Queer Eye for the New Economy

May 18, 2009

Dull doesn’t sell and neither do lies.  Enron and greedy wall street hedge fund operators failed to tell the truth and a new scepticism and recession was born.  It’s turn around time. No not bail out. Ships that are bailed out rarely float again never mind go full steam ahead. On Sunday May 17th I wandered over to Victoria park and shivered by the bandshell as London celebrated its first international rally against homophobia. I love a good party and a protest has a street theatre quality that piques my director’s instincts; besides, I love to see what the boys will be wearing.

Surrounded as I was by well behaved dogs, teens with multi-coloured spiked locks and the seven official lesbian hair cuts, all looking cooler than I ever was or will be, I had this thought.  We need queers in the new economy. The agricultural age is over. The production age is, on this continent, pretty beat up. The information age is well established. The creative age has arrived.

Business will not survive on mediocre. Here I was standing on the edge of the very attributes we need in the new economy: integrity, creativity and good hair.  This ‘tribe’ as Seth Godin would call them gave up average, often at great cost,  to be themselves. Management guru Tom Peters (author of In Search of Excellence & Innovation) says that innovation never comes from the centre it always comes from the edges or as Malcolm Gladwell (author of Blink, Tipping Point and Outliers) would say from the outliers.

We need people who are willing to tell the truth and take risks. Customers and clients want transparency from their organizations not BS. Companies need new ideas to capture new markets. Those ideas will not come from the same old, same old. Tom Peters says ‘Hang out with dull and you’ll get more dull.’ I say hang out with weird and you get creative, get creative and you’ll be distinct not extinct in the new economy.

How to Introduce a Speaker – Three steps to wow!

May 13, 2009

I’ve been a speaker and an emcee for twenty years. Here’s how you can grab the attention of your audience and get them excited about an upcoming speaker.  You amplify their genius! There is a timeless, three-step formula developed by one of last century’s most beloved business speakers, founder of the National Speakers Association Cavett Roberts.

1. No matter what intro is given to you by a speaker check to see if it answers Cavett’s three questions.

a. Why is this topic of critical importance?
b. Why is this topic of critical importance for this audience? (classic WI-FM or What’s In It For Me)
c. Why is this absolutely the perfect person to be speaking to us?

Usually a speaker’s intro only has step three.  Write step one and two and add it to their three. Try to make your remarks  approximately 90 seconds long. Send your version to the speaker for approval.

2. Memorize your intro so you can look into the audience. See if there are four natural thoughts in your intro and deliver each message to one person in each quadrant of the room. This ‘works the room’ and pulls everyone’s focus to the front.  If speaking is the last thing on earth you’d like to do, and you need the page before you, memorize the opening and closing sentence and gives those with eyes forward.  If you love speaking and can wing it just make sure your last line is the same one you told the speaker you would say.  Usually it is: ‘Please join me in welcoming to the stage Louise Karch’  (if I happen to be your speaker!)

3. Start the applause and stay on the platform or by the podium until the speaker arrives (never leave it empty as it psychologically drains the moment). Depending on where the speaker enters, move to the side or back so the speaker crosses in front of you not behind you. Look them in they eye – where you look the audience will look, shake their hand (if culturally appropriate) and leave the stage walking behind not in front.

A little bit of preparation will build a wave of excitment that your speaker can ride and everyone will appreciate.

feel free to reprint this blog,  simply add  (c) Louise Karch, 2009

Now Economy Marketing

May 2, 2009

I was born ugly* and that wee DNA mishap has given me a life time of social proof  that we use visual shorthand to form opinions.  You can use this insight to help your business prosper in the now economy or you can ignore me, which is okay. I’m used  to it.  I’ll make you laugh, which is precisely how I got noticed, that and learning how to kick school yard bullies in the head. (Thank you figure skating coach Lucy Kovac).  We are a superficial species drowning in slogans which promise the world only to destroy it.  Who wants whiter whites?

Last summer I had jaw surgery which resulted in a Hannibal Lector contraption over my braces to hold my upper and lower jaw in place.  Doesn’t that sound kissable. No one was mistaking me for Angelina Jolie and small children hid behind their mothers. I went about my business even talking on the phone. Call centre staff spoke V E R Y slowly and in short sentences. I quickly discovered that if I faked a British accent they stopped treating me like an intellectually challenged Hannah Montana fan. Unlike most jaw surgery girls, I left the house. I ran errands. I even entered a speech contest. I gave the front row Kleenex.  Using every once of my training as a social scientist, I observed  how people,  who didn’t know me, treated me.  It was complex. I couldn’t talk clearly = I was an idiot.

The world seems genuinely surprised that ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ Susan Boyle can sing because ugly isn’t supposed to have any redeeming features.  If the British have anything to teach us, besides the beauty of a silk tie in a Windsor knot  and the importance of flossing, it’s that dowdy and talent can live in the same body. (I can say this, my mother’s a Brit). Back to business: we use visual short hand to make judgments because our brains are full of trivia, to do lists, or, if you are an over achiever, you might be using the law of attraction visualizaitons to find lost car keys. Some researchers say, if it’s the male brain they are thinking of only one thing, the economy.

I am treated differently based on how I appear and how I dress.  We all know this truth but it doesn’t always translate into our own business practices.  Each moment a client comes in contact with you,  opens your door, enters your lobby or speaks with your cheerful or anti-depressant ingesting receptionist, you are sending a message that either elicits delight or disappointment. Customer experience is made up of tiny moments that build into an avalanche of  awe, average or awful.

It is time to invest in the now economy.  When I opened my new Mac computer,  I was startled by its packaging and the sheer beauty of the styrofoam. I kid you not. Dell was dull in comparison. Great companies have figured out that design matters and each moment of a customer’s experience counts. For instance, everytime I wrap up my MAC powercord I am reminded of Apple’s thoughtfulness. The plug tongs fold in. The cord wraps neatly around two sweet little arms that I can pull out when the cord needs a hug while travelling. I just used the word hug. That’s delight speaking.   Can you say the same about each moment someone interacts with you or your service? For instance, if you have an important client are you waiting at the door for them?  Or do they end up waiting for you?  Little moments, big messages.  Remember that book ‘Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff’, it’s wrong.

— *I was born with a cleft lip and palate which meant I could make water come out of my nose. This won me a lot of candy at the water fountain, especially after Hallowe’en.

Good is no longer good enough. The goal is perfection and the path that takes us there leads to excellence.
Louise B. Karch