“When 60 seconds seems like an eternity”: making a memorable networking pitch

Today I had the opportunity to help the business community where I live. Eastbourne Chamber of Commerce (the largest town chamber in the South East) invited me to give a talk on how to make an effective 60 second pitch / presentation at a networking event.

Unbeknown to the 32 delegates who’d assembled at Bill’s it was to be a journey beyond their comfort zones. I decided to make it an experiential session rather than the usual 10 minute ‘show and tell’ after breakfast.

Here’s the agenda I worked to:

We began by getting everyone to mingle and meet people they’d not previously talked to.  I encouraged them to talk to each other about what they most enjoyed about their job: people open up when they are positive!

 

By the time they sat down (each one with someone new) conversational juices were flowing.

At this point I asked them to consider how they might respond to this question “who are you and what do you do?” Many say, “I am …. the owner / CEO of …. and I employ … people and I’ve been in the town for over 20 years.” 

I noted that it’s not about what you are called more about what you do!

“A Quivering Mess”

Here we talked about what we hated about standing up and telling people about our businesses.  Words and phrases that emerged during the ‘call out’ were: Fear; too quiet; can’t hear; can’t speak; content; not being heard.  We rounded this off with an eloquent description from Samantha Akehurst (“Sam from Audi not Aldi”) of how she used to feel giving a 60 second address.

Creating an impression

And so to the reason we were all there. I asked the Chamber members to put themselves “In the shoes” of the people who’d be listening to them. To focus on:

  • Is it relevant?
  • Is it memorable?
  • The one image or metaphor they wanted people to take away with them.

I shared two images and asked which one was the most powerful call to action:

The majority chose the top image reasoning that it was relevant and in the language of the recipient whereas the bottom image was more about the product and its functionality.

Each person was then invited to give their 60 seconds to their new ‘best friend’. I asked the listener to pay special attention to the key message. I was to discover later how people started by describing who they were and then stopped, remembering my earlier comments.

The moment of truth

All this had been taking place while breakfast was being served / consumed and while I was searching for a suitable ‘talking stick‘ for each presenter to hold and then pass on. I ended up using a pepper grinder.

Over the next 35 minutes we saw a variety of approaches.  Those considered the most memorable had movement, a story, a strapline to conclude and a statistic or quote. Standouts displayed emphasis on emotion, passion and an injection of humour.

Here’s an example of a 60 second story “They’ve done a lot to the property” Ana of Bees Homes told her partner:

Recently we sold a property that had been empty and on the market for 8 months. After a weekend of home staging, taking quality photos and providing a narrative description of the house, a buyer was found within 10 days and completed in 2 months.

Interestingly, the story was relayed back almost word for word illustrating the importance of framing it in words the listener can absorb.  Ana’s ‘partner’ proudly held up a Bees Homes postcard while he was talking and closed with: “And they exceeded the sellers expectations.”

Other memorable examples of opening and closing lines:

Have you ever saved half a billion for your clients? (bespoke software)

If you get locked out call the cavalry (Locksmiths)

Unlike his name you can call him anytime not just at Christmas (on Steve Christmas’ will writing service)

When you are stressed out think Calmer Self (well being)

And finally

I concluded by asking everyone whether they found the exercise of telling someone else’s story easier or harder.  The majority were in the easier camp. Stephen Holt in summing up noted that he had listened more to each story and witnessed some brilliant improvisations.

Hopefully this session will enthuse those who were there to spend a bit more time on the audience and the key message that they wish people to take away.

Stand up KM: reflections on Asian conferences, masterclasses & Chinese Bullfrogs

It’s been a while!  But as those who look at my postings elsewhere will know I’ve been fully occupied with the launch of The KM Cookbook which ‘hit the stands’ last Friday.

A few month’s back I was in Asia (KL and HK – before events took a turn for the worse) and asked to write my reflections for Information Professional.  What follows is the full version of the truncated article that appears in the July / August edition.

Flying, food and fun!

Bottom: the author at dinner with Rupert Lescott (Dubai), John Hovell (Washington) and Janice Record (Hong Kong); top left, Patrick Lambe in action; and top right, Stand Up KM.

Q) What do these photos have in common? A) They were all taken at places I’ve been in the last few months sharing stories from the KM Cookbook.

From London to Lisbon, Kuala Lumpur to Hong Kong, people and organisations are actively engaged in knowledge management related activities.

And at each of the events there were a few stand out moments / presentations. Here’s a focus on Asia.

Asian adventures

In Kuala Lumpur for a Masterclass (my 4th) at the International Islamic University of Malaysia I was looking forward to teaming up with Straits Knowledge and Patrick Lambe. As organisers of the KM Exchange in KL they had assembled a large crowd from across South East Asia for a share and learn day which I had the pleasure of kicking off.

This Peer Assist technique stood out:

  • A session with a panel (I was a member) judging the most innovative solution to a set of “KM Challenges’ posed by pre-selected members of the audience (one was a regulatory organisation).

Some of the delegates working through the “before, during and after” of a KM Audit

The following day’s Masterclass on the KM Cookbook and ISO 30401 was a delight once I’d shifted location and rearranged the furniture to create the collaborative workspace environment an interactive event needs.

The “Are you audit ready?” session was lively with those delegates from a regulatory / quality background particularly prominent and willing to help the group come up with a set of ground rules to prepare for a potential future KM Standards audit.

So, to Hong Kong (officially the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region) for another Masterclass (run jointly with Eric Hunter and hosted by Janice Record Director of Knowledge at DLA Piper) and two sessions at the KM Asia event.

KM Asia was less well attended than KM Exchange. At one point, I was wondering if there were going to be more speakers than delegates, reflecting an apparent disinterest in the term KM. There were few local presentations and limited audience interaction.

Its Day Two, I am leading a mid-morning session on ISO KM Standards 30401 following presentations by Patrick Lambe, Hank Malik and I. I invite the audience to stand up and then find someone they’ve not met. We all continue to stand up for the rest of the 30-minute session hence Patrick’s description of it as “Stand Up KM.”

I penned this tweet as I left Hong Kong for London:

“Great way to end what has been a fascinating couple of weeks in Asia: Breakfast with Larry Campbell. While Knowledge Management as a title is not de rigueur in HK it was nice to note the activity is still very much alive in the way organisations use data, precedent and knowledge of their people.”

The working out Loud dilemma

It was notable that though presenters talked about “Working out Loud”, very few shared their reflections publicly and even fewer used Twitter. I’ve written much on this in the past. It’s a challenge working cross borders and culture to find a mechanism that works for all.

In the flippant “Stand Up KM” paragraph I noted how it’s Day Two before the delegates are encouraged to fully participate.   And that only worked when I encouraged people to change seats and wandered around the audience with a microphone inviting them to pass it onto others.

And finally – moments of laughter (eventually)

For many years when travelling east I like to get away from it all. Often it’s at Silvermine Bay on Lantau Island Hong Kong. 30-minutes from the airport it’s a world away from the bustle of Central but 40 minutes by fast ferry.

I arrived from KL early Saturday evening, took an early snack to get a peaceful night ahead of a busy week. As darkness fell I switched of the AC and opened the windows to let the sea breeze in. A mistake!

Picture by https://www.flickr.com/people/63048706@N06

There was a deafening sound rather like whales calling each other outside the window.

My curiosity stirred, I dressed and went in search of the source. I traced the noise to the drains and water courses that run into the sea.

The culprit, Giant Chinese Bullfrogs seeking a mate! Note to self: don’t go to a beach hotel in Silvermine in April!

 

 

The power of positivity, of space and of images

A few weeks back I went to London for a celebratory luncheon with my fellow KM Cookbook coauthors, Chris Collison and Patricia Eng. I got the 09.24 from Eastbourne to London Victoria. As usual it was composed of just 4 coaches. At Lewes, boarding passengers were made to stand for the next 60 minutes despite an additional 4 coaches coupling up enroute at Haywards Heath. At Gatwick 1st class is decommissioned but still there is not a seat to be had.

It’s the same every day: the “On Board Supervisor” (OBS) apologises for overcrowding noting that 1st class passengers can claim a refund and the passengers fulminate about the half arsed way the railway is run.

However my 16th May journey was notable for a very different reason, the banter provided by “Driver Steve Copley“. From his welcome and throughout the 90 minute journey Steve kept up a regular litany of anecdotes, poetry and humour. At first my reaction was one of irritation. When I took a time out (and gave myself permission) to really listen I began to appreciate how clever and varied his oratory was. At Gatwick (where there was a delay) Steve greeted onboarding passengers in 5 languages and recited a poem as a way of apologising for the delay caused by a malfunctioning toilet.

Intending to change at East Croydon I felt compelled to stay aboard to see what he’d say about Britain’s busiest station, Clapham Junction, and how he’d mark the end of the journey.  Steve didn’t let me down: Clapham is the place where you change for all stations beginning with the letter S – he listed a number – and for those who want to avoid the hustle of the capital!  Victoria, named after a past Queen, is where you alight to see the home of the current one.

At Victoria I sought him out – there was a queue of people doing the same, thanking him for making their by now delayed journey such a pleasure.

It was notable that people had smiles on their faces, they talked to each other and in one case the young lad next to me made conversation with a lady across the aisle who had taught him for just one term some 3 years before. Steve’s rhetoric had created an environment where barriers were lowered and people felt comfortable conversing.

It took me back a few weeks to a couple of experiences in Hong Kong and Kuala Lumpur.

Space

I was in Kuala Lumpur to run a Masterclass (my fourth) at the International Islamic University of Malaysia and to give the keynote address at the second KM Exchange held at the Securities Commission’s lovely offices.

Keynote in KL

Well attended, the KM exchange was very well run (as you’d expect from an event Straits Knowledge are involved in) with the tables arranged cocktail style with plenty of interactive time built into the agenda.

The speakers were part of and came from the audience. It encouraged the collaboration that occured.

Getting among the delegates

It contrasted to the KM Asia event in Hong Kong the week after which was less well attended and where the speakers occupied the front tables and the delegates the rear creating an “us and them” feel.  It meant the only way to get engagement in a society where deference trumps demonstrative was to leave the stage and be among them.

While in Asia I wrote a longer article for Business Information Review on collaborative knowledge spaces which will appear in the June edition. In it I will draw on my experiences to demonstrate the importance of set up to running any event. Keep a look out for it.

And finally: when you look at things differently, the things you look at change

I spent last Saturday morning helping Bees Homes Managing Partner, Ana to stage a property ahead of its listing for sale. Previously on the market with another agent and empty it had failed to attract sufficient interest.

Here’s the same room as seen through the lens of two different agents:

As presented by Agent 1

As presented by Bees Homes

 

 

 

 

 

And this is what a prospective buyer (who previously saw it online but did not pursue it further) said when he contacted us for a viewing:

“Have they had work done, it looks so different now and really nice?”

Each of the above examples illustrate the importance of presentation and empathy. You need to get in the shoes of people (buyers/delegates/passengers) if you are going to connect with them. And to do that you need to create the right enviroment.

 

Knowledge et al: view from 46K

I write this at Dubai airport. I left a very fractured and troubled nation that is the UK, torn apart by a futile attempt to sustain the unsustainable (maintain unity in the largest party in our parliament).
Without pinning my political colours to the mast I must confess I despair at the majority decision to abandon a group that has been in part responsible for peace in Europe these last 75 years. The rush towards right wing nationalism across the globe is in no one’s long term interest and terrifies me as does the bellicose rhetoric that passes for debate.
It’s a good time to reflect on what’s gone and what’s to come.

Knowledge Management: the future

I was interested to see James Robertson and his team at Step Two in Australia post this week that Knowledge management isn’t dead, it’s more important than ever!and describe a number of assignments they’ve done at the practical end of KM.  That they (an excellent Digital Workplace and Intranet focused group) should highlight the importance of their KM practice feels significant.

Knowledge Management (KM) has been around for over 20 years as a set of tools and methods for connecting, collecting and creating knowledge. Lots has been written, and there are tens of thousands of practitioners out there—in-company specialists and consultants. Unlike Lean, Agile and other business improvement methodologies, KM has never had a single agreed set of tools, or a commercial accreditation or standard.

ISO KM Standard

In many ways, the arrival of an internationally agreed standard and vocabulary, imbues fresh professional credibility to the field of Knowledge Management. It provides knowledge managers with a ‘brand-new kitchen’, and a moment during which they can pause for a moment and consider the service that they provide to their organisations. I sat on the UK’s BSI KM Standards Committee one of the international bodies that provided input to ISO as the KM Standards were developed and ultimately published in Q3 2018. I said at the start and still believe
“The arrival of the ISO KM Standards (albeit that adherence is voluntary) provides a framework against which KM Programs can be viewed. An independently assessed external accreditation is another key component of the KM practitioner’s path to corporate legitimacy.”

KM Cookbook

The KM Cookbook written by Chris Collison, Patricia Eng and I serves up a menu of success stories and strategies for organizations wanting to know more about Knowledge Management Standard ISO30401 – whether they intend to pursue certification, or simply seek to use it as a framework to review their existing programme and strategy.
In writing this book, we want to catch the excitement of the arrival of this ‘new kitchen’ and to demonstrate how the arrival of the ISO Knowledge Management System Standard (ISO 30401) provides so much more than a moment to certify a level of consistency in practice.
It provides a moment to re-evaluate, to return to first principles, and to learn from others. Imagine you had the opportunity, not just to enjoy a new, well-equipped and fully inspected kitchen – but also the chance to sit down with KM ‘chefs’ from around the world, across different industry sectors and listen to their stories.
That’s exactly what we have set out to do with the KM Cookbook.

Chartered Knowledge Manager Accreditation

Concurrently in my role as Knowledge & Information Management Ambassodor for CILIP I have been assisting them with the development of what we hope will become a globally recognised accreditation for Knowledge Managers. The first cohort of two dozen has being signed up and they are going through a process of submitting a KM portfolio of work for assessment in anticipation of the award of a Chartership in Knowledge Management.

Assignments, Masterclasses & Speeches

I am Asia bound to give the opening address at a Knowledge Exchange Roundtable event at Securities Commission in Kuala Lumpur and then to run a Masterclass (my 4th) at the International Islamic University of Malaysia
The next stop is then Hong Kong for another Masterclass this time with my good friend Eric Hunter followed by presentations / panel sessions at KM Asia 2019.with Patrick Lambe, Hank Malik on the ISO standard and Bruce Boyes, Rajesh Dhillon, John Hovell and Bill Kaplan on KM Accreditation.
At all these events I will be drawing on the soon to be published “KMCookbook: Stories and Strategies for organisations exploring Knowledge Management ISO Standard 30401” as well as the latest developments in the KM Chartership Accreditation.
Then it’s back to the UK for the Thomson Reuters Practical Law event where I will be running a session and speaking, then a co session with Victoria Ward (more of her in a minute) at the UK KM Summit followed by a trip to Lisbon for the launch of the KM Cookbook in Lisbon in early June at one of my favourite events, SocialNow.

2018: a varied and stimulating year

Looking back to 2018 I had the great pleasure of working alongside Victoria Ward (formerly of Spaknow) on a really interesting KM assignment for a global manufacturingl company. Involving the embedded of KM practices into an organisation undergoing rapid transformation it was challenging and stimulating in equal measure and the use of effective visualisation, personae and archetypes key to delivering on our mandate.

As if the above and researching, interviewing and coauthoring the KM Cookbook wasn’t enough I also managed to fit in a couple of Masterclasses in London and Stockholm around the soft skills (the critical 8 ‘ates) of the Knowledge Manager and deliver a few keynotes in Italy and Sweden.
Back in the UK it was the 2nd year of operations for the two businesses I helped establish and run, award winning Bees Homes  and Coastway Financial. Today is the end of both companies financial years so it’s great to report we are on target to where we wanted to be. 
Despite all the uncertainty, Brexit is proving less of a challenge as there is a move from vendors towards the type of quality service we are offering. A key statistic for us is “Property Views” online and it’s great to be able to report we are currently #1 in our region.
Transparency and trust are important values so we are running “How to sell your property in a post Brexit world” on April 16th at Eastbourne’s swankiest new boutique hotel to share some of the techniques we apply to dress a property to its optimum potential.

In the Community

Our initiative to help with the transformation of our town continues on a couple of fronts. The Urban Art idea has gathered momentum and support from the Municipalities CEO and I am helping him and the regeneration team to attract conferences to the town.

And finally

46k is my preferred seat on the Emirates A380 (and the Boeing 777). Check out Seat Guru.com to see why!

Be concise, be memorable: why names, images and straplines matter

For the past 20 months, I’ve been wearing a few hats: author; consultant; advisor; and business owner.  Substitute years for months and it would also be an accurate account of how I’ve spent most of the last 20 years.

Describing that to people is often a challenge.

At an event in Dubai, not long after I’d left a full-time role (as a Vice President in a financial services group in the City of London) someone asked me what I did. Expecting the usual answer (Vice President… / Senior Manager….) he was surprised and I hope intrigued when I answered, “I have a portfolio of activities.”  It’s a phrase I’ve used ever since.

I’d thought long and hard about my response to his question. “Who are you with?” is almost a standard opening line at any meeting during a business event. Those that are interested in the reply will ask you to explain what that means.  The majority begin looking over your shoulder for someone else to talk to.

Say what you do, not what you are called

Often when working on a consulting assignment trying to understand how a business works I conduct interviews or run group sessions. I ask people to introduce themselves and describe what they do. The vast majority say, “My name is ….. I am the …” To which I respond, “That’s impressive, now please tell me what you do in a way that an outsider will understand.”

We all hide behind jargon and headlines which today’s 24 x 7 soundbite society promulgates.  How many times have you read a headline and formed an opinion based on that only to discover that the article that follows says something different?

Our challenge is to distil what we do into a phrase, image or name that is concise and memorable, one that makes you smile.

A few months back I ran a Masterclass in Stockholm for Senior Legal Knowledge Management professionals. I invited them to pair up and develop their own concise description of what they did. It proved to be an illuminating session.

Promoting Knowledge Management is much like I used to find selling Corporate Finance services – it’s intangible so harder to explain and hence easier to diss.

Making first impressions count

#FinanceNavigator – Intrigued?

Every couple of weeks I attend a business networking event of one type or another. Participants are encouraged to share their story in a minute or less. The vast majority waste the first 30 seconds describing when they were founded and where their offices are located. Very few put themselves in the shoes of the audience or leave a lasting image or impression. 10% might tell a story.

On Monday I spent a couple of hours with a marketing advisor. Part of the UK Govt’s “Let’s do business’ initiative wherein companies can access business advice we were discussing the messages a young business might use to describe what it does and who it is.

Adopting a persona approach, we mapped words on their online presence (website / Facebook / Google Business) with keywords we thought their target audience might use. We drew on great 5 star Google reviews to see what clients actually said. And we thought long and hard about navigation, images and metaphors.

A strapline, Shining a light on property finance with a lighthouse (we live within walking distance of Beach Head Lighthouse one of the UK’s famous landmarks) generated the idea of building on a navigation theme and the idea of using the Finance Navigator Hashtag.

#PropertyMatchmakers was a hashtag evolved for Bees Homes a companion business.

Supported by a smiling winking bee logo and a strapline,: “Taking the sting out of buying and selling property”, it features the concept of matching buyers and sellers rather than merely advertising a property on line and hoping buyers will come.

The bee logo is memorable and portable across gender, ethnicity and generations. The hashtag appears in every social media post. Both companies finish any presentation with, “Here when you need us, not when it suits us” to emphasise that ours is more than a 9-5 business.

Valuing and selling property is a subjective art. Ultimately the ‘right price’ is what someone is willing to pay not what the owner thinks it is.

The skill of the ‘Property Matchmaker’ (realtor or agent) is to find the right buyer, sell them a lifestyle or image they can relate / aspire to, negotiate a price both are happy with and manage the supply chain to completion. It’s often about making correlations.

In a previous post on Collaboration, Working out Loud and Knowledge matchmaking I described the concept of a Knowledge Matchmaker and suggested:

…as a Senior Manager charged with developing new business, my ability to match a need with a solution was prized and rewarded even though the correlation was opaque to my bosses. More often than not the intuition paid off. But does the same apply today in a Knowledge Management environment where logarithms and Artificial Intelligence are making the correlations I used to make?

The idea of making and managing connections and networks came up time and time again albeit called something different during interviews for the KM Cookbook. Where it landed for me was in discussion with a prominent KM’er embarking on a relaunch / rebrand of her organisation’s KM program. They too were seeking a memorable image / strapline / hashtag that could underpin their internal and external communications.

And finally

Knowledge Management is a thread running through my many consultancy assignments, publications, masterclasses and pro bono activities. Underpinning this is the concept of how to describe or illustrate the value a person or team brings to the business.

To illustrate: As advisor to a large reinsurance group I would spend a day per month in their offices in the City coaching different people and teams. I recall a discussion with the compliance team who had a terse relationship with the business who saw them as blockers not enablers. By adopting a business consultancy mindset, it changed the dynamic: people went to ask compliance how best to meet regulations instead of doing it and being told they were wrong.

Here’s what I advise all businesses I work with when they try to present what they do:

  1. Make it concise
  2. Make it memorable
  3. Make it recognisable to those who are listening (or watching)

When I was Managing Partner at Sparknow LLP we ran an exercise for the front line staff of the UK’s Museums & Libraries group. We asked them to be “in the shoes’ of their customers, to imagine what it would be like to be on the other side of the desk. It was uncomfortable and required them to get out of their comfort zone to do so.

The best presenters are those who tell stories that live in the memory. If you can wrap the three must do’s into a story then you are on the way to creating an effective and enduring presence.

Thanks for reading this.