Friday, June 27, 2014

The weekend read

There you were, communicators, way out in the middle of the week, and the lifeguard couldn't see that you were not waving, but drowning. Let this weekend read be your life preserver, dry towel and firm bit of shoreline, then. I've collected great reads, leads and data shared on Twitter like shells on the beach, and piled them up here for you:
Dive into the offerings coming up at the October European Speechwriter Network conference in Amsterdam--including my workshop on women and public speaking. Then get to your beach reading. I'm so glad the weekend read is a stop on your way.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Speechwriting conference heads to Amsterdam

The European Speechwriter Network conference is one of my favorites. I chaired it last year in Brussels, and keynoted its partner conference, the UK Speechwriters Guild, in London earlier in 2013. Now the group's fall 2014 conference is open for registration and we're heading to Amsterdam October 23 and 24. A day of pre-conference workshops October 23 and the main conference October 24 will be held in the historic De Burcht castle, shown at right, a jewel-like setting for the words of speechwriters.

You can choose from three pre-conference workshops:
The main conference day will feature speakers from the UK, Russia and the Netherlands, with more to come. This conference typically features a mix of practical and poetic learning about speeches and speechwriting, and you'll hear from a wide range of speechwriters who work in government, corporate, nonprofit and university settings. See insights from some of the speakers at the Brussels conference in my article for Toastmaster magazine, Presenting in your second language.

Americans may be thinking, "Why go that far for a conference?" So many reasons. You'll meet people from many countries--last fall's conference had attendees from a dozen nations, in Europe and well beyond it, even though the sessions are conducted in English. The conference prefers individual speakers with many perspectives over panel discussions, a refreshing touch. I always leave this conference with enough ideas to blog about and use in my work for months to come, and plenty of resources. But best of all are the professional contacts I make at this conference, so many amazing colleagues and good friends. We share ideas, books, leads and resources all year long. You don't need to be a full-time speechwriter to get a benefit from this conference. I've seen all sorts of business communicators attend and gain insights on how to be better speakers.

Joining either the Network or the Guild gives you a conference discount, which comes with additional resources and benefits year-round.

Go here to see your options for the pre-conference and conference sessions and to register. Will I see you in Amsterdam? Please do feel free to share this information with interested colleagues.

Friday, June 20, 2014

The weekend read

There's an art to getting through the week, communicators...but whether yours looks like fingerpainting or a masterpiece, it's time to hang it up and start the weekend. Get a head start with my finds of the week, shared on Twitter and curated here just for you, like a blockbuster museum show:
Yesterday, I held another of my Be an Expert on Working with Experts workshops in Washington with communicators from science, health policy and legal organizations. I'll have another session of this popular workshop for communications pros open for registration soon, likely to occur in the fall. Sign up for the waitlist and for my free monthly newsletter here.

Registration opened this week for the European Speechwriter Network conference in Amsterdam, October 24. I'm leading my workshop on women and public speaking, Be The Eloquent Woman, as a pre-conference session October 23. Will you join me? This is one of my favorite conferences and a jam-packed professional development opportunity for communicators of all kinds.

I love the picture of you here every Friday. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Is your audience unfaithful? Reframing your relationship


I want to do a headdesk when I read articles like The unfaithful audience: How topics, devices and urgency affect the way we get our news. The data in it are fine, even useful. It's the premise in the headline, that the audience is "unfaithful," that drives me crazy.

Let me ask you: Since when did you and your audience get married? Or even strike a civil partnership? If you're approaching your communications and marketing in a "with this product/service/cause/blog/Twitter feed/Facebook page, I thee wed" approach, I can predict a rocky future and disappointment ahead.

More important, the sense that your audience is being "unfaithful" is a sure sign that you haven't reframed how you relate to your audiences.  And without that understanding, you should hang up your social media and communications tools.

Jay Rosen, who wrote The people formerly known as the audience five long years ago to urge us to move to a new relationship, put it this way:
The people formerly known as the audience are simply the public made realer, less fictional, more able, less predictable.
Cartoonist Tom Fishburne gets at it in Inside the Mind of the Consumer, a playful look at what would happen if marketers really could read the minds of their audiences. He writes, "It’s common for marketers to exaggerate the importance of their brands in consumers’ lives. Brand positioning statements are often written as if consumers constantly think and obsess about the brand. Social media from brands can make it sound like every consumer is a cult follower." Or spouse. No less an expert than management guru Peter Drucker said, "Marketing is not a function. It is the whole business, seen from the customer's point of view." And pollster Frank Luntz warns that measurement tools don't always get the audience right. "Yes, a poll is a useful tool for gaining insight and information, but it is only one arrow in the quiver. Without qualitative insight — talking with voters face to face to judge their mood, emotion, intensity and opinion — polls can be inconsequential, and occasionally wrong."

Google engineer Cate Huston, a client of mine, gives talks like Distractedly Intimate and It's Not Me, It's You: When users break up with their apps to audiences of mobile app developers. to remind them that they're in a relationship with the users of mobile apps...but it ain't a marriage. She says, "I hate to break it to you, but their relationship with the phone is stronger than relationship with you," and describes mobile users as "In love. And also kind of drunk." And therefore, distracted. So while users are very fond, even in love with their mobile devices, they're not ready for a full-time commitment. Those developing apps for mobile platforms need to understand that drunk, distracted, intimate relationship before they figure out functionality and even purpose.

No matter which platform you're working on, so do you, communicators. So do you.

(Cartoon copyright Tom Fishburne. May his tribe increase, as he lets blogs like this one republish his cartoons for free, and even appreciates it. Go see more of his work here, and license it properly.)

Friday, June 13, 2014

The weekend read

Did you shake and bake this week...or are you just fried? If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen that was your workweek and rework the menu to focus on the weekend. I've been curating all the goodies I found this week on Twitter, just for you, communicators. I've baked them all into this tasty weekend read:
I love having you here on Fridays. Here, have another cookie....and a great weekend. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Don't get caught without video of your thought leader's speeches

Recently, I was having dinner with two communications directors from different organizations, and our talk turned to TED talks, keynotes and other high-stakes speeches. I've coached the TEDMED speakers for the past few years and while I don't choose speakers for conferences, I work with plenty of conference organizers who share their search methods when looking for keynote or featured speakers.

When I urged these communicators to routinely publish video of their leaders' speeches and presentations, I was in for a surprise: Neither could point to a single video online of their frequent-speaker CEOs giving a speech.

I realized then that I needed the reality check. On my public speaking blog, The Eloquent Woman (which I hope you're reading), publishing speeches in all formats is a frequent topic. That's in part because women's speeches are rarer and also harder to find even when they are given. As I wrote in Why (and how) you should publish your speeches, "If you want to silence yourself, failing to publish your presentations is a good way to start." But I'm not sure I've emphasized that point as frequently on this blog, with the communicators who do most of the strategy and legwork around leaders' speeches.

Don't just take it from me. I asked conference organizer Sarah Milstein--a veteran of many top-level conferences and current CEO of the Lean Startup conference--to share her perspective in What can video do to help you get that speaking gig? An organizer's tips. Communications pros should take a hard look at this gem in the big pile of diamonds she offered:
We require video because we care about presentation style--will this person connect with our audience?--and nothing else gives us even a sliver of a hint of how the proposed speaker will appear to audiences. Sometimes, a good writer turns out to be a lousy presenter. More often, a PR person writes and submits a proposal on behalf of a speaker--who may not even know about the submission--and then we really get no representative info. Video helps overcome all of that.
In seeking good communicators, we're not necessarily looking for classic presentation skills. Indeed, some of the most compelling videos we've seen were shorts that people made for us and that included title cards or walking-through-busy-NY-streets or funny interstitials. Without the usual tools, they did a good job of connecting and telling us that the presenters were thoughtful communicators. Of course, we've seen lots of good videos that simply put the speaker in front of a camera and let 'em rip for 120 seconds.
There are plenty more tips in Milstein's post, from production values to when to chuck what's available and start fresh, so read them all and take them to heart.

It's not that video will get you instant invitations. But it may be how your speaker is found, keeping in mind that YouTube is one of the most-used search engines on the planet. It also will give your pitches a second look, in many cases, and put across the answers to questions that the organizers certainly have, but might not ask.

Let me put a fine point on it and add that yes, you should put these videos online, not just on your own website, but on shareable sites. Don't hoard them, waiting for the organizers to ask. Make it easy for your would-be speaker to be found.

One last note: Don't, by any means, use a fake live audience, populated with staffers or actors. I've had potential clients come to me for speaker coaching and say, "Get a sense of how I speak in this video," only to find it's a slick production number with a uniformly good-looking audience of people smiling, nodding and clapping. On which planet does that ever happen to a speaker? You'd do better with no audience, or with an everyday presentation in front of the home crowd. You don't need to only feature the big talks and perfect delivery moments. So, let me ask you: How many of your leader's talks and presentations can we find in video online? Email me at eloquentwomanATgmailDOTcom if you want a coach to get your speaker ready.

Friday, June 06, 2014

The weekend read

Did this week offer grist for the mill, or mist for the grill? If the latter, I can tell your mind's on the weekend. Try my fired-up finds of the week shared on Twitter and curated just for you, communicators. Sizzle and sear, right here:
There's still a little room at my next grill party, but seats are filling and time's running out. Just five--count 'em--five days left to register for the June 19 session of Be an Expert on Working with Experts in Washington, DC. You do want to be one of the smart communicators there, trust me. We've had participants from international development nonprofits, health organizations, scientific societies, government agencies, independent businesses, legal professionals and many more. You'll get a great new network along with smart tactics and ideas.

As far as I'm concerned, this weekly get-together is grilled to perfection. Thanks so much for hanging around here on a Friday.

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Of taxis and PDFs: Caught behind the curve?

In Washington, DC, taxis are at best a sore point. It took a fight just to put meters in the cabs. Most don't take credit cards or use GPS. But alternatives abound: Stands of easily rentable bikes sit all over the metro area, along with ZipCars and Car2Go and other street-based rentals. Public transportation ridership keeps rising. And the car-hailing app Uber's taken the town by storm, with GPS and credit cards built in.

Is your company marketing like a taxicab business in the age of Uber? came across my desk about the same time as a recent report from the World Bank disclosing that most of its PDF reports--the bank issues nearly a report a day from locations all over the globe--don't get read, downloaded or cited. In The solutions to all our problems may be buried in PDFs that nobody reads, you can get an overview of the full World Bank Report, downloadable, yes, in PDF form. Here are the numbers that won't rock the world, but may change your world:
About 49 percent of the World Bank's policy reports...have the stated objective of informing the public debate or influencing the development community. This study uses information on downloads and citations to assesses whether policy reports meet this objective. About 13 percent of policy reports were downloaded at least 250 times while more than 31 percent of policy reports are never downloaded. Almost 87 percent of policy reports were never cited.
The bank issues nearly a report a day from its various offices around the globe. That's a lot of investment for very little return, even if, as the report duly notes, some of the reports are not intended for a large audience. The Post also looked at the high cost of reports produced by federal agencies on the orders of the Congress, which also go unread. In Washington, there are as many of those as taxis without credit-card machines.

The pair of articles set off a light bulb--okay, a lighted taxi-for-hire sign--in my mind: PDFs are among the taxis of the communications world. Where are our Ubers of communication? Smart communicators will download and use the World Bank report to start a discussion in their companies and organizations about alternatives. Much as institutions in every sector are getting rid of press releases and finding better options for releasing news, we need to start redefining what it means to "issue a report." Here are some starting places:
  • Interactive web sites: On Science Blogs' look at the recent White House climate change report cites its interactive web approach to what a "report" could look like. See the final paragraphs of the post for the commentary. The National Climate Assessment, as the "report" is known, does come with downloads, but they're broken out by topic and section instead of served up as one wad of info. And there are many more features to use to dip into the report contents--here, downloads are an extra, not the main course. Most notable is the way a mass of information is broken into short, digestible sets of information.
  • Add value and insight: Sites like Present.me let you add narration to slide decks--and PDFs. Your narration can be in audio or video format, and the result will be embeddable and shareable. In Present.me's tests, PDFs with the added narration were 86 percent more persuasive than those with only written content. Bonus: It makes your PDF easy to use on many devices and platforms.
  • Blogs: If I had a nickel for every client who told me in one breath "We don't have time to blog" and in the next, "Here's our latest PDF report," I'd be rich and lying on a beach in Bali. Right now. When the urge to publish a report comes over someone, start a blog instead. You'll get the information and ideas out sooner and in more useful, shareable form--and you can do what the marketing-like-Uber article suggests by benefiting from the crowd's wisdom in the process.
  • Conference plus social:   Put the "report" right in front of an audience...a live audience. Convene a conference with the experts who would have put the report together. Add live-tweeting, conference blogs and other interactive social features, from videos of the talks published on the web to links to other resources (what would have been the references and footnotes, back in the day).
  • Length and format overhauls: Psychotactics Zingers blog nails what you should be aiming for in How to quickly get customers to consume your report (and come back for more). It's about informational reports that websites offer for free to engage customers...but your PDF reports would be all the better if you adapted them with these tactics.
Have you reformed your taxi-like PDF reports into sleek, easy-to-use Ubers? Share your tactics.