Wednesday, September 30, 2015

That time @AmySchumer broke my Facebook page

It was about 5pm on a Sunday, a few weeks ago, and I was on Facebook reading about my friends and family. But notifications for my FB page for The Eloquent Woman, my blog on women and public speaking, wouldn't stop. They were coming in 20 or 50 at a time. So I went to the page and found a small tsunami of viral activity around the day's post: A picture of comedian and actress Amy Schumer, with a quote from a fierce feminist speech she'd given at a Ms. Foundation gala.

I'd tagged Schumer's Facebook page in the post, so the first thing I did was check her page. She'd shared the post, and within seconds, the shares and likes started piling up. Schumer's Facebook presence isn't as frequent as her Twitter feed or her Instagram feed, but she does have 1.2 million followers on her verified FB page. And they loooooove her, for the most part.

By the time the activity slowed a bit--a month later--that post on Schumer's page had 95,000+ likes and 1 share. On my page, it had an organic reach of 4.7 million, with 239,000 clicks, 8,500 likes, more than 300 comments, and 22,000 shares visible; my Facebook insights tell me there were more than 213,000 likes, comments and shares overall. I had a few people unlike the page, perhaps due to Schumer's language. But page likes soared from 3,000-ish to well over 6,000, more than doubling, in a trend that still continues. I'm gaining an average of 50 new followers per week these days. And my post data in subsequent weeks is that much more robust, thanks to thousands of new followers exploring the page.

After a moment of temptation in which I thought about renaming my blog and FB page "The Eloquent Amy Schumer," I settled back to watch the extended results and mull some lessons about various aspects of this episode:
  • Tagging. Do it: Tagging can be seen as a pain, an extra task. But this wouldn't have happened without the tag.
  • My post, not my servers: Schumer and her followers didn't really break my page, and there's something to be grateful for when your high-traffic spurts happen on someone else's servers.
  • The post itself: "Ideas, information, and inspiration for women public speakers" is the tagline for the blog, and on Facebook, I've had excellent success taking advantage of two trends to fuel the inspiring content: Graphic quotes, and weekend postings to take advantage of weekend traffic. Visual quotes from women speakers or about public speaking are a natural value add for my page, fueling not only the FB page "photos" file but a Pinterest board as well. This post didn't link back to anything on the blog, and while some might think of that as a mistake or a missed opportunity, it still generated plenty of traffic and followers for me. Users are smart and the ones who want to explore (see below) do so.
  • Explorer traffic and deep content are a winning combo: In the month since the Schumer post, engagement has remained high. Posts that might have had a couple of hundred likes and shares now get them in the thousands. And many of the new followers who clicked through the post on Schumer's page got busy exploring mine to see what they liked. This is where having already deep content pays off. Users started liking, commenting on, or sharing dozens of other graphic quotes in the photos file on the page, or clicking through and reading blog posts promoted on the page. My entire backlist of posts has had a new influx of readership, thanks to this one post. In the month since, it is not uncommon for me to check my notifications to find that one newcomer has dug deep and liked or shared dozens of posts in one sitting. Since my one of my Pinterest quote boards is connected to this FB page, I gained more users, likes, and shares on Pinterest, too--a reminder that offering users paths to your other social presences pays off.
  • Comments and likes: Some of the male commenters were pornographic, but most of the comments were positive and from my page's core demographic. And there were some make-me-smile moments: It's always nice when Marlo Thomas likes your post.
  • Page likes and invites: If you explore the number of people liking your post by clicking on the number of likes, you'll get a pop-up window that lets you scroll through the likers and see which ones already follow your page, with an "invite" button next to non-followers. I did invite many newcomers to follow the page, but eventually ran out of time to do this thoroughly--and thankfully, many of those frequent explorers hit the like button themselves.
  • Put the sales items out in front of the crowd: The weekend that this tsunami hit, I had a promoted post going from Thursday to Monday for my two upcoming workshops on creating a TED-quality talk. That promotion was highly effective, but I posted again about the workshop following the Schumer post and matched the organic reach of the promoted post. I also had posts scheduled about my ebook on moderating panels, and have a "shop now" button on the Facebook page, and sold some books as well. It pays to have things to sell up and available for all those explorers.
  • The Emmy bounce: Because Schumer's page left my post at the top for almost a month, it was in prime position for fans who flocked to her page earlier this month, when she won an Emmy Award. Cue additional explorers, likes, comments, and page likes. You can't plan for this, but it's nice to watch.
Overall, I'm glad that I had a deep well of content available for the crowd, and that so many of them chose to stick with the page and the blog past that Sunday. And Amy, we can still talk about renaming the blog, if you want...

I've got a workshop on Creating a TED-quality Talk coming up in January 2016 in Washington, DC. It repeats twice in that month: on January 14, and again on January 28, and I'm limiting them to 5 seats per session. Seats are already filling, and you get a 25 percent discount if you register by October 30. All registration closes at the end of December or when all seats are filled, whichever comes first. Please join us, whether your goal is TED, TEDx, or just an elevated, current presentation style.

Friday, September 25, 2015

The weekend read

The days may be getting shorter, but your week probably feels just as long as usual, right communicators? Time to change seasons and adjust to the idea of the weekend, with my finds of the week, shared via @dontgetcaught on Twitter and curated here just for you. Let's leaf-peep our way to a respite:
Avoid the dark season: Buy my new ebook, The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panelssign up for my free monthly newsletter; register yourself or your principal for one of my small-group workshops on Creating a TED-quality talk in January 2016;  or let me know how we can work together in 2015 with an email to eloquentwoman at gmail.com.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

On proper organizational apologies

When it comes to corporate or organizational apologies, I can generally tell that corporations and organizations aren't people. That's because they so often fail at apologies.

You need only walk into a Jimmy John's sandwich shop to be reminded of the proper form. As the sign says, proper apologies have three parts:
  1. What I did was wrong
  2. I feel badly that I hurt you
  3. How can I make this better?
It's worth noting that none of these statements start with or emphasize "you," but focus on "I," the person who is to apologize. Not included are things like "I'm sorry you took offense," an awful way of pretending to apologize by blaming the hurt party.

Some organizations shudder at saying any of these things. Admit wrongdoing? Admit feeling bad, or imply that I hurt you? Open up the floodgates for actions I might have to take to make it better? No way, they say.

Let me break it down further for you:
  • "What I did was wrong" is a stronger way of saying "I take responsibility," and it is the magic bullet in this construction, as many a politician has found, since it is so much better to say you were wrong yourself than to have others pointing it out for you. But even if someone else does point it out, this first step is essential. 
  • "I feel badly that I hurt you" is gold, purely because of the last three words. Can you say that? If you can, it will make you look amazing. In a good way.
  • Many organizational apologies leave "how can I make this better?" out of the statement entirely, an omission that is glaring to those who care most about your issue. What should follow that is listening, along with taking up some of what is suggested by others, as opposed to announcing what you are going to do without some input.
My own pet peeve, in personal or corporate exchanges, are those who apologize over and over again for the same bad behavior, as if apologies were a bandage to be stuck on and ripped off again over a sore spot. We're left wondering how much better things would be if you fixed the problem instead of crafting repetitive apologies, no matter how pretty and insistent they are. Too often, I see an underlying "but I apologized!" attitude, as if that fixed everything.

The result of inattention to the proper apology form is a wide range of non-apology apologies, otherwise known as "sorry not sorry." One wag has suggested some non-apology apologies for personal interactions, but my focus here is on the organizational apology. That insincerity in apologies--particularly when it's visible on the CEO's face--can impact your company's stock price, according to some recent studies. So this isn't just an exercise in who'e right and who's wrong, but your future relationship with customers and stockholders.

Here are some components you might be tempted to wedge into your public apologies. Think again about these:
  • You may have overreacted, and that horrifies me: A corruption of number 2 above, this approach shifts blame to the complainer, and suggests--slyly or otherwise, that it's the complainer who's at fault for overreacting. A good example of this is in the response from the Chicago Tribune columnist who wished in a column for a Hurricane Katrina to shake up Chicago, causing a firestorm online: "Many readers thought my premise — through my use of metaphor and hyperbole — was out of line. I certainly hear you. I am reading your tweets and emails. And I am horrified and sickened at how that column was read to mean I would be gunning for actual death and destruction."
  • Me and my intent showed up: "That was not my intent" are four words that really should be banned from the language. The apology needs to focus on what happened and what is going to happen, concrete items. If you are sorry, say so. It's that simple. See "I feel sorry that I hurt you" to get back to the point. As Louis C.K. said, "When a person tells you that you hurt them, you don't get to decide that you didn't."
  • We'll acknowledge this but we don't want to get right next to it: Also known as the "mistakes were made" apology, this one embraces nothing so much as the passive voice. "How that column was read" is another good example, above. Notice the lack of pronouns, a bit of language legerdemain that says, in essence, "I'm not point the finger at anyone, including us." In Washington, an old saying goes, "Don't tax you, don't tax me. Tax that fellow behind the tree," and these apologies take that approach.
  • But really, we're so worthy: It's great that your nonprofit, company, or organization has a long, long record of addressing this very concern. If that's the case, why did this situation occur? Telling us about your history doesn't take away from a wrong done today...in fact, that might make your audiences and customers all the more disappointed, not less so. Maybe you could try sounding disappointed along with us?
  • We were just about to change that: Timing's a bitch, isn't it? Yes, it's good that you were thinking and talking internally about the issue. But the fact that you hadn't gotten around to it yet merely underscores that it wasn't a priority for you--nor part of your working habits. If there's an area in which to say "don't get caught," this is it. Better to anticipate--and address--issues yourself, long before anyone brings them up. And perhaps, say so publicly at the time that you are discussing it, so we all know you are in progress on this issue. "We think we can do better in this area, so we're starting a review..." might be a way to begin.
If you need a back-pocket tool to keep your apology sensibilities sharp, subscribe to Sorry Watch, a blog devoted to tracking bad apologies of all sorts. Perhaps it will suggest some lines of investigation in your own company or organization, or help you stop a bad apology a-borning. (Hat tip to another "watch" blogger, Ivan Oransky of Retraction Watch and Embargo Watch, for the pointer.

(Creative Commons licensed photo by Wampa_One)

I've got a workshop on Creating a TED-quality Talk coming up in January 2016 in Washington, DC. It repeats twice in that month: on January 14, and again on January 28, and I'm limiting them to 5 seats per session. Seats are already filling, and you get a 25 percent discount if you register by October 30. All registration closes at the end of December or when all seats are filled, whichever comes first. Please join us, whether your goal is TED, TEDx, or just an elevated, current presentation style.

Friday, September 18, 2015

The weekend read

Feeling squashed by all those deadlines? It's Friday, communicators, and time to harvest my finds of the week, shared via @dontgetcaught on Twitter and curated here just for you. Enjoy the pile o'goodness gathered below:
Pumpkin spice anything: Buy my new ebook, The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panelssign up for my free monthly newsletter; register yourself or your principal for one of my small-group workshops on Creating a TED-quality talk in January 2016;  or let me know how we can work together in 2015 with an email to eloquentwoman at gmail.com.

(Creative Commons licensed photo by cdn_pix)

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Tell It Better: Borrowing a story

The easiest possible way to start storytelling effectively is to borrow a story, preferably an old, time-tested one. This works well if you don't want to tell a personal story of your own, or don't have one that does the job you need it to do.

This is nothing new, more like a time-tested mode of storytellers around the world. Pro tip: Entertainment storytellers, from the Kardashians to Game of Thrones, retell stories all the time. Not only will no one notice much, you'll find your story resonates well with audiences precisely because it's familiar and well-structured. Here's how to try out borrowing stories:

  • Tell us the story of your team's work: Megan Moynahan's executive director of the Institute for Functional Restoration, and when she was invited to TEDxBrussels to speak about her institute's work in engineering the human nervous system, she needed to make the talk personal--even though the work was not her own. I worked with Moynahan to prep this talk, and think she accomplished it especially effectively by weaving some of her own story into the larger story of the institute's work, a tactic that allowed her to share her own enthusiasm for it. As you'll see, she was a fan long before she knew this would be part of her career!


Storytelling's the big buzz word in communications and marketing. But we've forgotten how this ancient art works. This "Tell It Better" series hopes to revive and hone your storytelling skills for any format, from public speaking in the style of TED to social media. Want a storytelling workshop? Email me at eloquentwoman AT gmail.com

(Creative Commons licensed photo by Isabelle)

Got a panel coming up? Whether you're a conference organizer, speaker, or moderator, you'll have a better panel--and a sparkling discussion--if you plan with The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panels. At just $3.99 in all ebook formats, it's like having a coach with whom you can prepare and bring on stage with you.

Friday, September 11, 2015

The weekend read

Did your nicely stacked wall of communications bricks come crumbling down this week? No matter. Build it up again with my finds of the week, shared via @dontgetcaught on Twitter and curated here just for you. I think you're a brick, anyway:
Build a better wall: Buy my new ebook, The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panelssign up for my free monthly newsletter, or let me know how we can work together in 2015 with an email to eloquentwoman at gmail.com.

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

2 workshops to take your talk from "TED-style" to TED quality

The "TED-style talk" is the most-requested format I hear about from clients, whether it's communications directors asking on behalf of a principal, or the CEO or subject-matter expert looking to up their presentation skills. The popular TED conference and its offshoots have upended our expectations about presenting and public speaking, and that influence is reverberating in businesses, nonprofits, and universities around the world.

I work with many clients--individuals and groups of speakers--who are aiming for this new standard, and I emphasize they should be aiming for TED quality, not just TED-style. There's much more to it than standing up without a lectern, or memorizing your talk. Until recently, I've only offered one workshop on how to plan, write, practice, and deliver a TED quality talk, and that was in England. But now, I'm opening 2 one-day workshops on creating TED-quality talks for which anyone can register as an individual. Both will take place in January 2016 in Washington, DC, although there are good discounts if you register early. Read on for the details!


What previous participants say


I debuted this workshop in April in Cambridge, UK, at the Spring Speechwriters and Business Communicators conference, and have been planning to bring it to the US ever since. UK workshop participant Dr. Lucy Rogers gave the talk she worked on during the workshop at InspireFest 2015. She said, "Immediately after the talk I had some great feedback – both on twitter and in real life. I even got asked if I had given it as a TED talk – and that I should. I was really chuffed by this - I was aiming for the “TED Quality” talk that Denise had highlighted in her workshop."


What you'll learn


Using examples from different TED formats, I will help you think about how to go beyond merely mimicking this popular style to create your own original and compelling TED-style talk. You'll discover how to plan for the video as well as for the stage, and how to think about your delivery, as well as your talk structure and presentation. You'll learn how and why TED presentations engage, inspire, intrigue, surprise, and put forward "ideas worth sharing." Specifically, you will learn:

  • How to get past the obvious and identify the real story that will become your script
  • Vulnerability, intrigue, and more: The qualities that take TED talks viral
  • What to leave out of your talk
  • Structures and how much you can get into the shorter formats
  • How to decide whether you benefit from using props, slides, or a demonstration
  • Considerations that will help you plan for the video
  • Top delivery tips specific to TED talks, from strong starts to gesture, pace, and vocalizing
I'm not just basing this training on watching a lot of TED videos. I've coached more than 100 speakers featured on the TEDMED or TEDx stages all over the world, and on TED.com. I've coached many more to give presentations and talks in the style of TED, based on that direct experience.

Who should register


You should register for this workshop if you:
  • want to give a TED talk, or a TEDx talk, or a TEDMED talk, OR just want to emulate them, shake up your speaking style, get beyond a standard informational PowerPoint presentation
  • are intrigued by the idea of speaking without a lectern or notes, briefly and with impact
  • wondering how you can get your complex topic into a form that advocates just one big idea per talk
  • know, or suspect, that there's no one set format for TED talks...but don't know where to begin
You do NOT need to have a talk prepared to take this workshop, since the workshop is designed to walk you through the planning process. However, it will help if you can arrive at the workshop with some ideas about the "one big idea" you are hoping to communicate in your talk, and be prepared to discuss it.

How to register


You can register for either the January 14 workshop or for the January 28 workshop. Registration is strictly limited to 5 people per session, to allow the optimum amount of interaction. Registration also includes continental breakfast, lunch, and an optional drinks hour at the end of the day. Details are at the links. Don't forget to read my workshop FAQ and policies--when you register, you are indicating you've read these important details on cancellation, refunds, and local travel and lodging options.

Early registration is $724.00, a 25% discount. After October 30, registration at the full price is $965.00.

To get the early registration discount, please register by midnight Eastern US time on October 30, 2015. All registration closes when we reach full participation or December 31, whichever comes first.

Want a bespoke training program instead?


Each year, I train a few groups of executives in bespoke training programs that result in a cadre of speakers who can give talks in the style of TED. Sometimes, their organization or company is preparing them for a major conference, or providing leadership training, or developing a group of eloquent messengers for their cause or company.

I've conducted this type of training for health care executives working for WellSpan Health in Pennsylvania; for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Aligning Forces for Quality projects in 16 cities around the U.S.; and for The Nature Conservancy's Science Impact Project. You can read more about how this mix of workshop and 1:1 coaching works in my post on Coaching a cadre of conference speakers to give TED-quality talks. For more information about such a program for your executives, email me at eloquentwoman AT gmail DOT com.

Please join us!


I'm looking forward to helping two more groups of speakers figure out this engaging way of communicating ideas, and hope you can join us. Please do share this information with colleagues and friends who may be interested. I hope to see you there!

(Creative Commons licensed photo by redonion_TEDx)

Friday, September 04, 2015

The weekend read

That light at the end of the tunnel? Not a train, communicators. It's my finds of the week, glowing in the distance, shared via @dontgetcaught on Twitter and curated here just for you. Run toward the light...
Buy my new ebook, The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panelssign up for my free monthly newsletter, or let me know how we can work together in 2015 with an email to eloquentwoman at gmail.com.

(Creative Commons licensed photo by Yuhui Seah)

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Let me fix that for you: Using social media to prod news corrections

Fewer and fewer new organizations are bothering with--or not burying--corrections, and errors that go viral cause major headaches. Thank goodness for social media, which gives you plenty of options for correcting the record:
  • The screenshot correction prod: Pics don't lie. A tweeter caught the Wall Street Journal correcting without notice a line about Uber's strategy that might have been a little too close to the truth. It suggests to me a new way of prodding corrections: Tweet a screenshot first to establish the record--it's visual and useful, and can serve as the germ for a longer correction post, as below.
  • Twitter debate and replies, part two: Using one or more social mediums to reply to or fact-check incorrect information that appears on another social network also is a clever tactic that at once serves as a correction in the original forum, and expands that further. Often, you'll see the presidential campagins step forward early on such tactics, and here is such an example from Hillary Clinton's campaign. A new role for the press secretary may be emerging here, as Brian Fallon demonstrates in this YouTube video (also posted to Facebook and elsewhere) responding to a series of tweets. 
  • Make a longer response: One of the earliest uses of blogs--and later, long-form Facebook posts--was to create and publish your own corrections and refutations. If you know you're in the right, or have more info to share, publish your own long-form correction, then amplify it using other social networks.
(Creative Commons licensed photo by vonderauvisuals)

Got a panel coming up? Whether you're a conference organizer, speaker, or moderator, you'll have a better panel--and a sparkling discussion--if you plan with The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panels. At just $3.99 in all ebook formats, it's like having a coach with whom you can prepare and bring on stage with you.