Category Archives: Innovation & Design

Decision Barriers to Avoid (+ exercise)

Are you decisive or do Decision Barriers get in the way?

How aware are you of how you make decisions?

Do you make decisions differently in the midst of a pandemic than you did before Covid 19 descended on the world?

Before the pandemic, did you make decisions differently when they were your decisions about your life than you did when the decisions concerned your clients and their lives or businesses? What has changed now?

Or has the pandemic kept you from much contact with clients and prospects, so you feel out of practice?

What do you want to improve about your decision making now and post covid?

Your normal approach before the pandemic…What did you say to clients and how did you compensate clients when you overlooked key selection factors or, in hindsight, didn’t choose the best approach to problem solving for them? Or did you stay silent and hope clients didn’t notice?

Your approach in the future…how do you intend to react to the issues in the previous question post pandemic?

The following excerpt from “What’s Your Point?” (to be published in 2021) Chapter 6 “What is Communication?” is an opportunity to take a close look at your decision making process.

Exercise: Action NOW MeAnticipate Decision Barriers

Answer the following questions quickly and in writing (to engage your brain full on) for the most useful results.

  • Am I so focused on helping others make decisions that I forget to question how well I make decisions which affect my income and reputation?
  • What was behind my hesitation in the last tough decision I made?
  • Are the hesitation triggers involved in my other past difficult choices listed below?

Don’t be surprised if you can check off more than one barrier to that decision making. Simple decisions aren’t simple, after all.

Hesitation Triggers & Barriers

  • Procrastination
  • Lack of commitment to possible outcomes
  • Ignoring steps in the creative process
  • Undue pressure and arbitrary deadlines
  • Out-dated thinking, ingrained habits, and biases
  • Impatience
  • Fear, conscious and unconscious
  • Overconfidence
  • Personal agenda
  • Financial pressure
  • _____________ (What has experience revealed to me?)
  1. If I improve my decision making approach, can I think of three ways that will enable me to help clients with theirs?
  2. List three improvements to my support of client decision-making concerns which will be reflected in my bottom line.
  3. Identify three ways increased decisiveness will help me engage with prospects and clients more effectively.
  4. Select five ideas for marketing, business development, product design, or service delivery that are inspired by Hesitation Triggers & Barriers.

Do you understand that the more conscious you are of your decision-making habits, the easier it is to anticipate barriers and to achieve success for all concerned?

Re-visit this exercise in the future when faced with significant decisions to make. Compare what you did previously or “normally” with how you now anticipate decision barriers.

Additional resource: Here’s an example of how to help clients by showing them how to deal with hesitancy and negative aspects of decisiveness in the context of your work together. This article is written to help real estate buyers and the real estate professionals who serve them address this topic —”Buyers: Hesitant or Decisive?

PJ “To facilitate decision making, concentrate on shifting or transforming uninformed thinking into a constructive mindset. With the assistance of your professional expertise, guide prospects and clients so they pivot to an informed point of view.”

© 2020 PJ Wade The Catalyst  “What’s Your Point?” (2021)

Innovation: Six KickStarting Points

Innovation—which represents an invigorating kickstart—can begin from any one of Six KickStarting Points:

KickStart #1. Who?

You. Yes, you.

Rely on innovation to come from others and you won’t be receptive when an opportunity appears to you.

  • Know a lot about a subject or service? Your in-depth understanding may allow you to shift parameters or factors around for a new take on the norm. Go as far as exploring the ridiculous, impossible, or outrageous and the new mix may lead to innovation.
  • Know little about a topic or trend? Your clean-slate perspective, combined with your professional-grade comprehension of other topics, may reveal “cracks and crevices” where new ideas could take hold and flourish.

If you’ve always been a “just the facts” professional, remember, it’s never too late to innovate.

KickStart #2. Where?

Innovation may come to you from across the country, the other side of the ocean, or over the net, but the seeds of inspiration lie, often overlooked, close at hand:

  • With your prospects: Their lack of experience with you and your services, leaves them free to have high expectations and to welcome the impossible. Instead of quickly dismissing their ideas or firmly setting them straight on how things have always been done, stop and listen. Consider what they share with you and delve into how to apply their fresh perspectives.
  • With your clients: Their experience with you and your advice, has them coming back for more, but exactly, “Why?” If they’ll answer that question honestly and candidly, you may discover how and why they see things differently from you. This insight, combined with revelations of what they misunderstand or what they understand better than you do, can feed innovation on many levels from product design and branding to goal achievement—yours and theirs.

KickStart #3. What?

Does innovation need to be disruptive to make an impact? No, nor “brand new” or “unique.” Innovation may be large or small, a “lightning bolt” or a tweak, dead-on invention or fruitful mistake. When innovation is effective, it starts a chain reaction or avalanche of ideas, new behaviors, reactions…that trigger new products, expand markets, grow ventures, and expedite goal achievement.

KickStart #4. When?

Always. Stay curious and alert wherever you are and whatever’s going on. Ideas will come to you and further thought will build them into practical innovation.

  • When are you at your most creative and curious? What environments get your creative “juices” flowing? Conferences or symposiums where there’s deliberate mixing of old ideas and fresh new ones? Or is your spirit awakened by experiences widely different from work—travel, sports, museums, music….
  • Don’t just follow old patterns like restricting the search for new ideas to the start of the new year or September’s carry-over fresh start from back-to-school days. Incorporate the search for innovation opportunities into every month, week, and day until it’s your signature habit to continually explore possibilities. Innovation’s the one thing you must make time for to grow your business, earn credibility, deserve trust, and stay ahead of competition.

KickStart #5. Why?

One of the most effective creative approaches for searching out innovation is the one I call “WHY 5.” Ask “Why?” five times and answer thoroughly each time.

  1.  Ask “Why?” and thoughtfully answer this question.
  2. Then ask, “Why?” regarding this first answer.
  3. Take that thoughtful response and ask “Why?” about that answer. By the third response to your “Why?” questions, you’re beginning to dig down and reveal how much surrounding this element of service delivery or another aspect of your business is habit, mediocrity, or “we’ve always done it that way” inertia.
  4. Ask “Why?” again and you may find yourself in unexplored territory.
  5. By the last “Why?” evaluation of your fifth answer, new ideas abound.

If you don’t get this KickStart reaction, you’re not genuinely digging deep to answer each “why.” There’s no benefit without this work.

KickStart #6. How?

How will all this apply to you? What is unique about the context of your work and that of your target clients? The Five Innovation Realities shared in my article, “Ready for Essential Innovation?” will help you evaluate context, meet challenges ahead, and achieve your goals. Discover how in perspectives on innovation common to sales professionals—in this example, real estate and financial professionals—which have implications for all professional communicators or wannabes.

For more on another step forward, check out these posts:

For more on PJ’s work as The Catalyst, visit www.TheCatalyst.com

Inclusion Extends to Accessibility: “Me & We”

Is the progress of inclusion slowed by overlooking the obvious?

Inclusive workplaces, organizations, communities, and other cultures of belonging cannot be sustained in spaces, buildings, and environments which are not “inclusive” for everyone—fully accessible and barrier-free in their access, design, and construction.

Accessibility to public and private spaces and buildings should be an inclusive, universal design goal—“Me & We”—that extends intention to remove social and cultural prejudice and bias to include everyone determined to remove physical limitations and barriers.

The point is we say we welcome diversity and inclusion and that we want the full spectrum of people to come together socially, culturally, and without prejudice—inclusively. This push for inclusion means little if interior and building design and construction deliberately favor able-bodied adults and present a varying degree of obstruction to everyone, including even that privileged group.

“Accessible” is a concept directed at those with disabilities and not inclusive of the able-bodied.

Is it time to disrupt “accessibility?”

Instead of this concept concentrating on dictating disability-specific concessions to interior and building design, isn’t it time to begin with design that intends, from the beginning, to ensure everything is accessible to everyone—every age, size, ability, capacity…?

The ubiquitous barriers are there: stairs, insufficient or unreliable elevators, poor lighting, heavy doors, slippery flooring, lack of railings, threshold steps, badly-designed bathrooms, lack of seating….

The point is it’s easier for able-bodied adults to overcome, ignore, or avoid these and other access interruptions, but they are still barriers that don’t need to be designed into buildings undergoing renovations or new buildings in the first place.

This is the same “stuck in the past” thinking which gives strength to prejudice and bias which the inclusive movement must dispel. Technology continues to give us the false impression that digital capacity alone modernizes thinking and automatically overwrites destructive elements from the past.

Electrical wall outlet

Electrical wall outlet

For instance, many aspects of non-accessible building design have historic roots that are not in sync with today’s standards or norms. The height of electrical outlets is a good example. That height off the floor was not set by user needs, but the height of a hammer handle. This was the widespread measurement standard used by construction workers to quickly, easily, and consistently place electrical outlets. No tape measure needed; no reading or math knowledge required.

Trace back why hammer handles were a standard length and you’ll discover how far back and to what degree of current irrelevancy the foundation of inaccessible buildings and spaces was laid. Easy to install, but not ideal for users of any age or physical state today:

  • Small children are at comfort level with these dangerous outlets, so sticking fingers and metal objects in is tempting
  • Adults on hands and knees digging behind the couch to plug in anything, complain loudly about the inconvenience. Those with disabilities may be completely shut out.
  • Easy for workers, but perpetuated barriers for everyone else.

How do we end up with buildings that present barriers to many people, children included? Is it the definition of “people” that needs work? Is it the non-inclusive definition of “people” that causes buildings and spaces to be non-inclusive?

automatic ADA door opener

Automatic ADA door opener

Have you noticed how many people push the automatic ADA door opener buttons to have a heavy door effortlessly open for them? In most buildings I frequent, the majority of people push the button instead of struggling with heavy or germ-laden doors. This means apparently-able adults, whether or not they are carrying small children, pets, or packages, use the accessibility devise. In a number of cases, landlords and business owners have discovered that the automatic door mechanism, intended for low-volume, disabled-only use, breaks down or wears out from almost constant use. Does this mean we’re all ready for barrier-free access?

Accessibility is part of “Me & We” inclusion and vice versa. We can’t bring one into the twenty-first century without moving the other forward, too:

  • In that transformative process, there’s room for many trend-setting start-ups, applications, social media communities…. Can you see a starting point?
  • What’s next? Rename it? Brand it? Crowd source it?
  • Will the expansion of the Inclusive Accessibility Movement create the next disruption frontier?
  • Could this mark a new dividing line between the past and the truly-modern future?

Additional resources...

Inspiration Is Your Choice

How do you become inspired?

Do you associate inspiration with classic external influences like heroic deeds and nature with its spectacular sunsets and much more?

In reality, whatever your setting, environment, or context, inspiration starts within each of us.

Inspiration is a conscious awakening of creativity, problem-solving, or your special interest or thinking style to reveal otherwise overlooked or untapped potential.

Inspiration involves stimulation of mind and emotions in response to something or someone when we pay attention. Observe something, someone, or some event and react to it by opening your mind to wonder: “How can this experience be interpreted or applied in a different context or to solve a different problem?” Now you’re inspired!

Inspiration is always all around us and within us. An endless and often surprising array of things, activities, problems, or creativity abounds to act as stimulus for a wide range of inspiration.

Summits and conventions are a significant source of fast-forward inspiration for me and my clients. An invitation to attend the recent 109th Rotary International Convention held the added attraction of its theme: “Inspiration around every corner.” I joined 24,000 Rotary members from 175 countries—a mini-United Nations.

  • International big-name speakers and special projects like peacebuilding and end polio inspired many. The showcase of projects presented tradeshow-style as the House of Friendship was inspiration central for me and thousands more.
  • Large-scale events charged up many attendees, but there was inspiration all around us. A chance happening really touched me. A few hundred Nigerian Rotarians, most in native dress, spontaneously burst into their national anthem as the picture-only broadcast of a World Cup Soccer match featuring Nigeria began. Their obvious joy at singing together was only second to my amazement that they all knew all the words and sang them with gusto. Maybe helping people learn to sing their national anthem with obvious enthusiasm is a worthwhile project?
  • I learned a lot from the many Rotary members from around the world that I met. When I asked, “What inspires you about this Convention?,” they all exuberantly told me. The most common response revolved around meeting and re-meeting friends and colleagues they had worked with and stayed with around the world. The many other inspirations gave me food for thought and helped me see fresh opportunity around me and for my clients.

 

What I am reminded of time and again is that self-inspiration or training yourself to remain curious and to wonder about everything is a powerful and under-utilized skill.

Instead, of keeping your eyes on a screen where things—largely marketing—are fed to you, maintain curiosity and wonder as you move through the real world. Consciously, take this constructive stance at least part of each day and you may get hooked.

About Rotary: Rotary ( rotary.org ) brings together a global network of community leaders dedicated to tackling the world’s most pressing humanitarian challenges. We connect 1.2 million members from more than 35,000 Rotary clubs in almost every country in the world. Their service improves lives both locally and internationally, from helping those in need in their own communities to working toward a polio-free world.

Raised Your Service Standards Lately?

Professionalism materializes in client service, client satisfaction, and client results.

How would you characterize the standards by which you work and that define your brand?

Are they average? Above average? High? Very high? Exemplary? Top of the field?

How do you know which category your standards fall into?

Did you design services to fit your standards or did services evolve by chance? How do you monitor them? Are you sure you are measuring the right things?

How will you know when your standards and, therefore, your brand need improvement?

  • Ask most professionals and business owners about their business standards and they’ll tell you their standards are high or very high. I know because I’ve interviewed hundreds and hundreds of professionals, entrepreneurs, executives, business owners, and advisors. No one identified their standards as less than “high.”
  • Ask clients who observe these professionals up close how service could be improved and the clients have a lot of suggestions. They always insist they’d share these ideas with the professionals if they were asked. I’ve interviewed hundreds and hundreds of these clients, and asked them what could be done to improve service and returns—and they willingly told me.

Raising your standards essentially means competing with yourself because you know you can always do more, be better.

When you already feel successful, this is a greater challenge as complacency may override constructive curiosity, particularly when you perceive the competition as already “left in the dust.”

When it comes to service, what may be a small thing to you can be a symptom of an attitude which communicates to clients a lack of service:

  • If you don’t listen to a client, why should they listen to you? If you don’t respect a client’s opinion, why should they respect yours? Even if they stay with you, will they follow your suggestions? Will you receive all their business? Will they refer you?
  • Clients who don’t believe that the professionals they hire respect them, may not be as open about their concerns and extenuating circumstances. They may also hold back on disclosing how well-off they are for fear of being charged more. What they don’t tell the professional could compromise results. They may make only token referrals unless they receive benefits they value, which may be genuine respect.
  • If you are not from the same generation as your clients, ageism may be a factor as well. The “too young to know” and “too old to know” cross-generation reactions associated with ageism can accentuate differences of opinion and value systems. These reactions may be compounded by cultural differences and language challenges:
  1. Not listening to an idea may be an ageist brush-off or may be perceived as such even if it is not.
  2. Offering suggestions may be ageist criticism or may be perceived as such.

Recognizing exactly what you are doing and not doing, and all the implications of both, is often difficult.

That’s the invisibility of the box. Unless you hire a professional to critique you regularly, this is a task you have, consciously or unconsciously, decided to take care of yourself. How good at it are you? Mediocrity can creep in through sloppiness, poor time management skills, bad habits, insecurity, sensitivity to criticism, inflated ego, stress, and weak powers of observation.

Extreme Excellence: The New Service Model
Experience confirms that excellence in client service is simple, but that simple is not always easy.

  • You simply need to raise client expectations and, thereby, differentiate your business and services from industry stereotypes and from the competition.
  • Then, simply, unfailingly, deliver on more than clients expect, in ways that clients value, whatever happens—no excuses.

Your knowledge and experience enable you to fully envision what “excellence in client service” involves from the target clients’ point of view, online and off.

You’ve observed first-hand why constructive persistence is essential to consistently achieve high levels of excellence in a continually changing world. How do you put this awareness into action for clients?

Working to make yourself and services indispensable—making it all about you—so clients remain dependent on you for problem solving, leaves clients considering these services as an ongoing cost and the problems they address an ongoing worry. Clients don’t feel freed from the problem. They’ve just added the necessity of dealing with you. This fairly typical business approach could lead them to search out less expensive alternatives or worry-free service providers.

In contrast, the ultimate goal in 21st-Century Extreme Service Excellence should be to solve the problem so completely that you and your services are no longer necessary. Concentrate on doing such a thorough job for clients that you theoretically put yourself out of work, and you’ve hit excellence. That’s what your brand should consistently embody.

Aim to create independence for clients and you’ll make yourself invaluable to them. Your introduction of empowering choice for clients will make them committed to you and your services by choice:

  • Their comfort with you and your services will be greater than the clients’ determination to adopt do-it-myself solutions.
  • Clients feel no need to take on new responsibility and manage the situation or the problem because they have confidence in you.
  • They don’t want the job of training to anticipate the problem and stopping it before it takes hold—they’ve got you.
  • Clients take on some responsibility and work to reduce the problem, but they’re comfortable relying on you to fully resolve the situation and bring them peace of mind.

[Excerpt from “What’s Your Point? Cut The Crap, Hit The Mark & Stick!” — Chapter 10 Constructive Persistence & Branding]

Mobile-Friendly: Are You Responsive?

What message do professionals deliver when their website or blog is not mobile-friendly?

With more and more people relying on smartphones to search the net, the mobile-friendly quality of your net presence makes a vital statement.

Google-recommended Responsive Web Design is the most common method of achieving mobile-friendly web pages configured to look great on small smartphone screens and on those of other mobile devices. Responsive uses computer code that responds differently to different screen sizes, but ensures page displays remain similar and readable on any mobile device.

Sticking with a non mobile-friendly site undermines your message, value, and connection to your target users.

Can you expect target users to trust that you are net-savvy enough to successfully tap the power of the internet for targets when your own net presence is stuck in the unresponsive “desktop dark ages?”

Smartphone internet use and mobile computing continue to dominate, so mobile-friendly design is essential. In April 2015, Google announced search changes that favor mobile devices. With this and subsequent edicts, responsive shifted from a target-driven alternative to a business essential.

The internet is increasingly defined by the rising mass of mobile computing devices. Mobile phones have replaced desktop and laptop computers on many levels. Websites and blogs that are not mobile-friendly are increasingly ignored unless they have unique, highly-valued content.

Websites designed and coded for larger screens do not automatically make a graceful transition to small screens.

Your beautiful desktop-designed non-responsive website can look hideous on a smartphone. Potential viewers must do so much pinching, scrolling, zooming, and squinting, they may give up and click on a competitor’s mobile-friendly website.

If you’re not sure if your website or blog (or the competition’s) is responsive, visit it on your smartphone or use Google’s handy Mobile-Friendly Test.

If the design is not responsive, a jumbled mess will appear on a phone screen. The responsive website page will remain readable on the full range of screen sizes.

The transition to responsive involves more that recoding.

Multi-column websites and blogs, originally designed for big desktop screens, will require an overhaul. For instance, a signup form prominently positioned at the top of the right-hand column may end up at the very end of the first column so few may see it and sign up.

  • Changes in content, layout, and overall design may be necessary for the best internet presence.
  • Simplification and content re-positioning may be required to maintain desired objectives.

The time, expertise, and expense involved in transition to responsive may be daunting for some site owners.

Here are strategies to consider:

  • Prioritize: Traffic, lead generation, and e-commerce are among the key reasons for investing time and money to go responsive. For example, suppose you have a blog and a website, and your blog draws significantly more target traffic. Start with the blog and overhaul the website later. Expanding the blog and phasing out the website may be another alternative.
  • Allocation of time and resources: Create an efficient sequence for continuous updating and modernizing. Responsive design may be the latest overhaul, but it will not be the last that technology and Google dictate.
  • Analyze Don’t Just Assume: Switching to mobile-friendly may not instantly create dramatic shifts in traffic or usage statistics since so many factors are involved. Reduced bounce rates may indicate phone users find it easier to stay and read, but relevant marketing and promotion are necessary to generate a flood of new business. Determine what your selected target markets expect from your online presence before you plunge into expensive, time-consuming redesign.
  • Relevant Content Rules: If content is not top-notch and video excellent, mobile-friendly design alone will not be enough to increase traffic and usage.

If you present yourself as a tech-savvy professional or a social-media natural intent on engaging target prospects and clients on their terms, transforming your website and blog into mobile-friendly territory is essential.

Take time to decide which redesign strategy is compatible with your short- and long-term goals:

  • Nowhere Fast: Those who find little or no business comes to them over the internet may decide there is no need to redesign. (There may be a very good business case for going responsive and optimizing the site to gain traffic, leads, and referrals, but that’s another article, for another time.)
  • Halfway There: Blogs are not automatically responsive. For instance, popular WordPress(WP) accounts for almost 25% of internet activity and powers many blogs. Earlier WP blog templates or themes were not responsive. Even now, new bloggers do not have to choose responsive themes. Transforming non-responsive WordPress blogs and websites may involve switching to a responsive theme.
  • All the Way: The process of transforming a website to responsive is not as simple as switching templates. Coding changes are just the beginning. Design—including layout, fonts, images, and site navigation—will need modification to optimize smaller reading “windows.” Although going responsive may be an opportune time for a full-site overhaul of content, navigation, SEO, and all related marketing elements, a phased-in re-do or scaled-down site are other alternatives. In some cases, recreating the site as a responsive WP site may be faster and less expensive. Google suggests other ways to optimize for mobile search.
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO): Responsive design is one element in SEO which concentrates on continuous improvement of the site’s online presence. What is your SEO strategy?

If the website or blog drives your business, delaying the move to mobile-friendly may be expensive.

In this blog, we’ve been talking about communicating your value and intentions using technology. “Responsive” means much more. In both the technical and relationship sense of the word, how you manage interfaces like websites—between what you offer and what target prospects and clients value and need—is a measure of your relevance and responsiveness to them.

Target Test: Ask mobile-addicted prospects and clients what they think of your website or blog. If you hear complaints about what a pain it is, the site is non-responsive or very badly designed.

“No complaints” may be worse since it may mean users have bounced off to visit competitors.

Back to HOME… TheCatalyst.com

Social Media As Defined By Your Target

The social media that drove your business and defined your target through start-up, may not be the social media that fosters equally amazing future growth.

That’s a reality to consider before you assume it’s full steam ahead with the social media platform you built the business around. Or before something happens to the platform: it’s snapped up by a giant, algorithms are changed, or your defined target market is swept on to the next new thing.

You may be comfortable moving forward along the same social media path that has gotten you this far, but prolonged status quo rarely works in any aspect of business. For instance, the skills and knowledge that enabled you to grow your businesses through start up, are not the abilities and capabilities that facilitate mature business growth.

The choice of which social media to build services and products around should probably not have been yours in the first place. Ideally, you began by identifying the target or preferred client group or groups that would would place the highest value on what you offer, whether it is a product, software, skill training, or any other B2B or B2C product or service. Target social media preferences and usage patterns dictated yours and defined your social media.

(If you were first drawn to a new or emerging platform and then to key groups using it, you’ll still find, over time, user tastes and needs shift and changes to the platform may not favor your business.)

Which of the two classic client service patterns represents your high priority target clients?

1. “Temporary” Clients/Niche Specific:
Your product or service is valued at a specific stage, for an identifiable niche, or for short-term use. Your business is designed to continually cultivate new “waves” of clients at that same high-usage stage. Acquiring new clients is high priority. For instance, clients may only need your products or services during start-up mode for businesses or during university years for individuals. These clients remain loyal during this time and then their need or interest in the product or service ends and they move on. If their client experience with you was positive, they may refer you to your targets.

2. “Permanent” Clients/Across Niches:
Your product or service is valued over each client’s lifetime or for long-term use. Your business is designed to “permanently” retain and maintain existing clients over years or decades, if not forever. Retaining existing clients is high priority. For instance, your business takes clients through a lifetime or all the growth stages of a business. Clients remain loyal “forever.”

The social media used by “temporary” client types may be different from that which attracts “permanent” client types. At least, how they use and engage will differ even within the same platform. The difference may also lie in which combinations of social media and technology targets use.

Would your prime target client group be considered “temporary” or “permanent?”
How does their social media usage reflect this pattern?
What’s next for your clients?

Defining your target client includes knowing how to anticipate their social media needs.

Back to HOME… TheCatalyst.com

Panel How-tos: Chronic Pain Forum

With panel discussions, the whole is not always greater than the sum of the parts.

An amazing group of expert panelists needs an amazing communicator and analyst as the moderator and more time than the event is usually assigned. The most important ingredient for an amazing panel discussion is a clearly-stated topic which has the breadth to showcase panelist expertise and allow them to drill down into the subject for inspired insight. If the panel topic tries to cover “everything you every wanted to know about…” the discussion can be superficial or just ordinary.

My work and research make me a frequent and enthusiastic conference and meeting attendee. I admit that I am drawn to panel discussions because communication and the lack of it are what fascinates me. Panel-fan that I am, many panels leave me wondering more about what wasn’t said than what was.

The Best Advice for Panel Design

When you plan a panel discussion for your conference, client-appreciation event, or professional-development meeting, my advice as a panel-fan is to always apply the best advice for successful travel. Why “travel”? When panels catch fire and generate transporting edu-tainment (education combined with entertainment) for their specific audience, the experience is “mind travel” to a new exciting, even surprising place.

My advice for a transporting panel discussion is the same I give for travel: Take half as many clothes and twice as much money.

  • For your panel discussion, the “half as many clothes” will be half as many topics, subjects, and perspectives. Just as novice travelers don’t travel light, panel planners can get carried away with the brain power at their disposal and pack in every subject possible. Ready for all occurrences, just in case, can mean missing the point of the panel discussion in the conference’s context.
  • The panel discussion’s “twice as much money” does not refer to paying panelists more (usually there is little or no payment for these experts). Instead, the “money” refers to how the panel’s value—knowledge, experience, humor, and insight—materializes for the audience. When designing a panel discussion, ramp up the value to audiences. “Twice as much” is just the beginning. At business events, audiences expect to make money from what they learn and who they meet during the conference or meeting. Concentrate on how audience members can take their exposure to the panel discussion “to the bank.”

Example: Chronic Pain Forum

This Panel Discussion, presented by The Forum at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, jointly with The Huffington Post, is deliberately tackling a big subject head-on to ramp-up attention to The Chronic Pain Epidemic—attention that is long overdue.

The expertise of Forum meeting planners, panelists, and audiences will make this event matter. I’m suggesting you take a look at this event to see how subsequent panel discussions within this umbrella topic could “take half as many clothes and twice as much money” to further ramp-up attention to the issues here.
(The Epidemic’s impact on business is a topic for another post.)

Forum advance notices state: “Panelists are open to exploring relevant pain care policies, including prescription monitoring program regulations, drug development, funding for research, and a variety of pain management options, including marijuana and mindfulness meditation.”

With only one hour for the panel and diverse audiences invited, how will this talented panel rise to create value for audiences?

The Dr. Lawrence H. and Roberta Cohn Forums

THE CHRONIC PAIN EPIDEMIC: What’s to Be Done?

Presented by The Forum at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health jointly with The Huffington Post

11am ET — a brief pre-event Q&A with panelist Vaughan Rees and moderator David Freeman. Post your questions during the Q&A on Facebook.
12:30-1:30pm ET — During the one-hour panel discussion, panelists will examine how clinicians can best serve their patients, highlighting the recommendations of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ recent National Pain Strategy.

  • The Forum video will be on demand after the event.
  • Tweet @ForumHSPH #chronicpain

The Panel of Experts

Josephine Briggs, Director, National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, NIH

Anne Louise Oaklander, Associate Professor of Neurology, Harvard Medical School, and an attending neurologist, Massachusetts General Hospital

Vaughan Rees, addiction specialist and Lecturer on Social and Behavioral Sciences, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

Cindy Steinberg, National Director of Policy and Advocacy, U.S. Pain Foundation; Member, Interagency Pain Research Coordinating Committee, NIH; and Policy Council Chair, Massachusetts Pain Initiative

Moderator David Freeman is the managing editor of Impact & Innovation at The Huffington Post. He is also host of the weekly NPR radio program Science Insider.

Back to HOME… TheCatalyst.com

Expansion Demands Preparation

Q: How do you reach out globally to evaluate the potential of a country you want to target for expansion before investing heavily?

A: Find a global conference or think tank that features speakers and business experts knowledgeable about your chosen international market.

When “global” is the big issue, conference organizers will include embassy, trade, banking, and other dignitaries. This means a two- or three-day conference can place you in face-to-face contact with highly-knowledgeable, well-connected experts who are knowledgeable about the market you value for expansion.

This combined “been there, done that” expertise can save you from expensive dead-end inquires and false-starts. I known entrepreneurs who used this type of contact-rich investigation opportunity and discovered their business was not the exact match that they expected. I’ve known even more entrepreneurs who found that attending a global summit opened was like an advance screening and opened doors for them that they never knew existed. Contacts made during the conference may lead to introductions for the first country visit that amplify progress.

Intellectually-stimulating global conferences and forums allow engagement with business people who know from experience. For instance, discussions concerning the relevance of North American best practices can save a lot of time and help avoid offending cultural norms when visiting the target country. This is networking at its best—if you are prepared!

Merely showing up with a fist full of business cards or a snazzy web presence is not enough.

Preparation for global expansion involves investigating the target country, so you can articulate why this country is your best expansion choice. This preparation will enable intelligent exchanges with those who know what you do not and will help you learn how to make the right expansion match:

  • Details of population, culture, traditions, and geography are as important as legal and financial frameworks and economic policies.
  • Where politics are dramatically different, issues regarding civil rights, rule of law, and foreign (that’s you) requirements will define your project. This is where professional expertise will be essential.
  • Don’t expect others to do the thinking for you. Know what you need to know from your business’ perspective. Understand which types of professionals to search out when at the conference. Aim to discover where your thinking and knowledge may be off and how to avoid mistakes obvious to decision makers in your target country.

The more prepared you are to make your point, that is, communicate the advantages of doing business with you and your company, the luckier you’ll be.

“Chance favors the prepared mind.” — Louis Pasteur

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Entrepreneurship: What’s Your Edge?

Serial entrepreneur Tunde Kehinde’s successful mimic of Amazon astounded Africa—and many others, too. Now, he fosters entrepreneurship across the emerging African market of 1 billion…and beyond.

Dynamic entrepreneur Tunde Kehinde, with three successful start-ups to his credit and another well on the way, shared ideas on entrepreneurship and emerging markets as a speaker, panelist, and attendee at the recent Global Forum. I had the privilege of speaking with Kehinde privately to explore entrepreneurship further.

Listening to Kehinde explain his business theories and strategies, I was struck by one question: “What gives Tunde Kehinde his unique entrepreneurial edge?

The list of career highlights for this man—who has many more decades ahead—is already impressive. When matched with essential entrepreneurial skills, the list explains a lot about his serial success, but not everything…

  • Nigerian Kehinde credits his education and work experience as the foundation of his entrepreneurial success. A finance major, he earned an MBA at Harvard Business School. Hands-on experience as a business development executive with Diageo in London and as an Investment Banking professional with Wachovia Securities in North Carolina and New York City revealed the difference between theory and reality. This experience accounts for his solid foundation in analysis, quick thinking, and flexibility, but it’s only the beginning.
  • This impressive communicator has a warm, natural style and a creative command of public speaking that facilitates his delivery of his point in any context. For all these reasons, he was a popular Forum speaker. One media colleague referred to him as a “rock star” since each time he spoke, lines of attendees gathered, eager to speak with him and snap a pic. Essential communication skills and salesmanship often separate successful entrepreneurs from those who merely have a good idea, but there’s more to this.
  • Kehinde’s track record has created a credibility and momentum that makes future success almost predictable:
  1. Kehinde began by co-founding Bandeka.com, an online dating platform identified by Forbes Magazine as one of the hottest tech start-ups in Africa.
  2. Then, he saw the need for a version of Amazon that would fill infrastructure and other system gaps for Africa and Jumia.com emerged as Nigeria’s leading ecommerce platform. As Co-Founder and former Managing Director of Jumia, Kehinde helped grow the business from 5 employees to almost 1,000 to serve customers across Nigeria.
  3. Next, he emerged as the Co-Founder and Co-Managing Director of Africa Courier Express (ACE) (www.ace.ng), a technology-driven logistics platform, that enables ecommerce companies, financial institutions, and healthcare businesses to ship items directly to consumers across Nigeria. ACE shipped to almost 400,000 customers and collected payments on behalf of 1,000 merchants. ACE plans to expand across Africa.
  4. To address financial and banking barriers for ACE clients, merchants, entrepreneurs, and the growing African online middle class, Kehinde co-launched Lidya.co which offers easy, reliable, secure online access to finances.

What gives Tunde Kehinde his unique entrepreneurial edge?

When I explained to Kehinde that I had met entrepreneurs with credentials similar to his that explained his and their polished professionalism, he nodded. When I went on to say that I saw more than the sum of these parts in his ability, magnetism, and calm resolve, he smiled. When I asked, “How’d you get so smart?” He laughed and began to explain…

Acknowledging the importance of education, career opportunities, and practical start-up experience, Kehinde revealed that his parents were both entrepreneurs. The entrepreneurial mind set was ingrained in him. That’s what makes the difference for him.

That’s the key to a powerful entrepreneurial edge: a clear inner, empowering “you can do it” voice.

This inner determination is either instilled early in life or deliberately acquired later. Parents who embody entrepreneurial drive and repeat entrepreneurial sentiments to their children can be powerful role models. The resulting family environment, can make the business drive to succeed part of both conscious and unconscious thinking and decision making in the next generation.

Family is what gave Kehinde a very early start and a unique entrepreneurial edge. He’s taken it from there.

What gives you your entrepreneurial edge?

Even if your parents were not in business and never encouraged you—or, perhaps were even a discouraging force—that inner certainty came from somewhere. The more conscious you are of how your certainty arose, the more in control of it you’ll be, even in the toughest times.

For more from Tunde Kindhe…see “Harnessing the Potential of Emerging Middle-Class Markets” in “Explore New Markets At A Global Forum

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