Friday, April 18, 2014

The weekend read

Here comes the weekend, communicators, like a brightly decorated egg you had to hunt for in the gigantic lawn that was your week. Time to work on getting smarter by Monday with my curated finds-of-the-week, shared on Twitter and here for you. No need to hunt further:
I've got workshops coming up. You are coming to them, aren't you?
  • On May 15, I'll be convening another session of Be The Eloquent Woman in Washington, DC. It's a subversive new workshop that helps women executives and public officials learn how women speakers are perceived and how to subvert those expectations with confidence, content and credibility. Go here to read how the first workshop went and what participants had to say. All registration closes May 8, and seats are filling, so sign up now.
  • On June 19, also in Washington, DC, I'll convene a session of Be an Expert on Working with Experts that's open to the public. Designed for communications pros who work with subject-matter experts, scientists and policy researchers, this is a popular workshop--and you get an early discount for registering by May 9. This is the workshop I wish I'd had earlier in my career, based on my own effort to understand why the smart folks I work with weren't always willing to cooperate with my communications efforts.
Whatever you're hunting for this weekend, I hope you find it. Thanks for stopping by here on a Friday as usual!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

What's new in my workshop for comms pros on working with experts

I'm giving my popular workshop for communications pros, Be an Expert on Working With Experts, twice in the next couple of months: Next week, I'll lead it as a pre-conference session at the annual conference of the National Cancer Institute Public Affairs and Marketing Network in Columbus, Ohio. In June, the session in Washington, DC, is open to anyone who registers here. And I've just finished adding new content and revising the workshop to reflect some new research and tactics I've learned since the last session.

The workshop is one I wish I'd had earlier in my long career of working with scientists, engineers, policy wonks and subject-matter experts of all kinds. Over the course of my career, I've seen communicators with a wide range of relationships with the experts whose work they're putting forward, from cordial but distant to stand-offs and outright hostility. You may have pleasantries, but no participation, or a big-ego expert who insists on all the attention and publicity at the expense of others. None of those situations really works for either the communicator or the expert.

I think there's a better way, so this workshop takes communicators through something they've rarely seen, a look at the personality preferences and default behaviors of experts, with an eye to how those impact your communications goals. Often, behavior you'd be tempted to label as "balky" or "uncooperative" is something else entirely, if only you knew how to decode it. You'll learn what to give experts to meet their needs while accomplishing your goals more effectively.

This time, I'm adding exercises to help you practice eliciting more information from the experts with whom you work, using listening tactics and cues to which you should pay attention--it's a new expansion of the workshop's theme that communicators need to be listening for experts' motivations and needs along with the goals of the organization. And we'll spend time on big-ego experts with a new discussion about how to tell whether your expert's signaling a big ego, or a big vulnerability.

In addition, the workshop always includes plenty of time for your specific questions, for interactive exercises and assessments, and to listen to others' experiences and tips. For communicators who work with smart people, it's also a great networking session--rarely do we end this workshop without a request to share everyone's emails. And, music to my ears, past participants say it's the "Best training I've ever had. Informative and eye-opening," and a "truly great workshop."

As noted below, you get an early discount if you register by May 9--and if you think that's working well ahead, consider that people are already signing up. Make sure we save your seat!

On May 15, I'll be convening another session of Be The Eloquent Woman in Washington, DC. It's a subversive new workshop that helps women executives and public officials learn how women speakers are perceived and how to turn those expectations on their heads with confidence, content and credibility.  Go here to read how the first workshop went and what participants had to say. But hurry: Seats are filling and all registration closes May 8.

On June 19, also in Washington, DC, I'll convene a session of Be an Expert on Working with Experts that's open to the public. Designed for communications pros who work with subject-matter experts, scientists and policy researchers, this is a popular workshop--and you get an early discount for registering by May 9. This is the workshop I wish I'd had earlier in my career, based on my own effort to understand why the smart folks I work with weren't always willing to cooperate with my communications efforts.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

You're a top communicator. Why would you need speaker training?

(This is a post I originally published in 2012--and stand by today, with a few additions. Is it time you thought about your own professional development as a speaker, instead of pushing other people on stage?)

In every communications director post I've ever had, I saw myself as a behind-the-scenes person, a strategist and advisor. And in every one of those posts, my image was the opposite: Fellow executives described me as the out-front person, and made all sorts of assumptions about my public speaking and presenting skills. It felt as if those bars were set higher for me. No one would expect the finance director or the head of operations to hit one out of the park in a presentation, but the communications pro? Had to be excellent.

No wonder I get puzzled queries from communications pros about public speaking, many at my blog The Eloquent Woman or in the training sessions I conduct across the country. They're apologetic, or defensive, or just confused. "Shouldn't I already know how to present? After all, I'm a communicator," or "Why don't I feel more confident about speaking? Shouldn't I be a natural at it?" or "It's too late now--I've been doing this for years." And while they might create a budget to provide such training for other executives, rarely do they pay for their own coaching or training.

Here's the truth: Just as you weren't born a writer or strategist, you weren't born a great public speaker or presenter. It's a skill we give short shrift to in the business world. Plenty of people give presentations, but few are taught how--or what they could do better. If the skills are learned at all in a formal setting, they're rarely updated for new technologies or best practices, even though the art of presenting has moved light years from what you may have started out with. And just like others, you might be an introvert who needs a different approach to presenting, or a young executive who needs to establish credibility, or a seasoned pro who's picked up some bad habits and needs to unlearn them.

Being a communications pro doesn't mean you're perfect, after all. In fact, I've seen communicators so used to putting their experts out in front that they stumbled when they had to do the honors at a speech, presentation or media interview. Maybe that's too comfortable a position for those of us working "behind the scenes."

Professional development opportunities--good ones--get harder and harder to find as you advance in any field, and that's true in communications as well. Over time, I've found that the skills I've developed in public speaking and presenting are the ones I use every day, just as much as I use that other skill we spend so much time developing, writing. They work at networking events, in one-on-one conversations, in speeches and presentations, when I have to give impromptu remarks or introduce someone--or just explain what it is I do. And if you believe, as some do, that we'll all be entrepreneurs and free agents at some point, take it from me: Presenting well and with confidence will make your business thrive.

These days, I offer training in media interview skills, public speaking and presenting, among other services, and I'm happy to tailor communications training for communicators. While you're scheduling training for your experts and fellow executives, maybe it's time to put some on the schedule for yourself. You can choose to customize that training, by the way. Ask me about a session that gets at your weak spots, prepares you for a bigger audience or a different presenting task, or gets you ready for your next professional move. I've been there, myself, and I'd be happy to help you. Email me at eloquentwoman AT gmail DOT com to find out how we can work together on your presentation skills.

On May 15, I'll be convening another session of Be The Eloquent Woman in Washington, DC. It's a subversive new workshop that helps women executives and public officials learn how women speakers are perceived and how to turn those expectations on their heads with confidence, content and credibility. Go here to read how the first workshop went and what participants had to say. 

On June 19, also in Washington, DC, I'll convene a session of Be an Expert on Working with Experts that's open to the public. Designed for communications pros who work with subject-matter experts, scientists and policy researchers, this is a popular workshop--and you get an early discount for registering by May 9. This is the workshop I wish I'd had earlier in my career, based on my own effort to understand why the smart folks I work with weren't always willing to cooperate with my communications efforts.

Friday, April 11, 2014

The weekend read

Ah, the collection. You save things up because you want to remember them, like all those notes to remind you there's a weekend ahead. Add to the pile this weekend read, my weekly curated collection of finds I shared on Twitter, with a focus on social media and communications. Between us, we'll have a museum-quality array shortly:
About the Heartbleed vulnerability in SSL and all the conflicting advice (change your passwords! wait!), just change 'em. I have now given up trying to remember them all and thrown myself into the arms of LastPass, which minds them, auto-fills them, and even generates and saves new passwords as needed. It makes the entire process you're facing much easier, even if you change passwords now and change them again in a couple of weeks. Just do it.

Don't forget to grab the early discounts for my upcoming workshops--one of which ends today. Registration will remain open, but you do want to save some money, don't you?
  • On May 15, I'll be convening another session of Be The Eloquent Woman in Washington, DC. It's a subversive new workshop that helps women executives and public officials learn how women speakers are perceived and how to turn those expectations on their heads with confidence, content and credibility. You can grab a sweet discount by registering by April 11, othewise known as today. Women from corporations like Google and Procter & Gamble, universities, law firms, nonprofits and more have attended and found it useful. Go here to read how the first workshop went and what participants had to say. 
  • On June 19, also in Washington, DC, I'll convene a session of Be an Expert on Working with Experts that's open to the public. Designed for communications pros who work with subject-matter experts, scientists and policy researchers, this is a popular workshop--and you get an early discount for registering by May 9. This is the workshop I wish I'd had earlier in my career, based on my own effort to understand why the smart folks I work with weren't always willing to cooperate with my communications efforts.
You're the star of my collection. Thanks so much for queueing up here on Fridays...

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

#HistoryRelived at the British Library: A social media case study

I'm a longtime advocate of turning to your archival material as part of a smart social-media content strategy. While in London late last month, I had the chance to see how one organization got users to dig into its archives to do some storytelling on social media--and its approach may well be one to copy.

The British Library is one of my favorite stops whenever I'm in London, but this year, as part of its spring festival, it offered a daylong storytelling workshop, History Relived, that focused on using the British Newspaper Archive as a resource. Participants included social media consultants, ad agencies, actors, journalists and other creatives.

While many of us came to the workshop hoping to focus on a particular historic person, we soon found out the practical decision had been made to focus our efforts on the 1890s--chosen so we would not run afoul of copyright laws and to focus our time with the enormous archive. It was suggested we start with a specialized newspaper, the Illustrated Police News, as a source for our stories. We were counted off into groups, and the charge to each team was to choose a date (someone's birthday in the group) in 1890 and find that issue of the IPN. We needed to identify a story that appealed to us and allowed plenty of characters for whom each of us would create a Twitter feed. We had permission to create likely characters as well as to use real figures of the past. And that's how I turned into Grumpy Grantham for the rest of the day.
My group (pictured above) included two executives from an advertising agency and an actor, and we had no trouble getting creative with our story, a murder case known as the Kensington Murder. Our characters included the accused, his father, the barmaid girlfriend of the victim, and the judge.

Before we began tweeting, we tackled the practical tasks: Choose and research the characters and the story. Find a picture for your character's avatar in the library's Flickr sets (again, for copyright purposes). Find your three acts and agree on them. Decide whether your team will live-tweet or pre-script and schedule tweets. Create Twitter accounts for your characters and make sure they are following each other and the central account for the workshop.

And then the fun began. My team started with a little bit of backstory for each character, aided by the fact that our murder took place on Christmas Eve, so each character could set the scene with ease. We had a good time adding photos--eventually, I found real pictures of Justice Grantham and added them to my feed-- making jokes, bantering with one another's characters, and creating personas. LOLs and hashtags abounded, but we also used facts and even quotes in the news coverage to put words in our characters' mouths. The central account for the workshop saved our tweets in a list so you can follow the Kensington Murder story for yourself. And later, there'll be video and a Storify posted from the day.

What can you learn from History Relived?
  • Social users need training to get ideas and experience with complex archival material: They may be adept at tweeting, but perhaps not as skilled at working with your digital archives. A daylong workshop was a smart idea, and the Library partnered with Crossover Labs, which runs similar multi-day exercises. The challenge here was boiling that process down into a day, and it seemed to work.
  • Open the doors wide: Not only did we get an overview briefing of the archive, how to use it, and how to narrow the scope of our searches for the day, but the library also provided free access to us while on the premises as well as a code for free access for the next couple of months to encourage more uses. And anytime we return to the library, on-site use of the archive is free. That's a great deal, and one I expect will encourage me to search and blog more about the rich array of material.
  • Provide guidance and stand back: Facilitators roamed the small groups to make sure we stayed on time and were accomplishing all the steps, and to answer questions. Otherwise, they stayed out of the way unless asked for help. The creative types in attendance didn't need any pushing to get right into the fun.
  • Cast a wide net: This event proved you can mix reporters, social media nerds, and other creatives of all kinds easily. No need to restrict this type of briefing solely to reporters, as you might have done previously. The participants at this workshop were a reflection of the wide range of people who might have an interest in spreading your content around.
On May 15, I'll be convening another session of Be The Eloquent Woman in Washington, DC. It's a subversive new workshop that helps women executives and public officials learn how women speakers are perceived and how to turn those expectations on their heads with confidence, content and credibility. You can grab a sweet discount by registering by April 11. Go here to read how the first workshop went and what participants had to say. 

On June 19, also in Washington, DC, I'll convene a session of Be an Expert on Working with Experts that's open to the public. Designed for communications pros who work with subject-matter experts, scientists and policy researchers, this is a popular workshop--and you get an early discount for registering by May 9. This is the workshop I wish I'd had earlier in my career, based on my own effort to understand why the smart folks I work with weren't always willing to cooperate with my communications efforts.

Friday, April 04, 2014

The weekend read

This week, I'm in Oxford at Trinity College, where the UK Speechwriters Guild and European Speechwriters Network conference is taking place. Among the highlights for me: I led a pre-conference session of my workshop Be The Eloquent Woman, working with women executives from companies like Google and Procter & Gamble, law firm Clifford Chance, universities, and more. I've also been listening to smart speechwriters (both speakers and attendees here), and am looking forward to sharing what I've learned.

Today's the last conference day--and more important to you, the start of the weekend, or nearly so. High time I shared this week's collection of finds I posted to Twitter this week, curated here just for you, communicators:
I'm chuffed you keep coming back here every week, just in time for the weekend. Don't forget to grab early discounts for my two upcoming workshops:

On May 15, I'll be convening another session of Be The Eloquent Woman in Washington, DC. It's a subversive new workshop that helps women executives and public officials learn how women speakers are perceived and how to turn those expectations on their heads with confidence, content and credibility. You can grab a sweet discount by registering by April 11. Go here to read how the first workshop went and what participants had to say. 

On June 19, also in Washington, DC, I'll convene a session of Be an Expert on Working with Experts that's open to the public. Designed for communications pros who work with subject-matter experts, scientists and policy researchers, this is a popular workshop--and you get an early discount for registering by May 9. This is the workshop I wish I'd had earlier in my career, based on my own effort to understand why the smart folks I work with weren't always willing to cooperate with my communications efforts.

(Creative Commons licensed photo from tevjanphotos stream on Flickr)