Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Chair: Interviewing on Camera

I went along to Canary Wharf with my friend Stewart Townsend the other day to see him interviewed about the remarkable schools he runs with his partner, Kirsty, outside Manchester. Stewart's soft-spoken approach enhances his powerful personality and tremendous ability to articulate persuasively -- this is very rare.

It's really a testament to Jez Kay and Ruth Elkins that they can bring out the best in people so different from each other as those who sit in The Chair.

This is the kind of work that is most important when helping people with difficulty presenting themselves:

Rather than turning them into someone else, how do you show help them show enough of themselves to engage in business to the same extent they do with people in the rest of their lives?

And voila -- here's Annette Kramer on film -- if you have a chance, take a look at all the videos and how Jez and Ruth got everyone in the same shot to look very different from each other indeed.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Networking with Effect

I've been working with United Kingdom Trade and Investment in Tallinn to prepare for a conference where they will show off talent and innovation born in Estonia.

The challenge? How to make it clear how exciting the talent and innovation really is, even beyond Skype.

Part of the workshop was on transforming presentations into conversations listeners want to continue after your presentation is done.

And part was devoted to informal networking.

The Estonians fancy themselves introverts, but this hasn't been my experience. The people I worked with simply have a strict sense of protocol and the habit of not putting themselves forward too forcefully.

It only took a little practice and an understanding of the benefits of breaking habits to get people into a very social mode.

Here are the networking tips we discussed:

1. Find out in advance, where possible, who you should meet before the event takes place or before a networking break. Begin to think about how to make the exchange of cards meaningful.

2. Make your goals lead your behavior and choice of what you say. The desired result? To continue the conversation outside the room in which you exchange cards.

3. Approach a qualified lead/total stranger with the intention of beginning a conversation you can continue later. Hold out your hand, look the person in the eye, and introduce yourself, saying you’re from Tallin, Estonia (if, indeed you are -- why? Because it's interesting). If the person you approach doesn’t give a name, ask for it.

4. Make it easy for those you meet to help you learn quickly what the possibilities of your relationships could be. Begin the conversation with a question, and when conversation lags, ask a question again.

5. Through questions what you add, make it easy for them to show you how you could be of use to them, how they could be of use to you. The key word is “how”. Do they know someone who might be a better fit? Do you, for them?

6. Remember to be genuinely CURIOUS -- with purpose. Make it easy for those you meet to show you the connections that are possible between ideas, vested interests and opportunities you share and how you can cooperate.

7. When possible, save exchange of cards for the end of the conversation. It gives you a way to end the conversation, and it doesn’t cause a lot of fumbling at the beginning when you meet. It allows you to look each other in the eye.

8. Once you get a card, write on the back what is meaningful about the connection and what you will follow up with.

9. Follow up that day by email, if possible. See if you can set up a phone call or a meeting to continue the conversation.

10. Be persistent – don’t push, but continue being curious about how you can help each other. Even when you get back to your home base. See how long you can make the conversation last. Sustainable curiosity is your most valuable resource.

11. Practice.

12. Practice.

13. Practice.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Back to the Baltics

I'm off to Tallinn next Tuesday to work with UKTI start-ups. The Director will be writing a piece on the venture, and I'm fascinated to learn how the start-up community fits into the bigger business picture within the Baltics.

Just in time for the trip, The ArcticStartUp has published my piece on better communication for in business.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Markets Are (Still) Conversations Because They Are Still Made Up of People

Cluetrain might be old news, but exploring role of conversations -- as, within, between, among -- markets is still topical. See Josh Klein's discussion on how companies should decide whether or not to use Twitter, just for example.

No one likes being talked at. Most pitches and presentations fall flat for just this reason. Much better to start a conversation listeners want to continue.

If no one wants about your product to other people (including you), it's probably a good idea to avoid social media.

Silence is always better than spam.

How To Build A Business

Jon Bradford's The Difference Engine has got some nice press in the Guardian today.

Although Paul is singled out, the whole group came a long long way during the 13-week intensive programme.

For more about my experience with the group, see The Difference Engine Blog.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Oracle's Innovation Expert, Stewart Townsend

I have the great good fortune to work with Stewart Townsend when offering help to start-ups on communicating more effectively to investors.

He is a brilliant guy and a lovely one. Stewart was interviewed about European Innovation, and it's worth checking out.

Presentation Skills 101: Who is Your Audience (Other than You)?

What Makes Presentations Fail?

The biggest challenge to improving communications for clients is the art of perspective.

Everything good (or bad) comes from the ability (or inability) to see the forest for the trees and visa versa. In the case of pitching to investors or clients, it entails understanding where your communication ends and your audience's understanding begins.

All the stock phrases for improving communication sound simple: know your audience, be passionate, speak to (rather than at) your listeners.

In fact, as in Buddhist statements everyone takes for granted to be true (be here now, for example), nothing could be more complicated. All require a kind of perspective that is difficult to maintain when you are the one speaking.

As in any relationship that feels important, the one between you and your listeners requires the ability to observe and change behavior (or tactics) when you're not getting through. The challenge, of course, is that the more important a relationship feels, the less perspective we tend to have on ourselves.

With technologists, one often has to curb the discussion of a product or operation in order to focus on its effect's relevance to the listener.

With high-level executives, it's often a challenge to get rid of jargon that might feel transparent to them but abstracts an issue when it should be directly felt.

Those Who Teach Are Not Exempt

I'm not immune to the tendency to lose perspective, but I have created a habit of checking to ensure my client and I are working well together.

My challenge for myself is always checking to ensure that I'm not talking at -- but with -- the person to whom I'm giving feedback. There's always the risk of taking over the conversation. However, it's essential to remember to listen rather than talk when appropriate because my goal is to bring out the strengths in a client rather than change him or her into someone else.

It never works to try to change someone into something else -- the conversation becomes a performance that doesn't engage 9 out of 10 times. Each person's strengths is his or her biggest asset. And my job is to ensure that each client is being the most engaging self (himself or herself) possible.

Sometimes Grown Ups are Just Tall Children

My friend, Kate Quardfort, who teaches drama in the South Bronx, wrote a great piece for the Huffington Post about the challenge of creating trust and perspective. Check it out.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

The Difference Engine Pitches at Microsoft

The Demo day at Microsoft in London for The Difference Engine offers proof that boot camps work.

In the 13 weeks in which I helped teams communicate their ideas more effectively, every participating entrepreneur has come so far that (as another mentor said) the pitches were unrecognizable. The teams began with nascent ideas and ended up with complex and persuasive products – and engaging stories to match.

It is remarkable how these teams have transformed themselves. Living for almost a fortnight in Middlesborough university digs, they worked around the clock to prepare for investor presentations in Newcastle and in London. Most of their days were spent in a great new building SeedCamp has nothing on the work put in here.

I was the teams' pitch coach, and although my contributions helped, credit really goes to Jon Bradford. North East Finance gave the money, but Jon miraculously found a way to help each team in ways that met myriad unique needs.

Check out The Difference Engine FAQs -- the website is great. And if you are a start-up and have not applied for the September’s Difference Engine programme, do it today.

It was sad saying goodbye, but I'm sure we'll be hearing about most (if not all) of them as they get their funding and build their businesses.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Difference Engine TV: Episode 5 - Presentation Skills

I am thrilled to be involved in The Difference Engine's first year's boot camp. On Monday, the teams will present at Microsoft in London as a finishing touch.

If you're a start-up, it's definitely worth checking out The Difference Engine TV - a very generous series of videos that work through the process of preparing your tools for investors.

There is a lot on presentation skills in Episode 5, but check out the other segments as well.

Friday, May 28, 2010

On My Way to Estonia

I have been invited by the Estonian government to help entrepreneurs pitch to investors. Am visiting a friend, Heikki Haldre of, and the work is a bonus.

I learned a lot about the country from Ross Mayfield's blog -- all great stuff.

As for me, I'll be working with 10 start-up teams helping them get their story-telling skills as strong as possible for an event called Innovate on June 2nd.

I can't think of anything more fun. More when I get there.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Telling Your Story: The First Step to Doing Business

I had the pleasure to work with The Difference Engine teams in Middlesborough. The group is being funded by a group of North East UK government schemes to generate business in the area.

Last week marked my second visit, and I continue to be impressed with these start-ups' energy, intelligence, and speed of uptake.

Transforming Presentations through Storytelling

A month ago, I focused on helping teams understand how to present in general terms. This time, we worked on creating business cases within stories (or pitches) that would transform presentations into conversations listeners (here, investors) would want to continue.

In the event you might need such information, here is the strategy I suggested and tips to get there.

1. Be aware that you are telling a story. Stories have a beginning, a middle, and an end with transitions that lead from one to the other and tell the listener where you’re going.

2. If you are unclear what the structure looks like for your story – which elements lie in the beginning, middle, and end – put each piece of your presentation on colored note cards that distinguish the sections of the story. It’s a good exercise no matter what-- so that you really understand how you’re telling your story and why.

3. The point of the pitch is for the investors to feel it’s obvious to meet you and to learn more about your company. However, the reason for telling the story must have it’s own, more specific internal logic. This is the logic that drove you to your start-up/product design journey – and now drives you to give the highlights. It’s what gets the investors to feel (not think) that you have it going on. Even if you’re only doing it for the money, your investment in this project needs to be felt. If so, it will be contagious.

4. No one ever made a decision based entirely on data – it’s how much/in what way the data supports the feelings you can generate in the rest of the story that will win your audience over.

5. It helps your audience to engage to give specific, concrete stories within the story. These can be very short, but any time you offer an abstract concept, offer a concrete example.

6. The key elements you should address are: Problem, Solution, Current Market, *How Much Money You Want, *Exit (eg When Investors Get Their Money Back), Financials, Team.

Obviously, the asterisk items are very important to investors.

7. The key elements do not have to be in the order I’ve listed.

Note: There are two exceptions:

(1) You should get to your money sections by the third minute of a five-minute presentation and (2) the team should always go last in order.

However, if you want to say How Much Money You Want or any other financial issue before the third minute and get back to money later, that’s fine, too. The important thing is that your story has its own coherence, flow, and reason for each piece to be in its place.

8. The key elements do not have to be separate but can be grouped together: for example: The Current Market might be the Problem or Solution, or it might be tucked inside the
Competition section.

All comments are welcome -- is there anything we didn't address at the Difference Engine sessions that you find important when you pitch?

Monday, May 10, 2010

Engaging with India

Communication skills are challenging even when the workplace is relatively homogeneous. Presenting the same information to different stakeholders can take a lot of work, both in terms of content and of performance.

Last Wednesday, I participated in ThinkPlank's first Engage programme that offers context, challenges, solutions, and case studies for UK executives and managers who either work with Indian off-shore teams or are considering the prospect.

We got very good feedback, and I was a little surprised given the diverse range of experience in the group. But everyone seems to have taken something away to try at work.

In the meantime, here's a piece on the flood of Indian companies coming to Britain. Get in touch if you'd like to learn more about how to work with them.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Branding Haiti: Humanizing Crisis

For every country, in crisis or not, there is a branding initiative. Sometimes it's created by the press to get viewers. Sometimes it's reinforced or changed by stakeholders to create new impressions and effects.

Haiti is no exception. Its crisis has been covered extensively, and for me, the branding of a country in desperate straits has lost its impact. Right or wrong, that's what happens with overexposure.

This is as true for businesses as well. Vary your theme -- talking points only go so far until no one hears them anymore.

And So?

Here is a different view of Haiti -- the continuation of everyday life. I think the press and charities should add some of these images to their package to give a fuller and more accessible take on the connections between the people in crisis and those who can help.

What do you think?

These photos were taken by Sendra Dorce weeks after the earthquake.

Monday, April 26, 2010

What Does It Mean to Be Authentic?

What does it mean to be authentic when you communicate within an organisation? My clients have been struggling with this lately because of the recession's push to restructure.

An Example: Banking on Change

One executive at a large bank told me that the current climate has created fear and distrust in messages disseminated through her organisation.

High-level managers have told her that even the announcements about new (and real) benefits don't "feel" genuine to employees. This lack of belief has made project uptake, new initiatives -- and even morale -- a big challenge.

What's In a Word?

There was an interesting comment made on this subject by Richard Exon on the Channel 4 discussion about communication skills of Britain's three contenders for Prime Minister. He defined "authenticity" as the ability to be believed.

This means that being authentic -- once understood as telling the truth -- has become to mean seeming to be honest. This is a huge shift to jargon for a word that used to represent unmitigated truth.

And with communication, it's all that matters in the short-term. In the long-term, of course, you need to live up to your words.

Credibility vs. Truth: Bringing it Back to Business

My client and I worked on her challenges by taking this as a motto:
Successful business communication is about credibility.

Brand, for example, is a set of promises and beliefs. If experience proves to consumers that the promises feel fulfilled and beliefs are upheld, the brand is strong. If not, the brand is weak and probably not doing a company much good.

Internal brand is where every successful organisation must start. Without it, the external brand will show gaps and peel away in important places.

To help strengthen my client's internal communication, we went back to the core values and beliefs around which the brand was formed. Then we wrote communications from there.

It worked like a charm.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

More on the Relationships Among Communication, Organisations, and National Culture

As those of you who have read previous posts know, I'm working with Ved Sen and ThinkPlank on a training programme that helps Indian and Western organisations communicate more effectively -- both within and across national and business cultures. The programme is called Engage.

Engage was designed to facilitate successful off-shoring endeavors for both Indians and Brits. In his new article, begins to scratch the surface of difference by tying together assumptions British/Westerners make about truth and morality and the influence of religion.

Here's the first paragraph of Gods, CEOs, and Politicians:

We are all shaped by religion. Some more so than others. Some of us are formed by the beliefs we are exposed to. Some by a reaction to them. We may stray very far from our roots, and turn our backs on many or all of the ritualistic observance of religion that we were born into and grew up following. But the vestigial framework of our understanding of the universe, its power structures and our role and working within them seems to persist. I’m not an expert on religion or sociology. So what follows is just my armchair observation of how our religious beliefs explain a lot of our behaviour as Indians – both social and organizational.

Continue reading here.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Change is Disorganizing: Communicating through the Fear

Learning is disorganizing -- as change occurs, we are forced to navigate unfamiliar territory to get to a new place. For most people, it's very uncomfortable.

We have a couple of choices. We can find a way to survive the unknown, despite the sense that we're riding waves and don't know where we'll land. We take control where we can find it, holding onto a branch here or there for the moment we float past.

The other alternative is to grit our teeth and refuse to budge, but we will move, or circumstances will move around us, regardless of our desire to stay put and keep everything the same.

What Does This Mean for Organisations?

Those who have responsibility for communication can either offer information in ways that help employees feel better OR give them impression that they're about to drown.

Unfortunately, as constant as change is in all organisations, even the most experienced communicators too often disseminate information without considering what the employee needs to feel more in control.

Even if it is all you can offer as a manager, do everything in your power to make those who work for you feel heard. Consider not only the content but the medium and tone through which you're communicating. It will make a world of difference.

You might want to see a previous post on politics for an example where UK parties blew a perfect opportunity to do just that and get ahead in the polls.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Engaging Indian Teams

Learning across contexts is a fascinating area, and my clients in London and New York hail from all over the world.

I am now working with a company called ThinkPlank, "a consulting and projects company that helps clients navigate the continuing business challenges and opportunities presented by digital convergence."

Ved Sen, Progga Sen, and I are conducting a training workshop in London on engaging the Indian workforce for those doing business or considering expanding to India.

We'll be focusing on face-to-face communication, telephone contact, and getting problems solved when working on both the individual and organisational level.

Come along if you're in town. It should be a lot of fun.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the UK Debate: Social Media Effects Old Media in a New Way

In watching the BBC UK political coverage on the night of the debate, it occurred to me that a more interesting precedent was being set than the televised candidates together talking.

It also reminded me why I created my business -- people can understand how to listen and respond in theory without much skill at actually doing it. I help clients transform presentations into conversations people want to continue. In the case of the debate, they needed a hand. Change is challenging for everyone.

Before the Debate, and Because of It . . .

Channel 4 News
offered two ordinary voters the opportunity to confront representatives of the major parties live on television without notes, scripts, or rules. Not only that, Jon Snow facilitated challenging questions from the ordinary voters and pushed the politicians to answer.

Really A Big Deal?

It's not new to have ordinary voters interviewed on camera outside the studio -- and it's not new to have experts argue with an anchor or each other. But it IS new to find a real discussion going on, live and unedited, between non-experts and the people who they might elect.

This would not be possible without Twitter. National news in Britain has been "taking email" and quoting Tweets for ages. Supposedly from the horses mouth, perhaps the News management felt that live people in the studio would offer the same sort of information.

Acceptance of Social Media allows people to talk face to face. New media makes old media possible again.

Of course, Tweets, email, and canned interviews are selected for very specific effect and to underline a pre-determined point. You don't actually know what people will do if you put them with other people in a room together. Even with facilitation, you don't have complete control.

The effect was rather fun. The two voters were aware of the candidates' positions but couldn't believe a word. The expert (yes, there has to be an expert somewhere) who joined them had an explanation -- people in Britain are engaged in politics but not in the main political parties or with the candidates.

How much better market research could you possibly get as a candidate? Polls and Twitter (and other social media) are all hearsay. Live human beings reacting candidly on camera (and without TV prep) is really all you have to know.

The results in the candidates' response (again) demonstrates why my business is booming: people have a very hard time breaking bad habits and in listening. Here you had a chance for political representatives to offer proof of concept -- and all they had to do was demonstrate that they heard their constituents.

Change hit the candidates, and they couldn't adjust. They were televised -- everyone could see them not acknowledging the views of people on whom they depend for their jobs. Voters didn't have to guess anymore whether they were heard -- they could see that they weren't.

Not Restricted to Political Life: Business Life is Rife with Non-Listeners

This is not an issue restricted to politicians. My much less well known business clients struggle with it every day.

Too often, it's hard for people with an agenda to listen. It can feel threatening to show you hear others' perspectives. Worse, sometimes it simply not occur to them. But you need to be able to at least fake it effectively.

Demonstrating that you hear when someone speaks is only the beginning. But it IS essential to any further communication. This all might sound obvious, but my business clients struggle with the same issues.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Brand Manga: New Collaboration with Management Sushi

I've recently begun working on a project with Bernie Ritchie of Management Sushi -- to do this, we created Brand Manga. It's not online yet -- but I've written up some notes for feedback, if you've got some.

It continues to be an interesting journey.

Brand Manga

Success depends on the quality of the pitch, not the volume.

Why Brand Manga?

Your brand is a promise of a particular kind of experience for customers. Fulfilling that promise consistently and over time generates a belief in and loyalty to your company, products, and services.

Manga is a Japanese art that has gone global. It tells stories through cartoon on every imaginable subjects and represents the infinite possibilities of representing ideas, objects, and relationships through immediately accessible and engaging new worlds.

Brand Manga is a new communication strategy aimed at helping clients gain wider recognition, trust, and relationships from customers. The goal is to expand, re-energize, and unify the way a company engages with a global, wired world.

Tools are Easy: Strategy is Hard

At the conferences I've attended lately, people talk more about specific new media tools than anything else. But as Chris Brogan said at LikeMinds, "We never would consider having a conference about the telephone."

No doubt, digital Media offers extended numerous tools to expand a company's reach. However, tools are easy – and using them well requires careful planning. We can help you create an effectively unified communications strategy across media and stakeholders – in person, within your company, and with external markets.

With 24/7 networks across multiple media, it’s never been more important to create belief in the consistency and quality of experience that a business offers.

To do that, core values and talent need to come across consistently and frequently in the relationships in the world and online.

Customers develop trust and loyalty only over time, with evidence that a brand delivers the experience it promises.

You can get your message out there as much as you want -- in as many ways as you want. But it's the quality of the pitch, not the volume that counts. So before buying fancy equipment or signing up for piece-meal marketing approaches, sit down with someone like us and look at the big picture.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Tools are Easy: Storytelling is Hard

I have been considering the nature of effective storytelling lately.

I work with a range of clients who all need to tell their stories through different media. Ideally, they will be open to exploring stories across media -- from in-person communication at length to the 140-character Tweet.

The question is: how do you make the most of each medium?

In-Person Pitching

My clients need to pitch for both business and for investment. The question always becomes: how do you transform a presentation into a conversation people want to continue?

After all, business takes place after your last word is spoken - usually, after you've left the room.

Take Doug Richards' video from School for Start-Ups, for example. Doug has invited me to his event to help with the storytelling because he thinks I have a different take. He's right.

Doug talks about compelling stories for investors with dragons, bad guys, good guys, and so on. It sounds good, but how would you translate that for someone who wants to present?

What's true is that it always makes sense to engage listeners' feelings (at least) as much as their minds. One always remembers the way a communication feels -- whether it's in a meeting (competitive? generous?), on a conference call (dull? impatient?), or in writing (rude? friendly?). The same, of course, goes for those who communicate in front of a room.

But where do you go from there?

Storytelling Means More Than One Thing

Vocabulary might be a problem -- perhaps we need other words for articulating one's value proposition with a beginning, middle, and end?

When I was hired last week by an investor team to work with entrepreneurs , the programme's head interpreted my request to transform the data into a story to mean "tell me something that happened in your life."

Indeed, this can be a useful strategy. Specificity always helps listeners engage, and if done well in context, personalising abstract concepts or challenges will set your pitch apart from others.

On the other hand, the investors wouldn't want 10 teams in a row telling a specific story about the connection between their lives and projects. The format would become predictable, and people would tune out.

So What Makes a Good Story?

The secret to effective storytelling can't really be defined by any particular format. It's true that all stories usually have characters, place, conflict, and resolution. However, creating a narrative is not straightforward -- there is no formula -- if you want your audience engaged.

One strategy that can be effective is to make the story meaningful to you. It must create a feeling in YOU that feels contagious to your listeners.

Quite simply, this is empathy.

But Wait: There's (Always More)

In addition to feeling the truth of what you say, perspective and context must be a factor in the way you express yourself. Are you creating the right kind of chemistry with listeners by making your experience accessible?

If there is a secret, it is that there is no single recipe for effective communication except listening well and interpreting the needs of your listener as you go. Call it improvisation, if you like. The key is to remember that as effortless as improv can appear, no one is born knowing how to do it well.

It doesn't happen without a lot of practice.

I think that's why I enjoy my work so much. It's not training. It's learning, both for me and my clients. Every time is different.

More on other media in the next post.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Two pieces commissioned by a conference company . . .

Here are two pieces - one on the art of (re)presentation per se and one with presentation tips, a version of which was already published on this blog. They were commissioned from a conference company to help speakers. Enjoy.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Learning vs. Training

In the course of a recent spate of client assignments in which I was retained to do Business Development and Presentation Training it struck me that we might need a new word for "training." Training implies learning a narrow group of skills in a single context. Learning, on the other hand, implies a wider group of capabilities that are inspired in a client. These abilities tend to cross contexts.

Sometimes my clients refer to me as a Presentation Trainer, yet as I interact with those who run businesses, those with products or services geared toward industry or the Enterprise, business school representatives, and expats seeking Executive MBAs in cultures not their own, what I've noticed is that none of my clients really want "training." They want to learn business techniques, and they want those in their charge to learn as well.

The difference is in the creativity and curiosity one sustains and carries, again, across contexts.

The topics might be different, but the goal is the same. How do you make connections among resources that will meet business and monetary challenges, both now and in the future?

Here's a formula that will help anyone perform better in business:

1. Inspiration is the meeting point between emotional and intellectual insights. Everyone feels so much better (and accomplishes so much more) when they can invoke it.

2. The best way to get inspired is to stay curious. Curiosity can be a bridge to creativity. (do you agree with that?)

3. Curiosity is sustainable if feelings are allowed. Your emotional reactions are as important as your thinking. In fact, innovative thinking couldn't exist without feeling -- inspiration is that meeting point, after all.

4. The most effective communicators evoke a desire to accomplish, know, perform. When my clients remember why they care about their topic, so do their listeners.

5. It's not magic, but it feels like it. Getting people to communicate that effectively an extraordinary challenge, and it's thrilling when my clients make it work. Sounds simple, and all it requires to get listeners to feel something new takes practice and the right kind of feedback.

This goes beyond training -- anyone got another word?

Either way, I feel very lucky to do this work.

Thoughts on Presentation Among Media

I was brought into a project recently that made me keenly aware of the similarities between what marketers (like me) do to improve both written and in-person presentation.

This is a (continuing) research project -- a literature review for an international marketing symposium. The subject was erudite and technical, but it became immediately apparent how to work on the outline and structure, despite my unfamiliarity with the topic. The more my intermediary and content expert described the context in which the material would be read, the more insight I was able to give on how to present the information in a way that would be credible and clear to a reader.

It reminded me of my work with CEOs of companies coaching client and investor pitches. I don't have to understand the in's and out's of specialty data as long as I understand the audience. The more insight I have into the effect the presenter must have -- in writing or in person -- the more I can help the speaker or writer be effective at getting the point across.

Marketers sometimes get a bad rap for window dressing rather than creating substantial (read: measurable) value for companies. But the deep structure we create for companies with content of all kinds has an emotional impact on whomever comes across the information.

And these so-called soft-skills are as much a part of winning content as the data itself.