Communication | The Brainzooming Group - Part 93 – page 93
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Notice something about the ritual of pulling petals from a flower and saying, “she loves me, she loves me not?” There are only two choices – yes or no, one or the other. Makes decision making pretty simple. You can force this technique on yourself when you’ve got lots of things to prioritize and are struggling in your decision making.

Say you’re writing a Poweroint presentation for your senior management and have 15 points you feel you have to make. But you know that there’s no way you’ll get to cover more than 3 of them. Here’s how you can use a forced comparison model to help in your decision making about narrowing the list:

  • Write all 15 key messages on individual sticky notes and place them on a wall or desk.
  • Select two messages and compare them, asking, “If I could only make one of these points, which one is more important?” Place the one you pick at the top of the wall or desk, with the other below it.
  • Pick up another sticky note, asking the same question relative to the top-most sticky note. If the new sticky note is more important, it goes on top, and the others move down. If it’s not more important, keep moving down and asking the question (Is this one more important or is that one?) relative to each sticky note until it’s appropriately placed based on its importance.

When you’re done using this simple decision making model, you should have a fairly quick prioritization, getting you out of the decision making trap that everything is equally important. The technique works well either individually or with a group that’s trying to do decision making in a whole variety of situations. So try it, or try it not…try it! – Mike Brown

The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding their strategic options and creating innovative plans they can efficiently implement. Email us at brainzooming@gmail.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to see how we can provide as-needed assistance to challenge and refine your strategic thinking and implementation efforts.

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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One more tip for presentations (and for everyday business speak) is to avoid business cliches. An email last week from Dow Jones pointed to its recent review of the most overused phrases by continent. There are interesting similarities among the cliches used around the world, and it’s well worth checking out the pdf.

My thought? At the end of the day…go home, spend time with your family, say your prayers, and go to bed!

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 seen a variety of presenters at conferences lately – both good (a few) and bad (mostly). Based on what most bad presenters do, here are four pieces of (apparently) unconventional advice that can lead to dramatic improvements:

  1. Use fewer words on slides. Don’t show every word you plan to say; it’s not that effective of a crutch. Fewer words (or only images) help maintain audience attention & cover your flubs because the audience can’t compare what you’re saying to everything on the screen.
  2. Practice less – and listen more. Record your presentation and listen to it. Hear what isn’t working, and fix it before you present. Reading your presentation over and over without listening to it causes you to miss obvious gaffes that listeners will readily hear.
  3. Cut back on multimedia & animation. Using various sounds, moving images, and videos won’t fix a poor presenter. It just puts more pressure on you to hit cues – the last thing you should have to be thinking about while presenting.
  4. Have fun – but if you’re scared or not funny, don’t throw one joke in to lighten things up. One funny comment reminds the audience how unamusing the rest of it is. A better strategy: smile throughout and quit trying to be funny if you aren’t in real life. Audiences are more forgiving of an underdog who looks genuine and friendly than somebody who is trying to be slick but isn’t.

All of these should save prep time that you can use to ensure you know the content and can talk about it conversationally, even without PowerPoint. If you can do that, you’ll deliver a lot better presentation!

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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At the start of a recent conference call for an upcoming strategy planning project, it was clear I was expected to facilitate the discussion. That was my suspicion coming in, but with other responsibilities, there wasn’t a chance to prepare as much as I typically would. So after a brief introduction, all eyes and ears turned to me to start talking – gulp.

Here’s Your ChallengeWhat do you do when you’re not ready to speak or don’t know what to say?

Mark Twain said, “It is better to keep your mouth shut and appear stupid than to open it and remove all doubt.” How about a middle ground? Next time you’re in a similar situation, think for a moment, open your mouth, and ASK a great question.

Doing this provides three clear, immediate strategic benefits:

  • You shift the focus from your lack of preparation and give the floor back to the other participants.
  • The other people feel better because they’re able to provide input.
  • By actively listening, you can pick out cues from their comments that can shape your next move – to talk, to change course, or to ask another question.

The strategic key is asking the right type of question.

Be ready by developing a quick list of 8 to 10 questions that you can rely upon with ease. Here are a few to get you started (along with when to use them):

  • Can you elaborate? (If someone has provided information, but you’re not clear what it means.)
  • How have you approached this before? (If people have previous experience they could share.)
  • What are your initial thoughts for how to approach it? (When participants have pre-conceived notions about what to do.)
  • Can you tell me more? (When someone has a wealth of information that hasn’t been shared yet.)
  • What’s most important for you to accomplish? (To understand the other parties’ motivations – and what matters in this situation.)

In this example, I chose the last question, allowing participants an opportunity to share their individual and collective objectives for the upcoming planning session. Their initial comments set up a follow-up question (What percent of the plan should be devoted to each of the 3 sections you’ve mentioned?), creating the opportunity to start capturing topic areas. A productive meeting was thus snatched from the jaws of unpreparedness with two great, simple questions.

So what questions will you be better prepared to ask next time this happens to you? – Mike Brown

The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding their strategic options and creating innovative plans they can efficiently implement. Email us at brainzooming@gmail.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can deliver these benefits for you.

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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Holidays often present our most memorable experiences because of the emotional range they touch – whether positive or negative. The strong emotional connections coupled with the high degree of personal interest in holidays fixes long ago memories in our minds as if they happened yesterday.

When we’re presenting ideas in business though, we usually don’t think about this relationship that creates holiday memories:

Memorability = Degree of Personal Interest x Intensity of Emotions
At best, business presentations assume some implied level of personal interest (since after all, it’s a business topic) and stop short of including any emotion (since after all, it’s a business topic). When you work through the formula above for most business presentations (Minimal personal interest x Zero emotion), you get NO memorability.

For your next business communication, use the formula to your advantage by thinking through and incorporating answers to the following questions when developing and delivering ideas.

To increase personal interest, for each person in the audience answer:

  • What about the business is important either as a motivator (opportunities, cost savings, satisfying customers, increasing stock price, etc.) or as a fear (competitors, losing customers, deteriorating EPS, etc.) for this person?
  • From what perspective does this person think about the business, and how does that shape their information processing and decision making?
  • What words do they use to talk about the business?
  • What are their most important personal motivators (advancement, looking good, being smart, etc.) and fears (losing a job, looking bad, being dumb, etc.)?

To increase the emotional connection of your presentation, think about how you could use:

  • Surprise – is there a different way to order or communicate the content to be more surprising?
  • Drama – would making it a suspenseful story or acting out part of it add a beneficial sense of drama?
  • Humor – if the information is challenging, can you use humor (maybe a funny cartoon or story) to help reduce defensiveness?
  • Excitement – is there an alternative format (movie clip, audience participation) that would be more exciting than Powerpoint?

One final consideration in seeking a more emotional connection – how receptive is your organization to incorporating an emotional angle and how will you signal what you’re doing? Both points are important so that you are bringing your audience along with you to get the maximum positive impact.

So back to holiday memorability. It’s late December – Christmas, Kwanza, and New Year’s are coming up; Hanukkah is over. I’ll stop focusing on creating business memories and get started on holiday memories if you’ll do the same! But let’s meet back here right after the first of the year. Have a blessed holiday season full of wonderful memories!

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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Dear Kids,

Just like your management team at work, Santa’s very busy this time of year, and while he’d love to spend time with each letter, there are only so many hours in the work day.

Want to make sure Santa gets the point of your request so that you’re not disappointed this holiday season? Take a tip from “Winning with the P&G 99: 99 Principles and Practices of Procter Gambles Success” by Charles Decker and send him a brief (one-page at most) recommendation making it clear very quickly to Santa how good you’ve been and what you’d like. Here’s the 4-section recommendation format to use:

  1. Brief Background – Provide a quick overview of the issue that your recommendation is addressing so that your boss (I mean Santa) knows what you’re covering.
  2. Recommendation – Clearly & succinctly state what you think should be done.
  3. Rationale – List the reasons that support why the thing that you think should happen should happen.
  4. Next Actions – If the recommendation’s accepted, list out the next things that have to take place.

Let’s apply the approach (sans the headers that you’d use in a business memo) to our holiday letter:

Dear Santa,

I just wanted to update you on what a good boy I’ve been this year and suggest a gift that would truly be appreciated.

This Christmas, I recommend that you bring me a new tablet computer.

This gift is warranted because I’ve really tried to help my wife more around the house this year, including yard work (which I really don’t like). The tablet computer would allow me the flexibility to work on this blog while away from home, to stay in contact with friends and loved ones, to get work done on airplanes more easily, and to draw cartoons for my presentations.

If you agree that a tablet computer makes sense as a gift, please deliver it on the evening of December 24 in Hays, KS, where we’ll be celebrating Christmas with my family. Thank you, and please let me know if you have any questions.

Sincerely,
Mike

So there you have it kids. In fewer than a dozen lines, we’ve made our recommendation and laid out the best case. Try it with Santa AND try it at the office. It really works in cutting through the clutter and getting to decisions faster.

Btw – if you’re still doing holiday shopping, Amazon lists copies of the “P&G 99” for $1.89. That’s less than 2 cents per principle or practice – you won’t find a cheaper gift that will so dramatically improve your staff’s performance this coming year! Order now!!!

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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Jay Conrad Levinson is the father of guerrilla marketing, the concept that businesses can reap greater rewards through the strategic use of low- and no-cost marketing tools. He says that there are at least 100 guerrilla marketing tools available to any business.

Beyond the standard tool list that Levinson uses, I’ve found it helpful to get marketing teams to work through a specific question-based exercise to identify marketing tools unique or at least specific to their own businesses.

Use the list below with your marketing team. One way is for a team member to identify as many answers to a specific question as possible within a 3 minute period, and then rotate the question to the next team member to build on the list:

  • What do we want to promote?
  • What are our features, benefits & competitive advantages? Which are most meaningful?
  • What communications vehicles are in place?
  • What ideas/words/phrases do we use?
  • Who are experts/partners? What’s notable about them?
  • Where do our audiences congregate (geographically or virtually) and/or receive our messages?
  • What motivates our audiences?
  • How can we get permission and the info to keep marketing to our audiences?
  • What business & personal relationships do we have that could be of assistance?
  • Who would like to be involved with us in growing our business?
  • Who could we help make more successful?
  • What interactions do we have with our audience?
  • What new interactions can we create?
  • What tools or ideas can we “steal”?

I’ve had a team of 8 to 10 people build a list of more than 200 tools (many of which they’d never thought of using) within a 25 minute period as everyone worked individually using the rotating question approach.

You can also check out a more focused set of areas to brainstorm and identify specific social media resources and tools your organization can use.

Give this exercise a try at your next staff meeting or planning session, and then go back through your marketing plan to make sure you’re using as many of the tools as possible that you’ve identified.  – Mike Brown

The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding their strategic options and creating innovative plans they can efficiently implement. Email us at brainzooming@gmail.com or call 816-509-5320 to learn how we can develop an integrated, guerrilla marketing-oriented strategy for your brand.

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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