May 31, 2011


ABC 500x375
All of us learn to write in the second grade. Most of us go on to greater things.
— Bobby Knight

To market, you must be able to create and refine content.

That makes writing the most basic marketing skill. Writing lets you express your thoughts. Editing lets you refine them to convey what you really intended. You learn during this iterative process. Sometimes you get reach the magical A-HA when everything melds.


There's no real cost to writing. You don't need permission, a budget or a team. You don't need the latest gadget or extra batteries. All you need is a writing implement (e.g., pen, pencil, marker, crayon) and a writing surface (e.g., paper, napkin, whiteboard).

Writing reveals ambiguity early when changes are easy and inexpensive. Others can review your ideas: commenting is easier than the original creation.

But …

If you're not good at writing, there's still hope: you can brainstorm in a team with diverse skills and assign a scribe.

If you don't like writing, why not learn? You'll then have a valuable portable skill for life. You'll improve with practice. You'll get better at using social media (e.g., leaving comments on blog posts like this one).

Only Writing?

If you're better with visuals than words, that's fine. You're still using a medium that lets you invent, edit and iterate. You'll still creating a prototype and applying the second habit of highly effective people: beginning with the end in mind.

If you prefer talking, you can use a tool like Dragon NaturallySpeaking to transcribe your words into text for editing.

There's no downside to improving your skills. Once you have the words


PS A picture may tell a thousand words but you'll need words eventually (even if only to describe the picture).

May 24, 2011


do you feel the enthusiasm?
According to Zig Ziglar, selling is a transfer of enthusiasm. Isn't that true for presenting too?

Let's assume you are enthusiastic. How do you transfer that feeling to your audience? Here are three tips.
  1. Setup the environment
  2. Be energetic
  3. Read the audience

Setup The Environment

You are the star. The organizers want you to succeed. They'll act on your (reasonable) requests. Just ask. In a recent session, the presenter's computer was on a table beside the podium and facing away from the screen. When she looked at the screen, she was facing a side wall instead of the audience. Not good, even with a microphone.

By arriving early, the presenter could have had the table moved to face the audience or moved the computer atop the podium (unless that conflicted with her speaking notes). Yes this would have caused some extra work but so what? The few minutes would have enhanced the experience. Instead, she looked like she didn't care and we reciprocated.

You also want to check the focus of the projector. If your content goes from edge to edge of the screen, some may get cut-off. Leaving borders around your content is a solution. Perhaps the zoom on the projector can be adjusted.

Be Energetic

This is especially a challenge in a large room with hundreds watching you. You look small. Your gestures shrink. Even when you're using a microphone and sound loud.

Your content and delivery are key. Video clips may help ... if relevant. Some presenters use low quality video that looks lousy when projected. That may work if the sound quality is good and you're showing something old like the first lunar landing.

The audience's energy gets amplified if you finish on time or even early.

Read The Audience

Misreading an audience is easy and one of the three permanent fears for presenters. If you're attentive, you'll know when your audience is engaged. Les Brown calls this listening to the listening. Are their eyes glued to you or wandering to their smartphones / watches / neighbours?

You're cheating your audience if you don't leave time for questions. That's your opportunity for interaction and magic.

If you don't want to hear from them, you're broadcasting. Why not record a video instead? You can split it into segments and post them online. That is probably more useful since the content can be reviewed anytime. This takes more preparation and you won't have an audience clapping at the end (unless you add an applause track). However, enthusiasm travels best when you present live.


PS Emerson said nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm. Don't you agree?

May 17, 2011


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But the write-up looked so intriguing ...

How annoying when a session's title and description don't match what's delivered. Hollywood excels at making trailers that are much more intriguing than the actual movie. Even if you could get your money back, your time is gone forever.

Three Years Ago

In recent weeks, I've seen numerous presentations and noticed they aren't much better than three years ago — and they weren't stellar then. Why haven't they improved?

Here are three problems with many (non-keynote) presentations:
  • boring content or dull delivery
  • not gathering feedback
  • poor follow-up


In The Shallows, Nicholas Carr (Wired link) shows that the Internet has rewired our brains. Audience attention spans are shorter. They want more stimulation. Have you noticed that in yourself?

Also, audiences see world-class presentations online. The 18 minute TED Talks set high standards, even for technical topics. So much can be said so well in such short time. That quality changes audience expectations and sets increasingly high standards. TED's Chris Anderson calls this Crowd Accelerated Innovation.

Many non-TED presentations could be compressed to 18 minutes but they're padded with filler to consume 45-60 minutes.

You might not have months to prepare your presentation. If your talk is a one-off, why not record it live or in the studio. That's what I did and you can too. What you show adds to your reputation. How can that hurt?


We measure what matters and what's measured gets better. Feedback is essential to improve yet isn't routinely collected.

After gathering feedback, why not do something radical: publish the results online (without respondent names). This openness shows attendees that their feedback is taken seriously. The better presenters now have feedback to help with their marketing. Future presenters have a benchmark to exceed, much like the TED speakers.


Applause needn't be where a presentation ends but often is. That's a waste.

No follow-up is worse than poor follow-up. What can you offer attendees? Maybe you've got a newsletter. Can you get pre-approval at the time of registration (put a checkmark here to subscribe)? You can remind attendees during your presentation. The organizers probably won't mind if what you send is consistent with what the talk they asked you to deliver.


PS Recording (and watching) your live presentations is an excellent way to improve. Today, I ordered a Zoom Q3HD (product page).

May 10, 2011


Thanks for asking about my presentation at CALU 2011 last week with Roger Thorpe. It was my most important talk (so far) and our session went well.


As the audience left, I started feeling drained. While I was packing up, the crew began dismantling everything. The day before, they spent hours getting the room just right. In mere minutes, the preparation was vanishing in front of me. Life goes on. Instantly.

I've had requests for a recording. The session was a one time event for a specific audience. I recorded the audio but that's of little value without the visuals. Also, I used "so" as a crutch word every few sentences. That didn't happen during rehearsals.


Video is very powerful, but I struggle with this medium. I still don't feel comfortable in front of a camera. Audience expectations keep rising but I don't know basics like editing. Yet I know I must become as proficient as the average 11 year old.

As an experiment, I recorded this HD video of my presentation. If you like it, read on to see how you can make your own videos.

What do you think?

Complications With YouTube

YouTube limits videos to 15 minutes. That's up from 10 minutes but still a tad confining. I edited my content to fit.

If 15 minutes is too short for you, consider splitting your content into smaller segments. You could also record the highlights as a reminder for past audiences and a teaser for future organizers. If you must post a full length video, there are sites like Vimeo or Screencast. Since YouTube is the #2 search engine, you'll probably lose traffic.


Audiences are demanding. Great sound compensates for poor video but great video does not compensate for poor sound. You need a high quality microphone for professional results.

I've used different mics over the years. USB is better than using audio jacks. Wired is better than Bluetooth. You might prefer a headset/mic but I use an external microphone. I got a Samson C03U Podcasting Pak in 2009. There may be better choices today but I'm still very happy with the results.


You'll want to do some editing to add polish. Recording the Riscario Insider podcast with Audacity has given me experience editing sound. There are 116 episodes already and you'll find them on iTunes. Editing video is similar.

I use Camtasia Studio from Techsmith. The current version is 7.1. At $299 US, Camtasia is pricey but works well. There are excellent videos for training. You get a 30 day free trial to see if it's right for you. If you want a free option, you might try CamStudio. Some reviewers rave and other say you get what you pay for. I didn't want to spend time experimenting.

Recording and posting video is quite easy even without experience. Results will improve with practice. Maybe I'll even be comfortable on camera one day.


PS Why don't you record some video and share your experiences.

May 4, 2011


stage curtains 500x370Some of the best ideas I've ever heard came from the keynote speakers and fellow attendees at the members-only Conference for Advanced Life Underwriting (CALU).

For instance, Dr. Robert Cialdini spoke about the six universal principle of influence. The right message at the right time. The Prime Minister usually speaks, but not the day after an election. You'll find CALU-inspired links at the bottom of this post.

My Turn

I'm presenting with CALU board member Roger Thorpe of Thorpe Benefits (website). Our topic is Building Trust With Social Media (microsite). This is my most important talk ever.

Here are three reasons for speaking at CALU
  1. repayment
  2. recognition
  3. feedback


There's considerable interest in social media these days but most "expert" presenters sell marketing services. That can be self-serving. Elsewhere, a speaker made misleading statements about Facebook to get hired for customization. The audience seemed to believe her. That's not how to hire a social media expert.

Roger and I have experimented with social media and are revealing why we started using it. Since we aren't selling anything, we're instantly credible.


There's a feeling of "having arrived" when you address your top peers. There's also the fear of flopping.
Roger and I are taking our talk very seriously. We developed a schedule five months ago and have met monthly to keep on track. We've timed our session down to the minute.

Now do you see why I finally joined Toastmasters five months ago? I practiced in front of my club three weeks ago and before Steve Carlson of Marketing Options (website) last week. Many of my 2011 blog posts are related to this talk.

I didn't think recognition would matter to me. I didn't think that getting interviewed by the Toronto Star would either. Both do. The ego likes attention more than I expected.


CALU is the most elite place I can speak (so far). I'm looking forward to getting written feedback from the attendees on a specially-developed form. That will help improve skills and market.

Do try giving unsolicited feedback more often. That's an excellent way to help.


The best proof of success will be if attendees see the merits of social media and some start using it. That also increases competition because the Internet isn't restricted to a specific geography or niche market. However, we're competing fairly and educating the public. Consistent persistent generosity makes the world better.


Roger and I checked our presentation hall. The microphones and projector work. The video plays. The volume is fine. We did a rehearsal. We're ready.

So much can happen in a live event ... including magic!

This post goes live just as we take the stage ... here's a recording of my section (new)


  1. CALU 2011: Video of my presentation (new)
  2. CALU 2011: Building Trust With Social Media microsite
  3. CALU 2011: How the wealthy feel about their advisors (new)
  4. CALU 2010: Billionaire Sir Terence Matthews on how to compete with India and China
  5. CALU 2010: How would you market a family office?
  6. CALU 2009: Stephen Harper seven years in a row
  7. CALU 2009: Jim Flaherty on the economy and financial literacy
  8. CALU 2009: 3 in 1
  9. CALU 2008: Sharing the wisdom
  10. CALU 2008: The Prime Minister and others live
  11. CALU 2008: How effective are tax auditors
  12. CALU 2007: The Prime Minister and the Producers
  13. CALU 2007: The six universal principles of influence
  14. CALU 2007: Succession planning
    • How to hire a social media expert
    • LinkedIn's Jonathan Lister discusses social media
    • The ROI on social media, reputation and a hungry rabbit
    • Picking the best medium for your message
    • The easiest way to catch up with social media
    • Event planning showdown
    • How to prepare and present a brand-new presentation
    • image courtesy of Rakesh Vaghela (UK)
    PS If you attended, do share your thoughts below. You can do this anonymously. The process is painless and gives you practice using social media.