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We have a call with a client about an upcoming Brainzooming innovation workshop. One question (which we think MAY have been included by mistake on the list of topics they sent us) is what we do when energy is diminishing during a workshop.

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Seeing the question about how to boost an audience’s energy level ahead of time (and knowing they’ll want specifics), prompted this list of thirty things I’ve done during my career of designing and delivering interactive presentations and workshops.

Perhaps the most important way to boost an audience’s energy level is number thirty: we make every attempt to design any Brainzooming workshop to re-energize the group throughout the time together. In that way, we plan for doing the best mix of activities in 1 through 29 to keep the energy levels up throughout the workshop!

  1. Tell funny stories
  2. Use self-deprecating humor
  3. Be very silent (uncomfortably silent) until the audience notices and re-engages
  4. Present while walking throughout the room / audience
  5. Stand on a chair and present
  6. Do more activities where everyone must play an active role
  7. Move to the Shrimp creative thinking exercise
  8. Ask questions of the audience
  9. Take a seat at a table and start voicing a person’s internal thoughts about the presentation
  10. Have everyone stand up and stretch
  11. Have everyone stand up and scream (or jump around)
  12. Make the audience the stars of the show
  13. Start doing improv with the audience
  14. Take a break and let everyone refresh
  15. Rearrange things at the break so they return to a new room
  16. Invite someone else to tell a story to the group
  17. Go to the quiet part of the room and present from there
  18. Run around the room (or at least down an aisle) to increase your own energy
  19. Introduce an ice breaker exercise – even in the middle of the presentation (and do funny riffs on peoples’ answers)
  20. Get people to talk and then have fun with them
  21. Call on the people I met before the presentation
  22. Call on someone that is making faces
  23. Call on the person with bright eyes and engage with them
  24. Create a contest right on the spot and give a pair of orange I am Creative socks to the winner
  25. Have people change something to freshen up what has already become familiar, comfortable, and routine (even within this temporary group)
  26. Move people from one table or group to another
  27. Take everyone outside
  28. Speed things up
  29. Use an exercise where everyone can participate simultaneously
  30. Pre-plan (by watching the experience in my mind) so the audience won’t enter a low-energy state

Need a strategy, creativity, innovation or other learning and motivational boost for your audience?

Contact us, and let’s figure out the right topics, format, and activities to design and deliver an interactive presentation or workshop to energize your team during the workshop and beyond! – Mike Brown

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What You Get Traveling

First trip of the year, and I started getting a sore throat by the first morning. How did I not build up more immunity than THAT? A scratchy throat makes for a long week . . . While walking around downtown Boston in 20-degree weather, I had a great hoodie on under my coat. I felt like Bill Belichick . . . When I was frozen and finally ready to give up and get an Uber, my phone kept shutting off. Or maybe it was user error. Either way, THAT is bad timing . . . The restaurant one night featured a “Roasted Half Roasted Chicken.” Not sure if that is bad proof reading or that chicken is really snockered . . . I was pushing my luck on both legs of this trip. No crab cakes until I had some at the Baltimore airport. No lobster roll until I had one at the Boston airport. Gotta start getting my regional food needs covered on arrival.

Doing The Work

You know you have the right data set when a clear implication is that a corporate executive intrigued by “fun strategic planning” is destined to work with us . . . When someone is all-in to your movement, find every way to involve them. Then get out of the way and let them go . . . There really is an interesting bond with people born around the time you were. They always feel like home. Just discovered that two fave clients and I were all born within 3 months of each other . . . “Invest in people.” No truer words from a great guy that advises us on inbound marketing . . . Yes, in answer to your question, I do have one of those Facebook things. Brainzooming does too. Wanna come join us?

Getting There, Here, and Yon

This flight attendant’s favorite (and frequently repeated) phrase, “Go long.” Okay, sure. Whatever you say . . . I just got A-List status on Southwest Airlines. I need to learn the perks, and figure out how to take advantage of them. In the meantime, the soon-to-expire free drink tickets from a friend came in handy as anything . . . The guy across the aisle from me on the plane insists I am a character actor he’s seen on TV . . . I don’t have the need for speed. The need to have peed? Yeah, that’s what I need. It’s a long way from Boston to Kansas City . . . Uber drivers in many places seem to be wannabe entertainers. Not in Boston, though. They are surly enough to be actual cab drivers . . . For my first Uber on Monday, I was the driver’s FIRST Uber ride ever; she missed my house on the pickup and curb hopped once. On the last day, I was somewhere in the 19,000s of that driver’s rides. It must have been an even longer week for him than it was for me. – Mike Brown

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When it comes to creating incredible social-first content, brands can extend their personalities without compromising their brand characters is they are smart and strategic about it. On fantastic example is from Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church in Minneapolis. The church got it ALL perfect.

In case you weren’t following the NFL playoffs last weekend, the Minnesota Vikings offed the New Orleans Saints on a very improbable (perhaps, miraculous) touchdown on the last play of the game. The New Orleans Saint safety was described by Monday afternoon commentators as making the worst defensive play in the history of the NFL.


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Nevertheless, the back and forth scoring in the last moments of the game was conducive, one might expect, to desperate-for-a-Super-Bowl Minnesota fans making any number of deals with God IFFFFFFFFF the Vikings could win.

Taking advantage of that sentiment, Our Lady of Lourdes parish offered this Facebook post on Monday morning following the game.

This demonstrates that a brand (i.e., a local Catholic parish) not typically associated with humor can extend its personality into new realms. It is also a fantastic example of managing the right mix of delivering on:

  • Audience Needs and Interests
  • Compelling Content
  • Smart Brand Integration

For its targeted Minnesota audience, the content addressed an over-the-top interest: the Vikings win.

This compelling content was also over-the-top with its simplicity and clear ties to the Vikings. It cleverly walked the line between serious admonishment and a wink of the eye acknowledgement that people make promises to God all the time that they never live up to successfully.

Finally, because the Facebook post fulfilled the first two expectations so marvelously, the church was free to insert its brand directly into the message through including its Sunday mass times.

We love, love, love how smart this post is. You can see how well-rewarded it was based on the shares and reactions it earned.

Want to go deeper into winning social-first content marketing strategy?

Want to immerse yourself in valuable learning from practitioners doing the real work of social media and content marketing strategy?

Do you want to comfortably network with business and marketing professionals across industries in a reasonably sized setting where you don’t have to navigate through 15,000 attendees and a mile of conference rooms?

Then join The Brainzooming Group crew at the Social Media Strategies Summit in San Francisco, February 6-8, 2018!

You can even enroll at a 15% discount if you sign up NOW using the promo code, SMSSMB15BTW, I think the MB in that SMSSummit promo code may stand for Mike Brown, but I’m just guessing.

The Social Media Strategies Summit is one conference where we’ve participated multiple times across several years and ALWAYS learn new concepts and ideas!

If you want to go all-in for the Brainzooming experience at the Social Media Strategies Summit, sign up for the pre-conference workshop I’m presenting: Writing an Effective and Sustainable Social Media & Content Marketing Plan. We’ll be talking about developing the components of a social-first content marketing strategy that makes sense for both your brand AND your audience.

Be sure to join us and learn more about creating compelling content that will bring your social and content marketing strategy to life. Register today and save 15% with the SMSSMB15 promo code and join us in San Francisco this February at the Social Media Strategies Summit! – Mike Brown

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The Hubspot Inbound conference is coming up at the end of September. Based on last year’s attendance at the Hubspot Inbound conference, I’m guessing there may be 20,000 or more people this year.  That’s more people than where I grew up in Hays, KS. That’s why I call Inbound, and other conferences drawing tens of thousands of people, small-town business conferences. At those sizes, conference organizers are essentially creating a small town, focused on education, sales, marketing, networking, entertainment, recreation, and a variety of other activities concentrated into several days.

Developing a Small-Town Business Conference Plan

While an event of this size poses massive logistical and infrastructure challenges for organizers, it also provides opportunities and challenges for attendees who want to maximize their experiences. The typical rules do not apply at a small-town business conference. Here are strategies to maximize learning and impact from an event of this magnitude.

Do Homework and Scope Out the Business Conference Location

You would not move to a new town without learning about it first. The same holds for a small-town conference. As soon as possible, find out the titles, descriptions, speakers, and locations for all educational and learning opportunities. Prioritize where you think you’ll get the best learning, categorizing all the possibilities as “Must Attend,” “Good to Attend,” “Interesting,” and “Don’t Attend.” This lets you quickly narrow your top potential sessions. On the second pass, their proximity to each other and meetings you want to have can help you decide what your first choices are. Keep this list handy onsite in case something is canceled or a session proves not to be valuable.

Once you’re onsite, take advantage of early downtime and walk the conference center and other venues. How close are they? How quickly will you have to navigate the event (and the crowds) to get to all the sessions you want to attend? Are there certain seating spots that are better than others and more conducive to your learning style? For example, are you a handwritten note taker, tablet user, or something else – where having or not having a table to work on could make a difference?

Travel Light and Stay Highly Mobile

The sheer size of this type of business conference demands they be spread over a footprint equal to many city blocks. That means good mobility is an important asset to getting the most out of the business conference. Only you know what maximizes your own mobility, but these tips will likely help:

  • Travel with as few things as possible
    Many people want to have many things with them, including a backpack, briefcase, or purse. The more stuff you have with you, the more cumbersome it is to both get around and to find places to sit or stand at sessions. Pare down what you actually bring to the conference to only the essentials.
  • Stay as close as possible to the conference center
    This helps you avoid waiting for the conference bus/transportation system. You can also much more easily bounce back and forth to your room for calls or catching up on work.
  • Position yourself to move quickly
    Part of this is scoping out the venue and knowing short cuts, back ways, and pathways most people never go. Sit in sessions near open doors so you can get out before the crowd starts moving. This might seem a bit obsessive, but the less time you can spend waiting, the more time you have for networking (although you can use the time spent waiting in lines as networking opportunities, too).
  • Move up and fill all available space
    This advice comes from a sign at Disneyworld years ago. Crowds often bog down and move slowly. If there are open spaces, test your ability and the cultural willingness for moving along the side of the crowd to improve your position in line.
  • Take care of your feet and legs
    Make sure you have great walking shoes that allow you to move quickly and deliver maximum comfort. Compression socks can provide extra comfort when you are on your feet, on the move, and easily clocking eight or nine thousand steps simply moving between sessions.

Shift Where, When, and How You Do Things

To avoid lines and unnecessary waiting, shift where, when, and how you do things throughout the event. Knowing where everything is, when things are available, and having inventive ways to accomplish them are all valuable. Using all these to put you just slightly off routine with the crowd allows you to get so much more done.

  • Create teams and assign tasks
    Coordinate with co-workers or friends (including friends you’ve just made at the event) to split up roles. Send one person to grab food and another to get drinks when lines are long. Split up sessions and pool your notes.
  • Know where the infrastructure is and use it earlier
    Avoid waiting in lines unnecessarily by arriving early. Swing by breakfast, lunch, and dinner venues as early as possible before crowds arrive. Pick things you can eat while you move since you are traveling light with free hands. Visit the power outlets and charging stations that are off the beaten path to keep phones and tablets going all day.

What to do with all your time?

With the extra time these tips provide, you can maximize networking, staying up on the work you need to do, and maybe even look around the city in which your small-town business conference is located! – Mike Brown

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Ten years ago, last week, I gave what I’ve always considered my worst presentation ever.

I call it my “Lee Harvey Oswald presentation.”

The horrible experience wasn’t for lack of public speaking skills, sufficient preparation, and scouting the unusual location ahead of time. It wasn’t for not being ready with options in case something didn’t work. And it wasn’t for not having a friendly audience.

Somehow, though, none of these things saved the presentation!

Public Speaking Skills and My Worst Presentation Ever

This early Taking the NO Out of Innovation presentation was at a Chinese restaurant. I visited it a few days early to see the meeting room. The arrangement was clearly going to present a problem. The room was small and had no natural area from which to present. As a result, I brought an easel, a big pad of sticky notes, and markers in case I needed to do something different to visually communicate the main points.

The day of the presentation, the luncheon was oversold. There was hardly room to move. The projector was placed on a highboy table in the middle of everything where it blocked the view for a significant portion of the room.

Assessing the options, I decided to ditch the PowerPoint. Instead, I planned to cartoon the presentation on the big easel pads. That went fine, other than I hadn’t adequately tightened the easel legs. As I marked on the pad, the easel legs would slide toward the ground. Not wanting to stop the presentation to figure out how to the legs worked, I leaned the easel pad against the giant TV on the shelving unit behind me, attempting to use it to stabilize the paper pad.

During most of the presentation, the waiters were serving lunches, announcing the dishes (which you’ll notice got more space than I did in the invitation!) they were delivering at the top of their lungs. At one point, I said aloud that it was like presenting in the middle of a bowling alley.

Photo credit: Michael Irvin

I survived the presentation, and had the opportunity to meet Michael Irvin, “The Big Idea Guy.” Michael won the creative kit door prize I gave away.

Why do I call it my Lee Harvey Oswald presentation?

After Lee Harvey Oswald was picked up by the Dallas police, they let the press interview him. At one point, he said he was waiting for someone to come forward to offer him (legal) assistance.

Throughout me fumbling with the easel, I was hoping one of the people I worked with would come forward to offer ME assistance. When I asked them later why they didn’t come up to help me, they said they didn’t want to detract from the presentation. I about fell on the floor. There was NOTHING that could have made the presentation go worse than it did!

The intriguing footnote to this story is several people attending that day have graciously said later how helpful the Taking the No Out of InNovation presentation was and how much they enjoyed it. Which just goes to show you, even if you’re completely frustrated by your temporary absence of public speaking skills, if you are earnestly trying to make it good and valuable for the audience, you have a chance of reaching them despite all the challenges.  – Mike Brown

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An April story in Fortune suggests, in so many words, that TED Talks are enough to break open the flow of ideas in your organization. It detailed how TED and its CEO, Chris Anderson, are trying to aggressively penetrate the corporate event strategy and production market. Targeting Fortune 500 companies for revenue, TED is pitching its event strategy production capabilities (with full conferences and Salon events), popular TED Talks speakers and TED fellows, speaking workshops, and even space at its headquarters to immerse in the TED vibe.

Rubbing elbows with the TED brand is pricey. The article reports the cost of the TED crew’s producing a one-day conference for your organization starts at $1.5 million. That involves a healthy premium for the TED brand and the halo from its well-known production look and feel.

An Event Strategy to Tell Your Stories and Ideas

While the multi-million-dollar investment takes many organizations out of the TED Talks event strategy market, the need for high-impact corporate events exists in many companies. Some get it right, too many don’t. That is why too many conferences with the potential for game-changing impact fizzle: they fail to embrace an event strategy incorporating the important basics that TED delivers in its conferences.

If you are looking to an event strategy that creates impact but TED is not the answer, try these practices TED masters. You can emulate all of them to improve your internal meetings:

1. Pick a Theme and Use It for All It’s Worth

TED events feature intriguing themes that set the tone for the featured presentations. You can use a theme to help your audience understand the presenters and the overarching message you want them to take back to their daily work. The easy part is placing a theme on slides, lanyards, and posters at the venue. The challenging, and much more important aspect, is developing the right theme and using it to drive EVERYTHING you do with the conference.

Here are several suggestions for exploring the right theme:

  • Don’t delay selecting a theme until late in the conference preparation. Invest time early to develop the theme so it drives all your event planning and execution.
  • Create a theme that ties both previous and future activities within your organization. It should feel as if it springs from your culture, but also challenge and inspire your team to future successes.
  • Strategically tie everything to the theme leading up to, during, and after the event. Repeatedly communicate it from the stage, using it to link the speakers and the messages they share. Doing this elevates a theme from a few spiffy words to a powerful communication tool that helps instill and align strategy.

Remember: a great meeting theme will work hard to align your activities and reinforce your messages during the meeting and afterward.

2. Feature People with Untold Stories

The easy answer for any organization’s conference is putting all the executives on stage, whether they are dynamic presenters or duds. That’s not the TED approach. To paraphrase its direction, TED looks for stories that haven’t been told and ideas worth sharing. That’s a very different direction than essentially turning the company organization chart into a conference agenda.

Look for untold stories and shareable ideas inside and outside the company that effectively convey the theme. Reach into your organization for stories of successes, learnings, innovations, and personal accomplishments. Not every story has to be fact-driven. Emotion is a major component of TED events. An audience will remember personal stories carrying messages of struggle, hope, and overcoming challenges far longer than a senior executive’s PowerPoint full of business statistics!

Sharing the stage with new presenters featuring relevant, albeit different types of stories, introduces risks. You will be putting untested people on the stage. Lower this risk by working with the presenters to hone their stories and delivery. Identify what they want to share, and find ways to help them streamline messages, linking ideas to the theme. Simplify talking points, eliminate text-based PowerPoint in favor of compelling images, inject emotion, and help them practice many times to gain comfort and familiarity with presenting. You will find that the right speakers with strong stories will carry the day, no matter their organizational titles.

3. Develop a Format and Flow that Works for Your People

TED employs a couple of standard talks, the longest of which is eighteen minutes. While that strategy is great for later packaging thousands of talks as videos, it creates a monotonous in-person experience. The take-away from TED is to plan for brief, focused talks compared to typical corporate meeting presentations. Whether it’s ten, fifteen, or twenty minutes, select shorter speaking times, ditch the podium (as TED does), and give speakers some flexibility to use a format that showcases individual speaking talents.

While you may want to start the conference with the CEO delivering his or her message, we suggest caution. The best conference flows mimic frequently-used patterns in concerts, comedy routines, and firework shows: start with the second strongest element you have and end with the strongest one. In between, arrange other elements to maximize moments of excitement, drama, surprise, and quiet. Within this framework, look for the best places to showcase senior executives delivering messages tied to the theme.

TED events do a stellar job in staging and production. Never underestimate how these variables shore up speakers that might not be as strong as you would like. Even if your meeting budget falls FAR short of the $1.5 million TED price tag, using a solid outside production company is generally money well spent. The right production team will bring experience across conferences along with lighting, sound, and other resources to maximize your event’s impact.

Developing Your Event Strategy for Impact!

Obviously, this doesn’t cover everything you need to know to create a TED-like event. It may surprise you (or maybe not), that strategic creative production for corporate events is something The Brainzooming Group regularly does for clients.

If you are facing this type of challenge, contact us, and let’s chat about ideas. We love see an organization chart a new course and succeed dramatically with a breakthrough event! Mike Brown

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I’m excited to be speaking again this year at several Social Media Strategies Summit events. The first is in Chicago on April 26-28, 2017. I’ll be speaking at the SMSSummit in New York this coming October (October 17-19, 2017). Additionally, I’ll also be presenting a workshop at the GSMI-sponsored Branding Conference, also during October in Chicago.

As part of the relationship with these GSMI conferences, we’ll be co-releasing several new Brainzooming eBooks on brand strategy and social media content marketing. The first of these eBooks is now available. You can download your FREE copy today!

FREE 81 Social Media Content Marketing Ideas eBook

The new eBook features a checklist of 81 Engaging Social Content Ideas to Boost Your Brand. The checklist will help you generate social media content marketing topics that fit your brand and engage your audiences.


Download Your FREE eBook! 81 Engaging Social Content Ideas Checklist

81 Engaging Social Content Ideas to Boost Your Brand includes ideas to:

  • Better involve your audience
  • Share your brand’s knowledge
  • Teach valuable lessons
  • Develop brand-oriented lists
  • Share impactful opinions
  • Incorporate your people into the stories
  • Repurpose strong social media content marketing topics

One great thing about the eBook’s checklist is you can apply it to both long-form (eBooks, blogs, videos) and short-form (status updates, photos, short videos) content multiple times. This will keep your social media content marketing fresh and consistently up-to-date across social networks.

Download and take advantage of this free resource to grow your social media impact. While you are at it, check out the Social Media Strategies Summit events in Chicago or New York. Register for these events and join other senior-level corporate professionals looking to learn how to accelerate their brand presences across social media.
Download Your FREE eBook! 81 Engaging Social Content Ideas Checklist

Looking forward to your thoughts on the new eBook, and seeing you in Chicago or New York for the 2017 SMSSummits! – Mike Brown

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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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