ROS – Return on SOBCon

I’ll be Chicago again this May to attend my fourth SOBCon conference. If you haven’t gone before, and if you’re a high-quality, collaborative, smart, pay-it-forward person, I hope you’ll join us.

Why the italics above? Because that’s what I think about when I contemplate SOBCon. The incredible people I’ve met – people who’ve become long-term friends and collaborators.

People like:

  • Lisa Petrilli – with whom I co-launched LeadershipChat after we met at SOBCon and began our years of brainstorming and collaborating. She is a dear friend.
  • Sean McGinnis – with whom I had lunch and immediately built a deep bond that continues to this day.
  • Justin McCullough – a spur-of-the-moment branding discussion (including Drew McLellan) during a SOBCon social gathering led to valuable ongoing back-and-forth over recent years.
  • Carol Roth – who greeted me with a bright smile at the evening event kicking off the meeting and has remained a valued colleague ever since (& congrats on the big news this week, Carol!)
  • Anthony Iannarino – a rock of friendship and encouragement since the day we met in the room at SOBCon several years back.

Yes, the content and discussions at SOBCon are valuable. But what stands out to me is the people who come together to learn, and grow, and challenge one another. People I now interact with on a regular basis, such as Lisa DiomedeBecky McCraySheila ScarboroughShashi BellamkondaAmber ClevelandMolly Cantrell-KraigMarla SchulmanJustin LevyDarrell DeRochierPhil GerbyshakLiz MarshallSarah RobinsonBrian MoranJesse PetersenChris Brogan, Jon Swanson, Alli Worthington, Angela Maiers, Lou Imbriano, Judy Martin, Geoff Livingston, Tim Sanders, Darrell Derochier, Fred McClimans, Danielle Smith, Chris Garrett … and undoubtedly others I’m failing to bring to mind at the moment.

Special thanks, of course, to Terry “Starbucker” St. Marie and Liz Strauss for putting on this labor of love each year. They are the heart and soul of SOBCon.

You want return on investment? Just look a the list above. All high-quality, collaborative, smart, pay-it-forward people.

SOBCon is not merely a conference. It’s like a family of networking professionals. If you’ve not had a chance to go – put it on your calendar!

Why You Want to be at SOBCon (even if you didn’t know it)

SOBCon2013Those of us who have attended a SOBCon gathering (the think tank for forward-looking business people) don’t need much convincing – when you’ve gotten together with 150 smart, creative, action-oriented professionals who are restless to shape their futures through smart networking and ideation, you view it as an annual pilgrimage.

I’ve been to three SOBCon get-togethers in Chicago – and I’ll be back this May. Past reviews on my blog are here and here and here.

SOBCon is not like a typical conference, where you get talked at endlessly, and mill around in large herds hoping to find someone interesting to talk to.

SOBCon is where you brainstorm in small groups, network with a distilled 100-proof group of high-quality people, and come away with fresh ideas for your business. And people who are happy to hold you accountable to get it done, and encourage you along the way.

If you want to pose and pretend, SOBCon isn’t for you.

If you want to be real and make progress and challenge your own status quo, you need to go. It’s the kind of place where you make lifelong friends and find unexpected collaborators.

SOBCon happens May 3-5. Sign up today (January 31) and save $200. See you in Chicago!


I Went to SOBCon 2012 and All I Got Was…

Inspired. Again.

Encouraged. Again.

Deeper relationships. Again.

New perspective. Again.

Validated. Again.

A chance to brainstorm and dream and hug and laugh and figure stuff out with a bunch of smart, pay-it-forward entrepreneurs who don’t mind talking about things like purpose and failure and love.

If you were there, what did you get? Add your thoughts in the comments!

A few top-of-mind moments that impacted me most:

>>Tim Sanders (@SandersSays) talking about purpose in a way that helped me re-write my own mission statement (“My purpose is to help people and companies discover their identity and purpose, and to create new opportunities for people to thrive optimally in supportive networks.”)

>>Laura Fitton (@Pistachio) speaking so transparently about her near-death business experience with OneForty.

>>Steve Farber (@SteveFarber) recounting how making a personal contact opened up a whole new pinball effect of new opportunities in an unanticipated direction.

>>Brandie McCallum (@lttlewys) just being there so soon after a serious operation.

>>Les McKeown (@LesMcKeown) speaking. Doesn’t matter what he says. I want to download his accent (actually, his presentation was great fun!)

Some of the great folks I got to meet, or go much deeper with, this year included Phil Gerbyshak (he of the multi-colored glasses frames), Liz Marshall, Jeff Shuey, Sarah Robinson, Brian Moran (imagine what it was like with the latter four plus Carol Roth and me at one table – trouble!), Jesse Petersen, Xan Pearson, Kyle Akerman, Nick Kellet, Jane Boyd, Patrick Prothe (finally IRL – where’s my pager?), Aaron Biebert, Christian Gurney, and more that I can’t recall at the moment because of advancing age.

And, as always, it was wonderful to hang out with “old” pals like Sean McGinnis, Lisa Diomede, Anthony Iannarino, Cate Colgan, Becky McCray, Sheila Scarborough, Shashi Bellamkonda, Amber Cleveland, Molly Cantrell-Kraig, Marla Schulman, Justin Levy, Jeannie Walters, Darrell DeRochier, and many others – what a great crew.

This was my third SOBCon gathering in Chicago, and each time, it’s been like walking into a gold mine of great people full of energy and good will. Collaborations and friendships that have begun “in the room” at SOBCon endure, and grow, to this day. How did LeadershipChat begin? Through meeting Lisa Petrilli (@LisaPetrilli) two years ago at SOBCon.

Special thanks to Terry “Starbucker” St. Marie and Liz Strauss for putting on this labor of love each year. The Portland version is coming up later this year for those inclined to spend a few wonderful days of retreat in the great Northwest.

SOBCon is not merely a conference. It’s like family. If you’ve not had a chance to go – put it on your calendar!

(Ha! Just looked back on my blog from 2010 and realized I used the same title to review that year’s SOBCon! Here’s a few thoughts from 2011 as well).


Hire Steve Woodruff for Clarity Therapy

Recent posts:

>> Clarity, part 1: What’s Your Offering?

>> Clarity, part 2: Make Your Message Clear

>> Clarity, part 3: People Buy Stories

>> Clarity, part 4: Your Clarifying Analogy

Breaking Free of Powerpoint

I finally did it. We’ve had irreconcilable differences, Powerpoint and I. So, last Friday, I moved out.

I wanted to present in a way that reflected my style. I wanted to tell a story, not create a “deck” of slides. But for so many years, I felt bound to the information exchange methodology enforced by that tyrant of business presentation, Powerpoint. Even when I knew this relationship wasn’t working out, I found myself with one foot outside the door, and the other foot inside, not quite sure how to leave.

Finally, I found a way to start over. It was really quite simple.

Instead of beginning to create the presentation in Powerpoint, I put it to the side. Instead, on one screen, using Word, I started crafting the outline of the story. Scribbling, moving things around, totally unconcerned with format – just writing a script. Imagining myself in front, saying what I wanted to say irrespective of any slides as delivery vehicle.

I’m the delivery vehicle. The story is the presentation. That’s primary.

Then, on the other screen, a series of blank Powerpoint slides. On them, finding and pasting pictures that go with the story. Background. Presentation decoration. No text, because that’s in the script.

Powerpoint as illustration/analogy vehicle. Eye candy. It’s secondary.

Crossing this important mental barrier: If someone is going to ask, “Can I get a copy of your slide deck?”, I’ll just smile inside and say, “Nope.” Because the slide deck is not the presentation or the story. It’s a series of storytelling props.

I’ve seen this done effectively by others, and finally, I decided I’d break free last week (at Social Media Masters 2011). I think the picture above by Bob Knorpp (@thebeancast) wonderfully captures how much fun it was to present, free of PPT Tyranny (that’s me awarding Sam Fiorella his favorite social reinforcement, Klout points!)

There are magicians of public speaking/storytelling/presentation – Seth Godin, Guy Kawasaki, Steve Jobs. They all seem to break free of the information-dump style and tell stories wonderfully. Watch videos of these masters (or see them live if you can). Their examples have fueled my desire to “think different” about presenting!

So, are you breaking free from Powerpoint tyranny? If so, what are your methods? Let’s figure out ways to turn presentations into engaging stories instead of public data dumps!

Kudos to the Social Media Masters team (Kristie Wells, Chris Heuer, Sam Fiorella, Brandie McCallum, and others) for putting on an educational conference focusing on advanced themes – there’s still time to sign up for the Toronto and Kansas City events in October!

P.S. Bob Knorpp also captured this brief video beancast interview touching on some of the themes of my presentation, which focused on the future of digital networks/social media.


Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> Facebook’s Secret Weapon Unveiled: Ann Handley!

>> Trend Currents in Social Media

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Trend Currents in Social Media

No, that’s not a typo. Trend Currents, not current trends.

Trend Currents are the large-scale cultural, economic, and technological shifts that drive our ongoing communications revolution. And I’ll be speaking on this topic September 23, at the Social Media Masters one-day intensive in NYC.

What are these Trend Currents that shape social media now, and will shape the future of networked communications? Not to to give the whole talk away, here are three main things that every marketer and business person needs to keep his/her eye on:

  • Ubiquitous Connectivity
  • Disrupted Intermediation
  • Global Individualism

Current trends are the outgrowths we see today. MySpace, Friendster, Facebook, Google+ – those are all (temporary?) outworkings of much bigger Trend Currents.

Wayne Gretzky put it this way: Skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it is now (paraphrase). By looking at the larger Trend Currents, we’re able to cut through the fog of current trends and see where the marketplace will be heading in the future.

Intrigued? There are still a few available seats at Social Media Masters – make your reservation now, and join Chris Heuer, Sam Fiorella, Kat Mandelstein, Matt Hicks, Sean Moffitt, myself and others as we explore what is – and what is to come – in social media.

The event is produced by Social Media Club and Sensei Marketing.

Post-event update: Bob Knorpp captured this brief video beancast interview touching on some of the themes of my presentation, which focused on the future of digital networks/social media.


Hire Steve Woodruff  if your identity and message need clarity (Business Identity Therapy)

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> Are You Suffering from JAVA?

>> When Your Branding Zings

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The Five People You Meet at SOBCon

After SOBCon, you’ll notice a number of tweets and comments by people expressing regret that they didn’t go, and/or mentioning that they’d like to go next year.

To entice you to take action, let me describe the 5 kinds of people you’ll meet at a SOBCon gathering:

1. Business people – SOBCon attracts people who are doing business, not just making noise. If you want to make connections with fellow entrepreneurs, this is your place.

2. Doers – many conferences attract thinkers and talkers. The people who attend SOBCon are definitely thinkers, and many have no problem talking – but there is a bias toward action. If you want concrete inspiration, this is a place to find it.

3. Mentors – there is a surprising proportion of people gathering at SOBCon who will very generously give of their time and expertise. We all need mentors. This is a room full.

4. Up-and-comers – both years I’ve attended, I’ve been impressed by the number of folks who clearly have leadership and initiative written all over them. You can just see that they’re going to be speakers in a few years, with lots of success to share. It’s fun to see the flower in bud!

5. Humble Leaders – SOBCon really is a check-your-ego-at-the-door kind of gathering. However, that isn’t forced – it’s just that humble, servant-minded people tend to find each other and come together.

You can attend lots of other conferences and find, in isolated corners and pockets, these kind of people. But at SOBCon, it’s distilled – 100-proof quality. That’s why it’s my favorite gathering of the year. And you can commit, even now, to next year’s event in Chicago at a very low rate (not an affiliate link – I just think you should be there!)


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A Tale of Two SOBCons

A Friend, two Tribes, and a Gift

I have just returned from SOBCon 2011 in Chicago, my mind and heart swirling with excitement fueled by memories, epiphanies, and new opportunities. And gratitude.

SOBCon is a gathering – I almost hesitate to call it a conference – orchestrated by Liz Strauss and Terry “Starbucker” St. Marie. It’s the kind of event where you roll up your sleeves, check your ego at the door, open your heart, and build professional relationships that turn into…all kinds of things.

[Review of last year’s event]

This post is the story of what has transpired due to SOBCon, from the first one I attended (last year) to this one, which was held from April 29-May 1. It may be a bit long, and it definitely will be personal. It will also be a living illustration of what SOBCon is all about – being a catalyst for entrepreneurs.

One year ago in Chicago, I met Lisa Petrilli, and we became fast friends and collaborators. Shortly thereafter, she suggested we co-create something called #LeadershipChat on Twitter, which we launched last fall. Our approach was somewhat unique – building a climate and community that feels like a Tuscan family dinner table – and soon a pretty faithful tribe began gathering on Tuesday nights each week for these virtual meetings. New relationships were being forged throughout the months, and Lisa and I decided that it might be a cool idea to bring a handful of these people together for a REAL meal in Chicago just before the 2011 SOBCon kicked off. As it turned out, a group of 10 of us enjoyed a five-hour (!) afternoon lunch together laughing, talking, brainstorming, and utterly enjoying seeing LeadershipChat come to life at a very real Italian meal. With cannolis, of course (inside joke).

Also, I think I counted at least 7 people who were attending their first SOBCon this year due in large part to connections made via the LeadershipChat tribe. Since SOBCon is all about instigating new stuff, this brand of ROI can be called “Return on Instigation”!

During last year’s SOBCon, I was floating my long-standing dream among a few select friends about creating a professional referral network. I had already created my own referral business (Impactiviti) for pharma/healthcare, but what I really wanted to do was pull together a tribe of like-minded folks who could “matchmake” high-quality clients and providers through a much larger trusted-referral network. After a long pre-launch process building this in stealth mode (with Lisa and 5 others), the Connection Agency was made public – appropriately – the first morning of this year’s SOBCon. And, yes, a handful of the initial members have SOBCon/LeadershipChat roots.

So, thanks to SOBCon, we have a friend, and two tribes. What about the gift?

I have a growing and intense desire to see great people liberated to do their best work – using their best skills – in a business climate of trust. I believe a whole tribe of entrepreneurs can be unleashed with a powerful, supportive network. In fact, I feel that this is my life mission – but, as it turns out, I was working with one hand tied behind my back.

Because of a scheduling oversight, I had one extra day in Chicago before the LeadershipChat dinner. I had just written a post about Brand Therapy – it sounded like a cool name – and, figuring I might be able to do some good for a few folks with the free afternoon, I offered to conduct free therapy sessions for a few victims volunteers who wanted to get some clarity on their professional identities, direction, and brand. That happened Wednesday – and, over the next couple of days, similar conversations occurred with a few other people.

I’m going to let those folks, if they wish, describe those sessions in the comments. For my part, it finally forced something to the surface that I’d been struggling with for a long time.

This capability – helping individuals/companies gain clarity through analytical questioning and creative directive-ness – is a gift. We can acquire skills and knowledge, but there’s an element that almost seems like magic about a God-given gift. Using that intuitive skill to benefit others brings more unrestrained joy and fulfillment than anything else. But it also confused me – don’t agencies and career coaches charge huge amounts to come up stuff that just seems so clear to me after a little time talking?

I was so perplexed by this ability, so uncertain how to incorporate it into my business, that even when I’d be helping others see themselves clearly in the mirror, I was hesitating to see myself. That which was most intuitive – most me – made me uncomfortable.

So, it was a gift that a little group of people entrusted their thoughts and desires to me, because not only was I helping them gain clarity, they were helping me do the same. Sean will be a great DCAL; Greg will become the entrepreneur’s coach; Sara will build marketing starting with empty trays; Marla is the story-getter; Fred will become the pre-mortem problem solver. As for me, I guess I’ll be a therapist-adviser, which happens to complement rather well being the connection agent. Those who gain insight into their identity and message can also be connected to the other people who can help make things happen.

Thanks especially to Lisa Petrilli, Chris Brogan, Sean McGinnis, Jeanne Male, Anthony Iannarino, Greg Hartle, Fred McClimans and Patty Azzarello for listening to my visions, and putting to flight my perplexity. Your investment of time and your outside viewpoints brought both clarity and validation.

Maybe I’ll update this post with a list of the other great people I met, but right now, I have to go pick up one of my boys. Suffice it to say that many new friends were made. And, yes, I’m looking at you, Liz Marshall!

I feel a little funny that this tale of two SOBCons doesn’t include much of anything about this year’s SOBCon event itself – the great speakers like Michael Port and Carol Roth, the usual wonderful hospitality of Liz and Terry, the fun social events – others will be writing about all that, for sure. But I thought it might be fun to let you take a look behind the scenes and see the end result of SOBCon – transformation and business opportunity.

As many stated during the event, it really is all about relationships and network-building. And oftentimes, epiphanies.

That’s my story, and thanks for sticking with me to the end. Feel free to tell yours in the comments (or, if you prefer, feel free to use my post-conference review template from last year…!)


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Do Me a Favor at SOBCon

Later this week, I’m planning on enjoying a few happy days of networking at the annual SOBCon gathering in Chicago. And, if you’re attending, I want to ask you a favor.

But first, a funny story from last week…

I walked into an agency for a brainstorming session, and one of the folks there was surprised at my appearance. I mean, he knew I was coming, but he’d been following me on Twitter for a while, and for some odd reason, he thought I was some kind of intimidating 6’5″ behemoth. Maybe it’s that Steve 3-D avatar which does have a certain Terminator quality to it, but really – I pretty much look like a regular guy! Intimidating? Nah….

And no matter how I come across publicly or on-line, when in large groups, I’m actually the one who feels a bit intimidated. The shy gene never fully disappears, I guess.

So, do me a favor. As Carol Roth did last year (and I never forgot her for it), if you want to meet me, just come up and introduce yourself. I want to make the most of every moment in Chicago, which means talking to you, not drifting self-consciously in the crowd.

Oh, and fair warning on three things:

1. If there’s actually time to talk, I’ll cut through the fluff pretty quickly and really get to know you.

2. You’ll understand me if you have a sense of humor.

3. I do hugs. Despite my New England upbringing.

See you in Chicago!


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Back to the Future in Meetings

I felt like Marty McFly, marooned in the ’50’s.

Getting settled in to a conference this week (ePharma Summit in NYC), I noticed immediately that something vital was missing.

Yeah. Power.

For several years, I carried my own power strip to conferences, because provision of places to plug in was a spotty proposition. But I figured, in 2010/2011, that all venues and meeting planners “got it” and it was no longer necessary to string my own cord to plug in my computer, keep my iPhone charged, and help others do the same. We all know that computers and smartphones are pretty much essential now at any conference – right?

Nope. Then I overheard a conversation that floored me. One of the conference organizers was describing the price that would be charged for the provision of outlets in the meeting room, and I just about went into cardiac arrest. Because I don’t have verification, I’m not going to mention specifics, but if what I heard was even in the ballpark of reality, then “gouging” has just gotten a whole new definition.

The Wi-Fi was awful, too, by the way.

I’m not a meeting planner, but I think that robust and easy-to-access Wi-Fi, and provision of loads of power outlets/strips, should be the ticket to entry in negotiations. Why even consider a venue that either doesn’t have the electronic goods, or wants to charge a year’s salary for something as mundane as a power outlet? Maybe if enough potential business walked away, these hotels and meeting places would finally get the message.

And while we’re at it, free Wi-Fi for every attendee room should be a given. We’re all tired of being charged 10 bucks a day for Internet access. It’s no longer an extra – it should be a given.

Back in 2005, or in 1955, I could understand this. But we’re in the future now. Plugs and wireless are no-brainers. Let’s make it so.


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“I Went to SOBCon and All I Got Was…”

…a wonderful time with a lot of really fine people. Didn’t want nor need another t-shirt.

I’m going to depart from “Best Practices” and NOT follow the Official Post-Conference Re-Cap Blog Post Template ™. I’m a bit hypocritical that way. Instead, since my purpose for attending was primarily to deepen relationships, I’ll spend the bulk of this post talking about…people.

It’s my intent in 2010 to build deep, not wide; to get beyond 140 characters and really get to know fellow travelers on this network we’re building. SOBCon is a great venue for that – small (150 people), focused, and plenty of time for interaction. Having known Liz Strauss and Terry Starbucker (the SOBCon king and queen) for quite some time, it was easy to conclude that the time would be well-spent at an event they were orchestrating.

So…the people.

Drew McLellan was one of the first bloggers I stumbled across years ago, when we both started blogging about the same time. Every interaction with him since has been high-quality and encouraging. There’s a relatively small handful of people I both like and deeply respect, and thoroughly trust as well. Drew is one of those.

It was through Drew that I first heard of Steve Farber, who spoke at SOBCon – first time I had the chance to meet him. And I cannot wait to spend more time with Steve. Not only is he a gifted speaker and author, he’s a nice guy. And funny. And transparent. You’ll want to consider buying his books on leadership – he talks about love and business in the same breath, and I deeply appreciate that perspective.

Lisa Petrilli. Only started interacting with her on-line a short time before the conference, and I’m profoundly thankful for the time we spent talking once we met in Chicago. Not only does she possess a tremendous business background, she has a very moving story to tell – this 100% Italian gal has a little imported Irish in her, due to a donated kidney. Lisa moved from relative stranger into my “inner circle” of confidants and collaborators in one weekend.

For a long time, I’ve interacted with Jon Swanson on-line, and simply could not wait to meet him. Turns out, not surprisingly, that he’s exactly what you see on-line. We have deep shared interest in how the spiritual intersects with real life, and what it means to communicate to a wide range of people. Jon may not suspect that he has been a “distant” mentor to me for many months, but he has. It was a joy to sit at the same table with him and exchange thoughts freely.

Speaking of the table, we managed to find ourselves at what became known as the “Trouble Table,” so dubbed mainly because of the presence of the delightful and free-spirited Becky McCray and Sheila Scarborough (with assists from Anthony Iannarino and Britt Raybould). We were – loud. Full of wisecracks. Loved every minute of it. Becky took this shot of Jon Swanson and me during a calmer moment…

Getting to Chicago the day before meant I could relax, take a walk, work out, and meet Joe Ruiz in the gym. We had a delightful 45-minute talk that could have gone on much longer. Looking forward to lots of future collaboration with that quality fellow from Richmond. Plus, he’s older than me. That feels good, being surrounded as we are by all these younger folks!

I fully expect to have a lot more interaction with Jonathan Fields, who led the panel I was on. Very smart guy. Ground-breaker and entrepreneur. And it was good to once again hang out the always-delightful Shannon Paul, whose 100-watt smile brightens any room, even a darkened speak-easy (that social event was very well-done, by the way).

There were several ladies that I hoped to finally meet face-to-face during the event (after a long on-line history of exchanging messages), and it was a true delight to have time with Jeannie Walters, Julie Roads, Lucretia Pruitt, and Wendy Piersall (aka eMom). All high-quality, real, thoughtful people – each of them creative and driven in their own ways.

The SOBCon event was preceded the evening beforehand by a Social Media Club Chicago tweetup, where, immediately upon walking in, I was introduced to the 300-volt Carol Roth. She had me in stitches every time we talked. Speaking of high-energy, finally meeting Phil Gerbyshak was enough to jolt anyone into full wakefulness. Ambulance companies ought to hire him to reverse cardiac arrest in patients! Fun guy.

The lovely Alli Worthington demonstrated that you can have 5 boys, and, like my wife, look absolutely fabulous in the process.

Time was WAY too short with Bill Rice, David Armano, Amber Naslund, Chris Garrett, Chris Brogan, Geoff Livingston, Scott Stratten, Shashi Bellamkonda, Shelly Kramer, and others – would have liked to spend a couple hours each with these folks and many others, but there simply weren’t enough hours in the day.

Memorable moments: A riotous meal spent scheming a self-esteem-building GPS device; daily photo-taking Riverwalks to the shore of Lake Michigan; ad-hoc branding brainstorming for  Justin McCullough with Drew M, Steve F, and Phil G; unexpectedly seeing Eileen and Frieda from Siren Interactive at the SMC event (and, expectedly and finally, Sonny Gill!); and hanging out late one rainy evening at Hotel 71 “lounge” with a whole gang of lively attendees.

Chicago is a lovely city for a springtime event. Even if you cannot find a cup of coffee at 6:30 am on a Saturday morning, you can wander along the beautiful Riverwalk and people-watch, take pictures, gawk at tall buildings, and watch the wind whip up Lake Michigan. I need moments of peace interspersed with “people-time”, and this venue was perfect – everything close by, including the ability to escape and think. I’ll be back…

P.S. I mentioned in the panel discussion my recovery from a nearly life-long struggle with depression. Here’s the backstory, written a few years back: Clearing Clouds.


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The Post-Conference Re-cap Template

Having just returned from SOBCon in Chicago, I have been contemplating my post-conference summary blog post. Along with dozens of other attendees.

I’ll get it done tomorrow (update: here it is). But it occurred to me that perhaps some have never yet been exposed to a “Best Practices” document for a post-conference re-cap. So, as a public service, I hereby provide this template.

Paragraph 1

(this is where you summarize what a wonderful time you had. The words fabulous and awesome are nearly mandatory – no blog posts are written re-capping mediocre or idiotic events, lest you look stupid for attending. Words like “life-changing” should only be used sparingly – maybe once a year – lest you lose credibility among fellow bloggers)

Paragraph 2

(here, you write glowing thanks to the hosts/sponsors/organizers of the event. For instance, for SOBCon, you call Terry Starbucker extraordinarily smart and you praise Liz Strauss‘ unparalleled community-building skills)

Paragraph 3

(to show that you were actually paying attention at least part of the time, you now turn to the content, picking out a few gems that really impacted you, while mentioning the speakers’ names as well (e.g., Steve Farber), hoping they’ll link back to you or at least leave a comment. It’s highly recommended that you mention one actionable point that you are going to immediately work on this week)

Paragraph 4

(the fashionable geek paragraph – all about the Macs, iPhones, Foursquare check-ins, iPads, and how Amber Naslund rocked out in a Radian6 tiara)

Paragraph 5

(optional – in order to make non-attendees jealous, tell folks about the wonderful venue, the scenic host city, the delicious food, the astonishing parties, etc. Be sure to mention that you had very little sleep at least one night because you were carousing with Jason Falls or a similar famous blogging maven.)

[insert gratuitous picture of cityscape, ripped off using Google Images. Optional – add picture later of some name-brand bloggers at your tables, all pretending to pay rapt attention to some 18-year old entrepreneur boasting about his page views]

Paragraph 6

(this is where you include the obligatory “Chris Brogan is a social media rockstar!” paragraph)

Paragraph 7

(mention here your regrets that you didn’t get to meet so-and-so, which gives you a chance to name-drop anyway and hope for better link love. It’s always popular to pat a few other special people on the back, such as the Lucretia Pruitt giving you a sidelong smile, or Julie Roads sharing her breakfast sushi with you. Express your, like, TOTAL determination to attend next year)

Paragraph 8

(sum up by repeating a whole bunch of stuff from the earlier paragraphs, employing words appropriate to your marketplace – for instance, for agency folks, talk about how you’re going to leverage actionable insight to enhance customer value)

Paragraph 9

(close by quoting some funny line that only “insiders” at the conference will understand, and include a random link to something or other)

See, now that wasn’t so hard, was it?


Hiring for Virtue

trustsummitThis morning, I had the privilege of attending the “Trust Summit” breakfast meeting, featuring Chris Brogan (@chrisbrogan), Julien Smith (@julien), David Maister (, and Charlie Green (@charleshgreen). The panel was very engaging, and it was refreshing to hear people of substance and experience reinforcing the idea that the core of business is doing things right, and caring about people.

At one point during the session, as the discussion turned to the type of people who are trustworthy, I put out the following series of tweets:

    I don’t think you can teach virtue. You model it, and you hire virtuous people. Then you train specific behaviors. My 2 cents
    I’d hold that if someone doesn’t have a virtuous approach by the time you’re looking to hire them for biz, it’s too late.
    We should hire FOR basic virtue, not with the hope of imparting what isn’t there. Otherwise, trust will never occur.

Since two of my favorite on-line people,  Jane Chin and Jon Swanson, were interacting with me on these thoughts, I thought it might be best to elaborate in something other than 140 characters.

Let’s take a step back – we live in an age of subjectivity where words are often drained of meaning, so by virtuous character, I mean a person with a clear, well-founded, internally-embraced and externally practiced code of conduct that conforms to norms of ethical uprightness. Unfortunately, many will dispute what ethical uprightness actually IS, but an honest person who practices the Golden Rule smells an awful lot like what I’m talking about.

I don’t believe it is the role of a business to teach virtuous character to its employees. I believe that leaders should model it, encourage it, and train for specific behaviors that align with a virtuous and ethical approach to business. But we’re in business to do business, to serve and to perform – we should HIRE people with virtuous character and then give them the specific pathways to walk in.

I guess I should also say that we’re all “in progress”, and very few people have their virtue muscles fully exercised. But even though our character is still under development, there’s a core of “rightness” in the soul that cannot be imparted by teaching and management. External forces can shape and sharpen, can water and cultivate – but until someone is ready to be BE virtuous, they’ll never become trust-worthy.

Can and should virtue and character be taught? Yes. But that should be done in the formative years, but parents and other members of the surrounding community. It is not the role of a business to put in virtuous character, but to hire the best people who actually possess it.

I believe that, by practicing the principles found in books like Trust Agents and The Trusted Advisor (books authored by the panelists mentioned above) we can encourage the people who have virtuous character (in bud or in full flower) to create or find the types of businesses that will have an ethical core – businesses that will do good and succeed over the long haul because the people leading them are GOOD PEOPLE.

What we don’t need is “check off the box” training programs on ethics. We need virtuous people – in business, in government, in churches, and everywhere else. That is our greatest challenge. Talent and brains are cheap. People with a heart and a conscience and a spine – that’s pure gold.

Am I some off-base idealist? Or is this the way it oughta be?


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“So, Can Your iPhone…?”

Yes, I guess it can.

I was at a conference last week, and someone who is trying to justify, in his own mind, the purchase of an iPhone (go for it, John!) asked me if my iPhone was capable of storing video of an entire presentation.

I didn’t know the answer. So, it was time for an experiment. Could my iPhone capture my entire 50-minute presentation? And, from a distance of ~15-20 feet, would the audio even be discernible?

The results surprised me a bit. While the end product won’t make anyone’s Top 10 List of anything, the iPhone did capture the entire presentation with no problem, and (if your speaker is up loud enough), you can actually hear what I’m saying in this brief clip:

[From a presentation on Pharma Social Media – Where’s the Low-hanging Fruit?]


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“Ann Handley” Exposed

AnneH2During the recent MarketingProfs B2B Summit, a rogue band of “bloggerazzi” stumbled across a revelation that has rocked the blogosphere.

Mild-mannered social media maven “Ann Handley” (aka @marketingprofs) is a cover persona – a living avatar, if you will – for the marvelously-talented but long-lost film and singing star Anngelina Handlyee. The stunningly beautiful Ms. Handley was always the object of speculation among B-list bloggers, who wondered how such a dynamic luminary could be found humbly pumping out content in the obscure corners of the on-line networking world.

AnneH3Appearing Monday at the Marketing Profs event in a fetching black Maltoni 2-piece complemented with an original Armano handbag, the radiant Ms. Handley suddenly grabbed the mic and began to belt out show songs, much to the surprised delight of the gathered crowd. Her rendition of Dave Loggins’ “Please Come to Boston” was accidentally captured on blogger Beth Harte‘s iPhone Shazam music-recognition program, which identified the possessor of the world-class pipes as none other than the mysterious Handlyee, who had gone underground in 2001 after suffering fame-induced vertigo and a broken left pinkie nail.

AnneH4The bloggerazzi quickly gathered around the iPhone, and marveling that there was indeed an app for everything, decided to expose Ms. Handley then and there as the famous star Anngelina Handlyee. Not just any public humiliation would do, however. The news was tweeted, first in a mocking DM to Anngelina (who looked positively ravishing on Tuesday morning in a tan Verdino number), then to the entire world, even with #mpb2b Retweets to increase the humiliation.

Soon a long line formed, seeking autographs, DMs, RTs, pictures, and any mementos of the occasion that could possibly be re-sold on eBay, including Anngelina’s smashing Collier earrings or her classic Jason Baer bottle opener. The gorgeous Ms. Handlyee handled the adoration with grace and poise, though a poisonous glance at blogger Amber Naslund implied that future MarketingProfs post written by this bloggerazzi figure would likely go unpublished, though probably not unpunished.

It is unknown what future roles on stage or film the lovely, but flatter-proof Ms. Handlyee may play, now that she has been “outed” from her self-imposed obscurity. However, she may not be alone in her fate. There are blogger rumors about Olivier Blanchard and the disappearance of a certain famous singer from Graceland…

Oh – here’s the real MProfs B2B Forum review


Prior StickyFigure spoofs

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MarketingProfs B2B Forum Re-cap: The Book


The MarketingProfs B2B Forum was held on June 8-9 in Boston, MA. Boston, for those unfamiliar with the location, is home to Fenway Park (for you baseball junkies), Samuel Adams (for you beer junkies), and Chris Brogan (for you social media junkies). It is also the home of the largest money pit ever created before the TARP program, called the “Big Dig.” But that’s not relevant, actually. What is relevant is the startling revelation concerning “Ann Handley” that came out during the week. More on that in a later chapter.


renbostonThe Forum was held at the Renaissance Hotel, originally designed in 1781 to house the Continental Congress, and recently refurbished to include indoor plumbing, glass windows, and color TV. Oh, wait, that’s the Philadelphia one. Sorry – the Boston Renaissance is quite up to date, actually. Nicely designed meeting space, helpful staff, even a semi-reasonable set of power outlets in meeting rooms. And the MarketingProfs staff had the logistics and organization nailed. Especially nice – the open area used for breakfast roundtables and other informal gatherings.


This event could not have been possible without the labors of Roy Young, Allen Weiss, the great MP team, and the inimitable “Ann Handley,” whose secret life was finally revealed during the Forum. More on that later.

Chapter One – The Keynotes

BarrysmYou’ve heard of great timing? This B2B Forum had it. The very week that Twitter hit the cover of TIME magazine, the author of the article, Steven B Johnson, spoke to the assembled acolytes on “Why Twitter Matters.” He was engaging, funny, and very effective in his story-telling approach to presenting (Twitter as analagous to coffeehouses of a couple centuries back), and his well-designed (simple!) slides. The next day, we were treated to Barry Schwartz, professor at Swarthmore University, speaking on the topic of “Practical Wisdom,” drawing from a book he has written on that same theme. Very thought-provoking; the biggest response on the Twitter back-channel seemed to be to his distinction of job/career/calling. I got to sit next to him at lunch without realizing, at first, who he was – he proved to be as engaging in person as he was once he got up on the podium.

You want Peg Mulligan’s take? Sure you do. And Becky Pearce’s notes? Coming right up.

Chapter 2 – The Sessions

JayBaerAs always in a conference like this, there were some great sessions, and some less so, but things started off with a bang when Sandy Carter of IBM discussed some very interesting – low-cost AND effective – social media initiatives her division of the company has employed. KD Paine kicked off the second day with a nice talk on Measuring Value in Social Media. Both days also featured Hot Seat Labs, where experts critiqued, live, the web efforts of various companies represented in the hot seat panels. Overall, there was good variety in the workshop sessions, with 2-4 concurrent sessions going on at any one time. Plus, there were one-to-one therapy sessions with social media practitioners that attendees could sign up for, to get personalized expertise. Nice.

You want handouts? Why sure…here they are.

Chapter 3 – The Gastronomy

TweetupB2BI’ve been to conferences where you would not bother to write about food and drink. Not this one. The lunches included meals at round tables followed by keynotes (nice approach), and the Tuesday morning breakfast roundtables were a smash hit. Tables were set up to discuss various social media/emarketing themes, with discussions led by experts in the field – discussions were lively and helpful. Everyone loved the Monday night Tweetup, with tapas and libations, which was open not only for the conference attendees, but also to local folks who could not attend during the day but who wanted to join the socializing. And, the Monday night dinner featured strolling magicians doing card tricks – these guys were really good!

Chapter 4 – The Tweeting

MackJayThere were probably about 20 or so of us tweeting regularly throughout the conference. That makes it a bit noisy, esp. when Mack Collier and Beth Harte are contributing. :>} Mike Damphouse made some nice summaries of the tweets here and here, so I don’t have to repeat them. And Jay Baer had his own take right here. Suffice it to say the the Twitter back channel was active as usual, and many of those “outside” who couldn’t attend were suitably jealous as they read the #mpb2b tweets. Heh.

Chapter 5 – The Attendees

RoundtableThis show had about 275 people, and it was quite a mixed group. A solid majority seemed to be just discovering social media and how it can be put to use in business. Having been to a number of conferences top-heavy with “experts,” this was refreshing – a lot of these folks are in the day-to-day trenches of marketing and they’re trying to understand what many of us now take too much for granted. So there was less bleeding-edge posturing and more nitty-gritty dialogue – nice.

Oh, you wanted pictures? See what Robert Collins put together on Flickr.

Chapter 6 – The Revelation

AnneH1This turn of events was so cataclysmic – the revealing of the true identity of “Ann Handley” – that it had to be published separately, for fear that the crush of traffic would make this summary unavailable.

You’ll never think of Ann the same way again.

Because she’s really someone else.

Here’s the explosive story…“Ann Handley” Exposed.



A collection of blog posts is being assembled here (B2B According to Me) regarding the conference. Even Mack Collier liked it. There you will find links to the other posts put up by bloggers who are trying to butter up “Anne Handley” enough to win a free pass to the M Profs Digital Mixer in Chicago later this year. But I don’t play that game. No sirree….


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Crowdsourcing a Social Network “Starter” Primer

getstartedNext week, I’ll be leading 2 sessions on professional networking at an annual conference for pharma trainers. One workshop will be on Building your own Opportunity Network, based on the principles outlined in this MarketingProfs Daily Fix post.

And, I fully intend to eat my own dogfood, about having a community to help!

As a follow-up to the session, I plan to create a simple, step-by-step guide on the basics of getting started with social networking. Very light on theory; the goal will be to help people relatively new to the world of social media simply begin, with the resources at hand to be successful.

Here’s where I’d like to have your help. I’ll be assembling a list of best resources to help people get started. I’d like to find great, easy-to-understand, and practical blog posts on:

    Getting started with LinkedIn;Using LinkedIn groups/Q&A;

    Setting up a Facebook account;

    Explanation of privacy settings on Facebook;

    Effectively setting up in outposts like ZoomInfo and VisualCV;

    Getting started with Twitter;

    Creating a simple personal or professional blog;

    …and other posts/resources you’d suggest for a newbie on Rules of the Road; other good platforms/communities to start in; advice for people getting started, etc.

PLEASE add your suggestions in the Comments so that I (and others!) can have a one-stop resource here; but also feel free to put your suggestions on Twitter. And please RT this request to others – it would be wonderful to have a great repository of “best of” links for social networking newcomers!

I’ll probably make two versions: one for a general audience, and one slightly modified for pharma audiences.

Thanks for any help you can offer!

(Image credit)

[Follow-up – Mission Accomplished! Here it is.]


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SXSW…from the eyes of a 20-year old

(I’m not sure I ever anticipated the day I’d have a guest post from one of my children! But, here it is. My oldest son, who is pursuing a career in film, accompanied me to the South by Southwest conference. Here are his impressions…)

Trying to break into the film industry from the ground level is a daunting task for a 20-year old. It’s not enough to have a reasonable level of knowledge, skill, and talent – as with many things, it boils down to “who you know.”

That’s why attending the South by Southwest (SXSW) conference was so valuable.

Most people I meet on the street have little aspiration to create films. Yet, for a few days, I was surrounded by like-minded people who have the word “Film” on their badge and who are willing to talk shop in lobbies, hallways, and anywhere else. At first, as a young man attending my first professional conference, it was a little intimidating, but my mind was immediately put at ease by some great interaction right off while waiting in the registration line (thanks, Clark Richards)!

More often than not people just talked freely until they gave their life story or had another session to attend. Business cards, names, stories, and connections were exchanged in over the course of five minutes. I wasn’t made to feel like an outsider, but rather, I felt like a member of a wind-ranging fraternity of passionate and creative people.

The conference itself was very informative. Panelists would drop names of helpful books and sites, explain in detail how they became successful, and even stay after to talk personally to anyone who wanted to find out more. I will admit there were also big name thrills when I was able to meet and even talk to people such as Robert Rodriguez, Jeffrey Tambor, Henry Selick, Spike Lee, and Rose McGowan.

The films themselves were very professional and enjoyable. I attended nearly all the short films and was impressed by the quality of most of them. I also attended two large independent film premieres. The first was a comedy entitled “The 2 Bobs” and was directed by Tim McCanlines (Tim McCanlines has directed several family oriented films including “Secondhand Lions”). The actors came out onstage with Tim after the screening for an informative Q&A session. Then, on the Tuesday night was the premiere of “The Hurt Locker”. All I knew before going into the film was that it was directed Kathryn Bigelow (“Point Break”). What I saw was a fantastically shot war film about a group of soldiers in Iraq whose sole job is to disarm bombs. It was positively one of the most intense and harrowing war movies I have ever seen.

My father was attending the SXSW Interactive track and I had the privilege of meeting a number of his blogger friends, who were very kind and supportive. All in all SXSW was an invaluable experience for me, and for any young filmmaker that has extra cash and a week to invest next year, I’d certainly recommend attending SXSW 2010!

(You can find out more about Nate and his professional interests at his site, (includes sample films). And, if you know of opportunities that may be open to a young “apprentice” with some real talent, we’re all ears!)

Presenting to Win (a SxSW rant)

checkeredflagI’ve been, frankly, disappointed in the quality of many of the South by Southwest sessions. Here’s why: many of those leading these panels/discussions/sessions aren’t trying to win the attention of the audience.

There are many competing sessions, there’s the Twitter stream, there’s the Blogger’s Lounge, and there’s really good BBQ. If you don’t grab my attention and pull me into the session, I’m gone.

So, if you’re a presenter/teacher/whatever, here’s some simple advice on winning your audience.

  1. Start IMMEDIATELY with a WIIFM. If you don’t tell me why I need to be interested, why this matters – if you don’t give us a concrete What’s-In-It-For-Me (right away!) – you risk losing our attention. In your very first minute, give an arresting and practical statement as to why what you’re about to present matters. Your audience is looking at you, hopefully, asking themselves, “What’s the Point?” Answer that.
  2. Follow immediately with a striking metaphor or illustration. If your presentation is worth anything, you’re going to be telling us something that is new, mind-changing, challenging. This means you have to get through the filters and buffers that stand between you and our hard disk (long-term memory), and our hoped-for behavior change. The easiest way to pave the way is by using a practical, easily understood example that parallels the concepts you’re about to present, so that we can have a way to relate the new information to that which is already present in our minds.
  3. After gaining attention and the beginnings of agreement, then begin the linear progression of explanation, argumentation, and clarification that will take your information from your mind to ours. Be sure that you present a concept, then find a way to see how it is going down with the audience. Don’t just race through the material and assume it’s being absorbed. If you lose me on point 1, you’re not going to regain me at point three.
  4. For crying out loud, use a little humor. If you’re not a joke teller, weave in some funny video clips that help make the point. The progression of absorbing new information happens best when there’s an oscillation between serious thought and lighthearted fun.
  5. Be very careful about the assumption that coarse language is a great aid to learning. Believe it or not, some of your audience is offended by it. Are you there to strut your stuff by showing that you, too, can swear like a 12-year-old? Or do you want to reach your audience with your message? Grow a pair and seek the respect of your hearers, rather than resorting to schoolyard language to get a reaction.

For the sake of simplicity, I’ll leave it at those five, though feel free to add your thoughts in the comments. Your goal should not be simply to be up front. It should be to lead your audience to a worthy outcome. First, you have to win them so that they are ready to follow.

(image credit)

Where I’ll Be (in non-avatar mode)

It’s going to be a busy spring. One event I was not planning on attending is now on the agenda; another two possible events are now non-happenings. So, if you’d like to meet in real life, here’s where I’ll be over the next few months:

sociallearningMasie Center’s Social Learning Lab, Saratoga Springs, NY, March 11-12

This will be an exploration of how social media is impacting the worlds of learning and training. Since much of my consulting work is in pharma training, AND I’m heavily involved in social media, this should be a very interesting time of discovery.

sxsw2009SXSW (South by Southwest), Austin, TX, March 13-17

Just decided to go to this one, and taking my 20-year old son Nate with me, who has a strong interest in a film career. Looking forward to lots of networking with friends new and old, and hoping to see Nate make valuable contacts and grow his knowledge and network.

Austin is one city I’ve never visited. This should be a lot of fun!

spbtlogoSPBT (Society of Pharmaceutical and Biotech Trainers), Chicago, IL, May 11-14

Have attended and presented at this event for many years; this year will help lead 2 workshops, on Building your own Opportunity Network, and Managing Vendors and Projects. Always a great time of interacting with my core pharma audience and friends.

marketingprofs-sm1MarketingProfs Business to Business Forum, Boston, MA, June 8-9

Had planned to attend this one last year and got waylaid by life circumstances – really looking forward to joining Ann Handley and the gang for this one.

You can expect varying levels of live-blogging and live-twittering at all these events, which could get rather annoying, depending on your level of interest and your reservoir of patience. Let me know if you’re going to be present at any of these conferences so we can meet up!

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