Time is money (does that mean money is time?), so I pick and choose what conferences I attend very carefully. I’ve got to have a high level of confidence that I’ll be able to learn something valuable, bring it back to my staff or others in the company and expand my network of people that will be mutually beneficial. I also try to make efficient use of that trip by seeing a vendor or client, or visit an operations center.
We’re all cutting back on travel which means fewer events. So if we slow or cut attendance, is there a way to still get access to those presentations and interesting ideas? Well how about using the Internet? I’ve been using SlideShare for over a year for just this express purpose. If you’re not familiar with SlideShare, it’s a community web site that allows anyone who wants to join the ability to upload their PowerPoint presentations and tag them. You can search the content by categories, tags, community members, lots of ways. The slide shows can be viewed right on the page, expanded to full screen, and most can be downloaded. All can be shared with colleagues in a simple forward to a friend feature. Some also have audio, so it’s almost like being in the presentation.
Here’s how I use SlideShare to expand my knowledge and help me keep up on trends.
I visit almost daily to see what has been surfaced by the SlideShare staff. Usually there is at least one deck that is somewhat relevant to myself or a colleague.
I search on my favorite key terms; usability, social media, mobile, or whatever information I need at the time.
I keep track of the conferences that I might like to attend, but won’t be able to, and search for presentations specifically from those conferences when they close.
I search for forward thinkers by name to see what they have posted. Many of them have their own SlideShare space and a profile. You can also connect with them directly.
I pass along relevant slide shows to my staff and colleagues.
Here’s a great example. I couldn’t attend the recent Web 2.0 Conference in San Francisco. I scanned the agenda on their conference site and discovered that Mary Meeker from Morgan Stanley was going to present her annual Internet Trends presentation. This is one I always try to get my eyes on. Sure enough only days after the conference ended, there it was on SlideShare. All this information, zero travel.
SlideShare continues to make improvements in their design and usability. They had some reliability issues at first, but those seem to be ironed out now. Give it a try. Oh by the way, here’s a link to my SlideShare space.
I have been consuming Guy Kawasaki’s new book Reality Check at breakneck speed. Love the framework of the book. Short chapters, numbered paragraphs, each chapter leads with a provocative quote. It’s also full of his wonderful sense of humor. As a venture capitalist, Guy has had lots of experience reviewing business plans and watching start-ups blossom as well as fail. He has compiled his learnings and packaged them neatly into his book. I knew it was primarily for start-ups when I read the jacket notes and even though I don’t work for a start-up (far from it), I was compelled to purchase it anyway. Today I discovered why.
I work in a very large financial services firm and like everyone we are figuring out how to weather this economic “perfect storm.” We are trying to do more with less, be smarter about how we prioritize projects and watch expenses. But we don’t want to shut things down unless we absolutely have to. We are convinced that some things are about to take off. Neglecting them now would surely kill them. Then it hit me. Think like a start up.
I have worked in a small companies in the past (15 people) and even though we weren’t a start-up we acted like one. So here’s my quick guide that big companies can employ to act more like a start-up
Be more selective when choosing vendors. Look for smaller firms that are more interested in accomplishing things quickly vs. gold plating everything.
Go for the software that gives you what you need, not what they’re selling.
Take on more yourself by re-organizing your staff and resources to match your immediate needs vs. the way it’s always been structured. You’d be surprised how much untapped bandwidth is available if you ask the right questions.
Stop doing some things now! Announce to everyone you are stopping it, why you made that decision, make it very public and stick to it. Remember you’re pulling back and growing more slowly, so you don’t need to do all those things you did last year.
Practice insight adoption strategies by not tying to boil the ocean. Make one pass at data and research, or better yet use research you already have and make your decision.
Holler “80/20” more often. Most additional analytics cuts are unnecessary and not actionable.
Make the rounds to your business partner peers. Be sure you know where they are cutting back and get a meeting of the minds.
If you’re got an internal Creative Services team, give them more of the work.
Focus, focus focus.
Communicate. Communicate. Communicate.
Get senior manager buy in.
Not an exhaustive list by any means, and not all will align with your situation. The point is to put yourself in a clean room and hit control, alt, delete.
It doesn’t seem like that long ago we were in the midst of the dot com bust. Remember shredding the brokerage statements without even opening them? Remember going through all those organizational exercises at work and being asked to do more with less? We got really good at it as I recall, and it appears we will need to resurrect those skills once again. But let’s be wiser about it this time. Let’s not let our growth muscles atrophy. Let’s keep going to the gym no matter how painful it may be. Pain is gain. Most of us still have viable business models and products that consumers need. It’s fine to scrutinize, but don’t turn the burners off.
The last time we started coming out of the downturn we were woefully unprepared to get back up to speed. We forgot what it felt like to actually grow. Like going back to the gym after a three year hiatus. Can’t find the bag or the workout clothes, and by the way, what are all those new-fangled machines those people are using? Walking back onto the gym floor was like being a stranger in a strange land.
We have many more cost effective tools at our disposal now. Web 2.0 technology and the rise of social media completely changes the game this time around. Hopefully you have been paying attention to this and building social media skills and capabilities to leverage your assets in this new space. If you haven’t been doing this, it’s not too late, but it will be much harder to convince your senior managers now.
Even if you have been in the social sphere, you may need to rethink your social media strategy. If your management was on the fence they will likely be retreating from it in a big way unless they can see the value. Here are some things you may want to keep in mind as you approach this challenge.
Think really hard about your objectives: I love the Forrester Research listening, supporting, energizing, embracing, etc… framework. But in this economic climate it may sound too much like brand building. You will need to go back to key business drivers and reconnect these noble goals with something more tangible.
Listen closely to what your CEO is saying: His or her priority right now is to retrench, protect the business and weather the storm. Support this strategic change with how you frame your new social media strategy and be prepared for it to change.
Think narrowcasting: The broad media map has exploded over the last 20 years. Take that and increase it by a factor of 1,000 and you’ve got social media today. To make it work you need to do the opposite of broad media. Sharpen your target, find out where that target hangs out and customize the message to them. You may find out your segment count doubles or even triples. You won’t be able to afford this many more creative/marketing approaches, so either make a bet or lower your production costs, or both.
Burn your laundry list: Do two or three (one is even better) things extremely well, and quickly. Have your list of what’s next, but you must meet your objectives and demonstrate proficiency before anybody will give you more money or time. This will help everyone reset expectations, and allow you to keep going. Activities alone won’t cut it for the next six months or so.
Decide if you are building capabilities or skills: You probably won’t get the money or support for both, so choose wisely then…
Partner with experts for the other one: Your senior managers will be very jealous of every hour of your time. Find someone (or some company) that can help fill in where you can’t and manage them closely.
Make sure it scales: If it works (of course it will) they will want more and fast. So be sure your “what’s next” list can come to life repeating what you just did.
Measure, measure, measure: Enough said.
We will all need to work hard to keep our social media initiatives going and growing. But like anything else a business is doing it will need to be re-examined. Be proactive and do this now. Stopping social media efforts would be a big mistake. Consumers are more ready than ever to turn to other consumers for help and advice. If we do this right we will be well positioned to turn up the volume quickly and methodically when the we get on the good side of the cycle.