70% is the new…


Camper-Walk-in-prog-MilanSpanish shoemaker Camper made headlines in San Francisco when the company opened its unfinished store to customers, simply calling it “Walk in Progress”.  Customers were invited to draw on the unpainted walls and shoes were displayed on top of packaging containers.  Customers loved it and the most popular message written on the walls was “Keep the store just the way it is.”

Camper now uses this experimental approach as its philosophy and opens stores in two stages.  The first stage, the “Walk in Progress” is where customers are invited to contribute their thoughts and messages.  The finished store then takes on the unique characteristics of its neighbourhood, shaped by its customers.

Camper has successfully adopted a get-it-out-there/ship-it philosophy. Who would have thought you could do that with a half-finished retail shopfront?

Recently I had the privilege of hearing Seth Godin speak and a key message of his was “70% is the new perfect”.  This immediately embraces a ‘ship-it’, or iterative, mentality.  Get stuff done and ship it out, and then continually improve based on customer feedback and market expectations.

It is a powerful message – unless you are landing planes or saving lives – as perfectionism is often the enemy of execution.

Of course, embracing 70% as the new perfect is not a license to fail.  It doesn’t give us a mandate to put out shoddy work, or anything we are not proud of.  But on the other hand, clutching our ideas, products or strategies to our heart as we tinker away crafting and re-crafting each word or each line of code, not willing to share till it is perfect, is a fool’s game.  In their bestseller Rework, Fried and Heinemeier Hansson say it best: “You still want to make something great.  This approach recognises the best way to get there is through iterations.”

Please comment – I love hearing from you.

How to survive presentation nightmares (without Einstein’s help)


downloadUrban legend has it that when Einstein was on the speaker circuit his faithful driver, Harry, learned his speech word for word.  Einstein’s driver also happened to look like him.  On a whim, at an evening presentation, Einstein and his driver decided to swap places.  Einstein donned the chauffeur’s cap and jacket and sat in the back of the room.  The chauffeur presented Einstein’s speech perfectly.  And then a pompous professor asked a tough question and the chauffeur simply replied: “Sir, the answer to your question is so simple that I will let my chauffeur, who is sitting in the back, answer it for me.”

So often when we are presenting and are asked a curly question, we wish we could flick it to Einstein sitting in the audience.

The other guarantee for presentations is that technology will fail (usually at a critical point).  How are you going to turn these presentation lemons into lemonade?

With the curly question, honesty is usually the best policy and you could simply say: “I don’t know, but I can find out and get back to you.”  You could even ask the audience if anyone else has insights or suggestions.  Drawing on the wisdom of the crowd can also buy you time.

When technology fails, it is a good idea to have a humourous quip ready.  I do an impersonation of my Indian mother, talking about my missed vocation in IT.  (It’s very funny, but you have to be there!)  And then you really need to have a plan B.  This could involve doing your presentation without any slides, moving to a Q&A format, or going analogue and using a whiteboard.

How have you turned presentation lemons into lemonade?  Please share.

Love, learn, leave…


imagesRecently I received a scathing email about a supposed single misprint in our book.  The writer concluded by saying they were so happy that they had only borrowed the book from the library, rather than purchased it.  OOUCHHHH!

Reading the email on the train to work, I felt I was being punched in the guts.  I might even have sworn aloud…OK I definitely did!  As it turns out, it wasn’t a misprint but an accommodation for the global market.

So, how does one give criticism/feedback in a way that is positive?  The type of feedback delivered in a way that the receiver is open to hearing it and then acting on it?  We all crave feedback and yet are loathe to give it.

Recently we faced the same challenge when running our very successful “Is there a TED talk in you?” program.  Not only did the participants receive feedback, but it was given in a group setting.  We used a wonderful frame made up of three parts:

  • Love – What I loved about your talk…
  • Learn – What I learned from it… and
  • Leave – One thing I want to leave you with (a suggestion for improvement).

Use this frame if you want people at the end of your feedback not swearing, but leaving with at least one thing they need to do differently.  Now that’s the kind of feedback we would all love to receive.

What’s the best or worst way you’ve received feedback in the past?  Please comment – I love hearing from you.

Three hacks to instantly transform any presentation


lectureI’m a great fan of the Lifehacks website – a goldmine of productivity and lifestyle tips.  A life hack is a tip or trick that will helps get things done more efficiently and effectively.  Life hacks are often practical, sometimes funny and sometimes plain hair-raising!

Applying this philosophy, I wondered what are some presentation hacks we could use?  As so often working with leaders on their presentations these common barriers come up:

  • Having to deliver dry, boring content
  • Battling nerves
  • Little or no time to prepare

So, here are some of my favourite presentation hacks.

Write out your key messages on a Post-it note.  Possibly only a couple will fit – this forces both clarity and prioritisation.

Struggling to remember your messages?  Rewrite them as sharp, short bumper stickers, which you are more likely to remember.  Bumper stickers give even boring content that much-needed oomph.

Here’s a structure hack I use often.  Think of three messages and three stories that go with your messages.  This structure is easy to remember for you the presenter and very memorable for your audience.

A bonus hack to tackle nerves and lack of time.  It’s the magic of practise.  Neen James, productivity guru, says: ‘Make time in time’.  So practise while you are driving, walking your dog or in the shower.

What are some presentation hacks you use?  Please share – I love hearing from you.