Over at the American Express Open Forum, I recently posted an article about the application of ten Japanese concepts to PowerPoint, Facebook, and Twitter. Check it out here if you want a conceptual framework to simplify your use of these tools.
A common assumption is that communicating face-to-face is more persuasive than email. That's not always true, according to a 2002 study. Researchers found that men are often more responsive to email because it downplays their competitive tendencies. On the other hand, women react better to in-person encounters because they are more relationship-oriented.
These same researchers found that someone will help another person if they feel a high level of "oneness" with the person--that is, the extent to which they indentify with the other person. When the oneness was low between men, email was much more effective. When the oneness was high for women, face-to-face interactions were much better.
Whether pitching an idea, working with a new client, or finding a job, we often have to take risks and reach out to people we don't know. We don't want to perpetuate gender stereotypes, but this research is useful to keep in mind as we make those cold calls. Based on what we know about the person, does email or face-to-face interaction make more sense? Face-to-face isn't always the answer.
According to a series of psychological studies discussed on Psychology Today, research participants are able to successfully communicate sarcasm and humor in a mere 56 percent of emailsand most of the senders had no idea their attemps were so ineffective.
How do you avoid this? The article gives some tips:
Read your emails aloud and listen for parts that could be confusing.
For important emails, walk away from the computer and come back with a fresh perspective.
Eudora apparently has a "Mood Watch" function, which highlights volatile phrasesone, two or three red chili peppers, depending on the burn.
This is a great reminder, especially when writing pitches or cover letters. Wit can be a great toolas long as most readers get it. Clearly, subtlety is not the soul of wit.
You can accuse me of many things but looking a gift horse in the mouth is not one of them. As a followup to yesterday's interview with Nancy Duarte, I asked her to work her magic on my PowerPoint presentation (which I consider already very good).
Is your mantra, mission, and/or elevator pitch failing? Startups often have the problem that nobody can understand them. If this is you, George Lakoff may be your fix. Lakoff is a cognitive linguist who focuses on "the last smile" between message and recognition in brain. The Chronicle has a brief history of Lakoff's career (thanks to Mindhacks.com for the link) that is must reading for founders trying to change the world...but who can't understand why the world won't listen.
Lakoff's main focus for the past decade has been to pin down how the Republican Party has so consistently out maneuvered the Democratic Party...verbally. In translating linguistics into plain English politicians can understand, Lakoff has laid a banquet before startups with new-to-the-world technologies. If your customers don't have the mental receptors in order to receive your message, what do you do? Lakoff tells you in Don't Think of an Elephant and his other works explained in this article.
The bottom line of Lakoff is that you have to focus on two things: frames and arguments. Frames are examples, stories, and analytical models that allow problems to be set up for an argument. And the argument is what you do with all the objects in your frame. Finding frames is a process of pure brain pain. You search, find, try, refine, and repeat in a brute force exercise to find ways for your audience to understand you. In Don't Think of an Elephant Lakoff describes the funded think tanks that republicans use to generate a steady stream of white papers trying out ways of communicating that will trick Americans into voting regardless of their self interest.
Arguing too, is pain for the brain. Arguments happen, then they get simplified, then they grow in layers, then they consolidate like glaciers to an essence. You don't make just one trip to the venture capitalist and walk away with money. You wear them down. To do this best, you need to invest heavily and brain painfully to make people understand your product and what it does for your customers. And you need to sharpen your argument over time. Lakoff might say that venture capitalists are more likely to invest in improvements to your pitch, than in your first product.
In the venture capital business, many people think that a short pitch is thirty slides and a short business plan is fifty pages. My how they are mistaken.
The more slides and pages that you need to explain your business, the less likely you will succeed. Truly, the best pitches and plans require nothing more than one page or a picture to explain them. Do you recognize this picture? It's how Southwest Airlines was pitched.
Incidentally, my momma didn't raise a fool, so as soon as I figured out what he does, I asked him to apply his skills to a real-world task of mine: explaining Alltop to people. These are the pictures he came up with. I like them! (Larger version here.)
Slideshare is running the "World's Best Presentation Contest" again. Entries are due by July 31st. I'm a judge again this year along with Bert Decker, Nancy Duarte, and Garr Reynolds. The prizes include a MacBook Air, Amazon Kindle, iPod Nano, iPod Touch, and copies of Presentation Zen. To learn more, go here.
Most people in the mid eighties used personal computers for three primary purposes: spreadsheets, databases, and wordprocessing. Thank God that Paul Brainerd came up with the idea of PageMaker and desktop publishing, or we'd all be listening to music on cassette tapes. The principle that I learned from Aldus is that ultimately customers decide how to use your product or service, not your marketers. I recently came across a company called VisualCV that offers a "multimedia resume" service to help people find a job, but that's just the tip of the iceberg. VisualCV's service is applicable anytime you want a web page but don't want the hassle or expense of a web site. Here are examples to inspire you:
Win a wedding. If the big day is coming up, you can build a VisualCV to try to win a wedding from the Today Show like Annie and Tom did here.
Find a date. Maybe you've got no one to marry yet. Then build a pitch to find a date/hero. Or better yet, have those dates put together a VisualCV and pitch you.
Display your portfolio.Here's how photographer Mike Fox displays his pictures. And here's how interior designer Michael Anthony displays his restaurant designs.
Show off your talent. YouTube is great for some things, but if you really want to show off your acting talent, VisualCV can help too. Check out what Lara Hopewell did here.
Showcase your research. Check what Ann Gales did here to tell the world about global health. And what Jeremy Epstein did here for the IEEE Society
Make a sales pitch. Kickbutt Sales Training did this and Premier Career Potential did this to provide online sales pitches for their services. These sure beat a PDF.
Create a multimedia "About Me." Click on my VisualCV button in the sidebar and, it goes to my profile. It’s a great way for people to get a one-page snapshot of my current activities and to see me in action.
Launch a product. Jewelry designer Dina Mackney used VisualCV to launch her Spring 2008 collection. Check out what what she did here to include press coverage and photos of new pieces in the collection.
Pitch a conference planner. The next time that you want to speak at a conference, try using VisualCV to pitch the conference planner. This is what Dave Saunders does.
Promote your inner rocker. Cliff Sims built this to showcase his band called The Skyline Drive as well as other music-related projects.
You could just use VisualCV for its original purpose: job search. This is what landed Carol Anderson her new position. After all, you could us a Macintosh for spreadsheets, databases, and wordprocessing too.
The bottom line is that VisualCV is more than a resume replacement. It's a kind of website "for the rest of us" so I hope you'll use it in ways that the company never anticipated.
I am an advisor to VisualCV. And Annie of Annie and Tom, the contestants for the Today Show, is the managing director of Truemors so please vote for them here. More help for people looking for jobs here.