Archives for January 2007

Great Advice for Successful Presentations

I am preparing several new presentations for a few new clients.  Getting the client is one thing.  Satisfying the client is quite another thing.  How do you know what will work or not?  How do you really get to know what the client expects?  What standard do you have to meet in order for the client to refer or retain your services?

I always “sweat the details” when I give a presentation.  I know that my content is good and I am confident in my delivery and my ability to be flexible in the face of the unforeseen accident.  Question & Answer (Q & A) portions of the presentation do not throw me off balance.  And yet, there is always something unnerving about working with a new client;  delivering my first presentation to this new group.

This morning, I had my “Eureka moment” while re-reading the book, “Present Like a Pro,” by Cyndi Maxey and Kevin O'Connor:

“Your presentation content will only be a part of your success.  Real success in presentations is measured by the effectiveness of your connection with the audience.  This happens only when you know the audience, why you were selected, and the standard for success set by the person who asked you to present.”

This is the key – It is not about you as the presenter. It is all about them (The audience)   And be sure to give them both what they want and what they need.   But most important of all, be sure that you know and deliver exactly what your meeting planner (or the person responsible for hiring / firing you) really wants!

To find out what they really want, you have to ask and often probe to find the answers. 

Here is how I plan to do this for one of my new clients.  I picked up the phone and asked if I could attend the presentation that they have scheduled for this week.  The client was thrilled that I showed this much interest in his program (and his success if I deliver as promised.)  But, the real pay-off will be for me.  I will get a chance to observe – one week prior to my presentation – the facility, the organization and the audience.  This will give me plenty of time to adjust my presentation to best accommodate my client's needs.  It is a huge benefit for me that I have the time and am close enough to drive down for this pre-visit.

All presenters should make every effort possible to get into the room, where they will speak, ahead of time.  Get up on the stage to get a feel for the room.  If possible, test the audio and visual effects; try to get the lights set to presentation level.  This is standard operating procedure.

What the real professional speakers do goes far beyond this:

1) They obtain a copy of the program ahead of time, to see where they fit into the big picture.

2) If they can, they actually attend one of the sessions prior to their own.  This provides many benefits:  the speaker gets a chance to see the stage from the audience's perspective and the audience gets to see that you – the next speaker – really cares about them – you want to know more about them.

3) They ALWAYS attend the cocktail party (even if they don't drink) the night before; they attend the lunch or dinner (even if they don not eat) or any other function that the group holds while they are at the facility.

4) The ALWAYS mingle with the audience prior to going on stage.  They chat with the audience – and check in with the meeting planner – to pick up any last minute “hints” or “tips” that could make or break their presentation.

I highly recommend “Presenting Like  Pro” for anyone who ever has to deliver remarks in public.  It really is a field guide filled with practical information that anyone – regardless of experience – can benefit from.

Even better!  One of the co-authors – Cyndi Maxey – has a great website where she has (in her Press Kit) a Pre-Presentation Client Survey.  She circulates this to her meeting planner ahead of time.  It is a great idea!  And… I plan to adapt this idea and incorporate it into my website too.  Here are just a few of the questions that Cyndi asks (before she makes the presentation):

1) If my presentation succeeds, what key points will the participants walk away with?

2) What is to happen before and after my talk?

3) Who are a few key people to recognize and why?

Terrific!  I really enjoy going to an author's website to find out more details – and this one offers a treasure trove of (valuable) details!

Did We Have This Meeting?

Okay, admit it!  If you are a meeting leader, how soon after a meeting do you follow-up on action items and key points from that meeting?

a) within 24 hours?

b) before the next meeting? 

c) at the next meeting when you ask for a status report?

If you are like most managers and team leaders, your answer is likely to be “b” or “c.”  And this one of the key reasons that meetings fail – and important tasks get delayed, detoured or deferred.

To quote from the Harvard Business School Press Pocket Mentor, “Running Meetings”

“Meetings that end without a communications and action plan often have no life outside the meeting room.  After all, the point is rarely the meeting itself, but rather the action that comes out of it.”

“Following up energetically is the single most important thing you can do to make the meeting (and any to follow) a success.”

In my years of experience, I have rarely participated in a meeting that concluded effectively.  Seldom, did the meeting leader summarize the key points and review responsibilities before concluding the meeting.  Yes, there were some assignments made during the meeting.  And, sometimes, decisions were reached during the meeting,  But I would wager that if you took a quick poll of 10 people in that meeting to determine what was decided you might get 10 different answers or interpretations.  Is it any wonder why most meetings are a waste of time?

Most meetings run too long – long past the stated conclusion time.  They whimper to conclusion.  Far too many people either “sneak out” or they “tune out” – by checking email, doodling, or passing personal notes – while the meeting is still going.  Those that remain to the bitter end usually rush out to attend their “next” meeting – or they storm back to their desk to get their “real work” done!

Does this sound familiar?  I thought so.  So how do you start to change conditions in your business.  How do you begin to run effective meetings?  How can you make your staff understand that (effective) meetings drive your business; that real work is accomplished during (effective) meetings?

I suggest that you start by putting real energy and effort into making sure that your meetings come to a real conclusion – just like a piece of music!  An effective conclusion might include a brief recap of the decisions or recommendations that were reached during the meeting.  The meeting leader should be looking at all team members during this recap – paying special attention to “body language” to spot those who do not seem to “buy in” to or seem unhappy about these decisions.  (The leader should then seek these team members out after the meeting and ask them to express their real feelings.  Leaders who do this consistently have seen dramatic positive energy shifts in their teams.)

If at all possible, a meeting scribe will have written and posted these decisions / recommendations on a white board or large “post-ti” notes attached to the walls.  This helps to reinforce the message that this was a group decision or recommendation and not just some subjective conclusion.

Just prior to concluding the meeting, I recommend that the leader review the “action items.”  When your team member publicly goes on record  – in front of their peers – and commits to completing “X” task by “Y” date with assistance from “A, B and C,” the results are truly amazing and will energize the entire team – plus you will get more accomplished.  And that is the real reason that we have meetings!

This is your “Communications and Action Plan” at work.  A tool to help your team deliver results and to communicate key decisions and recommendations.  It is not just a fancy way of writing up the minutes of your meeting (which no one actually reads.)  It is a vital tool to running a successful business – a business that is successful in part because they know how to meet effectively to accomplish their goals.

The Pocket Mentor, “Running Meetings,” has several meeting forms (Meeting Planner's Checklist, Meeting Agenda, Communications and Action Plan) that you can adapt to fit your company's needs.  It is an invaluable resource for any manager or leader to own – and use!



The Formula for Success

“The successful person is the individual who forms the habit of doing what the failing person doesn't like to do.”

– Donald Riggs

It has been said that there are no new ideas.  And to a great extent, I believe this.  For the most part, I simply discover someone else's idea and find a way to adapt it to fit my situation.  This could be an idea for a speech or a presentation – or even a topic on which to post to my blog.

Actually, getting the idea is the easy part.  It is the execution of that idea that trips most people and companies up.  And developing the habit of successfully implementing and executing these ideas is the secret to success.

Because, as the quotation from Donald Riggs points out, most people just do not like to complete all of the details that will lead to the successful implementation of a promotion, sales campaign, training program, etc.

I am reminded of this admonition to “… form the habit of doing what the failing person doesn't like to do,” because I have just returned from two full weeks of meetings.  I head lots of great ideas;  I met many interesting people; I had several meetings which could lead to future business for me.

But… unless I work hard at developing the habit  of “following up” on these ideas and initiatives, why should I have even bothered to attend the meeting in the first place?

Following-up and following-through are very difficult tasks for most of us to accomplish.  It is one thing to attend a seminar and become excited about a new idea; and quite another thing to actually work on implementing that idea in your business – it is all of those nasty details that need to be attended to.

Likewise, it is fun to be introduced to some new people at an industry gathering.  It is easy to exchange business cards and say, “let's get together soon to talk,” but… what happens next?  If you are like most people, those business cards just sit in a pile gathering dust – piles of good intentions gone for naught!

I admit it – I do not excel at follow-up and follow-through.  But I am getting much better at it.  I am starting to get into the habit of writing the “thank you” notes; entering the contact information into my database; making the phone calls to schedule the next meeting, writing the article that I promised, etc.

This all takes work – and most of it is hard,tedious work.  It is not glamorous work; it is not particularly creative work.  But, I have noticed that as I develop better habits of following-up and following-through that I am becoming more successful.  I am getting more clients.  I feel a lot better personally and professionally.

Several people have commented to me that they enjoy getting my “thank you” notes – via postcards and email.  Usually, the add, “It is so seldom that people write to comment.  You stand out from the crowd with your follow-up notes.”

Wow!  It really is that simple.  By simply doing the things that most people do not like to do, you can achieve a great deal of success.  When you realize that most people do not like to do a lot of the things they need to do… Well, that opens the door all the way for you.  This opening, shows you the path to success:

“The successful person is the individual who forms the habit of doing what the failing person doesn't like to do.”

– Donald Riggs

Or… as the NIKE slogan says:

“Just do it!

The more that I work on forming these good habits, the more success I am achieving.  I have a lot of follow-up to do today.  Knowing that this is a path to success makes it so much easier to do it.  I can envision the good results and it makes something that could be tedious a pleasant experience.

Let me know if you have had similar success.


Manage Your Career Proactively

Have you spotted a few “bright bulbs” in your company?  Have you had the luxury – or the challenge – of answering a young employees request to “take on more responsibility.”  If so, how would you  – as the employer / manager – answer it?  If you are the employee how do you learn to take control of your career?  How do you prove that you are ready to take on more responsibility.

Via one of my favorite newsletters – “The Motivational Manager” – I came across an article posted on the TechRepublic website:

Nine Options for Improving Your Project Management Skills

Yes, Project Management Skills!  Why?

1) By successfully managing even a very small project, you will demonstrate your ability to achieve a tangible result – on time and within budget.

2) It is an opportunity to learn more about yourself – your skills and your weaknesses.  You may possess very deep product knowledge or technical skills but are lacking in communications skills (written and verbal.)  This becomes an opportunity to ask your manager for help to improve.  Your manager or employer may assign a mentor to work with you.  Or they may encourage you to further your education.  Enlightened firms have programs in place to fully or partially reimburse employees who seek professional development.

3) Project management involves both organizational skills and soft skills (managing people, communications.)  Successful business leaders have acquired and mastered both of these skill sets.

As a manager or an employer, here are some tips for improving the skill set of your employees.  And ways that you can demonstrate your belief in offering opportunities for promotion from within your company:

1) Pass along interesting articles to motivate your employees.  Or give them back issues of Business or Trade Journals after you have read them.  Encourage active discussion of the articles that your employees find interesting.

2) Assign mentors to all employees – but particularly to those who show promise or who take the initiative to improve their skills.

3) Be sure to “target” your training programs.  Training is not a “one-size-fits-all” proposition.  Identify the areas in which your employees are weak and offer training to help them improve those skill sets.

4) Take your motivated employees to Professional Association meetings.  Encourage them to network.  Expose them to the multiple training opportunities that Professional Associations offer.  Let them see the multiple opportunities for career advancement.  I believe that if you are serious about having a career vs. simply working at a job, you MUST become active in one or more Professional Associations!

Read the entire article – “Nine Options for Improving Your Project Management Skills” for more details.  And… be sure to pass it on to some of your employees.  And encourage them to discuss the article with you.  You will both gain from the experience.

Don't work harder; Work smarter!

“Procrastination is opportunity's assassin.”

– Victor Kiam, entrepreneur

It has been said that if you want to accomplish more at the office, you should go out of town more often!

This is not a conundrum.  It is a reality.  Think about it – when you are planning and out-of-office trip (business trip or vacation) you tend to become quite efficient.  You:

1) Make decisions (to act on it, to delegate the task, to file it or to trash it) – There is no time for procrastination.  Nor is there time for indecision – the clock is ticking and you must decide or delegate.

2) Become better organized (the people who remain behind in the office must know what needs to be done in your absence and where to find the necessary information.)

3) Improve your communications (your write notes, leave messages, hold efficient staff meetings to communicate the priorities that you expect your staff to handle while you are away.)

Don't worry that people will get more accomplished while you are away than when you are in the office.  Yes, more will be accomplished – and that is a good thing.  You will have let go of some ordinary tasks – and given your staff a chance to demonstrate their capabilities.

I have seen this happen to me – I left on a short business trip yesterday, and I probably got more accomplished in the last 4 hours I word before leaving for the airport than I normally would have.  I made decisions; I communicated priorities to my assistant; I wrote notes and left message.  I did not procrastinate – I did not have the time; and a deadline was looming.  I became more effective.

Here is a little tip that I picked up from the February 2006 issue of “The Motivational Manager” (which I read while on the plane:)

The more time you have, the more time you waste.  If you're working longer hours but getting less done, maybe it's time to rethink.  Pick one day a week to be your short day – the day when you'll leave (the office) on time, no exceptions.  Then keep track of how much you get done on that day.  You may be surprised to find that when you can't dawdle – you don't.”

Meetings that Run on Time

Good Morning!

I am just getting back to posting after a very intense week at the NAMM Show in Anaheim, CA.  There were @ 80,000 visitors to this “Trade Only” convention for the Music Products Industry.

I was working for NAMM last week – consulting for their Professional Development offerings.  More than 10,000 people attended our free Breakfast Sessions or the quick and concise 20-minute sessions in The Idea Center on the show floor.

I am pleased to report that every session in the Idea Center started on time.  And, with one exception (the speaker finished 5 minutes early) each session concluded on time.  What is the secret?  And how can you achieve similar results with your meetings?

The secret is really simple – communicate your expectations to the presenter up-front!

Since we only had 10 minutes to change sets and move audiences in and out between sessions, this communication with each speaker was critical!

The key to starting each session on time – simple.  I made an announcement that the next session would be starting in 2 minutes and that this was an opportunity for the audience to get comfortable with the volume of their headsets.  This also prepared the speaker to gather his or her final thoughts before starting their presentation.

During the break between sessions, I told each speaker that I would cue them when they have 5 minutes and 3 minutes remaining in their 30-minute presentation.  As a speaker myself, I always appreciate having someone from the association give me this warning.  It is important to end your presentation with a strong message – and a clear direction to the audience as to the next step to take.

Some of the speakers wanted to do Questions & Answers ( Q & A) and so the 5-minute warning served as their cue to initiate this portion of their presentation.

The few professional speakers that we engaged, carried special clocks or other devices to alert them as to the amount of time elapsed / remaining in their presentation.  I recommend that meeting leaders and facilitators have a clock or timer in clear view during meetings.  This helps to guide the pace of the meeting and it helps to ensure that the meeting adheres to the schedule stated on the agenda.

Once again, if you – as the meeting organizer or leader – have communicated your expectations in advance, most people will comply.  The will stick with the time limits that have been set and adjust their presentation accordingly.

A special tip for all speakers or presenters:

Time can fly by when you are giving a speech or making a presentation.  Quite often, the meeting is running behind schedule and you will find that you suddenly have less time to speak than you had planned for.

Always, have the last 3 minutes of your presentation memorized and internalized!  Be prepared to deliver your concluding remarks with power and precision at a moment's notice.  Remind your audience of you message.  Be sure to tell them what to do next.

It is easy to spot an inexperienced speaker – they always say, “Well, we are running out of time.  If I had more time I would have told you…”  Do NOT do this – ever!  It is unprofessional and avoidable.

Just conclude your presentation with a strong ending.  If you have captured their attention, the audience will seek you out later to ask questions,  Or… better yet, invite you back to communicate more information to the group.

Make a lasting impression – finish strong!

Ready, Fire, Aim

“It is better to be approximately right than precisely wrong.”

– Warren Buffett, Investor

Greetings from Anaheim, CA and the NAMM Show!  The show officially opens this morning, but yesterday was a very full day with many association meetings scheduled.  I participated in a few of them.  It is great to see how the various “sharing groups / purchasing groups” are evolving.  More retailers are realizing that they have far more in common than they thought and that there are many benefits to be realized by sharing their ideas, frustrations and experiences.  I'll be posting more about this subject later in the week.

Last evening, I had an informal meeting with a colleague who is here from The United Kingdom.  At one point in our discussion – as he was describing a new initiative that he was planning – he said, “Ready, Fire, Aim.”

Translation:  No one can ever be assured that a new product, promotion or business plan will succeed – or proceed exactly as planned.  There will be so many new products and promotions introduced here at the NAMM Show this week.  The executives and teams that put them together have high hopes that they will succeed – as planned.  And I certainly hope that they do!

Most likely, there will be some unexpected factors that may cause the product or promotion to achieve less than optimal results.  But at least the companies bought the product to the market.  And they will succeed eventually – if they dedicate energy to discovering what went wrong, fixing it and trying again.

But on the other side of the coin, there are many companies that are always “late to the market” or “still deciding” how to proceed.  These companies are suffering from “paralysis by analysis.”  They want an absolute guarantee that their new product or program will succeed; and they will not bring it to market until they have this assurance.

Over the years I have seen this happen time and time again.  Someone at the meeting will always say, “How can we be sure that this will succeed?” And then the collected doubts come to the fore.  Indecision reigns supreme.

The answer:  No one can ever predict precise results.  The marketplace will tell us if they want our new product or find our promotion compelling.  The marketplace votes with their pocket book.  But only if we actually get the product launched!

We can use our research, experience and observation to help us get “READY.”

Next, we need to “FIRE.”  Get the product out the door; execute the promotion; realize the idea.

Only then, can we we really “AIM.” 

Once we see the initial results, we need to get back to work to refine, replace or re-launch.

The marketplace gave us some great advice.  They gave us the answer – or at least a clue as to how we could redesign the product to better meet their needs.

We achieve success through our failures.  If you want to want to have more success… fail more often.  But – you need to learn from your failures – and then try again.

“Ready, Fire, Aim.”

Good luck to everyone here at the show!



Hone Your Message

I participated in a teleconference yesterday led by Jaynie L. Smith and William G. Flannagan. They are the authors of a very important business book, “Creating Competitive Advantage.” I reviewed this book on my blog a few months ago (Click here for the review) and so I was intrigued to receive an e-mail solicitation to dial in for the teleconference. I’m glad that I did!

As many of you know, I worked in music publishing for 30 years. So, I am well attuned to watching how authors and publishers produce and promote their products. Most of the really good business books that I have been reading lately have a few things in common:

1) The have a very sharp, clearly defined message.

2) The have excellent websites set up to offer support, extended content, multimedia features and the opportunity to interact with the author(s).

3) An author who truly is passionate about their subject and is excited to communicate their message.

Jaynie L. Smith is a perfect example of this need breed of media savvy authors. The website (and now selective teleconferences) that she offers in support of her book “Creating Competitive Advantage” is first rate. Click here to check out her website –

Okay – back to the teleconference. Ms. Smith talked about interviewing David Neeleman, the founder and CEO of JetBlue Airlines. Mr. Neeleman is a great leader and a remarkable innovator. Check out his personal blog – or flight log as he calls it – to see what I mean! I LOVE his introduction:

Hi I’m David Neeleman, Founder and CEO of JetBlue Airways.

Each week I fly on JetBlue flights and talk to customers so I can find out how we can improve our airline. This is my flight log.

WOW! How many CEO s or Senior Executives of any company – of any size – actually seek out their customers or experience their products as the customer experiences them? Very, very, very few.

How about you? When is the last time that you rolled up your sleeves and worked the floor? Or went out on a real sales call? Or asked your customers, “How are we doing?”

Try it – you may find that you like it. And… you might find your “Competitive Advantage” in doing so!

On the teleconference, Jaynie L. Smith mentioned something that David Neeleman said to her during the interview that had stuck with her:

“Each week, key managers and I have a three-hour conference call to discuss what are we doing, what they (competitors) are doing, and how can we do it better.”

That is a terrific strategy and it helps to pinpoint why JetBlue Airline stands out from the other airlines. Southwest Airlines also stands apart from the rest. It is worth pointing out that David Neeleman once worked for Southwest Airlines – he learned a lot during his short stay there!

1) What are we doing? – (that makes a difference for our customers)

2) What are our competitors doing? – (that is attracting some business that we would like to get)

3) How can we do it better? – ( to attract those customers now shopping with our competitor to give our product / service a try)

These are three powerful points that I am incorporating into my own consulting practice and will be sharing with my clients.

After the teleconference yesterday, I picked the book out of my bookcase to find the interview with Mr. Neeleman. It is interesting to note that when I originally read the book, I did not underline or circle these points. It took a teleconference to point them out to me. I’m glad that I responded to the invitation to participate!

Some new features on my website

Good Morning!

With the help of my graphic artist and my webmaster – Steven Estrella – I am starting to make some changes in my website.  The first change – how my published articles are viewed and downloaded.

Click here for a look.   We should have all of the articles reformat ed by the end of the week.  Let me know what you think of the change.  And feel free to send me your comments about my website and my blog.  I want to be sure that I am providing you with the information and tools that you need to be successful in today's ultra-competitive marketplace.

I'll be working at the NAMM Show this week and plan to post some photos and articles about the professional development seminars being offered during the show.  If you will be attending the show, please stop by and say hello to me at the IDEA CENTER.  I'd love to chat with you there!

Book Review – Treasure Hunt

I think that this is a very important business book and I recommend that my clients read it – and to take its findings to heart.  The new consumer enjoys mixing upscale with downscale products- to create their own customized lifestyle, satisfy their ever changing “value calculus,” and meet their emotional needs.

Michael Silverstein is the co-author of 2005's best-seller “Trading Up,” which showed us why consumers want new luxury goods – and find them with Callaway Golf Clubs; shopping at Victoria's Secret,;eating at Panera Bread and drinking Belvedere Vodka.  That certainly is an appealing prospect for any manufacturer or retail who has visions of higher margins and increased spending dancing in the head.

In Treasure Hunt, we learn that (most of) these same consumers “trade down” because:

“I'm a smart shopper – and highly skilled at it.”

“There's no material difference in the products”

“My Mom taught me how to be a smart shopper.”

“I can go without it.”

We have all seen these consumers (and I am becoming one of them) at Target, Costco, Lowe's and Dollar General.  The majority are female.  And it is no longer a paradox to see new BMWs or Lexus automobiles parked in from of a Wal-Mart or Target store.  People enjoy “treasure hunting” for bargains not so much because they “have to” but rather because the can and “want to.”

This is a valuable lesson to learn – the “Bifurcating Market” – where you can reach high and search low at the same time.  Just be sure to avoid the path that leads to the boring and deadly middle ground (remember Sears, Montgomery-Ward and most department stores.)

I have worked for over 30 years in the Music Products industry.  Many of my clients are in this industry.  Most bemoan the fact that retail prices are dropping and margins are shrinking.  They are quick to place blame (cheap imported products, big-box retailers, Internet retailers who don't have to charge sales tax, etc.)  But I think that they miss the point – many consumers will happily “treasure hunt” for bargains – as long as it is combined with a satisfying shopping experience – and use some of these savings to purchase the “upscale” products that they desire.

Increasingly, it is the “shopping experience” that is driving the marketplace.  “Cheap” no longer connotes “bad.”  Now, “boring and bland” are “bad.”  To succeed in today's market, it is wise to consider the words of legendary retailer Leslie Wexner:

“People are looking for emotional highs.  Winning companies invent new products that capture the consumer's imagination.”

Ignore the reality of the bifurcated market at your peril – and many companies continue to ignore it.  Instead, learn how to deliver trading-down goods at unbelievable prices or create trading-up goods with genuine differences that can – and do – command a premium price.

I like the format of this book.  It follows actual consumers to their homes and along on shopping trips to discover the reasons and motivations for their behavior.  It is fascinating.  Real people, real stories.  And, it goes a long way towards demolishing our stereotypical assumptions of the “middle-class” consumer.  Regardless of demographics or level of income, each consumer has their own story to tell.  It is unfortunate that too many retailers fail to tell their own story – and attract this new consumer.

One of the best features of this book is the website that supports it –  Click on the link and you will see the real people interviewed in the book and learn more about the research that went into compiling the statistics in the book.  Increasingly, publishers and authors are creating exciting websites to support the traditional printed product.  I like this trend – it is exciting!  I hope that you can learn how to make your own store or products exciting – there is a rich pay-off when your learn how to tap into the “bifurcating” market.