Sneaking through a networking event

PodCamp Boston 5

Here’s a fun exercise to try at your next in-person marketing event. The difficulty of this exercise scales with how centered on your product, service, or business you are, and its value scales inversely to that self-centeredness. The more you can lose yourself, the more you’ll gain from the exercise. This trick is also an outstanding one for folks who are more introverted and normally struggle at networking events.

See how long you can get through a networking event without giving out any substantial information at all. When asked common questions, use answers like, “Oh, the usual” and then immediately redirect the conversation back to the other person and get them talking about themselves, their work, and their company. Here’s how an example exchange might go:

Eventgoer: Hey, how’s it going?
You: Oh, the usual. What’s new with you?
Eventgoer: Pretty good. So what are you working on these days?
You: Same old stuff. What about you, what’s working for you these days? Are you still at…
Eventgoer: Yeah, I’ve got this project I’m working on right now on marketing metrics and… (conversation continues)

The marketer in you will be screaming inside your head, “TALK ABOUT HOW AWESOME WE ARE”. Resist that temptation strongly. Instead, work the room as a mirror of the people who are in it, asking questions, learning as much as you can, sharing other people’s stories as appropriate. At the end of the evening, see if you have come away with significantly more information and more contacts than you normally do from a networking event. More important, see what kinds of responses you get from people you talk to.

Why this works: people LOVE to talk about themselves and their companies, just as you (as a marketer) love to do the same. We tend to build more favorable opinions of people who listen to us, and we tend to want to keep talking to those people. If we can get out of our own way, the floodgates of information will open for us!

Give it a try!

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Oppression begins with inequality

Red Pill Blue Pill

“You can see it when you look out your window or when you turn on your television. You can feel it when you go to work… when you go to church… when you pay your taxes. It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth, that you are a slave. Like everyone else you were born into bondage, into a prison that you cannot taste or see or touch. A prison for your mind.” – Morpheus

I believe in absolute equality of opportunity, of which marriage equality, gay rights, and due process are a part of. Getting people to believe in absolute equality is a hard sell, mostly because the various powers that be greatly oppose absolute equality in any form. Here’s why.

Throughout the course of human history, we can roughly group every human society into the Haves and Have-Nots. Throughout the course of human history, the Haves have been figuring out how to keep what they have, and the Have-Nots have been figuring out how to take at least some of the good stuff away from the Haves. Sometimes this takes obvious forms, like totalitarian governments that oppress dissent through fear, or monarchs and warlords pressing the peasants into armies to kill each other off as frequently as possible.

The less obvious way for the Haves to keep the Have-Nots from gathering them up in the town square and killing them all (which has happened a fair number of times, too) is to get the Have-Nots to oppress each other. Think about it for a second – what could be easier than crowdsourcing your fear tactics? The way to do this is easy, so easy that it’s got a psychological phenomenon named after it, the granfalloon technique. It’s the process of creating a separate identity out of largely irrelevant differences. Ask any Yankees fan about the Red Sox and you’re seeing the granfalloon effect in full swing.

The Haves in modern America, and you can call them whatever you want, the 1%, the elite, or as George W. Bush so colorfully said, the Have-Mores, use this very much to their advantage. How do you get a population of 300 million people, many of whom are not going to be successful, many of whom are not going to to ever be in the Haves, much less the Have-Mores, from revolting (again)? You leverage your old friend, inequality.

Look back at American history. When slavery was abolished, poor blacks and poor whites were effectively in the same starting place. The plantation owners realized they were in for a potential revolt, so they played the racism card and managed to get the two classes fighting each other, rather than have them turning an eye towards the wealthiest. Every generation of immigrants has been demonized by the scions of the previous generation’s leaders, from the Irish being demonized by the Italians to Mexicans and Hispanics today. I always have a cynical, bitter chuckle when I read racist remarks about Hispanics coming out of the mouths of folks with Irish heritage.

World history provides even more stark examples. All you need do is look at the various Holocausts through a different lens – after all, the Nazis who exterminated millions of people certainly didn’t let the victims’ possessions just lay around. There are still disputes today over ownership of works of art and other family heirlooms almost 70 years after the war ended. The Haves took, and brutally killed off the Have-Nots in the process.

Marriage equality, racial parity, gay rights, etc. are just a few of the many different ways we’re being told by the Haves to fight each other. Republicans and Democrats are told by their party bosses to fight. Liberals and Conservatives. Christians and Muslims. Blacks and whites. Hell, as evidenced by recent events (like last week), we’re still fighting each other over gender, the oldest of divisions.

The antidote to this, from marriage equality to racism to gender stereotypes, is absolute equality of opportunity, the certain belief that we are all equal in opportunity (but not equal in result), and the realization that any form of inequality not only is wrong from a moral perspective, but is a tool of oppression being leveraged against us, by us. The moment you fall victim to believing in someone else’s inequality – “Oh, they’re a Republican, I hate them” or “Oh, they’re a Jew, I hate them” or “Oh, they’re a feminist, I hate them” – you blind yourself to the truth that the other person is probably working just as hard for the same things you both want – happy home, happy life, happy spirit. You’re doing the work of the Haves for them (and unpaid!).

The practical antidote is to keep that simple mantra in your mind every time inequality rears its head in you. “I am not a tool of the 1%” or “I am not a tool of the Haves”. Every time you see or hear something that creates that knee-jerk response in your own mind, recite that mantra and resolve to overcome your own prejudices in order to give the other person a chance to prove that they are your equal or not as an individual. Vow not to do the work of the Haves for them.

Equality of opportunity also doesn’t mean equality of outcome. The fastest runner should win, no matter what race, gender, or sexual orientation they are. But the situation today doesn’t call for equality of outcome. It calls for equality of opportunity.

We must recognize that equality of opportunity means everyone starts the race at the same start line.
No one starts 50 meters behind.
No one starts with an anvil tied to their leg.
No one is shot dead halfway through the race just because they showed signs they might win.

Inequality is a virus that spreads from mind to mind. Inoculate yourself, and inoculate others. Support all forms of equality of opportunity. Once you open your eyes to that truth, not only will your life be filled with less anger and hate, you’ll start to see how the world really works.

Or, you take the blue pill, you wake up in your bed, and you continue to believe whatever the Haves want you to believe. Your choice.

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Use a presentation to break writer’s block

Are you stuck feeling like you’re writing the same old thing and need fresh new ideas about it?

Try this trick to get yourself unstuck. To make the most of it, have a notepad available at all times to take notes on fresh ideas and thoughts as they occur.

Scenes from PodCamp Europe 2007

Take any topic that you’ve got experience on and create a slide presentation about it.

Aim to have a 60 minute presentation, and aim to spend about a minute on each slide.

Get ready to go present it. It doesn’t matter whether or not anyone else watches – but present it as if you were doing an hour-long talk at an event. Before you start talking, get a portable voice recorder and record yourself as you present.

Present the content and record yourself. A webinar format is actually ideal for this because you won’t be obsessing over how you look or how you appear to the audience – you’ll just be sharing what’s on your slides and speaking about them.

Next, take the recording and listen to it. Chances are, even if you’ve written about your area of expertise before, even in depth, there will be at least one new thing that you shared in your talk that you haven’t written about. If you did it in front of an audience and took some Q&A, listen to how you answered the questions.

You’ve now got a giant amount of content, from presentation slides to the prepared notes to the actual delivery of the material itself, more than enough information to create followup blog posts, articles, emails, and more. By switching processes and formats to something much more long form, you’ve forced yourself to create a lot more material, material that you can then refine, expand upon, and share.

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