The good folks at CBC Radio’s The Irrelevant Show have celebrated the launch of Alex’s new LinkedIn e-book by posting a sketch about LinkedIn. The first two minutes or so are probably a lot funnier to the folks who are finding LinkedIn baffling than they were to me, but that last third of the sketch had me guffawing. Actually guffawing. Continue reading →
If you were to assemble a herd of top-notch researchers, and tell them “Find me someone who embodies public speaking, social media and podcasting,” chances are fights would break out as several of them vied to be the first to get to Tod Maffin‘s door.
One day he’ll be speaking to large corporations about digital marketing; the next, to a hometown social media conference about podcasting. His “Taking Crazy Back” keynote takes an unflinching look at his own struggle with depression and addiction as a powerful way of bringing conversations about mental health into the full light of day.
In this conversation, you’ll hear Tod’s insights on using social networks to get a sense of a room weeks before he sets foot in it; how meeting planners want more value from an engagement, and how you can offer it; why a projected backchannel is as bad a distraction as a troupe of dancing chimpanzees; and why digital dazzle can’t top a good, compelling story.
A lot of speeches begin with someone introducing you to the audience – reciting your background and qualifications, and then encouraging them to greet you warmly as you head to the microphone.
And once the applause dies down, you’re looking at a sea of people who are probably as unfamiliar to you as you are to them. Your first few lines not only have to launch your speech, but establish a rapport and some degree of trust with your audience.
But in the era of the social speech, you don’t have to speak to an audience of strangers. You can get acquainted and start the conversation days or even weeks before you break out the index cards. You probably won’t get to know everybody beforehand… but you’ll know at least some of them, and they’ll know you.
Start by finding out where your audience hangs out online. Are there professional groups on LinkedIn, or groups on Facebook where they get together? Is there an event or chat hashtag they use on Twitter? Do they frequent the sponsoring organization’s blog? Do they go even more old-school, with discussion forums? Are there Twitter lists or public Google+ circles that can help you discover them? (Just be sure these are public-facing spaces, and not places where participants are expecting some degree of privacy.)
Now that you know where to find your audience – or a chunk of it – you’ll want to introduce yourself. But before you do, listen to the public conversations they’re having. What’s the tone? What issues are high on their agendas? Who are the natural hosts and leaders in the conversations? Once you have a sense of the dynamics, then it’s time to let folks know who you are.
Post a message in the various venues you’ve identified. Let people know who you are, and that you’re excited that you’ll be speaking at the event. Ask who else will be attending, give everyone an idea of what you’re planning to talk about, and invite suggestions and questions. Unmarketing author and speaker Scott Stratten likes to do that through a webcam video he records before his speeches, greeting his audience and letting them know what it’s in for. They get to see who he is and get a taste of his speaking style. (You’ll find that and other fantastic Scott Stratten speaking tips in this blog post.)
Write a blog post referring to your upcoming speech, and dealing with one of the key themes you’ll be covering. (If it’s a theme you’ve posted on before, you can revisit a previous post with a few more thoughts.) Consider asking your audience a question, or assigning a little homework: “You’ll get a lot more out of this presentation if you can come in with a list of the three things you’d most like to try this year in your organization’s fundraising.” And include your video, if you’ve recorded one.
Looking for a big-picture idea of your audience’s interests or level of experience? An online poll (using a service like PollDaddy or GoPollGo) can allow audience members to score their skills, choose a favourite topic or place themselves on a spectrum of opinion.
Your host can make a big difference in the success of your outreach. Ask the event organizers to include links to your blog posts, polls and video on their blog and in their emails to attendees. (Chances are they’ll be delighted that you’re doing this. We’ll look at more ways to collaborate with your organizer in a future post.)
Use Twitter to announce your arrival at the event (which you’ll do early) and at the socials and networking events (which you’ll attend), using the event hashtag. Aim to meet some of the people you’ve talked with online. The face-to-face contact strengthens your online relationships, and can give you a sense of the event’s intangibles that can be invaluable in fine-tuning your presentation.
During your presentation, mention some of the people you’ve talked to and the conversations you’ve had. And if you’ve assigned homework beforehand, mention it and weave it into your speech — you can even call on a few of your new online contacts in the audience to read their answers. (In each case, clear it with them first; some people are happy to talk online, but squirm if they’re singled out from the stage.)
What you’ve done is to bridge your online and in-person presence with these audience members. Your speech will be better, because you’ve had the benefit of some insight into your audience’s thinking. You’ll be more at home on stage, because you know there are friends — or at least some friendly acquaintances — out in the crowd. And you’ve laid the groundwork for ongoing relationships that last long after you leave the stage.
Speechwriting is a notoriously solitary profession. You might have a few conversations with a client, their staff or — if you’re writing for yourself — a mirror. But a lot of your work is going to be just you, a keyboard and the unforgiving blank screen.
At least, that used to be the case. But when you’re crafting a social speech, speechwriting can be a team activity. And even though you still have to do the actual writing, you can draw on the ideas, experience and ingenuity of a large networked audience.
You may feel a little hesitant about asking your network for help, especially out in the open: aren’t you supposed to be the expert? But even experts have to do research. When you ask for suggestions or ideas, you’re acknowledging the collective knowledge, experience and expertise of your friends, fans and followers, and inviting them to make a contribution. That’s not admitting a weakness; it’s paying a compliment.
Here are five ways to bring your network in on the act the next time you’re working on a speech:
Crowdsourcing: Find yourself falling back on the same old examples and cases? Shake things up by asking your network for their favourites. A tweet like “Speaking to HR conference tomorrow – what are your favorite examples of innovative recruiting? #HRINS11” can help you add a few new arrows to your quiver — for this speech, and future ones.
Storytelling: It’s one thing to set out an argument and back it up with statistics. It’s another — and a whole different level of emotional resonance — to illustrate that argument with a real-world story, attached to an actual human being. Ask your followers for their personal experience, and you can find some remarkable stories to share with your audience (with permission, of course). And if you want to go that extra mile, and you have a willing friend with a terrific story, a webcam clip can dramatically boost its impact.
Media:Flickr’s Creative Commons archive and iStockPhoto can get you some great images. But many of your network members’ hard drives are packed to the gills with their own photos and videos, some of them quite compelling. Put out a call for a specific image (“I’m looking for a photo of a really beat-up old car for my next presentation”) and you may well get just what you’re looking for. Alternately, you could consider having a series of related images — people making angry faces, beautiful shots of waterfalls, screenshots of error messages — and turn them into a mosaic or mini-slideshow that reinforces a particular theme in your speech. (Just do your due diligence about usage rights. Make sure the contributor is also the creator, and consider privacy issues around any identifiable individuals.)
Brainstorming: Want to see how an idea or a line of reasoning flies with people? Posting it and asking for feedback (or, if you’re up for it, pushback) can help you sharpen your thinking. You may get some encouragement and validation — or maybe you’ll hear an unexpected point of view that leads you to revise your approach. (Inviting perspectives from outside your organization and your usual circle can be a great way to break out of groupthink.) And even if you don’t change your mind, you’ll have a better idea of some of the objections your audience might raise… objections that you can address during your speech.
Polling: A service like PollDaddy, GoPollGo or Facebook Questions lets you create multiple-choice polls to unleash on your networks. Don’t go looking to draw any valid statistical inferences from the results… but if you’re looking for a general expression of sentiment, you’ll be able to tell your audience things like “More than three-quarters of the people I asked in a Twitter poll said they feel extremely swamped by email… and not one said they felt like they were on top of it.”
You can turn to a wide range of online services for inviting collaboration and soliciting contributions. Twitter is great for short questions and answers (if you’re asking people to share links, for instance). LinkedIn Answers lets you reach out to your professional network. Your profile or page on Facebook or Google+ can serve as a more conversational venue for longer contributions. A Google or Wufoo form can allow people to submit structured responses (the tradeoff being a slightly higher barrier to participation and a much less social experience). And if you have the viewership or readership to reach the right crowd, your blog or YouTube page can be an even more targeted, effective way of connecting with people.
It can’t just be one-way, of course, with your friends and followers giving and you taking. You need to thank your network members for their help, and encourage them to be there for you in your next speech:
Immediate thanks: Reply to everyone, if that’s even remotely feasible. If you’ve been deluged, then you might have to consider a group thanks — but most of us should be so lucky.
Credit where it’s due: If you’re using someone’s personal story, you want to attribute it to them (after confirming they don’t mind). And you should consider crediting somebody who’s provided an especially remarkable piece of information. Letting them know you gave them a shout-out in your speech is a great way to thank them.
Credit where it’s due, part 2: If you’ve used a photo or video clip in your presentation, you’ll definitely want to add a credit on-screen. Ask the contributor how they’d like to be credited – and keep the typeface readably large (without detracting from the image itself). If you’ve created a mosaic or a mini-slideshow, consider adding a credit slide at the end of your presentation.
Thanks afterward: A post-speech blog post or webcam video is your chance to thank everyone who contributed, and single out the folks you leaned on particularly heavily. And not just by name; linking to their online presence of choice is the sincerest form of gratitude.
Continued engagement: Now that they’ve contributed to your speech, your network members are going to feel vested in its outcome, and in your future presentations. Keep reaching out conversationally, even when you don’t have a speech on the horizon, and reciprocate in kind. You’re starting to build a more engaged, more committed following — one you’ll want to devote some genuine attention to.
Vancouver blogger and friend-of-SoSi Dr. Raul Pacheco has a post today explaining why he’s been skeptical about LinkedIn, the business-focused social network. And on Twitter, he asked for suggestions “if you believe in this social network, or can give me some insight on its value”.
If you’ve been wondering about LinkedIn, too, here’s what I suggested to Raul:
I’m completely onside with being picky about where you devote your online attention, and LinkedIn can be especially thorny: the fact that there’s an implied endorsement when you connect to someone can make it awkward to decline an invitation. (Not to mention what it can do to your ego when someone declines yours!)
That said, just off the top of my head, here are three ways I’ve found LinkedIn hugely useful:
LinkedIn Groups: Because these birds-of-a-feather communities are professional in nature, I’ve found the conversations there tend to be conducted at a more business-like level than what I’d get on, say, Facebook. And I’m discovering some people doing fascinating work whom I might never otherwise have come across.
Network diving: This is something Alex has shown me, and good lord, it’s handy. When I’m travelling out of town, I search my network on the destination. Now I have folks to look up when I’m in town, as well as second-degree connections who might well be worth meeting while I’m there. I ask for a few introductions, and we’re off to the races.
LinkedIn Answers: This underused (IMHO) LinkedIn feature lets you draw on your community’s expertise, as well as giving you a chance to share your knowledge and, perhaps, come to the attention of people you’d like to connect to.
Do any of those sound potentially compelling to you?
A while back, a friend of mine wondered about LinkedIn‘s somewhat limited options for indicating how you know someone. (“I vomited on their shoes at the office party” isn’t on the list, for example.) We had a back-and-forth on her blog, and I came up with a list of some potentially useful additions to LinkedIn’s categories.