Everyone is your teacher

My good friend Kwai Yu told me this the other day (a wise man from the East!) – treat everyone as your teacher.

I was reminded of this as I drove back from a recent coaching workshop I’d run for a group of solicitors. We were discussing presentation skills and I showed them one of my favourite clips from the TED web site, namely Sir Ken Robinson’s talk on how schools kill creativity. It’s an extraordinary talk, delivered with passion, humour, humility and skill – with no notes. It promotes some profound ideas and as example of persuasive presentation it has few equals, in my view.

But that’s just it isn’t it? It’s MY VIEW.

After the clip had finished I glanced around the room and waited for the response. Most of the attendees were enraptured by it, but a section of the audience were unmoved. “Yeah, it was OK,” said one. “I thought he ranted a bit…yes, a bit of a rant.”

At this point I’m feeling a bit confused and slightly irritated. Did we watch the same clip? This is a man whose thoughts and ideas are sought out at considerable cost by organisations and governments throughout the world. His TED talk is amongst the most downloaded of the whole on-line library (several million viewings).

And on the ranting point, don’t we pay our highest paid speakers to rant about something? Tom Peters describes himself as a professional loud-mouth but we pay considerable sums and go out of our way to be ranted at! Surely it’s the passion, the willingness to challenge orthodox ways of thinking that makes these people so compelling to listen to?

But what does it for one person doesn’t do it for another! We’re all different and it’s so easy to push our views and beliefs on to others. Just because I see the world that way doesn’t mean others will too. A lesson for me and hopefully others too.

Stop applying for jobs – start attracting followers

I had an interesting conversation with a young professional last night. I was guest speaker at a Junior Chamber of Commerce event and afterwards we got onto job hunting and CV’s. With the wonderful experience of Pecha Kucha fresh in my mind, I suggested it would be amazing to come across a CV in the form of a PK presentation – 20 slides, 20 seconds each, a story told through pictures and audio. That would stand out!

“But I’d be concerned I wouldn’t get selected because I broke the rules,” replied my young friend.

It got me thinking, would I want to work for a company whose recruitment procedures were so set in stone that they wouldn’t consider a more innovative approach? The job market reminds me of something Seth Godin talks about – reversing the funnel. Most people seeking buyers in a competitive market throw their message out there and hope someone listens. But because there are so many sellers doing the same thing, the chances of attracting interest are slim. Most of the time your pitch falls on deaf ears.

Why not reverse the funnel? Turn the funnel into a megaphone. Do some remarkable stuff that stands out and attracts some followers – because it’s different. Bring buyers to you.

Given that in some cases more than 1,000 people are chasing the same job, the chances of success with a conventional approach are minimal. My contention is that a PK-style resume would be so extraordinary, a real insight into someone’s character and their willingness to innovate, that you would attract people to YOU. The right people. The type of employers you’d want to work for.

With the odds as they are, surely it’s worth a try?

A truly purple experience – how to get people talking about you

Picture of a Purple Cow, metaphor for standing out from the crowdReaders of this blog will be familiar with my great respect for marketing guru Seth Godin, and especially his Purple Cow concept – how to be ‘remarkable‘. I came across a terrific example of this last week, a story related to me by a marketing consultant of all people!

He dined at a nice restaurant near Chester, UK and went to pay the bill at the desk. The restaurant owner dealt with the transaction, but then asked a question of my friend, “Do you know what the most important thing is in life?”.

“Err, family, kids…”, replied my friend.

“Marketing!” said the restaurant owner excitedly. “Have you ever read The Purple Cow by Seth Godin? It’s a fantastic read.”

“I’ve heard of it but not read it,” answered the marketing man.

They chatted for a while, pleased to have found a common interest. My friend left his business card, said farewell and set off home.

Two days later, a package arrived at his house. It was a copy of The Purple Cow, courtesy of the restaurant owner! Now that’s how you create positive word of mouth – do things that are create chatter. Go the extra mile so it generates a story worth telling.

Telling your story through pictures – the Pecha Kucha experience

Speakers at Pecha Kucha night ManchesterThe strapline for one of my favourite web sites (TED) is ‘Ideas worth spreading’, and it seems that Pecha Kucha is one that’s really caught on. Japanese for ‘the sound of conversation’, PK is an unusual presentation style involving 20 slides (predominantly pictures), each set to rotate every 20 seconds. This so-called 20/20 format produces a nice, concise story lasting 6 minutes and 40 seconds. PK nights (where a series of speakers give a PK-style talk) run in over 300 cities worldwide and last Monday we ran our second event in Manchester, at the offices of Slater Heelis Solicitors in Sale Moor.

You might think the prospect of listening to 11 talks in succession is hardly appealing, but we attracted close to 100 people and in Melbourne and Tel Aviv (where PK’s been running for a few years) they get nearly 1000! So why does it work, and what did we hear last Monday?

(Speakers shown above, from L to R: Ashley Boroda, Jo Berry, Juan Grange Yanez).

Having to get your message across in just 6 mins and 40 secs is a challenge, but the paradox is that audiences take more in from less! It’s easily digestible because of its brevity, but also because you tell your story through pictures. Think what it’s like to be in an audience and have a slide appear that’s full of text and bullets. Your heart sinks and your mind wanders. Put a picture up and you immediately intrigue your audience. They want to know the significance of the picture. They’re ‘primed’ and that’s a wonderful state to have them in. Your role as a presenter is simply to bring that image to life, to give it meaning and significance.

The fact the slides rotate every 20 seconds also drives the story forward. You can’t get bogged down on one point. The change-over forces you to move on and this gives the talk pacing and dynamism.

But it’s not all down to the format. Some PK talks are better than others and this boils down to the topic and the performance. If you had to listen to 11 business pitches in a row you’d hardly be queuing up! So at PK we look out for good stories: life-changing experiences, weird hobbies, travels, passions and challenges.

I’m not going to mention all the speakers here (they’re listed below and were ALL fabulous in their own way), but highlights for me were…

Dan Hasler on his Moss Cider project (a personal mission to grow apples and produce cider in his home district of Moss Side). Great slides (he is a designer after all), wonderful opening (hardly said anything for the first 2 slides, but poured out and drank some cider) and we’re a sucker for a crazy passion!

Juan Grange Yanez who wants to change our attitudes to the youth and needs our help! Juan’s mission is to develop a youth village in Manchester where street kids can express themselves and develop their inherent skills. He brought a young singer, a rap duo and some dancers who entertained us at the midway break, and they were wonderful. Juan draws strength from his own personal experiences as a youngster and epitomises the principle of ‘letting go’ and giving it some welly with his stage performance.

Everyone remembers Tony Brammer and his 4-desert challenge, a mind-bogglingly tough journey across some of the most desolate terrain on the planet. The image of his split toe lingers in the mind (ouch!) and so too the picture of him with a fellow traveller, who completed this ludicrous physical challenge…despite being blind.

Kwai Yu has a wonderful story too. A Chinese immigrant, he abandoned the corporate world some time ago and adopted fresh values (not least to be “important in the life of a child”). He’s also adopted what Aussie speaker Ian Berry calls a BHAG – a Big Hairy Arsed Goal – namely, to bring leadership learning to 20 million people by the year 2020. His methodology? The Leaders Café (check this out on LinkedIn).

But the highlight was surely Jo Berry, a lady I met only a week before PK. Her father was murdered in 1984 when the IRA bombed the Grand Hotel, Brighton during the Conservative Party Conference. She now works as a champion for peace and reconciliation, having formed a working relationship with the man who planted the bomb, Pat Magee. I’ve rarely seen people stand up to applaud midway through a business event, but Jo’s presentation contributed greatly to the evening and I’m privileged to know her.

I was thrilled with the night, a networking event that wasn’t. But nonetheless some fantastic relationships have been formed simply by bringing people together to listen to some wonderful stories. Special thanks go to Mike Fox and his team at Slater Heelis, my team of volunteers (Julie Brett-Bellis, Suzie Oulton, Charlotte Harris and Jennifer Shaw), my fellow PK organiser Phil Harris and of course to all the speakers and attendees.


Monday 27th September 2010 (6-9pm)

Venue TBC but in the Manchester area.

I’d love to know if:

  1. You’d like to attend?
  2. You’d like to present?

Our Speakers last week

Ivor Tymchak, Nick McCloud, Max Clements, Jo Berry, Simon Jermy, Juan Grange Yanez, Tamsin Fielden, Dan Hasler, Kwai Yu, Tony Brammer, Ashley Boroda.

Well done all – if anyone would like to contact one or more of our speakers, please let me know.

Pecha Kucha coming in July