Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The right two people = "I'm thrilled"

You may be like me: whether I produce, attend, or speak at a B2B event, I always learn something. Of course, much of what I learn is directly related to the content that's presented. Whether it's:
  • a trade or technical show
  • a product or service demo
  • a speech or presentation,
I always walk away with several bits of valuable new knowledge.  (And for those among you who are astutely musing, yes, I do learn something even when I'm the one giving the presentation or speech; in fact, that's probably when I learn the most).

Recently I attended a technical session. An industry association hosted one in a series of discussions on sustainable manufacturing processes, and an application engineer from a manufacturer gave a 75 minute talk. It was a rainy morning in a bit of a remote location and the attendance was not large - probably 10 people total, with less than five prospective end-users. But the talk was interesting, the dialogue lively, and at the very end, the event producer received these enthusiastic words of  endorsement from the speaker:
Are you kidding me? The fact that those two guys were in the room made this event a home run for me.
That's because "those two guys" were from the perfect target for this speaker. One was engineering manager at a global top-10 food processing firm and the other was a principal at a large manufacturing firm that produces goods for that same firm and hundreds of others. And most importantly, both were very interested in the topic and in the speaker's approach to addressing sustainability issues.

Based on that observation, here's at least one item that I walked away with:

Sometimes, we get so caught up in driving up large audience numbers that we forget that the right message that reaches the right audience at the right time is the goal we need to work toward.

Even if it's a rainy morning in an out-of-the way venue -and you're only audience is "those two guys."

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

“Sometimes, you have to go left.”


If you’re a fan of political banter, you might view this headline as a pitch for socializing medicine or taxing the wealthy. However, if instead you’re a fan of the late Al McGuire, coach of Marquette’s national championship men’s basketball team, the statement might have a different meaning. I learned this line was a favorite of the father of the Jim Abbot, the baseball pitcher, whose memoir I’ve listened to on CD while on a recent roadtrip (more about Abbot in a future post).

Seems that the most direct path that Coach McQuire took every day to practice on campus dictated that he took a right turn at an intersection near campus. One day, after hundreds of times of automatically taking the "right" path, on a whim he instead took a left.  The alternate took him away from the city into rural Wisconsin. He enjoyed the diversion so much that once every month or so he “took a left” and spent his time exploring a side of the world that he have never been exposed to during a rough and tumble childhood in New York City.

The lesson for all of us, media professionals in particular? Sometimes, when you’ve always taken a "right” and produced something in the same predictable way for an uncountable number of cycles, why not takeg a left? Always written that lead newsletter article yourself? Instead, offer the opportunity to someone who will likely bring a new vantage point. Have you always created a print narrative to tell a story or make a point? Consider a video instead to tell your story. Always used PowerPoint? Try Prezi for a change. Always produced something of a certain length? Go longer – or shorter. Never used a caricature or illustration? Ditch the photo and commission an artist to create something that will create an impact.

Of course, measure the results by looking at the numbers and by listening to audience input. But if you don’t go left once in a while, maybe you’re not living, well,  right.