Influence people

Friday, July 1, 2016

Mel Ordway Betters Himself

Mel Ordway's troubles began the first day he was assigned Nat Bowen's old territory.

That morning, and for weeks thereafter, whenever he called a customer, Mel was regaled with tales of Nat's famous "sparkle."

Mel guessed Nat's sparkle was largely a matter of physique. The man was an athlete, after all. Mel was out of shape. So to get some sparkle, he began to diet, take long walks, and practice deep-breathing exercises.

Then Mel's wife got on his case.

Phyllis told him that, though she'd been smitten when they were dating, after three years of marriage to him she'd decided Mel was unattractive. He was a day-dreamer, a worry-wart, a promise-breaker, and an intellectual lightweight, Phyllis said. "No wonder you haven't made the hit with the firm that Nat has."

So at Phyllis' insistence, Mel went to the public library and checked out a pile of books: books on improving concentration and memory; on the psychology of personality; and on business and the industry he worked in.

Mel studied the books and, within only weeks, saw his sales increase. His customers began to mention his "sparkle." His boss gave him more room to negotiate prices. And Phyllis grew more affectionate.

Mel became a regular patron of the public library after that. He was firmly on the path to self-betterment.

Mel Ordway's story appeared in the March 1918 edition of The Business Philosopher, a monthly magazine published by Arthur Frederick Sheldon. It was just one of hundreds of similar case studies of under-performers who embraced "Sheldonism" to turn things around.

Now forgotten, Sheldon was once a prominent Chicago business executive; a cofounder of the Rotarians; and the man who coined the slogan, “He Profits Most Who Serves Best.”

Sheldon also launched an industry that came to be called "correspondence education."

In 1902, full of sparkle himself, Sheldon began offering a mail-order self-help course that, at the height of its popularity thirteen years later, would be taken by more than 10,000 salespeople annually.

Sheldon's interests, as reflected in the course materials and the pages of The Business Philosopher, spanned many topics, from personal selling to labor relations, business ethics to economic justice; and helped shape the thinking of a generation of salespeople.

In 1908, Sheldon relocated his mail-order business from downtown to a Chicago suburb named Rockefeller. He bought a 600-acre campus, built a school, and hired nearly 200 local residents to help run it. The Sheldon School offered courses in shorthand, typing, bookkeeping and, naturally, salesmanship.

A year after the school opened, the town changed its name from Rockefeller to AREA, in tribute to the school's motto, Ability. Reliability. Endurance. Action.

AREA, says The Business Philosopher, names a "four-fold capacity" you must embrace; until you do, "complete success is impossible."

Don't believe it?

Just ask Phyllis.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

5 Game Designs Guaranteed to Boost Event Traffic

Almost always, games score big as traffic-boosters at events.

The reasons why are well understood: games satisfy attendees’ innate needs to compete, win recognition, and bring home swag.

But today—with a slew of tech-enabled amusements at our fingertips—games are undergoing a renaissance at events.

To create a memorable and buzz-worthy game, you need a design that's aligned with your goals and that attendees will find alluring. Here are some design alternatives:

Skills competition. Suppose you want to increase traffic at some specific location. You could design a game that challenges attendees’ physical or mental skills—anything from hitting a target to taking a quiz. An attendee could play by completing an action (answering a question, for example), for which she earns a token. The number of tokens awarded for repeat plays could increase as the difficulty of the challenge does. After playing, the attendee redeems all the tokens won for a matching-level prize by visiting a winner’s station.

Treasure hunt. Suppose you want to offer exhibitors a traffic-building sponsorship opportunity. You could design an old-fashioned treasure hunt. Attendees could earn points toward prizes by visiting a series of exhibits, where each participating sponsor rewards them with tokens. After the series of visits, the attendees would visit a winner's station, where they would enter a prize drawing by redeeming their tokens.

Game show. Suppose you want attendees to actively listen, while you communicate a lot of information. You could train a presenter to act as MC, and design a game show that challenges players’ knowledge. Attendees would play and, based on their game-show scores, be awarded variously valued tokens, which they could redeem for the corresponding prizes.

Mission. Suppose you want to collect market research from attendees. You could send them on a “mission.” Under this scenario, attendees would earn tokens by visiting a series of kiosks, where they complete your research surveys. Players who take part in the mission (even the ones who don’t complete it) would receive real-time recognition on a leaderboard and through social-media posts, as well as collecting tokens they can redeem for rewards.

Chance. Suppose you want to draw a crowd and maximize word-of-mouth throughout the event. You could design a game of chance. Attendees who play would win tokens worth a various number of points that they could redeem for the corresponding prizes.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Your Event is Either an Experience or a Waste of Time

Event no longer describes the work of planners, Kevin Jackson says in Event Manager Blog.

Planners no longer merely organize events; they design experiences.

What's the difference, he asks?

"An event is a one-off moment in time and an experience is a whole campaign that builds a community of interest around the subject or topic we’re promoting," Jackson says.

The difference becomes clear when you consider where the two words come from.

Experience comes from the Latin word experientia, a "trial" (as in a "trial run"); event, from the Latin word eventus, an "occurrence."

Your event is either a memorable experiment or a forgettable incident.

A reveal or a recap.

A verb or a noun.

A carnival or a funeral.

An experience or a waste of time.

Monday, June 27, 2016


Americans' panic over sharks dates to July 1916, when man-eaters killed four bathers at the Jersey Shore.

"The New Jersey shark attacks sent a message to Americans," says Matt McCall in National Geographic. "They said the ocean is still wild."

The shark attacks took a bite out of hotel occupancy that July—and President Woodrow Wilson's vote-count when he stood for reelection four months later.

The former New Jersey governor lost 10 percent of the votes he expected everywhere an attack occurred.

When fear guides the lever, voters say "No."

It may be a stupid reaction to a horror show, but it isn't an irrational one.

It's instinctual, according to Rick Shenkman, author of Political Animals: How Our Brain Gets in the Way of Smart Politics.

Shenkman says our Pleistocene-era brains simply can't handle twenty-first-century politics.

“There’s a mismatch between the brains we inherited from the Stone Age, when mankind lived in small communities, and the brain we need to deal with challenges we face in a democratic society consisting of millions of people.”

When you're knee-deep in shark-infested waters, instinct kicks in.

Wily politicians know that, and exploit it.

They know higher-order thinking only takes place from the safety of the cave.

As They Like It

All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.

As You Like It, Act II, Scene VII

As Adrian Segar says in The Power of Participation, given everything we know about active learning—and everything today's attendees crave from a conference—it's "almost unethical" to focus on an event's stage, where speakers control the content.

But how do you shift attention from a handful to many players?

Do your homework. The whole of attendees' perspectives is greater than the sum of speakers' parts. So ask attendees through a pre-event survey what content matters most. And consider using professional telemarketers to conduct the survey. The findings will surprise you!

Demand more. Insist your emcee lets attendees know you expect participation and highlight the opportunities attendees have to participate throughout your event. You can technologize participation by adding a second-screen experience.

Offer carrots. Ignite your audience by building in rewards for participation. Chances to win gift cards and sponsors' swag will bring out attendees’ competitive urges.

Deliver an experience. Provide content in contexts that sensually engage attendees (brands do it all the time). Use A/V, lighting, decor, aromas, and professional talent to boost audience involvement.

Continue the conversation. Extend participation after your event through online forums, hangouts, and social media. Create post-event videos and e-books, send them to attendees, and solicit feedback.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Readers Wanted

In What is Literature?, philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre observes that, unlike shoemakers and architects, writers can't consume their own products.

When a writer writes, Sartre says, he sees the words; but never the way readers will. 

The writer is a projector, and his future always the blank page, whereas the reader is a consumer whose future is "some number of pages filled with words that separate him from the end," Sartre says.

Writers can produce, but never feel, their words.

"The writer meets everywhere only his knowledge, his will, his plans, in short, himself. He touches only his own subjectivity; the object he creates is out of reach; he does not create it for himself.

"If he rereads himself, it is already too late. The sentence will never quite be a thing in his eyes. He goes to the very limits of the subjective but without crossing it. He appreciates the effect of a touch, of an epigram, of a well-placed adjective, but it is the effect they will have on others. He can judge it, not feel it."

Since writers can't really read their products, Sartre says, they need readers to do so. 

In fact, for a piece of writing even to exist, readers are required.

"To make it come into view a concrete act called reading is necessary, and it lasts only as long as this act can last. Beyond that, there are only black marks on paper."

Friday, June 24, 2016

Delivering Bad News

Leaders can learn a lot from FDR.

A champ in many ways, he was at his most masterful where bad news was concerned—and there was a storm of it while he was president.

In April 1942, he told a radio audience that, due to war, "everyone will have the privilege of making whatever self-denial is necessary."

FDR provided no sugarcoating.

“The blunt fact is that every single person in the United States is going to be affected."

But he went on to say, "'Sacrifice" is not exactly the proper word with which to describe this program of self-denial. When, at the end of this great struggle we shall have saved our free way of life, we shall have made no 'sacrifice.'"

Americans responded patriotically.

Leaders are like that. From fails to fiascos, downturns to dow
nsizings, they have the steady job of delivering bad news.

Georgetown University management professor Robert Bies recommends these 10 rules for mastering your delivery of bad news:

  • Never surprise anyone. You’re shirking your duty by keeping bad news to yourself.

  • Never stall. “Bad news delayed is bad news compounded,” Bies says.

  • Never cover up. Withholding information will only lead others to draw false conclusions.

  • Always put it in writing. A paper trail will one day be important.

  • Always justify. Provide “specific and concrete reasons for the bad news.”

  • Always give hope. Emphasizing the positive and temporary aspects of bad news can boost morale, as FDR knew.

  • Always offer solutions. Solutions put the focus on future improvement. “Bad news without solutions is truly bad news.”

  • Always consider every audience. “Remember when delivering bad news that the news never reaches just one; it reaches many.”

  • Always follow through. “Bad news involves cleaning up a mess. After cleaning, let everyone know. Now the news is no longer bad; it is good.”

  • Always show respect. You’re not just communicating bad news; you’re communicating it to human beings.
The last rule is the cardinal one, Bies says; and the one most often broken, as I can attest.

I was laid off, fortunately, only once in my career.

While, as an executive at the company, I was privy to the financial setbacks that preceded the event, when the bad news arrived, via telephone on the Monday before Thanksgiving, the very first thing I was told was that “the decision was easy.”

I grasped at the moment the words that were said (“Marketing is a luxury”).

I’ll never grasp why they they were said.
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