No, I’m not going to Dreamforce 2014

In case you were wondering…

Nope, I’m not going to Dreamforce this year. I wrote this blog post expressly so I can link it every time someone asks this week.


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When conferences aren’t enough

At a certain point in your journey to becoming a competent marketing professional, you’ll find yourself at a marketing conference. Conferences are terrific places to meet new people, to get exposed to new ideas, to jump headfirst into a topic area and see what’s available, at least at good conferences. Think of conferences like a buffet restaurant with a thousand different dishes. You can have the experience of snacking on a little bit of everything, or have a few exploratory bites and dine on a familiar, reassuring dish.

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At some point later in your career, you will wonder whether conferences are enough. Or you’ll reach a point where it feels like conferences might not be generating the same sense of enthusiasm and “ah-ha” moments that they once did. The answer for your continued growth as a marketing professional at that point is not more conferences. It’s at that point when you will want to start thinking about more formal training, from workshops to entire degree programs.

The turning point that will help clarify when you’re approaching that point (so that you don’t get overly frustrated or feel like you’re wasting time and money) is simple to diagnose: when you find yourself struggling to organize everything you’ve learned. What you typically get out of conferences and related events are little hints, tips, tools, and tactics. They’re the equivalent of little dishes, like the samples from the buffet or perhaps a tapas restaurant.

Your ability to make use of all of those tools and tactics is dependent on understanding a big picture context of where they fit into your overall marketing strategy. If you feel like you’re drowning in tips and ideas, that’s the point at which conferences aren’t enough. Neither are blogs or social media posts or any other “snackable” content going to be helpful, as they’ll just add more stuff you can’t organize and contextualize.

When you reach that point, go in search of strategies and frameworks instead. Formal education can provide some of them – instead of reading blogs every day, consider taking a timeout and reading something like the Portable MBA in Marketing or other solid business textbooks to get those bigger frameworks.

Once you have those bigger picture strategies and frameworks, then you’ll find that reading blogs and going to conferences becomes a pleasure again, as every new tip and tactic fits neatly into your framework – and when you find something new that doesn’t fit in the frameworks you know, you realize that you’re exploring new territory. That should then be a sign to seek out or create a framework around the new topic area so that you can quickly learn it.

That’s my preferred long-term strategy that will help you learn marketing as quickly as possible and keep making it a joy rather than a burden.


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Upping my speaking game

_1__Tamsen_Snyder_WebsterPhoto Credit: MarketingProfs

Over the last two days, I had the opportunity to attend a training for public speakers with a coaching firm, Oratium, led in part by my friend Tamsen Webster. One of the things I’ve always struggled with as a public speaker is coming up with a winning architecture for my presentations. I can do the delivery, the performance, just fine, but I’ve always felt that something was missing, something wasn’t quite right, something wasn’t as good as it could be.

What the last two days showed me were the missing pieces, the few tweaks and adjustments I need to make in order to take a presentation from good to great, from ordinary to extraordinary. I don’t view myself as a bad speaker, but the training was beneficial for me to understand what could be better, and what will be better in future talks I give. What I enjoyed most about the Oratium training was that it presented a complex, complete framework of how presentations work, and from there I could assess what I did right already and where I am deficient. Instead of trying to “just be better” or “just do more”, I could clearly see what it was that I wasn’t doing right.

What’s one of the biggest points where I have not done as good a job as a speaker? Giving the conclusions outright to the audience. This is a deficiency that comes largely from my martial arts training, where we learn to draw our own conclusions in real-time (and face bone-jarring consequences if our conclusions are incorrect), which is an efficient way to learn for the martial arts, but not an efficient way to learn or teach from the stage. Because of the limitations of how we learn in real-time (relatively poorly if we’re not trained to do so), it’s simply better for a speaker to hand a conclusion or insight to the audience rather than make them work for it and possibly come to a completely wrong conclusion.

I’ve got a lot of work to do in order to revamp and rework my speaking, but in the coming months and years, I hope that the training pays off for you (should you choose to see me speak) as much as it already has for me. If you’re ever in the speaking role, I would strongly encourage you to take an Oratium master class as well.

Disclosure: I was not compensated by Oratium for this post, nor do I receive any financial benefit, directly or indirectly, from it. I did receive a substantial discount to take the class, but there was no expectation or requirement for me to write about it.


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