January 18, 2010

Three Lessons from Seth Godin live at The Linchpin Session

Watching Seth Godin live at The Linchpin Session revealed three valuable lessons:
  1. Prepare
  2. Be Gracious
  3. Scare Yourself
As usual, we'll explore each lesson.

Seth delivered a two hour first-time-ever presentation based on his new book, Linchpin. What's more, he synchronized his message with visuals. A presentation that long is tough to practice. Even if Seth has a knack for "winging it", I'm betting he prepared extensively. Often what looks easy is carefully orchestrated.

In the afternoon, Seth held a two hour Question & Answer session but I didn't get a chance to ask how he did what he did. If you find yourself doing a new presentation, these tips to prepare, promote and practice may help you.

Be Gracious
These days, finding gracious people is tough. If you think you're a star, you'll wait in your dressing room and whine that some M&Ms look like W&Ws. If you behave like a host instead, you'll make sure your guests enjoy themselves.

Seth personally greeted each early bird with a few words as we walked by him. He held a blue water bottle with both hands, which meant no handshakes. This was probably intentional for health reasons and was much better than wearing gloves or waving at us.

Afterwards, Seth autographed books and posters. He posed for photos too. Some authors put you on the spot by asking you for one thing you got from their session. With 500 in attendance, Seth spared us. He was certainly open to short discussions while he signed. He didn't have much time for lunch before the afternoon Q&A. Put another way, he ate last after his guests.

At BookCampTO 2009, some authors said didn't want to see or talk to their readers. We're an inconvenience. Would you dare ask them for an autograph?

Signing autographs must get tiring. I was at the end of the line until a handful of stragglers joined the queue. Even after hundreds of books, Seth remained upbeat. In contrast, some authors convey that signing is a bother. They just want you to buy their book and scoot. Some authors sign books at their leisure in advance. The Super/Freakonomics authors say they'll sign and mail a sticker which you can glue into their book.

Being gracious makes your guests feel welcome and encourages them to tell others.

Scare Yourself
At dinner the night before, Seth said he had laryngitis (a word I need a spell checker to correct). Somehow he recovered and didn't mention his condition. If the hours of speaking strained his voice further, he didn't let on. (Trivia: rabbits are masters at hiding problems. They can even fool vets.)

Some authors write the same book again and again. Linchpin makes points which are new and somewhat controversial. Seth didn't write a book to maximize sales. He couldn't predict how people would react. He didn't know what to write next. That's scary.

Seth said the idea of doing The Linchpin Session made him uncomfortable and that's why he did it. Have you done anything to scare yourself recently?

Let's also apply the three marketing lessons from James Cameron to The Linchpin Session
  1. Put the money on the screen: Seth set ticket prices to breakeven, which meant no money for frills like coffee
  2. Establish a track record: the audience --- some from thousands of miles/kilometres away --- attended because they knew of his previous work
  3. Stick to your standards: Seth expressed how he saw things, though this might offend some people (e.g., teachers)
You got six lessons for the price of three. For homework, see whether today's lessons can be applied to James' work. Class dismissed.