Archive for October, 2011

Email Marketing, Blogging, Presenting, Networking – But school’s nearly out!

By the morning of Day 3 of Warren’s excellent Grow Your Business retreat I’d more or less had enough brain-wise and was extremely glad that ‘School’s out!’ was just around the corner. That was a shame in a way because, as I was to discover, some of the best stuff (in my opinion) was yet to come!

I recall little of the inevitable networking aspect that came with breakfast. Maybe because by then it was more like sitting down with some friends and making some new acquaintances.

Email Magic?

The first session of the day was with Lee Callender, the MD of Mail Magic.

I thought he was impressive both as a potential supplier who would take the trouble to understand a client’s real needs. Just one unsexy yet vital example: He’s one of the few people I’ve come across in many years who understands the fundamental necessity of knowing your target market and being able to clearly and concisely describe those identifiable characteristics to a data provider – get that bit wrong and you might as well forget the rest! :-(

He admitted that things don’t always go perfectly and I loved the ‘get out of jail card’ he created whilst giving him and his staff the time to work on how to put any wrongs right (ask him…). He seemed the kind of person I’d enjoy doing business with. I found his hour’s stint thoroughly interesting and informative.

I’m annoyed with myself that I seem to have misplaced my notes but you can bone up somewhat by having a look at the Hints and Tips section of his company website.

Zero to Blogger

Next, having played with the sheep and boned up on LinkedIn, I finally got to see my mate Sarah Arrow in action with her Master Class on Blogging.

I may well be biased as I really prefer the ‘take-me-anywhere-and-just-give-me-a-flipchart/whatever’ approach that Sarah uses and perhaps because I also happen to feel more comfortable delivering. I believe the content can be on-the-hoof adapted to be more relevant to the audience and the value is therefore potentially much greater than the more stylised PowerPoint or equivalent presentations.

This session also bought home that, really valuable though the information, tips, what-tos and what-not-tos are that Sarah shares, it is so much easier having your own mentor, whip cracker, puppeteer, whatever name you give, who knows what they’re doing and will devise, orchestrate and run your campaign(s) for you:

I don’t know about you but I get it in principle – it’s the keeping up to date with everything and the elegant and successful execution that flumoxes me! :-( It’s one of those things I somehow reckon are, in my case anyway, much better outsourced to experts.

Presentation Skills Masterclass

We were back to mainstream sessions now and this one turned out to be totally unlike anything I was expecting. It delivered to brief yet it was refreshingly different in the way it did so.

Lisa van den Berg used a mixture of a particularly poignant story that may have been real or from her own imagination, together with anecdotes from her own personal experiences… that maybe many of us could have identified with!

To me, it was as much an exercise in Use Your Own Experiences to Make a Real, even if only brief, Connection with Others. Anyway, to find out a bit more, our Sarah nabbed Lisa pretty sharpish for a guest post on Birds On The Blog so, have a mosey over there rather than me repeating or rehashing it here!

Lunch! And, er Networking…

This was Dave Clarke‘s opportunity to share with us how NRG networking lunches work. I’ve met Dave on several occasions over recent years and must say his approach is definitely of the ‘relationship first’ mode.

What was a particular eye opener for me was the fact that we had once again been joined by the Inner Flame contingent of teenagers – whose organisation chief was responsible, together with Warren Cass, for this event coming about.

I cannot imagine that I, as a teenager, could have sat with business people like Jo, Steven Andrew and me and talked about what was important to me, what I wanted to achieve, ideas I had about doing that and so on in the way that Megan, Laura, Lauren, Charlotte and Simon – go there and hover a bit :-) – did at our table.

Event Summary – What did I get out of it?

I may have missed nuggets by having to leave early on that third and last day so somebody else who stayed the full course might wish to pick up baton?

As it was, and seems to be more and more usual for me, it was the unexpected and probably not obviously business oriented moments that were the most value – the sheep and teenager encounters were priceless!

Having said that, I’ve made contact on line and/ or by phone with people I met there or were made aware of – and others have done similar with me. It’s so far impossible to gauge the ultimate value of attending the event.

So let’s take it right back to basics:
Did I have fun and enjoy myself? I’d say. largely: Yes :-)
Was it worthwhile in terms of the parameters I’d set in advance for it? Um, oh oops, can I take the fifth, please?…


From LinkedIn… to Christine Hamilton… to It Had To Be You?

We’ve reached late afternoon on Day Two of Linda ‘Goes Back to School’ Day and next up for our group was

How to Achieve ROI with LinkedIn (Mark Perl)

In my opinion this was a really valuable and informative session and pitched at just the right level for the audience of the day.

To be honest, I think you can always learn something from sessions like this and especially from somebody who’s made it his job to be current with any and all innovations on the LinkedIn platform. I noticed even Dave Clarke (Director of NRG Networks) joined our group for this, though I hadn’t noticed him being a fellow honorary sheepdog earlier… 😉

And, talking with Stef Thomas subsequently, we agreed that, even if you know roughly what you should be doing and how to, it’s still worth getting a proverbial kick up the rear every now and again to remind you to actually do it!

Mark shared far too much to begin to chronicle it all here so I’d suggest two things:

  1. Go to his LinkedIn Profile to get a flavour and pay real attention to his Specialties section for a huge tip that most members miss
  2. Take a look at a video Mark recorded earlier this year especially for the Birds on the Blog community

Seguing nicely into the evening…

Our free time on Monday was followed by a Drinks Reception that included a “working the room session” compèred by Mark Perl, aided and abetted by Kevin Arrow as his primed straight man/ stooge.

Remember musical chairs when you were a kid, where you had to stay immediately still wherever you were when the music stopped playing? Well, it was a bit like that, with Mark pointing out the different groupings and how to “work them”.

I could see the point of what Mark was saying but it really didn’t look like much fun. To be honest, by then my brain had decided it had done enough work and I was into relax time by now, sitting on one of the sofas, just having a gentle natter before dinner…

Dinner Presentation: An evening with Christine Hamilton

Dinner itself was pleasant – fish, so I was happy – and, I have to say, whatever the colour of your politics, whether you like her as an individual or not, Christine Hamilton is a trooper who gives absolutely great value for money.

She arrived with husband Neil in time for the drinks reception and both mingled with attendees there and sat at a table with a group for dinner, after which Christine presented an extremely lively and active speech.

She then happily answered some questions Warren asked of her and went round the room chatting with people who wanted some individual time with her, including the Inner Flame teenagers. She signed copies of her book and donated proceedings from sales to the Inner Flame charity.

It had to be you…

I’ll leave you for now with the high or low point of the evening…
depending on whether you were tone deaf probably had to be Warren’s rendition of “It had to be you”

What can I say, other than hopefully this is a a gen-u-w-inely one-off, never-to-be- repeated experience… you have been warned!

In Warren’s defense, let’s remember that this was also for charity… :-)


Sheep at last! On Linda Goes Back to School – Day Two p.m.

If you like your food, check out the lunch, otherwise skip to the sheep…

I’m not a huge foodie but it seemed a long time since breakfast (not particularly enjoyable while you’re ‘networking’ between and around mouthfuls of food – my old headmistress would have been aghast!)

My stomach was also still complaining something rotten about its treatment the previous day so to see that lunch was buffet style with choices of

  • Hot white fish in a mild sauce so managed to remain moist
  • Tuna (the tinned variety but that was fine)
  • Prawns (amongst my favourites!)
  • A good selection of salads – not just cucumber, tomato and lettuce!
  • Rice and potatoes
  • Cheeses, eggs
  • A spread of hot and cold meat and chicken that I kind of skipped over that as I don’t eat any of it
  • Starters and sweets/ desserts – again I didn’t really look

All this made me a very happy bunny: Suffice to say I realised I could stoke up on a good lunch and not worry if I ended up just picking at dinner.

It had also obviously been decreed somewhere ‘up the chain of command’, i.e. Warren, I guess, that lunch time was to be a free choice zone with sit where and with whom you like and no mandatory networking… phew!

Okay – The Sheep Bit

Just before lunch Warren had divided the delegates into three groups of roughly equal size – I was in Group 1 which was to be: Sheep first… So off our group went to the bar to meet Chris Farnsworth with his laptop, on which he had a clip of what looked like that TV programme – One Man and his Dog Competing in Sheep Trials…

Chris is a shepherd. He didn’t bring his dog with him but he had brought some sheep – they were the ones I’d seen grazing in the field on my speed walk earlier.

The sheep needed to be herded up, guided between a gated arrangement and put in a pen – and we motley lot were the first grown up ones to do it (the Inner Flame lot had already had a go in the morning).

I thought we were lucky that the weather was on our side and not chucking it down on us, as so easily can happen at any time in the UK, no matter the official season. I also thought we did reasonably well – and then Chris said we had to do it again, this time ‘against the clock’ with our time to be recorded against the other two Business Scene groups yet to have a go…

Again we did okay, in my opinion – we worked well together in order to get the job done, which we did without any mishaps! And, as we discovered later, in half the time of the group that followed us :-)

Sheep #2 – Just when we thought we were safe…

The sheep by now were, more or less happily, in their pen. But that wasn’t enough for Chris (I don’t know, he seemed such a nice guy earlier): He wanted us each to choose a sheep and ‘down’ it – now, before anybody goes yelling for the RSPCA or equivalent, this is a procedure, as Chris practises it, that not only does not harm the sheep, the animal in question looks positively like a contented couch potato once the manoeuvre has been successfully achieved!

It ends up sitting on the ground with its front hooves in a kind of begging position, upright and/or leaning against the legs of the human who’s ‘helped’ it get there.

Most of our group had a go – and successfully! I didn’t. To be perfectly honest I don’t know whether it was the

  • Push-cheek-back-against-the-shoulder prior to bottom-ending the animal on the ground manoeuvre – that looked painful and I wasn’t at all sure I could believe Chris that it wasn’t (unfounded though that was when you see the successful results)
  • Or, and this was a real concern – rather than fear – that, not really knowing what I was doing and being in the confined space of a pen with more than one unpredictable sheep, I’d move awkwardly and counteract the progress I’d been making with what had, at times, been an excruciatingly painful frozen shoulder

In the end I decided that discretion was the better point of valour – I ‘chickened out’ – yet when I saw my physio a couple of days later she looked at me as though I’d have been completely round the bend to have even contemplated it, so I didn’t feel such a wimp…

My own main Sheep Experience take outs

Maybe surprisingly, the most memorable are outside of the ones billed in Warren’s agenda, so let’s see…

Reinforcement of the power of being outside in nature!

It is so good to just get outside for a start – outside and away from paved streets and built up areas (if that’s possible for you) to somewhere with even a little bit of natural greenery or water is great.

I’d already begun to realise just how much being in a bit of ‘nature’ – in my case regular speed walks in London’s Regent’s Park since early summer (okay, let’s not take ‘summer’ too literally) – has a calming, ‘glad-to-be-alive’ and/ or grounding effect. It’s not the same (for me) as being able to see the sea, but it’s a good next-best.

Especially how combining animals enriches your experience

…and enhances the fun factor – bringing your dog(s) with you or just being aware of the natural wild or animal life around.

In Regent’s Park there are the swans, geese, nesting waterfowl at certain times of year, squirrels and birds of all sorts, and you can see giraffes by the Outer Circle, without going into the zoo.

Skills

Although, looking back later over the agenda, I saw that this was headlined: “Leadership: Lessons From Sheep???” I believe that learning and practicing teamwork-to-get-the-job-done was paramount in the first half of the sheep challenge.

Observation
We were a bunch of individuals, sole traders or leaders of (small) companies. It would be interesting to see what would happen in a corporate situation where, let’s say, a less-than-competent immediate ‘boss’ was being an absolute pr*t who was likely to make a bit of a dog’s ear of things – would the underlings subtly ignore and make good or rebel and make good or follow and fail? Hmmm – very good exercise!

Level of Difficulty
As I discovered talking with Chris later, once given the brief from the client, he selects the best sheep for the requirements:

  • Gentle, easy-going
  • Inquisitive, adventurous and headstrong
  • Downright mean and ornery
  • And any mixture…

It seemed such a shame to be going back inside after all this fun, but we were going to next learn how to get the best from LinkedIn membership – so “Stay tooned!” :-)

PS To catch up with earlier posts in this series:
Social Media, Networking and PR – Linda ‘Goes Back to School’ Day Two a.m.
Linda ‘Goes Back to School’ Day One


Social Media, Networking and PR – Linda ‘Goes Back to School’ Day Two a.m.

An Early Bird…

Daylight finally arrived and I felt like I’d watched every minute of its journey from dead of night as I went bleary eyed to meet my fellow early morning jog-, trot-, walkers. They were the Inner Flame lot – remember the morning-after-the-night-before as a teenager? This lot embodied it! But Graham treated all with a great balance of gentleness, encouragement (and for all I know, ribbing) that I supposed made them think it was
a) worth getting up at that ungodly time (in reality I later discovered that they didn’t have a choice) and
b) they should automatically desire to acquit themselves with their peers.

Warren was the only other adult conference person and he jogged off with the lead lot. Being a speed walker (those of you with long enough memories can probably recall the Ministry of Silly Walks – yup, that’ll be me) meant that, as I’d expected, I didn’t naturally fall into the pace of any of the three groups. And that actually suited me fine as it gave my head its usual chance to roam as it wished while my body appreciated the countryside (semi countryside, really) that we were going through.

I should have taken more notice of the sheep I saw, though. You’ll discover why later.

Showered, dressed and just about presentable, I went into the dining room at about 8.15am… and straight into

Karen Thurley’s 4Networking breakfast

It’s entirely my own fault. With hindsight the agenda (on line and which I’d only glimpsed at on the Saturday) quite clearly states:

08:00 – 09:15 4Networking Breakfast (Karen Thurley)
I don’t know about anybody else but I have nothing but painful memories from my time as a member of a breakfast networking group and would have probably avoided this like the plague if I’d clocked it beforehand. Strangely though, it wasn’t the excruciating experience I thought it would be. I hadn’t prepared an elevator pitch so when my turn came I just stood up, gave my full name and said:

“I help women explore their potential, live it and have a da*n good time doing so”

then sat down. It didn’t hurt that a couple of female business owners came over separately and in rapid succession to ask if they could be one of my 10-minute one-to-ones…

At 9.30 the Grow Your Business contingent trooped off to a ‘welcome’ speech by Warren, followed by a talk from him on

Social Media Foundations

Three things stand out especially in my memory:

  • His comparison between UK 1980s TV with only 4 channels versus 2011 TV’s scarcity of attention and abundance of channels
  • The ability of the individual to use online social media to their own advantage, for example Dave Carroll who got his own back on United Airlines breaking his guitars… and, in contrast, how a company, in this case KLM, used Youtube to promote their brand
  • Warren’s own experience that his big ticket business has come via his blog since he’s concentrated on it – and gave Sarah Arrow all credit as his mentor/ consultant/ call it what you will – on that – and his talk demonstrated how much there is to learn if we’re gonna do it for ourselves… and indeed one of Sarah’s recent posts over on Birds on the Blog Sharing the luv
    only goes to reinforce that we – or someone working on our behalf – need to be constantly on the ball watching out for new developments…

We had a tea & coffee break and then we were in for a treat with Stefan Thomas (no red braces) entertaining and educating us with his story of transition from out-on-his-ear-estate-agent to, of necessity and over time, networker extraordinaire and public speaker!
He gave us his

10 Tips on Networking

  1. Use your business networking introduction as an opportunity to get people to want to have a conversation with you – keep your entire product line for elsewhere
  2. Plan that introduction in advance: Get help with it, believe in it and do it to the very best of your ability
  3. Include a call to action – 1-2-1, phone, email…
  4. “Sell through the room”: Stefan got very good at selling properties where someone had just died… “I guarantee that I get your [Aunty Joan] more money than any other estate agent could…”
  5. Treat initial one-to-ones like a first date – get to know people and let them get to know you
  6. Never underestimate anyone in the room – every connection has value
  7. Treat an online community just the same way as you would your real live community – that isdon’t walk in and start selling!
  8. Join in with what other people online: Don’t just walk in and “talk and broadcast” – be interested in others’communications
  9. Do use social media to join it all up and keep relationships warm – connect
  10. Whether it’s real life or online we have a level playing field, so: Be there and be the world’s biggest advocate for you and your business

And BTW: None of it is just a quick fix…

Last up before lunch was Kimberley Davis, this time with

How to drive powerful PR

“You can reach anyone anywhere with seven phone calls and knowing the right thing to say” This was a quote from Kim’s journalism teacher, Tina Lane.
There followed several minutes on Kim’s credentials from her young start in the USA, through the Apprentice experience to her Marketing Purification business in the UK.

It was good, albeit fairly top line standard advice, such as:

  • Bear in mind that we we’re exposed to some 4,000 brands and messages a day and that journalists receive 300+ press releases each day, so
  • Develop your own USP
  • Know your target market
  • Put yourself in their shoes: “So what?” factor
  • Become an expert
  • Be newsworthy/ topical/ think of potential links to something that is newsworthy/ topical
  • Build relationships

And a few more but, in fairness to Kim, by now my powers of concentration were beginning to desert me…

The definition that Kimberley chose for advertising and PR was worth a mention, I thought: Advertising is what you say about yourself. PR is what others say about you.

Personally, I’d amend the PR one to be: PR is what you can get others to say about you

Aah… lunch break…

Look out for the afternoon (that’s where the sheep come in…) and evening activities, coming up next :-)


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