Monday, December 5, 2016

Learning from a Near Miss in Interactive OOH

Like the monolith in the movie 2001, a digital out-of-home advertising display stands all alone in a large open space at Munich Airport in Germany. But this is no ordinary display. Players from the local Bayern Munich soccer team appear one after another on the life-size screen beckoning you to stand on a yellow spot marked on the floor a few meters in front of the display.

When someone accepts this invitation and stands on the spot a Kinetic sensor hidden underneath the screen detects this and switches the unit to an interactive exercise routine where the soccer player does some simple exercises and encourages you to do the same, through gestures and written messages in English and German. The game is part of Lufthansa’s "Fit to Fly" campaign.

If you perform the exercises well enough – that Kinetic sensor is watching you – the soccer player congratulates you and invites you to take a selfie with him. The soccer player moves to one side of the frame and a dotted outline appears next to him, showing where you should stand. A final message suggests that you should share your selfie with the campaign hashtag.

Production quality is good and the gamified exercise looks fun, but where the campaign stumbles is in engaging the public. Though the soccer players on the screen are continually beckoning people nearly everyone simply walks past it, like it didn’t exist.

In one hour of observation I saw just two people brave enough to try the interactivity. Both of them were clearly lukewarm about the exercises and neither appeared to understand how the selfie idea worked. They both stood on the yellow spot, smiling, evidently expecting the display unit to take the picture from a distance.

Most people just don’t notice the display at all. Every airport user I have asked about this answers “what display?”  They never saw it. And the people who did see it were probably too shy to try. Most people just don’t like to be the first person to try anything and they demand social proof that the activity is acceptable – especially when crowds of people are watching. If there is a lesson in this story it is that just building a neat interactive experience isn't enough. You also have to convince people to play.

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Monday, November 28, 2016

Three Ways to Make Office Layout Networking Friendly

Networking benefits employers because a workplace where everyone has a networking mentality, helping each other routinely, is more productive and has less conflicts. But often the physical layout of buildings makes networking difficult because there are few spaces where people can interact.

Redesigning your entire building to make it network-friendly might be out of reach but there are still many smaller initiatives that can be done to make interactions more frequent and more fruitful. Here are just three:

Create social spaces. In some companies the only common areas are luxurious sofas in an elegant lobby area, but they are meant mainly for show and employees are afraid to sit there. Create comfortable spaces around the building where people can sit and talk. If you are not sure what welcoming looks like visit a coffee shop. And make sure there are varied seating options. Some people like sofas, others like high tables, others like benches. Variety is the key.

Encourage mixing between departments. You might have some meeting spaces inside a department but most if not all should be between departments in neutral spaces so that you encourage more interaction. Lack of cross connections in an organization leads to polarization of positions and conflicts. People who work in different areas should be encouraged to meet to break down these barriers. Ideally there should not be any barriers between different departments.

Design lunch area to encourage interaction. Arrange eating areas with different sized tables to accommodate groups of two, three or many people. Prefer tables that are round or oval rather than long straight ones that make conversation difficult beyond your immediate neighbors. Install sound absorbing panels so that people can talk without stress. Designate an area primarily for lunch “singles” who didn’t come with anyone else but don’t want to sit alone.

There is much more you can do but if you can make just one of these changes you have made a step in the right direction.

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Monday, November 21, 2016

Speaking: The Song in Your Head

When people are speaking they sometimes state a fact, give an example or tell a story that they think will impress people, but then it doesn't. Their speech or presentation doesn't make an impact or can even have the opposite effect. In these cases that the speaker is sure that they have a winning argument and they are frustrated when it fails.

This happens because the speaker gives their facts or tells their story but without some essential context. Because they have this context in their head they can fill in the gaps and complete the story, so they feel that the point they are making is obvious. People in the audience lack this context so they interpret the same facts or stories in a different and sometimes completely opposite way.

I call this the "Song in your head" problem because it reminds me of a children's game where one person taps just the rhythm to a song and challenges others to recognize it. Quite surprisingly even the best known songs can be unrecognizable without the other components. When I ask them to try this exercise people are often amazed that a song that they believe is obvious goes unrecognized by people who should know it. But the problem is that the person tapping the rythym hears the song in their head while the others hear only tapping. That's what's happening when you share some knowledge without key context: you hear the song in your head and you cannot understand why other people don't get it.

Finding out what is the missing context and adding it to your presentation is sometimes quite difficult, but it can be done and you can do it systematically. The secret is to test all your ideas on people before you use them in an important speech, presentation or talk. Try some of your messages on friends, colleagues or anyone who will listen, then ask them for their feedback. This will help you to identify exactly which background information they are missing that would make it possible for them to understand what you mean.

This lack of shared context undermines many attempts at communication. You need to first be aware of it but when you are then it becomes more likely that you will try to understand how others view your ideas and how you need to complete your speech with the missing context.

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Monday, November 14, 2016

How a Campaign Ideas Notebook Helps Creativity

Ideas come when they come, rarely precisely when you need them. One easy way to make sure that you have ideas when you need them is to write them down as they come.

This is the simplest approach for coming up with any ideas but it is specially useful for a digital marketing campaign. Most of the time ideas for new campaigns are not entirely original. They are just ideas that have worked elsewhere, variants of existing ideas or the combination of two or more ideas in one campaign.

You could rely on your memory to come up with a campaign idea every time that you need one, but you will find it much easier if you simply write down every campaign idea you hear about over the years. Then when you need to come up with an idea you just leaf through the book and refresh your memory. Your campaign ideas "notebook" can be a physical notebook, a box full of loose papers or a file in the cloud that you can easily access when you need it. The form doesn't matter so much except that an electronic version is easier to search.

In your notebook you can have essential basics like the classic Instagram hashtag photo competitions where consumers post photos with the campaign hashtag and receive some reward,. Write down also interesting twists on old ideas and new thoughts you might have, especially for new channels. You can also add the more ambitious campaigns that might be useful one day when there is a big budget available. Make a note of all the great campaigns because memory is not terribly reliable . Even ambitiously creative campaigns like the Tippex "A Hunter Shoots a Bear" Experience, Walker's Crisps "Do us a Flavour" and the British Airways "Look Up" are soon forgotten.

But it's the little ideas that will fill most pages of your book and hardly a day goes by where you won't add another page. Collecting the ideas a little at a time means that the effort is minimal, but the day that the boss demands a new campaign idea by the end of the day you can pull out a few appropriate ideas and you will be glad that you saved them all.

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Monday, November 7, 2016

Testing Ideas is the Key to Persuasive Speaking

How do you make your speaking more persuasive, more compelling? I suspect that some of the people who ask this question are hoping for some magical secret of body language or voice training that can make anything sound persuasive. But in a way there really is a secret -- by far the best way to be more persuasive is to test all your ideas before you use them. Few non-speakers are aware of this fact, but it is one of the key foundations of strong speaking skills.

Before you use any idea on a real audience you should always try to test them in three ways:

Due Diligence.  First of all you have to check your facts. When you build a talk or a presentation on flaky facts and concepts you will find it hard to be persuasive. If your content is weak then you will see this reflected in the negative body language of the audience – there will be many question-mark faces, which is very discouraging. People are also much more likely to challenge you and ask awkward questions, exposing the flaws in your information and logic. There is one way to avoid this: check all your facts and stories. Never rely on memory or, worse, Internet memes. You might be surprised how many well-known “facts” are myths. Use Google, Quora and Wikipedia to check everything. And I mean everything. Every. Single. Fact.

Conversational testing. In the days, weeks or months before your speech or presentation you should also try out all of the key ideas you plan to use informally in conversations with friends and colleagues. This will help you to identify weaknesses in your reasoning. It will also expose points where your facts and logic are correct but not explained clearly enough. Listening to the feedback in these conversations is essential to catch errors that would be much more embarrassing if they were called out in an important event. You don’t need to organize any special conversations for this testing; just weave the testing into everyday conversations.

Presentation testing. After the due diligence and the conversational testing you should also test your ideas on a small scale in less important meetings first, or with groups of colleagues or friends put together for this purpose. Never keep your content secret until the big day and then present it as a surprise. This is a very bad idea. Never ever even think of standing in front of an important audience or a key decision maker with a presentation that has not been tested and revised several times until it is as bombproof as you can make it. You don't want to discover that there is a hole in your thinking in front of hundreds of people or a few key decision makers.

Careful testing of ideas makes your speaking more persuasive and compelling because you have already addressed all the weaknesses in your ideas and stopped up all the holes. It also gives you much more confidence which adds to the persuasiveness of your logic. This, in a way, is the secret of compelling speaking.

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Monday, October 31, 2016

Influencing: How Airbnb Organizes the Host Community

Airbnb has been wildly successful in creating a multi-billion dollar business out of short term room rentals. The company has long been opposed by various lobbies. Traditional hospitality companies fear that it might encroach on their business and demand a more level playing field where everyone abides by the same rules (Internet Marketplaces, Is it Time to Level the Playing Field).  Local authorities see the company as costing them tax revenue and flouting regulations. Other bodies are concerned about the impact on the housing market.

Around the world local authorities are creating new rules for this kind of home rental. Home rental contracts are also being rewritten to limit or ban outright short term subrentals. Airbnb responds to these moves with traditional lobbying efforts, but what is much more interesting is how the company is preparing to mobilize the massive army of airbnb hosts to advocate for the business, too.

What airbnb has done is to create a network of "Homesharing Clubs", local associations of people who rent property through airbnb. Some of these renters are people offering their spare room; others are people who run airbnb rentals as a business. There is a description of a typical Homesharing Club in Airbnb faces Worldwide Opposition...

When the project was launched last year airbnb made no secret of their goal to create an advocacy bloc for their business. But very cleverly this is not the only purpose of the clubs. Airbnb hosts can meet up and share ideas about optimizing revenues, they can meet up to discuss where to find the best plumbers, they can meet up to organize discounts at laundries. They can also meet to discuss political action, writing letters, organizing protests and campaigning on social media.

This approach means that the company can first build a vast network of advocates that are already in position, identified and easy to reach whenever they are needed. Between advocacy campaigns they can be discussing how to deal with people who rent a property just to have a wild party, but if there is any legislation coming up in the area they can be mobilized very quickly.

Airbnb's approach to organized advocacy is simple enough, but it is an interesting example for anyone else who might be in the same situation. The company has many opponents -- lawmakers, hotel owners, housing organizations among them -- but they also have many people on their own side. These are not just the people who benefit by getting a cheaper and sometimes better stay when they travel, they are also the people who actually have a financial stake in the success of the room sharing economy. These people are highly motivated to defend their income. With a relatively modest investment, this motivation can be channeled into action.

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Monday, October 24, 2016

Why Activity-Based Networking Beats Mingling

Most of the visible networking happens at networking events and in one-to-one meetings organized with connection building in mind. This approach works for many people but for others – especially introverts – it is often an unpleasant experience. Much worse, it isn’t always the best way to network.

A one-to-one meeting, perhaps at lunch, offers enough time and focus to be effective, but it requires an investment in time. Because of this even the most determined networkers can only do so many lunches each month. I try to schedule one per week, but don’t always succeed -- one a month would be a good average.
But there is another approach to networking that is more effective than a conventional mingle yet more scaleable that a lunch – activity-based networking.

Activity-based networking is the name I give to all of the activities where networking is a useful side effect but not the primary goal. In this approach you find some opportunities to work with other people so that they can see how you work, gauge your dependability, observe your character and learn what you do well.

What makes activity-based networking so appealing is that the networking is a side effect, so people uncomfortable with mingles feel more at home. It’s also effective because people are not forced to judge you based on an elevator pitch – they can see what you do and how well you do it. And it scales well because you can be simultaneously getting to know many people at once – and they are getting to know you.

What kind of activity should it be? It shouldn't be paintball, karting or Elk hunting. These might be good for making friends but they don't let other people see you in some sort of work related context where they can observe how you work. So the ideal activity is one where you are doing something with other people that showcases work skills and keeps you in contact long enough to get to know the other people.

You can do this by volunteering in a professional organization, in some sort of project team or in some special cases where projects are created regularly. One very effective framework is the Startup Weekend program, where people meet for 54 hours to brainstorm, and develop ideas for startups. There are startup weekend groups all over the planet and all follow the same scheme. People meet on Friday evening and present ideas for startups. They then form teams and each team spends the weekend developing their idea. Finally on Sunday evening each team makes their pitch and the winners are chosen. 

Some people do this because they want to create a startup and they sometimes succeed. Other people participate more because it is fun, some as a learning experience and some because it is an ideal way to grow connections in the startup community. Everyone who attends makes useful new connections and builds a visible reputation in the community. Someone who has been a useful team member at Startup Weekend is more likely to be chosen by a founder than someone who has just sent in a CV. People who have impressed their team mates are also more likely to be recommended for jobs.

But in all networking opportunities every situation is different and you need to try different activities in your area to see which is most effective. What works in Paris might not work so well in Oslo and vice versa. Ask around in your area to see which activities might be the most interesting. Try a few yourself, too, because an activity that looks very interesting could turn out to be a dead end and vice-versa.

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