tips + insights

It Might Be Time For A Burner

I blame my parents for my (slightly obsessive) love of travel. They sent me to France on my own when I was 14, to stay with a French family for a month. The journey from NY to Marseille was so fraught with mishaps that I learned how to navigate across borders without any assistance (and only one year of French behind me). The rest of the trip didn't go well, but when I returned to NY I felt like a grown up.

I travel a lot for work and pleasure, and I am not even close to done yet.

The current state of things has me concerned for real, for the first time in my life. Travel bans that seem to change daily, airport interrogations, increased privacy risk, a ban on devices... as much as I hate to admit it, I am starting to think differently about my approach - what I bring, where I go, how I go (thankfully, I haven't gotten to "if" I should go).

It's likely that I won't encounter any real trouble. I was born in NYC to American parents from NY and the midwest, whose families emigrated here from Scandinavia, Ireland, and Germany. But my friends might. And what happens if I travel to the Middle East or certain parts of Asia? Because those places are still on my list, despite the troubles in the world.

Today, I read this piece in the NY Times about safeguarding your information during security searches. There are good tips in this story and I recommend reading it. Like, get a burner device to travel with - a phone and/or computer that doesn't have all of your most important information on it. A device that you can delete everything from once you no longer need it (which isn't a bad idea, anyway). Following this protocol adds another layer of complication to our lives and that's annoying. But if doing so makes it easier to move around the world, then I'll do it. I wish it was that simple for everyone.





Rethinking the Meeting and Event Experience

Typical conference ballroom set up. Not a place where you'd want to spend an hour, let alone a day. The upside is the table, where you can lay your head when you want to take a nap.

The meeting and events industry has long relied on the same formula - travel to a beachside destination, host the event in a luxury hotel, meet in a ballroom. Spend the budget on hotel-provided F&B, Powerpoint presentations on the biggest screen possible, and deliver entertainment in the form of an overpaid 90's band while executives enjoy "afterglow" at the bar.

The world has changed, people. Forecasts for 2017 predict that the meetings and events industry will remain somewhat stagnant, as budgets tighten, companies spend less on travel, and uncertainty in the world requires more vigilance.

It's challenging to reimagine a meeting or a conference. My team is often hired to do exactly that - create something extraordinary, "unlike anything we've done before", only to bump up against resistance when we finally get down to business. But, a new reality is here and organizations - whether a Fortune 500 company, an industry association, or a media company with an annual conference - must evolve. 

We can agree that Millennials are influencing much of the shift in programming, and we know that people want experiences not things. However, it's the smart use of technology that can truly transform the experience in a way that's never been done before.

I only know a handful of people who are actually using technology to change the way an event can be experienced, beyond a mobile app or registration check-in via tablet. See Charles Adler's comment about a recent talk he gave in South Korea after a 24-hr flight - he asks why he couldn't have participated remotely via AR, as a hologram on stage, saving himself the fatigue and the conference producer the expense. It's a good question. Production companies like Freeman XP are starting to build these things into their portfolio of services. Conference and meeting planners need to do the same. Why not offer a VR experience for employee training rather than a lengthy breakout session; or a conference as a paid live stream with global reach, rather than as a live event exclusive only to those who can afford to travel to the conference location? Utilizing technology to bring people and information together in an efficient, modern way clears the agenda for more in-person interaction and activities. It also opens up an opportunity to address another challenge - personalization. Find a way to customize the experience, you deliver more value.

And, I hear you - you could argue that giving a presentation remotely or live streaming an event is antithetical to the in-person experience. However, it just requires thinking differently about how those experiences are designed. Isn't that the fun part anyway?

Every day, we use technology to do the most mundane tasks, to improve our lives, to save time - order groceries, take college courses, purchase printer ink and have it delivered on the same day, even meditate. Your audience is already there. Now is the time to take them on an entirely new journey.

The Privacy Paradox

This week, Manoush Zomorodi launches her next audience engagement project at WNYC and the timing couldn't be better. "The Privacy Paradox" focuses on how to stay connected without feeling intruded upon by our services and software. You can join the discussion by entering your email here. For the next 5 days you'll receive a challenge, plus tips and a short podcast explaining the science, psychology, and tech behind each.

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Finally, a carry on that can charge your phone

I've spent the last few weeks traveling and my suitcase is starting to look a little worse for wear. Aside from the fact that it looks like I've been on the road with Mötley Crüe, my trusty hard case may not be protecting my things as well as it once did. 

Not surprisingly, we've entered an era of smart suitcases. Via, I learned of a tech-friendly carry on bag that has two USB ports as well as proximity sensors so you know where the bag is at all times (within the airport, anyway). The company, Raden, aims to get to the point where they can tell you where your bag is beyond the airport through a mesh network, solving a big pain point for lots of travelers. 

Through the Raden app, you can determine the weight of your bag to make sure it's carry-on ready or if you need to leave that 3rd pair of heels at home. The app also tells you how long it will take to get to the airport, low long the TSA line will be at the airport, and you can call Uber directly from the app when you're ready to be picked up. The bags come in sophisticated hues, like matte black and hunter green, an instant upgrade to grown-up international traveler status.

As a frequent flyer, I'm pretty excited that a few companies are trying to make the travel experience better - it's time to move beyond the gadgets on SkyMall. Perhaps one day, my suitcase will include a stylist feature to help me decide what to pack, and robotic features to actually do the packing and unpacking. That's got to be on someone's list, right?

This 25-Year-Old Is Turning a Profit Selling Pencils

So many things in this story: the nostalgic product trend, the idea of focusing on a very specific (niche) product, the fact that her shop is above a champagne and fried chicken restaurant, the youthful approach: “I really wanted to sell people pencils.”

And I’ve just added C.W. Pencil Enterprise to my list of to-do’s. 


Presentation lessons from Leo and Bruce

I've worked with many speakers over the years and have seen countless presentations given at all sorts of events, from private corporate meetings to TED and SXSW. Creating a killer presentation is no easy task - and it's much more difficult when you have to fit all you want to say into a small window of time, as in a 5 minute IGNITE talk or a 2-minute Oscar acceptance speech. 

The other night at the Oscars, Leo got it perfectly right.  I have no idea whether he had help crafting his speech, but he was prepared and practiced. The pace, timing, language, and message was just right for the brief amount of time allotted before the exit music began. It was gracious, powerful, and clear. 

One of the best speeches I've heard was Bruce Springsteen's keynote at SXSW. At the time, I was not a fan of Bruce Springsteen and almost skipped it. I'm glad I didn't, because it left me in awe. It was real and poetic, as you might imagine - but, it was also well written, thoughtful, and covered a lot of ground. He ran through the history of music that influenced him and how it affected his songwriting. It was a perfect keynote - sharp, personal, funny, and emotional. (and the occasional musical interlude didn't hurt)

Not everyone has the talent to be on stage, of course. But if you are aiming to speak publicly, either because your job requires it or you want to add it to your repertoire, you must work at it. A number of years ago, I worked with Jack Welch's presentation coach for a week helping to prepare an executive for a big presentation. I learned a lot in that week: A presentation shouldn't be longer than 20 minutes. 10, if you can do it. Write it out first, then create the slides (sounds obvious, but you know as well as I do that people write their presentations on the slides). Keep it simple - what do you really have to say? In fact, Jack Welch wrote a post for LinkedIn on this very topic a week ago. Clear and to the point.

Perhaps the best way to get better at presenting is to participate in an IGNITE talk. Last year at the Lean Startup Conference, we ran an evening of IGNITE and most of the presenters didn't have much experience in giving presentations. They were a collective of startup founders from various places around the country, chosen from 3 minute videos they'd submitted during the call for proposals phase. For five months, we worked with them on their IGNITE presentations, through drafts and rehearsals via Google Hangout. They worked hard, and on the evening of the event, huddled together backstage, anxious and excited to step out in front of a packed theater. They did incredibly well, and all expressed gratitude for having been put through the paces to get their presentations just right. 

So whether you've got 2 minutes or 60, write it down, cut out the fat, make it real, and give it personality. Leave them laughing and crying.