Friday, May 20, 2005

The More You Know, The More It Will Flow - Tips For Knowing Your Audience

By Thomas Murrell MBA, CSP International Business Speaker

The more you know about your audience, the better your presentation will go.

For example, if I've got a large diverse group, I'll ask the organisers to give me the names of five people who will be in the audience who represent a cross section across the organisation. I learnt this from listing to a Voices of Experiences CD with Rosita Perez put out by NSA of USA.

I'll ring each individually prior to the presentation and the conversation will go like this after a brief introduction:

Q: "What keeps you awake at night?"
A: "What work or personal?"
Q: "Both"

I then get a great insight into the challenges they face, personally and professionally.

I then summarise and work this into my presentation.

"Gathering intelligence about your target readers when writing a book or about your audience members prior to a presentation is an effective way to keep your readers or listeners awake, alert, amused, and involved. You can learn more about your audience members by asking the host specific questions about the group," according to US speaker Jeff Davidson.

He suggests asking these questions:

Who is the most popular person in the audience?
Who is the least popular?
Who wins the contests or gets all the honors?
Who never gets any of them?
Who has been with the organization the longest?
Who recently came on board?
Who is the biggest kidder?
Who leaves the biggest tips?
Who is known for falling asleep in presentations?

"If you can gather the answers to any of these questions in advance, you have excellent tools at your command! The fact that you go the extra mile by finding out such information gets people buzzing about you and your presentation and makes you more memorable," Mr Davidson said in a recent article in SpeakerNet News published on the 20th May 2005.

Want help crafting a speech and knowing your audience? Try our coaching or consulting services here.

How To Be Noticed and Trusted

By Thomas Murrell MBA CSP, International Business Speaker

A Reader's Digest survey has found burns specialist Dr Fiona Wood is Australia's most trusted person, followed by singer Olivia Newton-John and Tasmanian-born Crown Princess Mary of Denmark.

The survey is in its fifth year, but for the first time asked a statistically representative sample of 756 people who was the most trusted person out of a list of 100 well-known Australians.

"The better known you are, the more important that ability to instil trust becomes. But as our first Most Trusted People poll shows, you don't have to be running for prime minister to be put to the test," said the article published in the June edition of Readers Digest.

Interestingly women often do better than men.

For example, Prime Minister John Howard's wife Janette (at 74) is more trusted than her husband (85), while model, mum and charity patron Sarah O'Hare (43) is well ahead of her husband, media executive Lachlan Murdoch (93), and Home and Away starlet and mum-to-be Bec Cartwright (59) also is more trusted than her partner, tennis player Lleyton Hewitt (73).

"If we don't know someone personally, we'll judge based on whatever information we know about them at the time," said Body language expert Alan Pease in the article.

In terms of professions, ambulance officers, firefighters and mothers were the most trusted, while politicians, car salesmen, real estate agents, psychics and journalists are the least trusted.

Fathers came in at 8 and life coaches at 20, after domestic cleaners at number 17. Consultants, trainers, speakers and authors weren't listed.

So whatever line of work you are in, how can you get noticed and be trusted? Here are my Top 10 Tips:

1. Be Involved In Community Service.
Offer your time, expertise and skills to those that need it most, community or not-for-profit groups. Not only will you feel better, you will be noticed more and trusted. According to Dr Fiona Wood: "Every patient I treat is an inspiration."

2. Network.
Network with others to increase your circle of influence.

3. Ask For Help, Introductions or Referrals from Your Trusted Circle of Influence.
Nothing will get you noticed and trusted quicker than asking for help to get known and meet other people.

4. Get a Coach or Mentor.
A coach and mentor can fast-track your career, keep you accountable to your goals and give honest, independent advice.

5. Join or Set-up a Mastermind Group.
Link up with others who have a similar goal, passion or purpose in life.

6. Have A Professional Photograph Taken.
If you want to be noticed and trusted, people need to see your face. Have it done professionally and have both digital and hard copies available.

7. Write An Article.
Share your unique knowledge, expertise and insights in an article. This could be a trade magazine, local newsletter or opinion piece for a major newspaper. Keep to around 600 words, ask someone to edit it for you and include a photograph and contact details at the end if appropriate.

8. Give A Presentation or Speech.
Public speaking or running a seminar is the quickest way to get noticed and trusted fast. There are thousands of community, business and industry groups looking for speakers everyday. Overcome your fear and turn your unique knowledge into an entertaining story with some take home lessons for the audience.

9. Be Quoted In The Media.
The media has big impact because of its mass appeal. It is the world's largest database and will reach people you can never duplicate with a direct mail campaign. It also delivers credibility through third party endorsement.

10. Write a Book.
A commercially published book by a big-name publisher is the fastest way to build credibility, trust and be noticed.

Want to learn more? Discover how to build your customer base, profile and brand fast at our first ever Brand Excellence course on Friday May 27th in stunning Singapore.

More details here.

Red or Blue? The Difference Between Winning and Losing In Business

By Thomas Murrell MBA, CSP International Business Speaker

Many of you know my passion for wearing red ties. I believe congruency with your personal and corporate brand is essential for professionals in the services-based industries, especially consultants, coaches, speakers and trainers.

A Special Report by Mairi Macleod in the New Scientist Magazine on 18 May 2005 argues red is the colour if winning is your game.

She reports the Washington Redskins, Manchester United and the Welsh rugby team have all been playing with an unfair advantage. Just seeing their red kit is seemingly enough to cow their opponents into submission even before a ball is kicked.

The report highlights how Russell Hill and Robert Barton of Durham University in the UK tracked success in four Olympic sports: boxing, taekwondo, Greco-Roman wrestling and freestyle wrestling.

According to the report, in these sports athletes do not wear national colours, but are randomly assigned either red or blue.

The article journals of 441 bouts, reds won 242 and in all four sports reds triumphed in more contests. And the red advantage was higher in close encounters: 62 per cent of red-garbed competitors won these. But in pushover contests there were similar numbers of red and blue winners.

"If you're rubbish, a red shirt won't stop you from losing," Barton says in the article.

The same is true in soccer. Five teams in the Euro 2004 competition who had predominantly red in one of their two kits all did significantly better while wearing red, scoring around one extra goal per game.

Such effects could be due to instinctive behaviour, says Barton. In animal displays red in particular seems to vary with dominance and testosterone levels. Human competitors might experience a testosterone surge while wearing the colour, he says, or feel submissive when facing a scarlet opponent.

Evolutionary psychologist Robin Dunbar from the University of Liverpool speculates that primate eyes may be particularly sensitive to red. "The significance is then a matter of context," he says. Red fruit is good; red competitors are bad.

Performance director of the Great Britain taekwondo team, Gary Hall, says most of his athletes don't have a strong colour preference. But he says that if red is an advantage the sport should consider changing kits. "We should take out any anomaly like that," Hall told New Scientist.

Source: New Scientist Magazine on 18 May 2005

Colour is essential to both personal and corporate branding.

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Why don't you join me in stunning Singapore on Friday May 27th for my most intimate and up to date seminar on how to build a powerful brand fast? More details here

Friday, May 06, 2005

The Ten Easy Steps To Increase Your Confidence, Creativity and Cash In The Attention Economy

By Thomas Murrell MBA CSP, International Business Speaker

In Australia at the moment we are celebrating the Australian Innovation Festival.

This years theme is Innovation and You.

The festival was established to celebrate the best in Australian innovation.

According to the official brochure innovation can be defined as "a process that transfers ideas through business activity into saleable goods, processes and services".

I have been proud to present a range of seminars as part of the festival and attend the official launch.

I was impressed by guest speaker, John Howkins who is a leading figure in global communications, media and entertainment. I'm currently reading his groundbreaking book The Creative Economy.

As I sat, listened and then reflected on his presentation, here is my analysis distilled down into my Top 10 Tips:

1. Create a Confidence Culture.
Don't rely only on your own individual talent to have and implement ideas. When you have ideas you need to convince people to invest in those ideas. This relies on your confidence and ability to persuade people to turn a dream into reality. If you're not confident in your idea how can you convince others to invest time, money and resources in it?

2. Sit and Think and Look and Question.
The best answers to problems are solved by observation, analysis and insight. Take time out to practice these too often lost skills. Appreciate time working on your own. As Dr Karl Kruszelnicki says in his IQ case study on Nobel Prize Winners (who by the way have normal IQs around the 120 mark), "its not the answers that get you to the blue hall, but the questions!"

3. Attitude.
Ideas are available to anyone. All you need is your brain because it is made up of perceptions and memories which form inherited ideas. Put the priority on ideas rather than data. In our democratic and populist societies, we're seeing the rise of the individual. Be an individual to stand out from the crowd and nurture your uniqueness, but also be a team player. This unique combination is essential for success.

It is a credo I live by. Framed hanging on the wall in my office in a prominent position is a poster with my logo and this message:


"OUR CORE VALUES

The following values are actively fostered, encouraged and central to the way we do business:

Creativity
Excellence
Service
Teamwork
"

Have an attitude, live it and be consistent.

4. Be Competitive and Tough.
The barriers of entry for new ideas are extremely low, even non-existent. You need to outsmart your competition and understand patents, copyright, trademarks and other intellectual property laws that protect ideas. What business is about, is not the technology, but about ideas and the application and protection of ideas.

Howkins compares the examples of two brilliant men, Microsoft founder Bill Gates and inventor of the Internet, Tim Berners-Lee. Gates protected his idea and is now the wealthiest man on the planet. Berners-Lee didn't and yet his invention has changed the way we communicate.

5. The Ability To Change People's Mind.
Being part of the creative economy is about changing people's minds. If you want your ideas to be taken seriously, you need to have outstanding persuasion and influence skills.

6. Learn Endlessly.
Ideas are about doing something different and better. Borrow. Innovate. In beautiful Perth where I live, as well as the low cost of living, stunning lifestyle and great weather - we have another advantage. I call it the isolation, ideas and innovation factor. We live in the most isolated city in the world and this is both a negative and positive. The positive is remoteness breeds creativity. When you stop learning, you stop being creative.

7. Excel In The Attention Economy
We now live in an economy where creativity, the media and entertainment dominate. It seeps into every crease, fold and cranny in our lives. Learn to excel in this economy. Understand the pressures and the principles of living in this age.

I call this a time when the Three C's of Change are on the increase:

1. Chaos,
2. Clutter, and
3. Competition

Chaos - Our lives are getting busier and busier and more and more chaotic as we sift through the masses of information coming at us.

Clutter - This mass of information is getting held up, like grains of sand in an hourglass, and the sheer volume is cluttering up our lives and decision-making processes.

Competition - It is an increasingly competitive marketplace now, with me too brands, look at me brands, and global brands dominating the marketplace. It is increasingly difficult to be truly unique and standout from the crowd.

8. To Make A Mistake Is Not To Fail.
There's a well-known saying along the lines of "a mistake is only a mistake if you don't learn from it". The rate of failure is high within an economy built on ideas. That failure can be at a personal, company or even Government policy level. Learn how to deal with failure and manage it. Traditionally bureaucrats have focussed on policy and businesses avoid risk.

When a senior executive at the ABC, I always found this a challenge as a manager. A delicate balancing act was required to encourage creativity to make good programs on the one hand, while working within a dinosaur-like, bureacratic, public service culture where policy and process dominate. I learnt the hard way there is an unstable relationship between creativity, innovation and bureacracy. You can read a full article about these challenges originally published in The West Australian newspaper in November 2000 in the next article in this blog.

9. Build A Powerful Personal Brand.
How creative you are, whether your ideas are accepted and how often you fail will impact on your personal identity. Your identity is how others see you. Manage these perceptions and build a strong personal brand that is resilient, reliable and real.

10. Have Ideas, Make Fun, Make Money.
Ideas are the currency and rules by which we get access to capital. If you have the right idea, with the right support, you can have great fun and make a huge amount of money along the way.

Want to learn more? Discover how to get your ideas taken seriously by using the media to become a thought leader at our next Winning the Media Game course on July 21st, 2005 or we can customise for your organisation.

More details here.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

ABC Trouble Lies in Culture Resistant To Change

By Thomas Murrell MBA, CSP International Business Speaker

This article was originally published in the West Australian newspaper in November 2000.

The future of the ABC is again in the spotlight as the broadcaster faces further budget cuts. But as Thomas Murrell* argues the challenges facing the ABC are more than just about money.

The recent announcement that ABC Managing Director Jonathan Shier is to cut $3.7 million from its news budget has generated a predictable response from both politicians and staff.

Our public leaders have strongly complained that regional and rural areas will suffer while staff plan stop work meetings and supporters organise public rallies.

In reality the issue is not about money. It's about work practices, attitudes and public perception.

I was in the privileged position to spend what I call a "12-year apprenticeship" with the ABC working on the editorial side as a reporter, presenter and executive producer but also spending 6 years in a management role as a Senior Executive.

Internal ABC Culture

It gave me a unique insight into the internal machinations of the ABC and how different and varied parts of the organisation worked.

This was reinforced during my last 12 months at the public broadcaster when I had the opportunity during yet another restructure to manage both ABC Radio's Regional network and the Perth metropolitan station, 720 6WF.

Even within the same building - work practices, attitudes and morale was vastly different. I remember one meeting relatively early in my management career when the newly appointed national marketing manager flew across from Sydney to address local staff.

Typically held in one of those ABC meeting rooms deep within the Adelaide Terrace bunker with mission brown walls, grey carpet and cheap partitioning, this particular marketing manager delivered a range of new, fresh and different marketing ideas to the group.

He was from a successful commercial network and you would have thought a group of program makers would embrace ways to increase the number of sets of ears listening to them. But no, the attitude was of deep cynicism, mistrust and outright rejection of any new ways of thinking.

In fact this was just one example of the deep-rooted internal culture of the ABC that is immensely resistant to change.

So is the ABC overstaffed or under funded?

If you are a presenter used to having four support staff and you're cut down to two then you need more resources.

But if you're a politician and you go to a press conference and you see 9 people from the ABC there then you probably have the perception the ABC is overstaffed.

Let me give you an example of a media event I've been to where there has been an ABC cast of thousands. Three from ABC TV news, three from ABC TV current affairs, one from radio news, one from radio current affairs and one from a specialist radio department.

And then the politician turns around and does a phone interview with the local ABC morning radio program. What do you think their view of the ABC is going to be?

In fact during a time of shrinking ABC budgets some may wonder why the local Perth ABC radio station doubles it's on air staffing going from one breakfast presenter to two.

Doing More With Less

Sure the ABC has trimmed down over the years. In fact to highlight how much harder journalists are working these days with less resources, I give my own personal story during media training workshops I run where I share an insiders view of how the media works.

In 1988, when I came to Perth with the ABC I was appointed to the position of Rural Reporter Grade 3. In those days there were 7 people working on the Country Hour radio program. Today it's two and in fact I was in at the ABC studios recently doing an interview and it was down to just one person.

A lot of the changes over the past 10 years have been due to shifts in technology and work practices. But the fact still remains the same that two people instead of seven now put an hour-long program to air.

So there have been enormous changes. But it's the public perception of the ABC that politicians see at media conferences that shapes their thinking.

They also travel around Australia and observe how lean some of the regional centres operate.

If you visit the ABC studios in Kununurra you'll see the ABC broadcasts daily across the Kimberley from one of the bedrooms in a house it owns. Remote locations breed independent thought and action.

Maybe this is what doing more with less means?

Having worked in regional and rural Australia you soon learn quickly how to be resourceful.

As a rural reporter based in regional Australia it was standard practice to get the most out of each radio story. You would take a local angle for your own regional breakfast show, take a Statewide angle for the State program, a national one for the whole network, a news grab for the newsroom and then voice the story with another grab for a later news bulletin.

Jonathon Shier might be wondering why the whole of the ABC doesn't work like this?

Change As An Opportunity

The problem within the ABC is the clash between an internal public service driven culture and the need for creativity and different ways of thinking.

I was fortunate in the latter part of my ABC career to be exposed to outside ideas by doing an MBA at the University of Western Australia and learning from leading management thinkers like Professor Andre' Morkel at the Graduate School of Management.

It taught me the value of seeing change as an opportunity. The value of setting benchmarks, targets and being accountable.

It may not have helped mould me into the traditional ABC way of thinking but it did allow me to see how other organisations operate and also how the media is a growth area - expanding, dynamic and interesting.

I now share my experiences with audiences throughout Australia and Asia and while Jonathan Shier battles with budget cuts his challenge will be to deal with change and overcome the internal attitude barriers within the ABC.


* Thomas Murrell is an international business speaker and media consultant. He spent 12 years with the ABC, the last 6 as a Senior Executive in a management role. Visit his website for more.