmosphere of capturing media (i.e. they have an “official” photographer who is now where to be seen after taking one shot, posting it a low-resolution and adding a copyright watermark on it, Forget that, i’ll take the snaps from the audience so encourage people to pull out their phones: Ustream in their buddies for a few minutes,;take some Instagrams; and, send out some Tweets.
Make sure you declare a hashtag for your talk. (If you don’t know what this is, that’s the little Twitter thing with a number sign in front of it that allows people to tie into the conversation easily). I often use #daveostory or something simple and not confusing. Also consider displaying a Twitter feed right alongside of your talk where people can add in their comments and their thoughts, and add another dimension to your talk. This scares some presenters and some event promoters as a crappy talk can turn the audience unruly in a hurry and embarrass, insult or disagree with the presenter. Set some ground rules, have a moderator and remind the audience that there “dickhead” comments are public and you’ll be shaming them later.
You’ve heard a million times that people fear public speaking more than… well anything… so the curmudgeon in the audience is likely just letting their inner-jerk out. Roll with it as the benefits of having dozens of hundreds of tweets with your #hashtag and name and thoughts contained within are too valuable to pass up. Suddenly your talk is sorta live everywhere and you’ll know from the reactions, what points hit home and what fell flat.
Wear Your Uniform
I’ve read articles positing that you are supposed to dress “a little bit nicer” than your audience is expected to dress — you are hired help remember. The audience might be at a retreat so they might be business casual, but you should take a step up with a tie and polished shoes.
I don’t really subscribe to this assertion (though I’m sure it rings true for many) because I think any public appearance you make in a (professional or otherwise) capacity as a speaker is an opportunity to show who you really are. Ergo: Show your real personality and show what kind of character you are. What would you usually wear if you were just going out and about on another day out? You don’t want to be too schleppy or casual but think about it this way. Soldiers have their uniform. Athletes have their uniform. And you as a public speaker should have your uniform, too.
In my case, and also there is a mental thing to it where you never have to worry about what am I going to wear and there is some good luck that rubs off in those accoutrements you add to yourself on “game day.” In my case, I have an old timey trilby-style hat which goes with me everywhere when I go to speaking gigs and has become part of the shtick. When I have that hat on I know it’s game on, right.
Now I also had a red velvet jacket that mysteriously went missing at South by Southwest this year and I have worn that for the last whole bunch of speaking gigs. So I hope not all my magic is lost with that! In the meantime, i often seek unique pieces which will be comfy on stage, photograph well, and accentuate who i am rather than being “just another tech dude in a off the rack grey suit.” Boring.
One of my favorite public speakers is global political columnist, Gwynne Dyer. He always seems to wear a beat up old brown leather jacket — the jacket has taken on a bit of a personality of its own and become part of the crowd’s expectations of his brand, although he would likely loathe to admit this.
This comfort of having a uniform removes another decision to make while you are visualizing your talk and prepping to inspire the audience.
Don’t Re-introduce Yourself
I can’t stand it when the first impression a speaker makes is talking about themselves. In my mind, your time in stage isn’t a chance to give your comprehensive bio or C.V., you’ve just been introduced where they shared the relevant info. Also, any savvy person who is truly engaged in the event have likely taken the time to look you up and get your whole dossier.
They’ve read the program, they’ve seen your website, checked your Linkedin, and maybe poked around on Twitter, Youtube or elsewhere. So don’t go up and say, “Thanks for the kind introduction Bob, I’m really glad to be asked to come speak here at this event. As Bob just pointed out, I am the Senior Vice President for Widget Analysis and after 17 years of doing that I’ve also did this and so we will get into that a little bit. So, today I’m going to be talking about…” Everyone already knows that, right. So get right into the point.
Also be genuine about why you are excited to be here speaking. I often choose speaking events in industries in which I’m curious (news media, tourism, youth education for example) so explain where you’re coming from and — assuming you genuinely are — tell them you are here to learn from them, ergo: What challenges do their industry face? What are their misconceptions about new technologies? How are they adapting social tools to fix business problems?
Non-linear Story with Characters
The Greeks got it right centuries ago about the secret to good storytelling is starting somewhere right in the action. Don’t start at the beginning, start just before something terrible goes wrong and work back to it. In other words, start just before the end, then go flashback to the beginning and wind it all up in the end in a way they don’t expect.
Now, this attention to structure may sound more appropriate for dramatic productions or creative writing but this is powerful skill and something you want to think about as a speaker.
Instead of starting them off by re-introducing yourself, begin with a story — not a short anecdote but instead start a meta-narrative which may extend through the whole prezo. Talk about a real case scenario, situation or study with characters that they can get interested in. When speaking for HootSuite, i’d often start with a current event (Egyptian revolution, Japanese earthquake) and how we found ourselves involved — albeit inadvertently — and the unique point of view we saw with our social media tool. This context would keep the topic relevant and also allow me to demonstrate logistical ways to use the tools without having to resort to abstract examples.
By setting up this non-linear story framework, you can share the important points and content with them but you’ll take them on a journey by establishing a context in which to discuss these topics. By weaving a story through the talk, and adhering to the same characters, and real examples, you’ll build interest and credibility.
If you are planning on talking about the changing role of exports from Eastern Europe to South America with Poland joining the EU (I’m making this up), don’t start with, “In 1967 the trade statistics show…” Instead start with introducing the characters: who are the people on the ground; who are the government officials; or, who are the characters who are going to weave in and out of your talk to support the annotations in your talk.
I saw the English folk/punk-singer, Billy Bragg and he did a great job of weaving a story in and out of his in-between song banter throughout the evening. Rather than mumbled “thanks” he he kept on bringing up the band the 80s new wave band OMD who are out on a tour as well and they seem to be showing up in the same city as Billy every night at the club down the road.
Sure enough, this was the case in Vancouver and he was grousing about different things about how they have better busses, they’re always getting the better venues and worked them into all sorts of different context including how he met the Queen and somehow OMD came into that story. So, it was a great way to kind a keep of forward momentum going with your talk.
You can do the same, no matter who your audience is, you just have to find out who they are so you can build this rapport.
Written as a day-job project for InternMatch.com and posted on my birthday, Aug. 16, 2011, archived here for the record as this was an epic labour of importance to me. I’ve wanted to create an “former intern club” of some kind to keep an eye on all those i mentor to some degree, but for now, this is my distillation of most of the tactics i use to keep the train chooglin’ forward in the workplace. If you like, tweet or comment on the Internmatch version.
Rockstar Training School – Tips for Managing and Inspiring Interns (from InternMatch)
Guest Post By Dave Olson, Community Marketing Director of HootSuite.com
From start-ups to established enterprises, there’s rarely enough time for all the tasks and new initiatives on your list. Investing time to find quality interns can be an ideal solution… if done correctly. If you aren’t prepared to integrate your helper correctly, you’ll end up micro-managing and draining your time – while also demotivating the once-eager intern. Over 15 years running marketing and community teams I’ve sponsored dozens of internships and along the way, found future employees, ideal collaborators and even a few friends. I’ve also dealt with under-performers and a few disgruntled slackers who can negatively affect your company culture. From these experiences, I’ve compiled key nuggets of wisdom to help your company reap quality contributions from an intern who truly enjoys their challenging work experience. Remember, you can’t spell INTERNET without INTERN.
Hire Like an Employee
Post intern openings the same as paid openings with expected qualifications, application process and defined roles. This shows you are taking the search seriously and not just looking for a warm body to do menial tasks. Remove the mystery and set the expectation and you’ll start off right.
On their first day, introduce them to your team in an email – be sure to include personal interests and previous experience as well as an overview of the sorts of tasks they’ll work on. This helps the intern feel valuable and sends a message to your team to start collaborating right away.
Upfront with Terms
My internships are (almost) always non-paid. Opinions throughout the industry differ on this point, but it’s your choice to make. Just ensure you are clear about the terms from the beginning. If you don’t have budget, let them know and explain the types for benefits they’ll receive from their efforts: Internships are valuable learning experiences and a great way to get a foot in the door of competitive industries.
Give them a Title
Sadly “intern” is sometimes used as a synonym for “lackey” – this can be de-motivating and even embarrassing for your diligent helper. Instead, bestow a title upon them which describes their role. These titles can be fun but not condescending. At HootSuite, many Interns work on international outreach so we call them International Community Ambassadors. When you introduce them, use their title to show respect for their efforts.
While this seems obvious… Assign your padowans specific tasks with meaning and deadlines. By clearly defining to-dos, you not only keep Interns from spending their days on YouTube, but you give them valuable benchmarks of learning and achievement. We use Basecamp to organize tasks for employees and intern to a granular level.
Reports for Accountability
Each Intern should have a weekly report to fill out (I use Google forms which populate a spreadsheet) and measure some empirical evidence of their work as well as providing space for their ideas and insights and a grade their “happiness level.” This process holds them accountable, shows that their work matters and allows you to get in front of any problems whether for work or personal burn out (especially for international interns far from home).
For start-ups, Interns can fill a critical role to get a product out and promoted on a limited budget. For established companies, they can populate a “farm system” for entry-level employees similar to a sports teams’ minor league affiliate. Interns allow you to cultivate a new batch of talent and “taste test” a number of candidates to see how they react in real-life work situations before committing to a contract.
Coffee is your Job
Do I ever ask interns to fetch me coffee? Almost never. This task is a menial “make work” task for them and (honestly) going for a cup of coffee is one of the best parts of your day. Instead, invite your intern out for a chat over a beverage and everyone wins. Also, make sure they are invited for company events, after-work beer sessions and other “team building” activities – it’ll pay off with passion.
Mentor your Padowan
You are receiving free (or cheap) labor and in exchange, you should share you experience, feedback and inside tips and tactics. Go beyond the simple assignments and take the time to explain the “why” beyond the “what” and “how.” Giving this contextual meaning to their tasks will help them emotionally invest in the project. But don’t coddle– they are humans, not puppies, and your real advice will be of more use than unwarranted compliments.
Part of a Legacy
One by one, Interns come and Interns go, but let your newbs know the legacy they are continuing. We tell stories and share photos of past Interns. For example: one intern left a Danish national soccer team jersey as a gift. Now, this is awarded to the Intern who has shown “heart and soul and tenacity” for the week and is handed off by one recipient to the next… Make an intern hall of fame gallery to connect the people to one another and you may find they end up as virtual friends.
Overwhelm (& Support)
From day one, give them a list of tasks. They won’t gravitate or complete all of them but you’ll quickly learn where their skills are. Make sure they know how to get help from others and at what point to come to you for assistance – without bothering you. Schedule :15 catchup sessions to avoid slow downs.
I promise each new recruit that every task I assign to them is something I’ve done many times before – from stuffing envelopes to assembling desks, the jobs might sound mundane but if they know you’ve done the boring stuff too, they’ll understand it’s all part of the process and culture of a start-up.
Since your Interns are non-paid, you want to ensure you provide some career assistance when they need it. This starts with a Linkedin recommendation and well-thought-out letter. Plus send a Tweet publicly to thank them and recommend them to other companies and offer yourself as a reference for jobs.
If someone really stepped up, introduce them to industry peers, either by email or by bringing them along to speaking gigs so they can make an impression in person. Tip: Start-up accelerators and incubators with newly funded companies are a great next step for your star Interns seeking work.
Keep in Touch
Remember each intern comes from a unique background and you can (and should) help elevate and fast-track them into the job world. Follow their career with interest once they are gone and invite them back for a coffee or office party.
Social media is a key marketing tool for any business hoping to expand their customer base and increase brand awareness. For small businesses in particular, learning how to master this medium is essential in order to make the most of your time and resources.
As social media becomes increasingly mobile, the importance of geo-search and geo-location will continue to grow. Potential customers with geo-capable phones are quick to search out venues nearby. Tap into an interested audience and make sure they find you!
Start With Search
The ability to filter search results by proximity is truly one of the most valuable features of geo-location technologies. Let’s look at an example of how narrowing in on nearby messages can benefit you.
Imagine you’re a dentist in Seattle offering a new teeth-whitening service and you want to find an interested audience. There’s no use reaching out to someone who wants teeth whitening in Toronto if you’re on the West coast, and your time is too valuable to spend searching endless tweets and messages in hopes of finding someone nearby. So how do you narrow down the content?
Using HootSuite, it’s easy to search for terms like “dentist” and set the geo-location filter to an appropriate distance. Soon you’ll discover all messages (using this term) that are tagged in your area.
Be sure to try out different search terms. Use your business name and different industry-related words to paint a picture of the conversation around you. Save the search as a stream in HootSuite to effectively monitor and engage in the discussions within your community.
Get to Know the Locals
Once you’ve seen relevant messages from potential customers in your area, it’s simple to reach out and offer advice, promotions or just say “hello.” The real-time nature of geo-located tweets is perfect for making a good impression by answering questions or contributing to the conversation as it’s happening.
Geo is especially useful if you have promotions on. So someone looking for a dentist will be pleased to learn that you might also be offering a 2-for-1 cleaning package to new customers. You can also offer special perks to people playing geo-location games like Foursquare or Gowalla.
And be sure to append your own messages with your geo-location so potential customers can find you too.
Where to Find Geo
More and more businesses are becoming geo-aware. In order to expand, keep an eye out for anyone mentioning your brand, tagging your location, and reviewing your services so you can reach out to others who want to evangelize your business.
Here are just some of the popular options where you’ll find your friends and neighbors hanging out:
Twitter Locations allows you to add neighborhood or venue data to your Tweets using Twitter’s native geo. This is helpful to those searching for businesses in the area.
Foursquare is a fast-growing location-based game in which friends follow one another and check in to venues. Businesses can reward players for checking in with incentives and promotions.
Facebook Places updates your Facebook Wall, your News Feed, and the Place Page; plus there’s a “here now” option so you can see who else is at the same venue, too.
Gowalla allows you to share highlights from your day-to-day life with pictures, status updates, and more.
Yelp is a geo-aware consumer-review tool where customers can write recommendations for their favorite venues, and search for everything from hairdressers to grocery stores.
And Whrrl is another game that goes beyond checking in to incorporate photos, status updates and will track check-in patterns to reveal new hot spots that users might enjoy.
Remember, check-ins are highly visible, so friends and followers will see when someone has checked in at your location. Encourage your customers and clients to check in when they stop by.
Geo on the Go
Get to know geo while you’re on the go. As a consumer yourself, start engaging with the different geo-technologies available to learn how it all works, and see how others reach out and engage with you. This insider insight will help you to make the most out of geo for your growing business.