Throw Away Your Slides! (Maybe.)

Whenever I attend a webinar, I find myself getting frustrated with the format’s limitations, occasionally to the point where I complain about it in this blog. Someone, somewhere has probably put together the perfect webinar, but I haven’t seen it. Though the causes will vary from one webinar to another, whether it’s a lack of interactivity or the failure to show the speaker, there always seems to be one insurmountable problem: the slides.

Though you can look for help with your slides from sources like Guy Kawasaki’s “10/20/30 Rule of PowerPoint” or, more recently, Jesse Desjardins’ “You Suck at PowerPoint,”  most people don’t have the will, the time, or the artistic resources to make many improvements. Until yesterday, however, the most radically effective solution of all had never occurred to me: Don’t use slides at all.

Now before you conclude that I’ve lost my mind, let me share my experience with you. Yesterday I attended BtoB magazine’s Digital Edge virtual trade show, primarily to watch a leadoff keynote by Chris Brogan and a concluding one by Gary Vaynerchuk.

Brogan’s prerecorded presentation, on the “Rise of the Trust Agents,” was very good, of course. While he used slides, they were accompanied by video of Brogan giving his talk. I found, though, that the slides made me pay less attention to what he was saying. I tended to read ahead of or behind where he was, and to wonder whether he was skipping over some of his bullet points.

For him, too, I sensed, the slides were as much an impediment as a guide: he seemed to hesitate now and then, as though looking to see which slide he was on or whether it was time to advance to the next one. Though the distraction was subtle, it felt as though the slides were a wall between Brogan and his audience, preventing him from connecting as completely as he might have.

If I needed any reminder of how strong Brogan’s presentation was, distracting slides or not, a sampling of a few of the mid-day webinars provided it. Excellent content and presenters, to be sure, but they were sabotaged by disembodied voices, bullet-stuffed slides, and overly complex tables and charts.

Vaynerchuk’s end of the day talk, though, on “The Thank You Economy,” was in an entirely different, higher class. Like Brogan’s, his presentation was prerecorded, but he spoke without using slides or, apparently, any notes at all. Instead of being placed in the smaller presenter panel, his video appeared in the large panel where the slides usually are shown.

Without slides to distract me, I found that I focused more closely on what Vaynerchuk was actually saying.  It felt to me as though he was entirely focused on his audience throughout his talk, and that though he couldn’t actually see us, he was able to make a real connection. (It may have helped that he had a few people listening to him in the studio where his talk was recorded.)

The end result for me was that, although his content wasn’t necessarily more compelling than Brogan’s, I absorbed much more of it from him.

If you insist on being realistic, I’ll admit that Vaynerchuk is a special case. It probably helps that he’s spent the last four years or so doing daily video blogs, that he’s given many versions of this talk before, and that he’s a born talker who knows his subject cold. Few of us can ever hope to match his presentation skills.

But if your topic permits it, why not try going slideless? For most presenters slides are just an outline, a crutch to keep them on-topic. If it feels like tight-rope walking without a net, so much the better. Your audience will be riveted.

Even if we never feel ready to throw away our PowerPoints,  we can aspire to be less dependent on them. By using fewer slides with simpler content, we can spend more of our presentation time focusing on our listeners. In the end, if they just wanted the content, they could read your presentation by themselves. What they really want is to connect and interact with you. Throwing away your slides is one way to start that process.

Nine Keys to a Robust Editorial Career in Social Media

For B2B journalists and editors, the transition to the social-media era can be daunting, especially if they rely on their employers to lead the way. As an ASBPE-Medill survey of B2B editors showed last April, traditional publishing companies have offered little new-media training or guidance.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Social media is in part about the empowerment of individuals, and if publishers are letting their employees go it alone, so much the better. Stepping into the breach, the American Society of Business Press Editors has worked to ease the transition to a social-media world by, among other efforts, sponsoring a number of Webinars for B2B editors on this and related topics. As part of my presentation in their most recent event, held last month, I identified the following nine tactics B2B journalists can use to take control of their careers in the new-media era.

1. Be media neutral.

Unless your goal is to become a museum piece, you will need to be open to all types of media. Your background may be in print, but you must stop thinking of yourself as a print person. In the social-media era, people expect to interact with editors and journalists in a variety of media. If you aren’t yet comfortable with things like podcasting or screen captures or video blogs, you should start investigating them now. If your employer isn’t interested in supporting you in this effort, then do it on your own time.

2. Be employer neutral.

Just as you need to open yourself up to different types of media, you should also be open to different types of employers. In a world where everyone’s a publisher, you don’t have to work for a traditional B2B publisher to be a B2B journalist. There’s potentially a role for you in any B2B enterprise, and not in doing PR or traditional marketing work, but in practicing straight journalism.

One journalist who’s already experienced this shift is the well-known B2B editorial consultant and blogger Paul Conley. In a recent blog post, he noted a dramatic change in the source of his work. Less than a year ago, he said, “most of my income derived from traditional publishers practicing traditional B2B journalism.” Today, though, he works entirely for commercial concerns, creating, as he puts it elsewhere, “pure editorial that is, in and of itself, a lead-gen tool”.

3. Be an entrepreneur.

It there’s any potential employer you shouldn’t be neutral about, it’s you. Even if your paycheck comes from someone else, you are ultimately working for yourself. So start thinking of yourself as an entrepreneur. Initiative, creativity, and passion are central to making yourself valuable in social media. As it happens, those are the exact traits that entrepreneurs need to succeed as well.  If burdened with an old-media mentality, your employer may not appreciate entrepreneurship–but that road to nowhere is all the more reason why you have to practice it whenever and wherever you can.

4. Be a brand.

In the social-media world, being entrepreurial means managing yourself and your career as if they were a brand. By now, most B2B journalists have heard of the concept of personal branding, and the majority of those are probably still uncomfortable with it. By their nature, editors tend to be fairly cynical about marketing and branding. But in social media, as Gary Vaynerchuk has said, there’s no avoiding it: “Everyone—EVERYONE—needs to start thinking of themselves as a brand. It is no longer an option; it is a necessity.” To be effective in social media, you have to be in control of your identity. Thinking of yourself as a brand is one way to achieve that control.

5. Be a social-media marketer.

Of course, to nurture your brand, you have to market it. And you do that through the social web. You’ve probably heard the horror stories about people leaving compromising or questionable information about themselves on the Web that ends up damaging their job prospects. What that means, of course, is that the opposite is true as well: The record you leave on the social Web can benefit you just as much as it can hurt you.

To quote Vaynerchuk one more time: “Your latest tweet and comment on Facebook and most recent blog post? That’s your résumé now.” This is one reason the ranks of LinkedIn have been swelling of late, and why you should sign up if you haven’t already.

6. Be a social-media networker.

To be clear: the point of social-media marketing is not simply to promote yourself. It is really about taking part in a conversation by collaboratively participating in networks. To do this, you will need to actively embrace social networking tools. Although LinkedIn is the most obvious one for business purposes, Twitter and Facebook may be more valuable, depending on the industries you’re involved in.

At the very least, you should be networking with at least two groups: other journalists and media people, and one or more of the industries you cover. And within those industries, you should be connecting with both readers and advertisers.

7. Be a blogger.

In addition to using networking tools, you should also be blogging. Junta42′s Joe Pulizzi puts it bluntly: “I don’t hire anyone that doesn’t blog.” While that may be an extreme position, there’s no question that blogging experience is becoming a de facto requirement for B2B job applicants.

It’s not enough, though, if you simply blog on your employer’s site or Twitter account. You should own at least one blog and Twitter account of your own, and use them regularly. That’s a key not only to developing your own brand, but to keeping it intact when you leave one employer for another or go out on your own.

8. Be an author.

Although not essential, a brilliant way to build your brand is to write and publish a book. If that sounds daunting, it shouldn’t. Writing and publishing a book these days doesn’t require hiring an agent and finding a publisher. There are plenty of tools to do it yourself. And it doesn’t require hundreds of pages. You can put together an e-book of 30 or 40 pages, distribute it on your blog, and get many of the benefits of traditional book publishing. One accessible and inspiring model is A Brief Guide to World Domination, a personal manifesto by  blogger Chris Guillebeau. While he wrote it to help others achieve their goals, it has earned him enormous career-building exposure as well.

9. Be uniquely essential.

Finally, in whatever you do, you should strive to be someone who’s uniquely essential to your business—what Seth Godin calls a linchpin. As he told Michael Hyatt  in an interview after the publication of Linchpin, “Cogs see a job, linchpins see a platform. Every interaction, every assignment is a chance to make a change, a chance to delight or surprise or to touch someone.” If you see what you do as a job, you’re replaceable—and your career prospects aren’t so hot. But if you see your work as a platform for achievement—even if you don’t always fulfill it—you will be indispensable.  In the social-media era, true success comes not from fulfilling your job description but by adding value.

Managing Your Career in the Social Media Era: Sources

As part of a webinar for B2B editors on September 23, 2010, I’m speaking on “Managing Your Career in the Social Media Era.” (The webinar, “Enhancing Your Career in the B2B Press,” is sponsored by the American Society of Business Press Editors.)

Since the webinar format isn’t particularly conducive to embedded links, I’ve listed here the main sources cited in my talk. I’ve included key quotes from most of the sources below in the hopes that even if you haven’t heard my presentation, you’ll be interested in exploring the originals on your own.

Future of news: Insider Dave Morgan touts new media

“Tomorrow’s companies will build empires based on the value that they deliver to their users and advertisers every day, not on their ability to finance and manage scarce bandwidth or expensive printing presses or exclusive distribution networks.”

“No longer is the media world one of a publishers-top editor-section editor-subeditor-journalist hierarchy. Today, audiences are in charge and they want direct access to, and interaction with, journalists.”

What Would Google Do?, by Jeff Jarvis

“Even if the Wall Street Journal reports a scoop behind its paywall, once that information comes out—quoted, linked, blogged, aggregated, remixed, and e-mailed all over—it’s no longer exclusive and rare.”

Gary Hamel: Hierarchy of Employee Traits for the Creative Economy

In discussing the employee traits valued by old media and new media respectively, I invoke Hamel’s “commodity” traits of obedience, diligence, and intellect and his “creative economy” traits of initiative, creativity, and passion.

The Answer Factory: Demand Media and the Fast, Disposable, and Profitable as Hell Media Model

“‘You can take something that is thought of as a creative process and turn it into a manufacturing process.’”

Can Robots Run the News?

“To the chagrin of sports reporters everywhere, a team from Northwestern University’s engineering and journalism schools has created a program that automatically generates sports news stories. Stats Monkey uses the box score and play-by-play—even quotes, if they’re available online—to compile articles that follow one of the system’s pre-defined narrative arcs.”

Paul Conley: The seasons, they go round and round

“My working life is now completely consumed by content marketing. As recently as December, most of my income derived from traditional publishers practicing traditional B2B journalism (although mostly on the Web, rather than print.) That is no longer true.”

Crush It!, by Gary Vaynerchuk.

“Everyone—EVERYONE—needs to start thinking of themselves as a brand. It is no longer an option; it is a necessity.” “Your latest tweet and comment on Facebook and most recent blog post? That’s your résumé now.”

Joe Pulizzi’s Blog: Seven Ways to Position Yourself for Unlimited Work

“I don’t hire anyone that doesn’t blog.”

A Brief Guide to World Domination, by Chris Guillebeau (PDF here)

I cited Guillebeau’s personal manifesto as an example of one kind of e-book B2B editors could aspire to.

Book Notes: An Interview with Seth Godin.  (On the publication of Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?.)

“Cogs see a job, linchpins see a platform. Every interaction, every assignment is a chance to make a change, a chance to delight or surprise or to touch someone.”

Liberating—and Monetizing—Your Inner Audience

Whether you’re in content marketing or B2B publishing, one of your main goals is to ensure your message is reaching the right people. While the theory is straightforward, the practice is anything but. You may have a clear vision of your target audience, but in the social-media era, that audience may not be your only audience. To maximize the revenue from your content, you should look beyond your target to what might be called your “inner” audience.

What exactly do I mean by inner audience? It is a group of readers you may not intend to address, but which is implied by your content. But how can content “imply” an audience? Let me explain. In a former life as a grad student in English, one of the critics I admired was Wayne Booth.  (Current English majors: this was a long time ago, so if Booth is no longer cool or I don’t get the details right, be gentle.)

One of Booth’s ideas was that of an “implied reader.” A work of literature, he said, always implies a particular type or types of reader, with certain tastes, expectations, or interests. This reader will often be different from the actual reader, or even from the reader the author was consciously writing for.

It doesn’t take a big leap of imagination to apply this idea to your content. You may have a particular type of reader in mind when you write or assign your articles. But your content may well encompass a broader range of readers than you intend.

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Gary Vee’s Three Ps: Passion, Personal Branding, and Patience

Crush It! Why Now Is the Time to Cash In on Your Passion, by Gary Vaynerchuk, HarperStudio, 2009.

Crush It! by Gary Vaynerchuk

As a case study in how social media can revolutionize business and create whole new careers, there are few better examples than Gary Vaynerchuk. A wine merchant by trade, he became a new-media icon after starting a daily video series to talk about wine. His new book, Crush It!, argues that virtually anyone can replicate his success, given the right mixture of passion and hard work.

Superficially, at least, Crush It! is a fairly standard business book of inspirational encouragement and practical advice. Like The 4-Hour Workweek, which it somewhat resembles, Crush It! draws from the author’s life and business experiences for much of its content. At 160 not-very-dense pages, the book is a quick read and may feel a bit disappointing at first. But for me, at least, it repays second and third readings.

Although Gary Vee, as he’s known to his fans, makes efforts to direct at least some of the advice in his book to established businesses, his real target lies elsewhere. He is speaking for the most part to early-stage and wannabe entrepreneurs, to disaffected or unemployed workers, and to other individuals who may be contemplating striking out on their own.

His premise is that the Internet “represents the biggest shift in history in how we do business.” Online social networking applications, he argues, have given individuals the tools they need to go into business for themselves and live their passion. Even if you like your job, he says, “you should aim to leave it and grow your own brand and business or partner with someone to do so, because as long as you’re working for someone else you will never be living entirely true to yourself and your passion.”

Underlying his argument are what might be called Gary Vee’s three Ps: passion, personal branding, and patience. All three are essential elements in his vision of new-media business success. Continue reading