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S-P-R-A-Ying with @JasonFalls

February 11, 2010 6 comments

While attending EventCamp10 (#EC10) over the first weekend in February I had the opportunity to be a part of a session with @JasonFalls of SocialMediaExplorer. I have followed Jason’s thoughts for over a year and appreciate his straightforward, collaborative style. What you read and what you get in person is the same authentic desire to educate and share.

The session focused on listening and started off by discussing the importance of listening…not hearing…but really (active) listening.

A Primer for Effective Listening

Wikipedia defines active listening as:

Active Listening is not just an automatic response to sounds. It requires a listener to understand, interpret, and evaluate what he or she heard. Today, the ability to listen is an important skill in interpersonal communication. It improves personal relationship through reducing conflicts, strengthening cooperation, as well as fostering understanding.

When interacting, people often are not listening attentively to one another. They may be distracted, thinking about other things, or thinking about what they are going to say next (the latter case is particularly true in conflict situations or disagreements).

Active listening is a structured way of listening and responding to others. It focuses attention on the speaker. Suspending one’s own frame of reference and suspending judgment are important in order to fully attend to the speaker.

So often we think we’re listening but in reality we’re only hearing (huge difference). Rather than listening we’re really only waiting to respond or we’re multi-tasking (ever attend a webinar while completing a project or catching up on e-mail?) [Guilty]

In Stephen R. Covey’s The Four Disiplines of Execution there is a quote that fits quite well here and is related to listening:

Human beings are wired to do only one thing at a time with excellence.

What struck me in the first few minutes of Jason’s session was that:

  • We all have a basic need to connect and help each other
  • We connect to each other by learning more about each other
  • We help by using those connections to create shared collaborative moments
  • We build these bridges by listening

So listening is a critical skill. If we don’t here’s what collaboration looks like:

All too often our interactions with each other, in person and online are some rendition of this classic scene.

So now we’re ready to communicate more effectively right? As Jason continued our session we discussed what effective communications had in common.

Communication model

Communication requires:

  1. A sender
  2. A medium (TV, internet, air, etc)
  3. A receiver

See where that multi-tasking comes into play…it can really interfere with effective listening and keep the receiver(s) from truly understanding the message.

When we have the right players and tools in place, listening will happen. And, (quoting Jason here)

When we listen effectively it allows us to do one really, really good thing — provide excellent service.

Listening Online

Now we get the importance of listening. And going back to our awesome graphic there’s this medium thing (as in the spaces in which these communications are passed). There are multiple types of media (air, internet, TV, etc). Some sort of transmitter. This is where Jason honed in on what is his expertise: listening online.

If we’re going to engage in listening online we need to know what people are saying about us right? Well yes there’s that tactical self serving purpose. But using Jason’s quote from above, the real value in listening online is to listen for what our communities want to know more about us. Listening to these conversations gives us the opportunity to act. Listening to and through those listening acts building relationships online creates a bond between you and your communities.

At this point Jason offered some advice:

  • In using online mediums to build relationships – pitch relationship building with those you encounter, don’t pitch a story. This isn’t about marketing, it’s about a real relationship. Respect it.
  • Remember to listen not only to your brand but also to topics that define your brand

Moving from listening to engagement

Once you’ve developed those listening channels there are three theories you can aspire to, each one requires more engagement and effort than the one before, but the payoff is greater (exponentially). You can:

  1. Give your community what they want (you can appear smart to them)
  2. Listen & actively participate (ask them what they want (appear smarter)
  3. Share great content, connect & create thought leadership in your space (makes your community want what you give them)

Moving from listening to engagement is a process and like anything is a craft. Along the way keep in mind:

  • Write good headlines (headlines get readers to engage)
  • Write what the thought leaders are writing about (in your own words)
  • Find and share 3-4 good pieces of good content on Twitter
  • Post consistently set and maintain  audience expectations

To bring these thought back to some actionable takeaways Jason closed our session by discussion a method we can use to listen and engage to achieve the levels mentioned above.

It’s all about S-P-R-A-Y

  1. S – Search (for what you want to find)
    • Use RSS feeds and a reader (like Google Reader)
    • Use Google Alerts (covers 75-80% of the web)
      • Enhance Google Alerts with IceRocket & Technorati
    • Use Twitter search for real time searches
    • Check out TPS Reports (Tweet Positioning System)
      • Takes what people are saying and overlays where they are saying it
    • Socialmention.com is also a terrific search tool
    • Remember: you’re looking for keywords about your brand (what your communities are searching for)
  2. P – Prioritize what you find (respond now/respond later, route it, etc)
    • Are you finding negative mentions? – Respond immediately
    • Transactional opportunities? – jump on them now (you’ve found them in the moment they want to buy)
    • Finding positive mentions? – stay on top of them
      • See someone tweeting a lot about eNewsletter. DM asking for mailing address – mail them a book.
      • Remember that when you communicate online you’re magnifiying the great/good
      • Look for suggestions
  3. R – Route to actionable party
    • Define your process to route/respond to actions found in the prioritize stage
    • Set expectations with your team and community about accepted response times
  4. A – Act on it appropriately (we tend to forget this part)
    • Do the heavy lifting
    • Turn user ideas into reality
    • Small wins for community has a huge impact and builds trust
    • Document community experiences and ask for their feedback
  5. Y – YES!
    • Do all of the above and we are engaging our communities actively with trust building results

A Nod to Online Tools

Jason spend a few minutes talking about tools that can be used to help take what’s discovered online while S-P-R-A-Ying  and capture actionable items:

  • Evernote
  • OmniFocus
  • ReQall

Regardless of the tools you use, the idea is to capture ideas and act quickly.

  • Reading blogs
    Write good headlines
    Thought leaders are writing about
    3-4 good pieces of content for Twitter (find & share)
    Get into consistency that audience is used to (set expectation & then deliver)
Categories: Uncategorized

It IS all about you

February 8, 2010 4 comments

I had the opportunity to attend PCMA Convening Leaders 2010 in Dallas last month. It was several days of new thinking and inspiration about the changing yet vital role of face to face meetings. While an entire month’s worth of blog posts could spill out of my observations from this event (I reserve the right even 1 month post), for this post I’ll focus in on the group that is playing a more important role in F2F meetings than every before.

The attendee.

Put your attendee hat on for a bit. We’ve all been to a trade show, corporate event or educational conference. In those hours of sessions, breakouts, networking events, boxed lunches & bar-hopping how many times have you thought to yourself:

“They should do ____________!” (Sidebar: every idea should end in an exclamation point. We need to get back to the passion we had when we were younger about ideas.)

  • Did you turn that idea into a suggestion? An e-mail? A tweet? Facebook fan page posting? Smoke signal? Carrier pigeon note? (you should have)
  • Did you blog about it? (you should)
  • Did you reach out to your social network and share your idea? (I hope so)

Now for the real question:

  • Did they listen?
  • Did they respond?
  • Did they sign you up to manage that part of the event next year?

Wait…what was that last part again?

Attendee as Contributor
Imagine, feedback, posted transparently, discussed openly and turned on it’s head to engage the attendee in making the event better by owning a part of the event.

Better yet, how do we turn our events into collaborative platforms and empower our attendees & exhibitors to take our event in completely different ways?

How do we truly turn the event over to the attendee?
I’m not sure the above question alone conveys the thought so I’ll add another thought to it. How do we turn our event into a platform on top of which the attendees can build the conference they want.

Event as a platform. Or to geek it up, “Event as a Service” (EaaS). Attendee as a developer, free to build on the event to explore new and different directions that make the event relevant to them at a given point in time with a given group of people (both in person and virtually). I get excited by the opportunity to use a platform (theme, direction, tool set & community) to create an experience that will offer exactly what I need, when I need it surrounded by the people who can help me understand and digest it.

And if I’m not getting that…I need only speak up and join in.

Can Events Do This?
I’d answer this with a quote from General Eric Shinseki (Ret. US Army)

If you don’t like change, you’re going to like irrelevance even less.

Events are already doing this. Why? Because people are already doing this. Let’s not forget that the revolution that is causing this upheaval of top down everything is driven by people groping for new and different ways to connect and share.

Hmmmm…isn’t that a working definition of an event?

What’s so scary about this? (TRANSPARENT MOMENT: I really don’t understand)
I’ve asked that question a lot and the answers I get really come back to the concern for loss of control and inhearant change in this model. Yes it’s scary, but isn’t it more frightening to think about your attendees and exhibitor finding your event is no longer relevant simply because you refused to turn it over to them?

If we commit to combine the thought of looking from the outside in (customer vantage point) and support that view with a platform that encourages (can I say demands) social interactions on several levels, we’ve just created events that do more than inform or educate. We’ve created an infectious community.

See you on the platform.