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I mentioned in an earlier article how the Gas Can event on June 24, 2016 was “half empty” at best. After the event, I posted on Facebook about how difficult it is, once you’ve produced events, to sit in the audience and not re-produce an event with major production problems.

While writing an article poking holes in the Gas Can program would be easy, however, it wouldn’t have much value for you.

Instead, how about a list of 14 event marketing strategy questions you can use the next time you or your organization plan an event? It’s one way of passing along our conference production experience and lessons to all of you.

14 Event Marketing Strategy Questions You NEED to Ask Early

Gas-Can-Crowd

If you’re planning a conference, ask all of these questions in plenty of time to do something about them!

  1. Have you seen the speakers you’re putting on stage?
  2. If you haven’t seen all of the speakers, have you at least seen some of them to know where to place the strongest speakers?
  3. For the speakers you haven’t seen, do you have an idea of what they are planning to speak about so you can arrange them in a way that there is continuity (and not a violent and uncomfortable swing in tone and subject) between each segment?
  4. To boost networking, have you designed name tags so peoples’ names and companies are bigger than the event name (since people know where they are, but don’t necessarily know other people)?
  5. Have you planned to start the event with your second biggest moment?
  6. Have you planned to end the event with your biggest moment (especially if you’re planning a next event in this series of events)?
  7. Have you made it easy for attendees to create and share social media content about the event?
  8. If you’re attempting to create a legitimately curated event (meaning you are deliberately challenging the audience’s patience and tolerance for variety in disparate segments), have you figured out how to provide a few cues to tie the pieces together so attendees don’t walk away feeling as if the program was a random jumble?
  9. Have you scheduled a rehearsal and made sure you’re absolutely confident with what and how every speaker is going to do (and whether every presenter should still be on the agenda)?
  10. Have you made sure you have a monitor in the front of the stage so presenters don’t have to keep turning away from the audience to see what the current slide is?
  11. Have you satisfied yourself that presenters have strong enough diction, volume, and speaking styles so the audience will be able to understand what they are saying throughout their presentations?
  12. Have you tested the sound system well in advance and made sure it will work for all the elements of your program?
  13. Do you have someone knowledgeable about the sound system and the venue running the sound?
  14. Is the stage lit properly so the audience can see (and photograph for social sharing) both the presenter and the slides

Yes, you need to be able to answer “Yes” to all these event marketing strategy questions. – Mike Brown

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Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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Following our post on the tenth anniversary of the Brainzooming strategic planning methodology, the guys at Armada Corporate Intelligence, who were an important part of developing and testing the process, wrote a companion article. They highlighted 5 keys to streamlining strategic planning based on how we implemented the Brainzooming process as a contrast to traditional (and slow) strategic planning techniques.

In an edited excerpt, here is what they shared in their Inside the Executive Suite column about streamlining strategic planning.

5 Keys to Streamlining Strategic Planning

Planning-Meeting

Most executives can’t write a strategy plan, so don’t make them

We hit this challenge repeatedly. Executives that SHOULD know how to develop and write a strategic plan struggled. Since strategy planning is an infrequent activity, it is difficult for executives to master it. We learned that if we asked executives a series of questions leading to the information needed to complete a strategy plan,  they became productive strategy planners.

Strategy Implication: Remove the tedious aspects of strategy planning, replacing them with efficient alternative approaches. This implies focusing participants on contributing in ways that they can be most productive.

The number and types of participants are critical to developing a strong plan

A marketing manager is generally the expert on a particular product line. That doesn’t mean, however, it works best for him or her to close the door and spend weeks trying to write a marketing plan individually. To compress the time spent planning, we assembled multiple people with important, yet perhaps more narrow perspectives on a product line, to participate. The collaborative approach created more thorough and vetted plans. Involving more people turned weeks of solo work into a one-day collaboration to prepare a strategy plan.

Strategy Implication: Adding more people is only part of the equation. The right mix of participants must include three perspectives: front-line people, functional experts (i.e., finance, operations, market research), and innovators (people that look at business situations differently). This combination, typically accomplished with five-to-ten people, leads to a stronger strategy.

A strategy plan should be integral to daily business activities

One problem with strategic planning is it often seems completely separate from other activities. The plan includes big ideas, statements, and expectations beyond anything an organization will ever do. It summarizes the strategy in jargon foreign to daily business conversations. We instead developed a process built around facilitating conversations among people with a big stake in company performance. This leads to a realistic focus on implementing what matters for business success within the plan.

Strategy Implication: By building strategy planning around collaborative conversations, the plan input sounds just like how people in the organization talk. The ideas incorporated into the plan also come from within the organization and aren’t dropped into it by (an ultimately) disinterested outsider. It speeds understanding, acceptance, and rapid implementation of a strategic viewpoint and plan.

Creative thinking exercises generate ideas, not facts

We adapted the strategy planning process to develop major account sales plans. This switch supported a program aligning sales activities for the company’s largest accounts. Despite similarities, a sales planning workshop’s success depended tremendously on how knowledgeable the sales participants were. While creative thinking exercises help generate new ideas, it became clear that creativity couldn’t help a salesperson without key facts (e.g., knowing the decision maker) generate answers.

Strategy Implication: Document as many needed facts as possible BEFORE assembling a group to collaborate on plan building. Use online surveys, focused fact-finding exploration, and pre-session homework to establish basic information. This is vital since nothing shuts down a planning session as quickly as the absence of key facts no one can credibly address.

There are multiple ways to complete a strategy plan

With an internal department driving the rapid planning approach we used, there was no built-in bias to require a complex set of planning steps. Everyone benefitted by simplifying the process as much as possible. In fact, our approach was to use everything the internal client had already completed that would move planning ahead more quickly. Instead of using a static process requiring internal clients to adapt, our process adapted to what worked best for the internal clients and the business.

Strategy Implication: There are many ways to develop and complete a strategy plan. The overall steps are basically the same for a corporate strategy, a marketing plan, or a functional area’s priority setting. Recognizing that, there is significant flexibility to vary planning steps to accommodate an organization’s ability to develop and execute a strategy. For the sake of efficiency, we did insist in every case that we would time-constrain planning activities and manage conversations to keep things out of the weeds. This ensured everything we did was adding new insights and material to complete the final plan. – Armada Corporate Intelligence

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Find New Resources to Innovate!

NEW FREE Download: 16 Keys for Finding Resources to Accelerate Your Innovation Strategy

Accelerate-CoverYou know it’s important for your organization to innovate. One challenge, however, is finding and dedicating the resources necessary to develop an innovation strategy and begin innovating.

This Brainzooming eBook will help identify additional possibilities for people, funding, and resources to jump start your innovation strategy. You can employ the strategic thinking exercises in Accelerate to:

  • Facilitate a collaborative approach to identifying innovation resources
  • Identify alternative internal strategies to secure support
  • Reach out to external partners with shared interests in innovation

Download your FREE copy of Accelerate Your Innovation Strategy today! 

Download Your FREE Brainzooming eBook! Accelerate - 16 Keys to Finding Innovation Resources

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Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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We introduced the first Brainzooming strategic planning workshop resembling what we do today as The Brainzooming Group ten years ago, June 19-20, 2006.

Here’s the story of how a request from a big supporter, then and still, instigated a major change in the Brainzooming methodology.

Linking Creativity and Strategic Planning

I met Chuck Dymer, the Brilliance Activator, in the mid-1990s. Chuck facilitated multiple engaging, high-energy strategic innovation sessions for us at Yellow Corporation. Chuck’s creativity techniques and helped us generate tons of ideas. We started dabbling within our market planning team to help our internal clients generate new ideas, too. We’d do these sessions as part of strategic planning. Since we were learning as we went, some sessions worked better than others. The common denominator was we’d help internal teams generate ideas, document and categorize them, and deliver a long organized list. We’d then turn to preparing a strategic plan.

After several cycles, it became apparent our marketing managers couldn’t translate the ideas into effective plans. The ideas were filed away, and they returned to struggling to create plans using traditional ideas.

In May 2006, Dave Kramer, a Senior Sales and Marketing VP at one of our transportation subsidiaries asked us to help one of their company president’s come up with a strategic plan – quickly. They had to deliver the plan to improve performance and profitability to their CEO by the end of June.

Brainstorming-Session-Contribute-to-Success

We had the processes and exercises needed already developed buy had never put them all together to move from ideas to plans within a day or two. Keith Prather of Armada Corporate Intelligence, our strategic partner, and I sat down to figure it out. Finding an article in Inc. magazine about a consultant selling two-day business planning, we saw a possibility. The consultant streamlined traditional strategic planning steps, introduced fun videos, and created a tolerable experience for executives creating a strategic plan over a weekend.

If this guy could do it in two days, we DEFINITELY could! I’d already been accumulating strategic thinking exercises for ten years by that time. All we had to do was integrate the right ones and speed up what we could accomplish in a strategic planning workshop.

Simplifying a Strategic Planning Workshop

After creating the strategic planning workshop, we surveyed the company’s senior team for ideas in advance and headed to Harrisburg, PA for the in-person work. We shared the survey results, led them through prioritizing opportunities and threats, and started to tackle what they needed to do to accomplish their big objectives the first afternoon. Using a few basic posters, we described the strategic thinking exercises, using easel pads and sticky notes to capture ideas. As early evening approached, we had everything needed to draft a pretty solid plan. By facilitating the strategic conversations in a targeted, productive way, even potentially off-topic chatter contributed to completing the strategic planning template we designed.

While the rest of the group went to dinner, Keith and I went to an office supply store to buy a travel printer. Back in the hotel’s meeting room, we typed everything from the day to complete a strategic plan document. Chalking up a late night creating a strategic plan marked an early Brainzooming process standard.

The next morning, the group returned, surprised to find printed copies of the draft strategic plan. All they needed to do was review what we’d created and assign dates and names to strategies and tactics. Afterward, they had the strategic plan!

160620-Brainzooming-Birth1

 

After that, whenever we designed a strategic planning workshop, we made deliberate design decisions on the right balance of creative thinking and focused plan building. The mix varies from pure creativity to pure planning, with usually some mix in between.

Dave introduced our process into the other subsidiary companies in his area of corporation. We also worked with Jim Ferguson at Roadway Express (another subsidiary) to test our process with his teams’ plans. That’s why I tell people the Brainzooming process was really honed in Akron, OH, where both Dave and Jim worked. At one point, Dave said, “I thought you guys had a process, but I saw what you did change every day.” Our answer was we were learning new things daily and adapting what our technique to reflect new successes and failures. By the time I left YRC to spin off The Brainzooming Group as a full-time outsourced strategy, innovation, and planning company, we had completed two hundred workshops of varying types.

That’s the story behind the first Brainzooming workshop ten years ago.

We’re proud to say Dave Kramer remains a client, using us to help develop strategy (for sales growth, communications, branding, and company direction) at two subsequent companies where he’s served as a C-level executive.

Do you want to develop an actionable strategic plan really fast?

If your company could benefit from quickly developing innovative ideas, understanding opportunities in new ways, and creating an actionable, collaborative plan, contact us. Let’s talk about how what we do can help your organization thrive! – Mike Brown

 

Find New Resources to Innovate!

NEW FREE Download: 16 Keys for Finding Resources to Accelerate Your Innovation Strategy

Accelerate-CoverYou know it’s important for your organization to innovate. One challenge, however, is finding and dedicating the resources necessary to develop an innovation strategy and begin innovating.

This Brainzooming eBook will help identify additional possibilities for people, funding, and resources to jump start your innovation strategy. You can employ the strategic thinking exercises in Accelerate to:

  • Facilitate a collaborative approach to identifying innovation resources
  • Identify alternative internal strategies to secure support
  • Reach out to external partners with shared interests in innovation

Download your FREE copy of Accelerate Your Innovation Strategy today! 

Download Your FREE Brainzooming eBook! Accelerate - 16 Keys to Finding Innovation Resources

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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I was talking with an executive charged with implementing an innovation strategy for a new company initiative. While the business objectives and expectations are lofty, the budget available to fund the innovation strategy has disappeared. The company pulled the funding because of a soft business environment and quarterly earnings pressure.

I suspect this isn’t the only such case out there like this right now.

As many companies near the end of the quarter, discretionary budgets are often scrutinized much more closely than business objectives. Budget dollars disappear, but expectations for innovation and growth remain.

16 Keys for Finding Resources to Accelerate Your Innovation Strategy

If you’re facing a comparable situation, you’ll want our new Brainzooming eBook, 16 Keys for Finding Resources to Accelerate Your Innovation Strategy.

Accelerate-Cover

Accelerate features sixteen strategic thinking questions to expand your possibilities for finding ways to move ahead with your innovation strategy even if your available dollars have disappeared.

And another great thing about Accelerate, especially if you really have no budget? It’s a free Brainzooming eBook!

You can use the strategic thinking questions in Accelerate to identify additional possibilities for people, funding, and resources to jump start your innovation strategy.

Accelerate is the first in a new series of eBooks we’ll be releasing in the coming months to help you work around common barriers to business innovation.

Download Accelerate today. You can use it to surprise your organization with your ability to keep things going with your innovation strategy EVEN IF people and dollars evaporate mid-year! – Mike Brown

 

Find New Resources to Innovate!

FREE Download: 16 Keys for Finding Resources to Accelerate Your Innovation Strategy

Accelerate-CoverYou know it’s important for your organization to innovate. One challenge, however, is finding and dedicating the resources necessary to develop an innovation strategy and begin innovating.

This Brainzooming eBook will help identify additional possibilities for people, funding, and resources to jump start your innovation strategy. You can employ the strategic thinking exercises in Accelerate to:

  • Facilitate a collaborative approach to identifying innovation resources
  • Identify alternative internal strategies to secure support
  • Reach out to external partners with shared interests in innovation

Download your FREE copy of Accelerate Your Innovation Strategy today! 

Download Your FREE Brainzooming eBook! Accelerate - 16 Keys to Finding Innovation Resources

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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It’s always incredible to work directly with Brainzooming blog readers in supporting their companies’ innovation strategy objectives.

Last week, we presented a creative and strategic thinking workshop for a Brainzooming reader who leads the national sales division of a global industrial manufacturer. We integrated the Brainzooming strategic thinking workshop into their annual sales meeting. Our going-in plan for the five-hour workshop was to interactively share and practice Brainzooming creative thinking exercises the sales, marketing, and engineering team could use to expand customer opportunities in new ways.

While we did that, an early exercise during the strategic thinking workshop shaped the rest of the day.

creative-thinking-workshop

An exercise on adopting different creative perspectives to see previously overlooked business opportunities prompted an extensive discussion about a specific client situation that was stalled. The exercise uncovered how multiple team members have relationships with the account in question plus another related account influencing the first account’s purchase behavior. This was a brand new insight for the team overall. As one participant noted, “The discussion was helpful and revealed some blind spots in my thinking. I realized there are tools and resources available that I’m not using.”

Based that conversation’s impact, we talked with our client and modified the workshop approach. We eased up on our aggressive time schedule to allow more time to discuss current client opportunities and issues throughout the day. The result was we took deeper dives throughout the strategic thinking workshop, using Brainzooming exercises to develop solutions for specific current business issues.

13 Unexpected Benefits of a Strategic Thinking Workshop

Given that unexpected, real time change in our approach, we were eager to review the participant evaluations to identify other “unexpected” benefits the group realized from the strategic thinking workshop. Their answers grouped into three areas:

Benefit 1 – Applicability to Work Situations

  • The work was practical for our jobs.
  • Generates good new solutions to challenging situations.
  • The use of different vantage points to see new prospects.
  • New techniques for generating ideas on penetrating accounts.

Benefit 2 – New Learnings

  • How similar the challenges are (within our company’s different areas).
  • (Discovering) how we work in parallel (within our team) but not together at times.
  • Recognizing breaking down big ideas (and) challenges into smaller pieces.

Benefit 3 – Ways to Generate Creative Ideas

  • It pulls lots of ideas in a small amount of time.
  • The idea of thinking extreme first and bringing the concepts back to a possible scenario was great.
  • Ideas about outrageous and scary ideas.
  • Lots of new ideas to facilitate creative and strategic thinking.
  • (The) ability to unlock my creative though process.
  • Very interactive with the audience – makes for a great/fun workshop.

If you have responsibility for a sales and marketing team’s development and you are seeking comparable creative thinking benefits, contact us.

We’d love to customize a Brainzooming strategic thinking workshop to advance your team’s real world strategic and creative thinking skills! – Mike Brown

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Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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I’ve lost count of how many times I have heard business people say and then try to explain why their particular companies are unique. By this, they typically mean there is no possibility any other company faces the same types of challenges and operational issues they deal with daily.

While that might be a comforting perspective if you’re fond of business isolationism, it’s rarely true once you start to explore the business strategically.

Maze

We were working recently with a company that, based on its competitive and business situation, could certainly lay some claim to having a unique business situation. But given our unwillingness to settle for that easy answer, we created a rapid fire strategic thinking exercise to push for ideas.

Our immediate need was to identify potential innovation case studies to discover how other companies and industries are innovating in relevant ways.

Strategic Thinking Exercise – 17 Questions to Find Innovation Case Studies

Within about ten minutes, using the seventeen questions in this strategic thinking exercise, a group of nine or ten people generated more than seventy possible companies and industries to explore for comparable innovation case studies.

If you are facing a similar challenge to generate relevant strategic connections to your business, here is your starting point for a comparable Brainzooming strategic thinking exercise:

  1. What companies have similar sizes and org structures to ours?
  2. Who are our strategic partners?
  3. Who are our primary competitors?
  4. What companies provide substitutes for what we offer to customers?
  5. What other companies serve the same customers we do?
  6. What other companies have similar strategies to ours?
  7. What industries have similar operations or sales structures to ours?
  8. What companies have similar cost structures to ours?
  9. What companies employ similar processes to the ones we use?
  10. What companies are trying to innovate in similar ways to ours?
  11. What companies of our size have similar ownership and/or financial structures?
  12. What companies that do the same general things we do have comparable business situations?
  13. What other companies that share our general business category are most similar to us?
  14. What other companies are facing comparable competitive dynamics?
  15. What other companies are facing comparable cost pressures?
  16. What industries look / behave like ours? Why/how?
  17. What companies look / behave like ours? Why/how?

See, with this strategic thinking exercise, there’s no reason your business has to feel so alone in its innovation challenge. There are definitely innovation case studies you can discover and explore for new ideas! – Mike Brown

 

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Looking for a Successful Innovation Strategy to Grow Your Business?
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Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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I have been traveling more recently for speaking than at any time during history of The Brainzooming Group.

While there’s more to come in the months ahead, here are highlights of a couple of innovation strategy presentations this week to very different groups.

Innovation Strategy in Your Organization – An Innovative Workplace Culture

Today, I’m in Cincinnati presenting to senior executives from multiple companies on cultivating an innovative workplace culture.

Cincinnati

The presentation incorporates  our “Taking the NO Out of Business InNOvation” work to focus on seven key innovation enablers. Senior leaders can address these focus areas to improve an organization’s receptiveness and motivation to generate new ideas and do something with them.

The seven recommendations for cultivating an innovative workplace culture include:

  1. Providing actionable strategic direction (beyond simply saying your organization needs to be more innovative)
  2. Inviting broad participation from employees throughout the organization
  3. Meaningfully engaging employees when inviting them to share ideas
  4. Encouraging and supporting organizational change
  5. Implementing smart, innovative possibilities
  6. Staying agile through focusing on what’s important for creating results
  7. Celebrating progress and success tied to innovative ideas

As questions and discussion with the attendees suggest new topics, look for us to explore them here.

Innovation Strategy across a Community – Forward to the Future

On Monday, I discussed the community collaboration process we facilitated for Carbondale, IL in September 2015. The panel discussion at the Gigabit City Summit also featured Gary Williams, the interim city manager of Carbondale, and Dave Sandel of Sandel & Associates. We’ve worked with Dave’s team on multiple community collaboration engagements related to broadband initiatives, economic development, and Smart Cities.

Carbondale-Group

To provide a feel for the community collaboration work in Carbondale (home of my grad school alma mater, Southern Illinois University), we developed a brief video. It shares how university students and community leaders participated to shape a future-looking view of Carbondale.

You can also review the results of the Carbondale playbook to see what lies ahead for the community.  Mike Brown

10 Employee Engagement Ideas to Improve Strategic Results

FREE Download: “Results!!! Creating Strategic Impact”

Results!!! Creating Strategic Impact Mini-Book

Leaders need high-impact ways to develop employees that can provide input into strategic planning and then turn it into results. This Brainzooming mini-book, “Results – Creating Strategic Impact” unveils ten proven lessons leaders can use to boost collaboration, meaningful strategic conversations, and results.

Download this free, action-focused mini-book to:

  • Learn smart ways to separate strategic opportunities from the daily noise of business
  • Increase focus for your team with productive strategy questions everyone can use
  • Actively engage stakeholders in strategy AND implementation success

Download Your FREE Results!!! Creating Strategic Impact Mini-book

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Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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