Monday, March 31, 2008

Lessons All Around

These past few weeks, when I've had the time, I've been refreshing myself on presenting; one of my favorite subjects. A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post titled, It's Not About the Slides. It focused mainly on what not to do when presenting; particularly when it comes to presenting with Power Point. Today I came across a great YouTube video of Garr Reynolds teaching a presentation class at Google on Six Pixels of Separation. It's long (just over an hour), but it is packed with great information.

One of my favorite points Garr made was if we open our eyes, we'll see great examples of slides (or marketing, or color schemes and so on) all around us. Look at bill board ads, magazine ads, signs in shops and restaurants. The examples are many! When you see good examples of advertising, take a moment and make note of it. Write it down or take a picture if you have a camera on your cell phone, then build a file. These examples will prove invaluable when you design that next ad or presentation.

When you get a chance, take some time and watch Garr's presentation. He goes over many of the points in his book, Presentation Zen. Just remember, it's long!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Fighting the Urgent

Urgencies have forced me into a series of systematic neglect over the past few days. One of those things I've had to neglect is my Blogs. Sorry for the lack of posts. The smoke should clear by tomorrow.

In the mean time, check out this post over at Seth Godin's Blog. Maybe you'll do a better job handling urgencies than I have lately.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Tough Times Ahead?

Please go take a look at the latest post on Jim Sharp. It has a link to an excellent article by Jeff Cornwall about preparing for an economic down turn if you own a small business.

Friday, March 14, 2008

It's Not About the Slides!

A presentation is a sale. Whether you're selling a product, a service or an idea it's all the same; it's a sale. What we need to understand is people don't buy what you're selling, they buy you. That's why you need to make sure you design your slides around your presentation, instead of your presentation around your slides. The slides are not there to be your notes, or worse; your cue cards. They are there to complement what you're saying. Put too much focus on the slides and you'll wreck your presentation.

This came up with a friend of mine. He was interviewing for a new job and had to put together a power point presentation to show his stuff. The head hunter that got him the interview reviewed his slides and said they needed more color. My friend called me in a panic and asked if I could come by and help him dress them up. I said sure, but can I ask a question? Why do they need more color? My friend said that the head hunter just said they did. I asked if they fit the presentation? My friend said yes. So I told him I'd be glad to come and help him with his color scheme, but the company isn't going to hire his slides, they're going to hire him.

The point? It's not about the slides, it's about the presenter. Do a great job presenting and you won't even need the slides. Add a poorly designed power point presentation to that same presentation and it could flop. Let me give you an example. We've all heard of JFK's famous inaugural address in 1961. Here's an example of a bad power point presentation to go along with it:

If you really want to have some fun, watch this comedian pick bad power point apart:

If you want an example of how to use power point well, click here.

Remember, design a good presentation first; add slides later!

Thanks to Garr Reynolds for two of these links that led to the inspiration for this post. Garr wrote the book on presentations, Presentation Zen.

PS - My friend got the job by the way, and without adding color. :)

If you liked this post, be sure to visit my other blog: Jim Sharp

Thursday, March 13, 2008

LinkedIn or Facebook?

I'm a big believer in networking! Without a doubt, networking has lead to more opportunities for me to grow and move ahead in my business than any other single activity I do on a daily basis. But one area of networking still eludes me and that is Online Social Networking.

If you you asked me which online forum has the best potential, I would say LinkedIn, but it seems that Facebook is pretty powerful for business too. At least according to this article I found today.

I want all of you to click on the blue letters above and follow the link to the article. The writer came up with six business scenarios you might use either Facebook or LinkedIn for. The article was a big help to me in understanding how to use both sites, and what they're best for. Let me know what you think!

If you liked this post, be sure to visit my other blog: Jim Sharp

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Great Service is Still Out There!

Yesterday I shared a post Mike Dandridge wrote about customer service and an article Jeffrey Gitomer wrote about the same. Mike wrote about first impressions and Jeffrey wrote about how good service is hard to find. Well I'm happy to say I had the opposite experience today.

I had a morning meeting in Greenville, SC today. We met at a hip little Coffee Shop called Coffee Underground. When I stepped up to order I didn't know what I wanted. The young lady behind the counter made some excellent suggestions, so I told her to go for it. I asked her to include what my friend was having on my bill. She looked up, called him out by name (he frequents the place) and asked if he'd have his usual. Less than a minute later we had our order and this time I was called by name. Cool!

After my meeting I went to see my website provider. I had some questions, and since I was in the area I figured I'd just drop in and see if they could help. My contact dropped what he was doing and walked me into the conference room. When I told him what I needed, he said he could show me some stuff right then, but it would be better if we set up an online training date so he could have a team put together to help me. He also said that they would record the training, burn it to a CD and send it to me so I could reference it in the future. Wow! I told him I'd call him later to set up the appointment and moved on.

My next stop was my customs broker. My brother-in-law lives in China and he's starting an export business. He was looking for some contact info. She got me what I needed and had me in and out in ten minutes. Fast and friendly!

My final stop was the bank. I used to hate going to this bank because the teller was detached and I always felt like I was an interruption instead of a customer. I guess they fired the old teller because there's a new fellow working the drive-through and he's dynamite. I actually look forward to going to the bank now and all he does is smile, calls me by name and says thank you. Real hard huh!?

As you can see, none of these things took a lot of time, but all of them made an impression. I know this is an overused cliche, but it really is the little things that mean a lot. What little things are you and your company doing to make a good impression on your customers?

Image: CustomersRock

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

How is Your Service?

Mike Dandridge quoted a customer in a post on the New School Selling Blog. This is what his customer said about a funny sign that joked about customer service...

"Did you ever notice, the places that have those signs that joke about the service, are the same places where the service is a joke?"

Mike took the sign down. He then goes on in the post to write about first impressions.

The most important thing we can do as business people is make good first impressions, and the best way to do that is dedicate ourselves to outstanding customer service. Unfortunately, according to Jeffrey Gitomer's latest article in Sales Caffeine, customer service is not very good and getting worse. So we have an opportunity! It's never been easier to stand out, all we have to do is treat people well and we'll be ahead of the pack. It's kind of a shame isn't it. Shouldn't we be treating our customers well anyway?


If you liked this post, be sure to visit my other blog: Jim Sharp

A Point About Free

Seth Godin made a good point about free in his blog today. This is a topic I'm going to be writing about in the near future. Go take a look. It will be a good spring board to get you ready for some future posts.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Flipping the Funnel

Recently on Jim Sharp, I wrote an article on filling your Sales Pipeline. In the book I'm reading right now, Meatball Sundae, Seth Godin wrote a short section that fits well with this theme. (Click here to go to my Squidoo Len and see the book) This is what he wrote:

"Every business has its 1 percent. Every business has a group of customers so motivated, so satisfied, and so connected that they want to tell the rest of the world about you and what you do.

Your challenge is to give these people a megaphone. To switch your view of the market from a vertical funnel (attention at the top, sales out at the bottom) to a horizontal one, in which ideas spread from one prospect to another." *

He makes a great point. We all have customer advocates, and those advocates can be a sounding board that can make your business or your sales boom. Word-of-mouth and word-of-mouse are two powerful tools. Work to over deliver and excel in what you do, and these advocates will propel you to the top!

* Meatball Sundae, Seth Godin, Page 84

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Public Speaking Pointers

This is exciting! I get to combine three if my favorite things in one post. They are:

1. Public Speaking
2. Sir Ken Robinson
3. The book: Presentation Zen

I am one of those weird people that actually likes to speak publicly. I've spent a lot of time studying public speaking and one of my favorite speakers is Sir Ken Robinson. His ideas on education and creativity fall right in line with mine and he is just fun to listen to.

The Presentation Zen Blog is one of the blogs I follow, and the other day Garr Reynolds wrote a post about Sir Ken Robinson. It was based on a podcast he had heard, during which, Mr. Robinson talked about public speaking. Garr included a link to the podcast in his post, but the audio quality is quite poor. What Garr took the time to do though was write a summery of what Mr. Robinson said. I want you to go take a look. They are important points anyone interested in public speaking should read and consider.

PS - Garr Reynolds' book is the best I've found on the proper use of power point and building presentations! Be sure to take some time and watch the video of Sir Ken Robinson speaking at TED in Garr's post. You'll see why I love his speaking style!

If you liked this post, be sure to visit my other blog: Jim Sharp

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

During an Interview

I had a friend of mine ask if she could interview me for a class project she was working on. They needed to assess a small business that uses 3 computers or less and they would come back with some recommendations for software that may be helpful to the business. She thought that On The Edge, a newsletter I publish, would be a good fit.

The interview went well. She and a young man from her class sat and talked with me for about an hour. It was helpful and I think once they go back to their class and make their report, they'll come back with some good suggestions that may save me some time and money.

What I found interesting though, was the young man she brought along. My friend is retired and is going back to school just for the fun of learning. She's not sure where it will lead, but she enjoys the challenge and her classes. But this young man is 26 years old and wanted to get into Computer Networking and IT. So I started quizzing him on what he is doing now that will help him get a job in the future. I kept getting blank stares. Here are some of the things I was asking him:

1. What organizations have you joined that are helping you get in front of potential employers?
2. Do you have a LinkedIn profile?
3. What books are you reading, apart from your class text book, that will help you excel in your chosen field?
4. Do you understand where I'm going with this?

Unfortunately he didn't. So I told him about GSATC and about their Tech after 5 networking meetings. I explained LinkedIn to him and suggested he sign up and build a profile. Since I don't know much about Computer Networking and IT, I couldn't suggest a good book on that subject. But I do know a good bit about Career Networking and I suggested he read Monsters Career - Networking. It is one of the best Career Networking books I've ever seen and every college student should read it. I also gave him the name of an IT Recruiter I know through some of the Tech after5 meeting I've been to.

It seems to me that our colleges need to do a better job of preparing their students for the future. While they're doing a fine job on the technical side of education, they should also be teaching the personal side of building relationships in your chosen field. Maybe this fellow will listen, maybe he won't. I have a feeling that the latter will prove true. In this new economy, we need to be interwoven into a community that can help propel us in our careers. Especially in a career like IT, it can change on a dime and you never know when you'll be hunting that next job.

So my big question of the day is, what are you doing to propel your career?


If you liked this post, be sure to visit my other blog: Jim Sharp