The badge you see here is the type of identifier that marks IABC World Conference-goers, making it easy to strike up a conversation with people you don’t know. As I mentioned in my last post, that’s one of the benefits of the conference.
Here are some of the nuggets I took away from individual sessions:
Jonah Lehrer: How we decide
I already mentioned Jonah’s fast-paced presentation, which began with a story about trying to decide which box of Cheerios to buy, a kind of “paralysis by analysis” that led to his book, How We Decide.
Key takeaways: Don’t overestimate the power of human reason and underestimate the power of human emotion. A compelling personal story will draw more financial support than statistics. Respond to your instincts, your senses, your embedded knowledge. You don’t have to eat the marshmallow (in other words, you can distract yourself to wait for something of value). Respect the importance of daydreaming. The only way to get good at something is to screw up over and over again. (Update: Given Jonah’s fall from grace over plagiarism, isn’t that last point ironic? I still think he is a wonderfully smart, interesting, engaging speaker.)
Martha Muzychka, ABC: Flying solo
In a one-hour “idea jam,” Martha led tables of current and future entrepreneurs in a discussion of best practices for running your own communications business. Martha rewarded us for the early start (the morning after the CNW-sponsored Canada party) with goodies brought from Newfoundland, including t-shirts, soaps and chocolate.
Some nuggets: Market yourself by networking, using social media, volunteering, cold calling. Get an accountant. Build into your proposals a request to submit the project for awards, such as a Gold Quill. Have a performance appraisal with yourself every six months. Keep up with other indies, in person and on Twitter chats.
Don Ranly: Let’s tell a story
Don has presented at IABC conferences countless times, and he’s an inspiration every time. He’s a Ph.D., IABC Fellow and professor emeritus of the Missouri School of Journalism.
Some tips: The traditional inverted pyramid style of writing presents dry material in a predictable way, which discourages the reader. Instead, immerse the reader in a story, using the nine senses: sight, sound, taste, touch, scent, sense of people, sense of place, sense of time, sense of drama. Aim for attention > comprehension > retention > action. Get attention with a concrete beginning, a real person, a scene, an anecdote or dialogue and transition to what’s in it for the reader. Avoid the vague words many, most, often, some; be specific. Show rather than tell, as in “She hadn’t voted for 10 years” vs. “She wasn’t political.”
One of the best lines: Referring to a lead about a hurricane that began, “The birds were flying backwards,” Don said, “Even if that’s a damn lie, it’s a helluva lead!”
Nancy Duarte: That resonates with me
Nancy described presentations as “a tool to make our ideas reality.”
Some key points: Your “big idea” must define a unique point of view and the stakes. You must also define who your audience is when they walk in the room, and how you want them to be when they leave. The audience is the hero, not you. Make your time so valuable that people feel they have spent time with a mentor. Include a “STAR” moment: Something They Always Remember. Always take less time than you are given.
My favourite line: “Designing a presentation without the audience in mind is like writing a love letter and addressing it ‘to whom it may concern’.”
Sam Harrison: Selling your ideas
As a presenter, it’s up to you to make sure your message is received and understood.
Some takeaways: When selling an idea, you’re really selling value, how it will solve a problem. Selling is a transfer of enthusiasm. Be passionate about your idea and convey that passion.
Five pitching secrets: (1) Have one theme you can sum up in one or two sentences. (2) Have a strong start that gets attention. (3) Use simple language, no jargon. (4) Paint pictures of your idea as reality, using words, images, personal stories. (5) Add drama; think of Steve Jobs drawing the MacBook Air out of a manila envelope.
Favourite lines: “It’s like sitting on a pig and praying for a ham sandwich.” “If they birthed it, they can’t kill it.”
Shel Holtz, ABC: Your company must become a media company
You don’t exist if you aren’t discoverable online, Shel told the group.
Some tips: Companies must go beyond sending out news releases and annual reports, by using their web sites to tell stories, answer questions, entertain consumers. We must become adept at
(1) Video: It doesn’t have to be stellar quality, aim for “good enough.” Home Depot has done a great job of becoming a trusted guide by issuing “how to” videos.
(2) Audio: Issue a monthly podcast aimed at existing customers. Get consumers to submit questions via Twitter and answer them.
(3) Print: Target key partners and customers. Reinforce key messages. Repurpose content, such as turning articles into blog posts.
(4) Graphics and infographics: A great example is a simple “decision tree” helping consumers figure out what to do with old electronics.
(5) Media portal: Help people find all your content in one place, broken out by content or categories of products.
(6) Sharing: Encourage journalists, bloggers, customers to use your material.
(7) Being open to engagement: The public increasingly expects to be able to like, rate, comment and review your company and your products or services. Negative comments just add to your credibility.
(8) Transmedia storytelling: Use the appropriate channel to tell the story; you don’t have to answer a text question with text when a video might better demonstrate the answer.
(9) Mobile strategy: It’s not just does your web site look good from a cellphone, but what are people looking for from you when they are in a car or on the street? Help them easily do what they’re looking to do, such as book a hotel room or find sports scores.
(10) Curated content as media: Identify, collect, document, give context, display and share links.
Attending a conference like this may take a bit of budgeting and juggling, of both home and work responsibilities, but as you can see, it’s a great way to re-energize yourself.