You Have 20 Seconds …Use These Techniques in 2020

This applies to everything — meeting someone new at an event, a post on social media or a cold call to someone you want to connect with.

If the first 20 seconds of your communication is all about you or your products and services, maybe it’s time for a rethink. Why is that? Why do we consider the opening part of the call to be the most important?

The best advice comes from professionals who do it every single day.  This advice from mtd Sales Training Specialists focuses on sales and how to start off on the right foot. Here’s what they shared about the first 20 seconds of an initial call.

This is outstanding advice whether you are trying to gain the interest of a journalist, a new client, an event producer or anyone who doesn’t yet know why they need you!

Think: What state or frame of mind is my prospect in when I call?

Think: What might they have been doing the moment before they took my call?

Think: What do they need to hear in the first 15 to 20 seconds that will at least make them listen to me for a further 15-20 seconds?

Whatever your answers, I doubt whether they included anything about being pushed towards a product or service they aren’t using at present.

What can you do, then, to lengthen this first call?

Of course, you grab their attention and interest by talking, not about you, but about them or something that can help them.

That first 15-20 seconds is golden time because it can make or break the next few minutes of the call.

You need to make it personal and specific to your market, but it should sound something like this:

“Hi, this is Bill Smith with Acme Widgets. Reason I’m calling is we recently helped a company in the (customer’s) industry increase their sales by 10% while reducing their marketing spend by the same amount. I wanted to see if we might be able to do the same for you.”

Now you’re talking about them. You’re talking about results. You’re asking if those kind of results would interest your prospect

When you talk about results, that is what the buyer would really be interested in.

It makes them curious and allows you to go into more detail as they are intrigued with what this might be about.

Of course, you need to be honest and truthful. Don’t lie about figures just to get an appointment.

You’re setting expectations that can’t be met if you do, and that will only cause more problems in the long run.

Did you notice that you didn’t mention your products or services in that first part of the conversation? It’s not relevant or necessary.

What you need to do is build their interest to know more.

You may have heard about the ‘AIDA’ principle before. That acronym stands for Attention, Interest, Desire, Action.

Many salespeople go straight to their product pitch early on in the call because they are frightened of refusal or they think the product will sell itself. It won’t.

In any type of marketing, it’s important to get the prospect’s attention straight away. Without doing so, you risk the prospect saying they aren’t interested.

As the acronym states, you can’t build interest until you have grabbed attention. If they reply early with ‘I’m not interested’, it’s because you haven’t attracted attention first.

Think about when you go to the cinema. What comes on before the main feature? That’s right, trailers for upcoming attractions.

Filmmakers do that to grab your attention and build your interest for what’s to come. Treat your call like a ‘teaser’ or ‘trailer’ for what’s to come.

Just as you wouldn’t start off on a journey without knowing your end destination, think about what the end destination of your call needs to be. You’ll then realise that the opening of the call is the most important part.

So, talk about results and solutions, not products.

Making Deals At Dinner – Much More Than Great Food

Photo by Louis Hansel on Unsplash

Dinner parties are “on par” with golf for being an opportunity to enhance and expand a relationship; and to make a deal.  

#1 – For you, the host and your staff this is not social, it is work.  Each person sits at a different table, with the skill to keep the conversation light and appropriate.  Training must include potential worst case scenarios, a few ‘what if’s”, how to steer away from topics that could ruin the mood and to steer toward key moments that make the event memorable. Plan the evening with your ultimate purpose in mind.

#2 – Low centerpieces, if any – low-ish lights, soft music and comfortable chairs are all a must.

#3 – Food that is easy to eat (BBQ ribs are a no-no), dietary options and not too much emphasis on the wine and cocktails.  

#4 – A beautiful, calm setting, a team that knows how to guide a successful evening and staying focused can turn a dinner into a deal.

Below is a wonderful article from Claire Hoffman in BizBash (with thanks), that asks the experts how to plan and execute a successful dinner event:

Small, seated dinners have long been a popular way for companies and brands to thank their employees or entertain V.I.P. clients in an intimate setting. But as any event planner knows, hosting an effective dinner takes much more than just gathering guests for a great meal.

While social dinner parties might be focused on reconnecting with friends, corporate dinners are usually a bit more strategic—the company wants to convey some sort of message to key stakeholders. As such, ease of communication is crucial, and that goal should bleed into everything from the decor and the catering to the seating chart and the timing of toasts.

“Corporate events [need to] think ahead to a sound system, a scripted message, and who is sitting next to whom to promote a positive networking environment,” explains David Merrell, the C.E.O. and creative director of AOO Events in Los Angeles. “There needs to be a certain return on investment for the money the company is spending [on this dinner].”

But that doesn’t mean the dinner needs to be all business, adds Christopher

Confero, the owner of Atlanta-based design firm Confero. “Just because it may be in a setting with fellow professionals, don’t forget to soften the space. Dim the lights, add beautiful decor pieces—anything that communicates to the guests they are appreciated and highly valued as employees and colleagues.”

Here are some more tips for creating effective dinners for corporate groups.

Design everything with the goal of facilitating conversations.
For seated dinners, centerpieces should either be below or above the sight line, so guests can talk throughout the meal. “If you place your elbow on the table and sit your chin on the palm of your hand, low decor should always be below that height,” says Confero. “If you raise your arm all the way up, tall decor should be above palm level there as well.”

It’s also important to avoid super-wide tables. “You want to be able to speak with the person across from you in a natural tone,” notes Jennifer Coman, the director of marketing and events for Los Angeles catering firm Haute Chefs L.A. “Comfortable chairs are also key, and something with a cushion is always appreciated.”

Entertainment-wise, it’s nice to have ambient noise in the background to cut down on awkward silences. Confero suggests live jazz music, or light music piped in through an audio system.

But if the event’s host wants more extensive entertainment, such as a performance of some sort, make sure it’s chosen with purpose. “If you are going to grab their attention away [from conversations], that distraction should be tying them back to the message, brand, or purpose of the event,” says Merrell.

Lighting is also an important consideration. “It is one of those things that when done well, it transforms the environment,” says Coman. “With corporate dinners, you need lighting that is not so dim that it feels like a club, but you don’t want it so bright that it feels medicinal.”

Confero suggests using a lot of candles on the table. “The more the better, with varying heights and varieties,” he explains. “Typically candles will be a bit cheaper than other centerpieces, and everyone looks ravishing in candlelight.”

Prep the event’s host on ways to keep the conversation flowing.
The dinner’s host should be responsible for keeping guests engaged and comfortable. One way to do that is with planned conversation topics. “With social or corporate dinners, many times guests aren’t familiar with the person sitting next to them,” says Merrell. “Lead questions from the host can break the silence, so always have some in your back pocket.”

Confero notes that this method also works if the party has multiple tables. One person seated at each table should be prepared with talking points. “Always put one large personality at each table,” he suggests. “If there is a lull in energy, they can jump in to pick things up. But be aware that you haven’t cast a bulldozer in this role—you don’t want someone dominating, only facilitating.”

One out-of-the-box way to facilitate conversation with a smaller group is the Jeffersonian Dinner method, where the entire table discusses one topic rather than having their own conversations with their seatmates. (BizBash covered this topic in a GatherGeeks podcast with Convers(ate) founders Taylor Buonocore Guthrie and Mollie Kinsman Khine.)

Toasts are also a great way for the host to thank everyone for coming and remind guests of the events’ purpose. “Make sure you have a sound system, or that the person giving the toast is loud enough for everyone to hear,” notes Merrell. “I also always encourage guests to not just toast with alcohol, wine, or champagne, but any drink that the guest has—you don’t want to promote drinking if [not all attendees] drink.”

As for timing, Coman says that toasts and other speeches should never be planned right before or during dessert. “We’ve seen it done, and you lose the crowd,” she says. “The best time for any ‘talking’ is going to be right when guests are getting warmed up and freshly seated, and between the first and second course.”

Think through the seating arrangements.
While assigned seating may be a good idea for dinner parties in general, it can be especially crucial for corporate dinners, says Merrell. “Meaningful business conversations and networking is one of the most important outcomes of the event,” he notes. “Seating configurations, the makeup of the guests attending, and the purpose of the gathering always dictate who is close to whom, and should always be considered separately from one event to the next.”

Confero adds that the client or host company should be involved in this process, since they know how best to group guests.

For dinners with multiple tables, it might make sense to play what Confero calls “a simple game of musical chairs.” “Each of your three courses is spent at a different table with various guests,” he explains. “It takes a bit more work for whoever is creating the seating arrangements—and of course on the kitchen and servers—but if you don’t have a large number of dietary restrictions it’s highly worth it to spend as much time as possible with different guests.”

Ask for dietary restrictions in advance—and keep catering simple.
In a corporate environment, it is especially important that guests with dietary restrictions don’t feel uncomfortable in front of their peers. “It is almost a given nowadays that you ask for restrictions such as allergies, gluten-free, or vegan,” says Merrell. “Asking up front sends the message that you care about the guests’ experience.”

With some exceptions depending on the group demographics, corporate dinners are usually not the time to get too experimental with catering. “Corporate dinners tend to stick more comfortably in the fish, chicken, and beef categories, and rarely venture beyond that,” says Merrell. Coman agrees. “Seated corporate dinners call for a plated, coursed meal with an option for restrictive diets and an easy switch-up for anyone with a serious allergy, for example. With our corporate clients, they always have a list of any executives that have allergies or dietary restrictions. In the rare case they do not [have a list], we work with our client to design a menu that is amenable to on-the-spot changes without sacrificing flavor,” she explains.

Like every other aspect of the dinner, though, food should never take away from the conversations. “You’d never want to be left ‘holding a skewer’ or having appetizers that take more than one easy bite in a corporate setting,” notes Coman. “It can cause for an awkward moment when needing to have a professional conversation.”

Confero agrees, adding that serving soup and pasta are not always the best idea. “There are always exceptions, but they are usually messy and loud,” he notes.

But, he adds, the dessert course may be a chance to get a bit more creative. “After a large meal, get guests up and moving around,” Confero suggests. “Make the dessert course something more relaxed and interactive. With space permitting, instead of serving the final course at the table, make it a couple stations scattered around the room.”

What is the Secret to Reaching Millennials? If you are producing an event…

Capturing the attention of millennials and the Gen Z crowd (also known as iGen) has been the holy grail of goals for meeting and event planners in recent years. Old-school methods and formats aren’t effective anymore. This new generation of attendees demands innovation and interactivity and expects social media shareability.

At the Center for Generational Kinetics, which specializes in generational research and solutions, an in-house team of experts, keynote speakers, and consultants work with clients, ranging from Fortune 500 companies to start-ups across industries such as automotive, banking, financial services, restaurants, hoteliers, and retail, to figure out what works and what doesn’t. (Hint: PowerPoint, no. Video, yes.)

The center deems those born between 1977 and 1995 as millennials. The center’s president, Jason Dorsey, who, at 40, rides the cusp of this generation, has spoken in front of many millennial-packed audiences at events, meetings, and conferences, including the Financial Brand Forum, GS1 in Mexico, Ultimate Connections Conference, and EO Nashville. Here, he shares his insights into planning a meeting or event that successfully taps into the mindset of this group.

What are the key elements that millennials look for in events?
Millennials want to be included in all aspects of the event. This means not having to sit in the back of the room because they have more junior titles or fewer years of experience. Millennials also want digital integration, fewer PowerPoint slides, more video, and more all-around interactivity. We have come of age in a time of instant feedback and collaboration, and we want our in-person events to include more of this before, during, and after.

What’s the main difference between reaching a Gen Z audience as compared to millennials?
Gen Z are younger than millennials, in some cases 15 years younger, so they are on the very front end of their careers. [Right now, Gen Z is up to age 22.] We find they value training on how to make the most of events, how to use technology to connect with people and resources at events, and interaction that drives new connections—as they likely know fewer people at the event than other generations. Gen Z also looks to other social media platforms, such as Snapchat rather than Facebook, which changes the type of digital interactions they want to create while at an event.

What’s the best way for planners to reach millennials at conferences and meetings in particular?
In our work with planners around the world, the best way to reach millennials is to create the foundation for a great event before the event happens. This includes videos, behind-the-scenes collaborations, and building up the excitement for the event before it takes place. Our work with meeting planners who have events with lots of millennials also reveals that millennials want the event to be tailored to them, when possible, and to give them options to find content and tracks that meet their specific needs including career and life stage. Millennials want speakers that are high energy, engaging, and who pull into the message and meeting, rather than traditional PowerPoint-heavy presentations with someone behind a podium.

Lastly, continuing the conversation after the event is key so that all the great content doesn’t just disappear, but drives engagement, enthusiasm, and action when everyone returns to work. We frequently work with meeting planners to film videos and create other content that is specifically designed to be delivered before and after the event, including live conversations post-event.

What types of speakers are most effective at engaging millennials?
Millennials get fired up about my take on our generation because I explain how millennials are actually two generations [early and late millennials], not one. This is a big deal and why many of us feel like we don’t fit in the generation. Other speakers I’ve seen that resonate with millennial audiences include Jay Baer, Rory Vaden, Erik Qualman, and David Horsager. All of them are very entertaining presenters with lots of great stories and humor, which is important as millennials have very high expectations for entertainment when it comes to speakers.

Is there anything that’s a major turn-off for millennials in terms of events? 
Yes, boring speakers with lots of slides, being treated as if they are not as valued an audience member as those with bigger titles, not having diverse food options, and events that are in hotels where they charge for Wi-Fi.

This article was posted here with thanks to the writer Michele Laufik and came from BIZBASH. http://www.bizbash.com.

Secret Sauce? – “Like Their Friend In The Newsroom Made Sure They Knew What They Needed To Know”

Whether it is a newsletter, a video, a social media post or a cocktail party – the basics remain – think about your audience and be interesting.  Below is the recipe for the secret sauce to communicating, and engaging, your audiences.

shutterstock_698002942 purchased July 2018

The New York Times recently announced that it now has 14 million subscribers across its 55 newsletters. According to Elisabeth Goodridge, The Times’s editorial director of newsletters, the “secret sauce” to good newsletters is as follows:

  1. Know your audience
  2. Have an expert write it (or be quoted)
  3. Design it beautifully
  4. Maintain it with best practices in mind
  5. And, perhaps most important, “offer something valuable that you can’t get anywhere else.”

It should also be an intimate and controlled space. “We want it to be a friction-free experience,” said Andrea Kannapell, the editor of briefings at The Times. That means shorter, lighter sentences; a conversational voice; and information that equips readers to take on news conversations at work and at cocktail parties. “We want them to leave the briefing feeling uplifted,” Ms. Kannapell said. “Like their friend in the newsroom made sure they knew what they needed to know.”

Thank you to the American Press Institute for sharing this article.  Blog readers:  Isn’t this what our jobs are too?  Whether it is delivering information TO a journalist, or shareholders, or employees or our communities … these simple steps are indeed the recipe to the ‘secret sauce’.

I am a subscriber to several of these NYT newsletters and usually I take the time to review and read them; they are that worthwhile.  This is a free service, delivered online, so I encourage you to take a look, experience their ‘secret sauce techniques’ and see if one of these 55 newsletters might be what you need to know.  Laura

The War For Talent Hinges on the Workplace Experience

The United States is a nation built on hard work. Even with technology increasing workforce productivity, an amplified advocacy for work-life balance, and the proliferation of non-standard work schedules, Americans, on average, still clock in a 40+-hour work week , and more than 83% still work primarily at the office.

At one time, workplace efficiency and selection was based almost exclusively on costs and proximity to employees’ (if not solely executives’) homes.

Today, providing a compelling workplace experience is an important way for companies to attract, retain and engage employees, as well as express the brand.

This article was written by workplace expert Jeff Lessard, a senior managing director in Cushman & Wakefield’s Global Business Consulting Group, it was first published with this photo of Unilever’s offices, in Connect, last month.

In our work with clients across all industries we see a clear trend—one that differs in meaningful ways from the traditional office environment. Today’s professionals crave agile workplaces that support the full range of activities across the work day, as well as authentic spaces that feel more like home or a boutique hotel than an office.

Ranked first in Fortune’s 2018 100 Best Companies to Work For list, Salesforce implemented an Ohana Design–influenced by Hawaiian culture–across the company’s global workplaces. The offices feature residential-like furnishings, environmentally-friendly interior materials, and designated quiet space for recharging.

In another example, Hyatt recently debuted its new Downtown Chicago headquarters designed to enhance flexibility and cross-team collaboration. Unveiled in 2017, it was designed to reflect the experience that customers have while visiting a Hyatt property. Indeed, “Experiential” is the keyword for the award-winning space.

Both these workplaces reflect the “resimercial,” workplace trend, which infuses comfort and familiarity into commercial office spaces. Key characteristics of this workplace strategy include diversity of furniture, a design that encourages serendipitous interactions, an ecosystem of amenities, easy flow between hospitality and work areas, and frictionless working for guests.

What’s special about the “resimercial” workplace is that it’s universal. It can be applied in offices of varying size, location and operational needs.

Unilever—a global consumer goods company that includes brands such as Lipton, Dove, Klondike and Hellmann’s—recently renovated its North American headquarters in Englewood Cliffs, NJ to enhance the employee experience, in part through a resimercial workplace strategy across its 325,000-square-foot campus. (see photo above)

The buildings are centered around a main atrium that is pierced with a variety of exciting spaces, comparable to a boutique hotel or a coworking space’s lobby. With its new look and feel, Unilever’s campus continues to create an exciting work environment that has increased engagement among existing employees, and has served as a differentiator in the eyes of prospective talent.

Employees’ attachment to their employers is not what it used to be. A 2018 study from Robert Half found that 64% of professionals polled think changing roles every few years can be beneficial—a 22% increase from a similar survey conducted in 2014. These findings lean even further against employers for employees ages 18 to 34.

To attract, retain, and engage top talent, companies must invest in workplace strategies that fit their business aspirations, work flow, culture, and appetite for change. If not, they will fall behind in the War for Talent.

Panels that WOW – whether you are the organizer or a speaker

Have you ever…

…had a panel moderator who liked the sound of his own voice a little too much?

…sat through a discussion where one of the panelists hogged the stage so other panelists never got to speak?

…watched as the audience wasted time with a bunch of irrelevant questions?

A great panel moderator fixes that!  See the 28 tips below, thanks to MeetingsNet, written by Need James

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Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

But not all moderators are great. You need to focus on finding a moderator who will create the best experience for your audience by educating, entertaining, and interacting with them.

At your next event, implement a BDA (that’s just my way of saying before, during, and after) process, and ask your moderator to consider the following strategies:

Before the panel:

  • Create bullet points for discussion and share with the panelists.
  • Organize a conference call so the panelists can connect.
  • Get photos, social media information, and short biographies of panelists.
  • Provide three questions to panelists in advance to help them prepare.
  • Keep those questions contextual so panelists can be flexible in their responses.
  • Prepare case studies and examples you can add to complement panelist input.
  • Manage logistics: i.e., make sure everyone has water, individual microphones, and seating, and advise panelists to silence their cellphones.
  • Determine the social media strategy: What hashtag are you using? Who will manage questions that are tweeted by audience members?
  • Determine the seating and speaking order; begin with a strong panelist.

During the panel

  • Kristin Arnold, a Certified Professional Facilitator, says, “Start with something interesting to get your audience to lean in to the topic. A simple tactic is to take a poll so that you and the panelists can focus attention on what really matters to the audience.”
  • Make the first question easy, and allow the audience to get to know your panelists.
  • When asking a question, direct your attention to the panelist and then look out into the audience (that will encourage the panelist to look at the audience when they respond).
  • Advise the audience about social media guidelines and what the hashtags are.
  • Encourage the audience to share learnings from the panel on their social channels.
  • Project the panel’s contact information, social media profiles, and conference hashtag on the screen for people to easily connect and tag them.

Managing the panel

  • Keep questions contextual—don’t let panelists stray.
  • Ask them to focus all their responses to benefit the audience.
  • Shut down any sales pitches of products and services.
  • Provide a variety of good and bad examples and case studies for the audience (don’t just share good news case studies).
  • Allow the panel to talk to each other (and over each other a little, but not to be rude).
  • Allow debate, not stage hogging.

Managing the audience

  • Always repeat the question for the benefit of the audience and the panelists.
  • Ask audience members to state their name before they ask their questions.
  • Ask audience members to ask questions that the whole room will benefit from.
  • Use microphones for all questions.

After the panel

  • Share the panelists’ contact information with the audience again.
  • Encourage the audience to meet the panelists one on one.
  • Send thank you notes to the panelists.

Having just been at a conference that schedules one panel after another, the ones that prepare like recommended above are the ones that WOW the audience, and are memorable.

Whenever possible use visuals on dual screens beside the panel stage – tutor your panelists to have slides and images that can be photographed, use large type and have lots of definition.  Please no gray type and gobs of copy – remember if you are wowing the audience they’ll be using their cell phones to photograph these images and posting across the web.

Think about what you ask them to wear, seating arrangements, microphone testing, sound levels and signage – all the better for those social media posts that will amplify your message and give you reportable results!