Thursday, November 29, 2007

On Mentoring and Being Mentored

I have been blessed with great mentors -- people from whom I have learned so much both professionally and in life. Often I did not even realize I was absorbing what they taught until much later. My best mentors never told me what to do and simply supported me with ideas and understanding.

Now, I find myself as a mentor -- it is not a role I seek and I am grateful that someone else would ask my advise. While considering my position as "someone influencing another" I have arrived at the rules I will observe:
  • Mentors should have no connection to the reporting structure of the person being mentored.
  • A mentor’s role is to listen with no agenda and offer alternative choices and thoughts with no goal for myself.
  • The key traits a mentor needs to possess are empathy, understanding, and a desire to witness the growth of another.
  • A mentor needs to be experienced in profession and in life relative to the person seeking a mentor.
  • Mentors cannot directly benefit or be negatively affected by a choice of their charges.
  • The relationship between the mentor and mentored is a private relationship.
  • Those mentored choose their own mentor. Period!
I know that I have benefited from the experience of so many and am grateful for their wisdom. If you find that you too are asked for advise I hope that you will understand all of the implications of words you offer.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Volunteers Sought: Ski Free and Experience Real Joy

Volunteer instructors are being recruited for the USARC winter program in Southern California. If you would like to receive skiing and snowboarding instruction from premier winter sports athletes and experience the uninhibited fun of teaching incredible students about the joy of winter sports, this is the program for you.

Eighteen years ago I answered a call for volunteers posted in the Orange County Register by the Anaheim Braille Institute. They were seeking skiers that would act as instructors/guides for blind and visually impaired students at a new ski school at Bear Mountain (Big Bear, CA).

In exchange for donating teaching time on the slopes each volunteer guide would receive additional free ski passes. The joyful experience of working with the students of the Braille Institute, and subsequently so many other students with other limitations has kept me with the program all of these years.

The United States Adaptive Recreation Center was founded in 1983 (as California Handicapped Skiers) to ensure that access to skiing is available to people with all types of disabilities. The USARC believes people are empowered when they undertake and succeed at challenging outdoor recreation. In 1989, the USARC established the first full-time on-site adaptive ski school in Southern California at Bear Mountain Resort. Adaptive watersports and summer camping programs were added in 1993, and continue to evolve today.

The USARC has earned a national and international reputation as a model program in adaptive outdoor recreation, and USARC personnel have served in training programs throughout the United States and the world.

If you are interested in volunteering for a joyful experience follow this link and find out more.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

What Women Know About Marketing that Law Firms Should Heed

It is my understanding that women dread showing up to a party to discover another woman is wearing the same outfit. I can relate to that experience in a small way.

I attended a performance of Cirque de Soleil a few weeks ago as the guest of a friend(it was both a business event and performance perk). I wore a dark blue suit and a mustard colored shirt -- guess what he was wearing! The implication (in regard to first impressions) was that everyone would think we were not individuals but part of a team. Major oops!

When it has come up in any discussion I have never met a woman who did not care about this issue of duplication. Certainly TV and movies have made the issue legendary.

So what does this have to do with marketing a law firm? Everything!

Imagine your marketing programs are what you choose to wear. Would you choose to put on the exact same outfit as that of your competition?

Too often we see what our competition is doing (in marketing) and decide our best course is to do something similar. The result is that we do not look like a law firm that stands out to our target market... we only look like we fit in with the others. Homogeneous -- completely vanilla.

To stand out you need to be different. Not revolutionary, just different.

I go to a lot of evening events where many of the women are wearing a black dress. Without duplication each has chosen the style and cut that best presents them as original and unlike any other women in attendance. Women know this secret about being different and still fitting in -- your marketing can do that too.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

What Goes Where -- The Slide, the Handout and the Spoken Word

I am often asked, "What should I put on a presentation slide?" It is a hard question to answer because it can have so many parts, but I do offer some simple advise. To me the answer is more about the overall impact of the entire presentation (what you show, what you say, and what you leave behind). Here is a my quick answer:
  • The Slide: A commonly quoted rule for building a single slide is to limit the words to four bullet points or less, and no more than seven words per bullet. My preference is to limit TOTAL words on a single slide to one bullet point of seven words or less. Even better, a single photo.

    Impossible you say? A bullet point like, "Magnifying a digitized image several times can reveal several parts of it", can be restated as, "Enlarge images to reveal its parts". Since your audience already knows you are talking about digitized images you could get even smaller by stating, "Enlarge to reveal parts." Even simpler, an image of a highly magnified digitized photo.

    The point (pun intended) is to headline what you say, not reveal everything that is important to learn.

  • The Handout: The handout is where you can write and illustrate to your hearts delight. Include what is on the slides and some of what you state, and most importantly, reveal the technical information, details, descriptions, drawings, etc. This is your chance to impart all of the fun stuff and the not so exciting stuff that needs a platform. So much of what is in the handout should NOT be on a slide or spoken in the presentation.

  • The Spoken Word: Think, "Story Teller". Anything worth talking about has a good story underneath. Using your simplified slides move your audience along with examples, case study lessons and even engage your audience by asking for their experiences. The most important thing to remember here is that between the slides and the handout your audience is getting a lot of detail -- what could you say that will bring it all to life?

    Here is your chance to connect with the audience as a personality. You are not a teacher -- you are an entertainer. Entertain!
Each of us has suffered numerous instances of being bored to tears by presenters reading from their slides, going into infinite detail, stating and restating what is already obvious or just droning on and on until we are numb. Do not be this person!

Leave the details to the handout, keep your slides as clean as possible, and learn to tell good stories that entertain your audience.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Visuals Speak Louder than Words

I witnessed a presentation of excellent thinking by a respected marketing strategist this weekend that did not make it onto the PowerPoint slides with equal impact. The spoken words were brilliant -- but most of the audience got lost inside the experience of poor visuals.

The slide to the right is a fair example of what was on-screen. Overly large headlines, underlining, unbalanced use of space, mismatched and multiple colors with no meaning, misaligned text, and way too many words for anyone to follow.

This was a presentation about marketing and the presenter was discussing the virtues of developing a complete branding program. If I did not already know how brilliant this person is I would not make a choice to hire based on this moment.

Throughout the presentation all I could think about is how the presenter could have fixed the slides to better match the message, the audience, and the brand of the presenter.

To the right is the same slide from above, reformatted in a simple fashion, to better present an idea (the original slide was a step-by-step time progression).

The great thing about PowerPoint is that it is a simple tool to use -- no graphic training required. But it does require the operator to think a bit to use the tool correctly.

I will say again, no matter how intelligently you speak, if your graphics are amateur the audience will have a hard time believing you are an expert. Here are a couple of quick tips for creating a better impression even if you are not a graphics genius:
  • Never put on a slide all of the words you wish to say.
  • "White space" is your friend! The less the audience reads the more they are listening to you.
  • DO NOT EVER UNDERLINE! Just a quick lesson from Graphics 101.
  • Use color sparingly. One color, even if black (on white), is far easier to read than multiple colors with no meaning. It's not a party -- it's a presentation!
  • Pictures are always better than words in presentations. Period.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Wise Thoughts on Spotting Incompetent Managers

I like lists of "ten things", especially when they cut to the chase and offer solid lessons. This one by Margaret Heffernan at offers clear thoughts on the traits of poor leaders as seen from the eyes of a board member. As you work with your people and work for others you may find this list useful.

Graphic Artists are Crazy

I might know. I am one. But, not like, "Wooo Hooooo, la la la la la, put me in a rubber room!!" Go online and look at any portfo...