Social Savvy Strategies for Attending a Conference

Do you have a social savvy strategy for the next conference you’re attending?

This is top of mind for me this week. I couldn’t be more excited to attend the The 2017 MAKERS Conference for women’s leadership, which starts tonight.

With the recent film Hidden Figures, I look forward to hearing from Academy Award-winning actress Octavia Spencer, pictured above, and the other luminary women and men who will be speaking.

My employer is a sponsor of the conference, and I could not be more proud. (This is where I remind readers that opinions expressed in this blog are my own.)

Here are some ideas about making the most of your conference experience in social media.

PROMOTE

How can you amplify awareness of the conference and its goals?

  • Check out the social media plan for the conference. For MAKERS, this came in a series of pre-event emails with sample messages and great content to share.
  • Know and use the relevant hashtag(s). #BEBOLD is the MAKERS hashtag. It’s perfect because it stands out in all caps and its brevity saves characters.
  • Share pre-conference information in your social networks. In the weeks leading up to the conference, I’ve shared content in Twitter and LinkedIn.

CONNECT

How can you get to know new people you can learn from?

  • Check out the attendance list in advance. If anyone already in your network is attending, you can reconnect as well as identify new people you want to meet.
  • Be active in the event app – or in a social media group. Add your picture and key info to your app profile. Send messages to people you want to meet in person.
  • Introduce yourself to 5 to 10 new people at each session. A goal to say hello to a focused number of people makes connections meaningful and manageable.

SHARE

How can you share valuable content with your social networks?

GROW

What can you do after a conference to share the learnings, increase the impact and grow the new network connections you made?

  • Share with your colleagues. Post a summary for appropriate groups in your company’s social intranet or present it in a face-to-face meeting.
  • Take one new action. Commit to doing one thing that will make a difference. My #BEBOLD action will be the subject of a future post.

How do you make the most of a conference experience in social media?

What’s Your Social Media Game in 2017?

It’s a new year. It’s time for a fresh set of goals. And it’s critical to think about them in novel and different ways.

In your professional life, how will you use social media to achieve your goals? How will you use social media to tell your story about your wins?

To start, think about how social media will change for professionals this year. Check out the post, along with Dorie ClarkAlexandra SamuelBryan Kramer and William Arruda for some fascinating ideas.

Then ask yourself these 4 questions to make your own social media game plan.

  • What are your company’s big goals? Is your CEO sharing the company strategy with employees this month or quarter? How about other C-suite leaders? Access any and all information, internal and external, about your company’s strategic plans for the year. Be clear on the top goals and the order of priority.
  • What are your team’s goals? How do the company goals translate into your department’s goals and ultimately your team’s goals? Where does your team help drive the strategy toward execution? What new and different approaches can you and your team try this year?
  • What are your professional goals? How do your team goals translate into your own professional goals? What do you need to accomplish this year? What stretch assignments do you want to tackle? On the development side, what do you want or need to learn? How will you accomplish that?
  • How will use use social media to achieve your goals and tell your story? Does social media play a role in achieving your goals? If it hasn’t before, could you incorporate it this year? When you achieve goals, how will you use social media to tell your story? What conferences are you attending? Where are you speaking? What are you blogging?

At this point, focus on “what” your goals will be. Don’t worry about the “how” at this point.

Why?

If you’re not sure about how to execute a goal, that can stand in the way of setting it in the first place. And just because you don’t exactly know how to do it, that doesn’t mean it can’t be done.

You’ve probably had many “first times” in your career. What did you do when your boss asked you to take on a new project, something you’d never done before? You can reflect on and use those experiences in the same way when you get to the “how” part of actually accomplishing your goals.

A former boss came to me some years ago and said the CEO wanted to do an employee engagement survey. My boss asked me to lead it.

That was beyond my role at the time as a corporate communications leader. There was a moment of terror, but after a few minutes it sounded like a fascinating project.

In thinking through the “how,” I realized I could build on the communications-related surveying I’d done, engage with experts and partners, create a team, map out a plan, execute it, learn and adjust as we went.

With so much information available online, you can research any topic and come up with ideas. Being able to figure it out is a skill that becomes more important every day.

I’m ever inspired by a talk that business leader Mark Cuban gave at my employer’s headquarters many years ago.

Most striking were his words about client meetings and commitments. A client would ask for something, and the group would agree it would be delivered the next day.

Later, Mark and his colleagues would look at each other and say they had no idea how to do what they’d just committed to. But they had all night to figure it out. And figure it out, they did. Time and time again.

If they could do it, so could I. And so can you.

For now, take some time to set your social media goals for the year.

Here are mine:

  • Amplify my employer’s social media strategy through its Social Circle, by sharing 3 posts each week.
  • Share appropriate highlights of my work in social media, by posting something at least 2 times a month.
  • Learn about how social media is changing and evolving, by listening to 5 podcasts each week during drive time.
  • Help others by sharing and commenting on their valuable content, at least 3 times a week.

Each goal is measurable, with a number attached to it. As the year goes on, I’ll assess if this is the right frequency or if tweaks need to be made.

None of my goals have anything to do with followers. In part that’s because I can’t completely control those numbers. Sure, the goals I’m pursuing are likely to attract followers. But I’m focused on actions I can 100% control on my own.

Here I’m influenced by Gary V‘s ideas on Building a Personal Brand, a Udemy course I finished today. One of the biggest takeaways? “Consistency almost trumps everything,” Gary says.

Another pearl from Gary? This one is for combating fear of failure: “Spend all your time in the in-between space, the time between starting and stopping.”

What’s your social media game plan for the year?

Don’t worry yet about the “how” of making it happen. “How” will be the subject of many future posts.

What’s Driving the Future of PR and Communications

What does the future hold for PR and communications? Check out the Relevance Report.

New from the USC Center for Public Relations this month, it’s full of innovative ideas on what’s ahead.

Global. Mobile. Video. Data. Emotion. These are just a few of the trend areas accelerating in the year ahead.

The biggest learning for me? It’s the parallel and seemingly paradoxical rise of data and emotion as drivers of influence. Data drives better decision making, while emotion is a prime influencer of people’s opinions and behaviors.

Find out more in my latest blog post on the USC Annenberg Alumni website.

It’s about what you’ll learn in this insightful report, with nuggets of wisdom from Annenberg’s Bob Feldman and Heather Rim as well as Pulitzer Prize-winning author Thomas Friedman.

The post is part of being a proud Annenberg Alumni Ambassador this school year. It’s a thrill to share the best of this distinguished school for communication and journalism.

The Relevance Report gives timely insight into trends that will impact society, business and communications. It features thought pieces from communications leaders who identify the issues, ideas and innovations that will be relevant to the communications industry in 2017.

10 Tips for a Perfect Podcast

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Podcasts are a powerful way to share your story.

But what exactly is a podcast?

It’s “a digital audio or video file or recording, usually part of a themed series, that can be downloaded from a website to a media player or computer,” says Dictionary.com

Podcasts are taking off. From 2015 to 2016, podcast listening was up by 23%, Jay Baer reported from Edison Research‘s work.

What’s driving the growth? People enjoy greater mobility with smartphones and tablets, Baer says, rather than being tethered to a laptop. Podcasts are easy to listen to on the go.

This is why podcasts have become part of my own personal learning plan and drive-time strategy. Although I’m lucky by Los Angeles traffic standards, I spend more than 60 minutes commuting each day.

That’s a perfect chunk of time for learning. And with lifelong learning being both a pleasure and an imperative, what better time to listen to a podcast?

Data analytics and social media are at the top of my learning agenda. I’ve been enjoying FiveThirtyEight, Freakonomics and Social Pros.

It’s easy to get started. Just search topics of interest on iTunes, download your favorites and start listening.

My work colleague Doug Magditch first got me thinking about podcasts. He invited me to be in his Life at AT&T series, one of his Corporate Communications initiatives.

(This is where I note that opinions expressed here are my own.)

Doug’s conversations with colleagues show how employees are delivering on the company’s mission to connect people with their world – everywhere they live, work and play.

With a degree in mass media, Doug began his career as a reporter and multimedia journalist. His creative skills as a storyteller, his editing skills weaving together a narrative and his on-air presence make Life at AT&T a hit.

He invited Eliska Paratore, Joan Marsh and me to share what it’s like to be a woman in a leadership role at the company. Timing it with election season, he framed it as hearing about leadership “from the veeps.”

This was my first experience with a podcast, and I learned a lot in the process. Here are 10 tips for a perfect podcast.

BEFORE

What’s the best way to prepare for a podcast? Become familiar with the format and give yourself plenty of interesting material to work. This helps with responding naturally and spontaneously during the recording session.

  • Listen to previous podcasts in the series. Understand how the format works. Identify what worked well and what you’d like to emulate.
  • Talk with others who’ve been featured. See what previous participants recommend for preparation. This is a step I wish I’d taken.
  • Think about the subject and what you want to say about it. Brainstorm and jot down ideas. Then narrow the focus to 3 key messages.
  • Gather ideas, anecdotes and data. Chose those that support your key messages. Look for ones that add interest and provide credibility.

DURING

Many of these tips came from listening to myself after the podcast came out and thinking about what I could do better next time.

  • Relax and have fun. Conversations are fun and sharing expertise is fun. Recording a podcast should be the same.
  • Stand up. The advice for standing up during a phone call to give your voice more energy translates well to a podcast recording. People sound more confident when they stand.
  • Use short sentences. This will help your listeners get your key points, not to mention making the editing process much easier.

AFTER

  • Promote your podcast. Tell your social communities about it and why they’d be interested in hearing it. In my case, that meant sharing the podcast in LinkedIn and  Twitter, including retweeting Doug.

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This was easy, thanks to our company’s Social Circle. It provides great content about our brand, ready for sharing by interested employees in their personal social networks.

Inside the company, employees commented on the podcast in an internal social space. When the podcast was released, I visited the page a few times a day to read comments, like and respond to some, and bring additional colleagues into the conversation.

If you’ve recorded a podcast, what worked for you? And what podcasts do you recommend?

Don’t Ditch Social Media

Four friends checking their mobile phones at the same time.

Social media got a bad rap during this year’s election process.

Fake news, Twitter trolls and cyber bullying came under fire.

Among American social media users, the Pew Research Center reported that 65% expressed “resignation and frustration about online political conversations.”

It’s enough to make anyone want to quit social media for good.

But don’t do that.

Why?

Because of your 100-year life.

What’s that about, you ask?

Well, more than half of babies born in developed nations in the 2000s can expect live to 100 or beyond, according to the medical journal The Lancet. And if you were born before then, your life will likely be a lot longer than you think.

A new book called The 100-Year Life: Living and Working in an Age of Longevity got me thinking about this.

Authors Lynda Gratton and Andrew Scott are from the London Business School. They look at how anyone at any age can and should plan for their greater life expectancy, turning the extra time into “a gift and not a curse.”

When lives were shorter, people lived a three-stage life – education, work and retirement. These stages were compartments that didn’t overlap.

As early as 1978, Richard Bolles wrote about them in The Three Boxes of Life and How to Get Out of Them: An Introduction to Work/Life Planning. He advanced the idea that you needed to incorporate all three stages across your entire life.

He also wrote What Color is Your Parachute? It was chosen as one of the 100 All-TIME best and most influential non-fiction books published since 1923.

With how quickly the world is changing, Bolles’ advice was and is spot on.

  • We need to embrace lifelong learning, actively developing new skills as technology and globalization accelerate.
  • We need productive work to provide purpose, meaning and economic sustenance throughout our lives.
  • And we need leisure time to enjoy our lives and the people in them, and to refresh and renew ourselves.

Gratton and Scott explore this concept in writing about the interplay between tangible and intangible assets. They define an asset as “something that can provide a flow of benefits over several periods of time.”

Tangible assets “have a physical existence” and include things like housing, cash and investments. Intangible assets are things like “a supportive family, great friends, strong skills and knowledge, and good physical and mental health.”

The authors say that intangible assets are “key to a long and productive life – both as an end in themselves and also as in input into tangible assets.” They divide them into three categories of assets – productive, vitality and transformational.

One of these intangibles – a productive asset along with skills, knowledge and peers – is your reputation. “When a company has a positive brand, or a person has a good reputation, it is much easier for others to interact with them,” the authors say.

“A good reputation can be enormously important as it enables your valuable stocks of skills and knowledge to be really utilized in a productive way,” they continue. “It can also have a profound impact on your professional social capital.”

Why? “A good reputation will be one of the assets that enable you to expand your horizons,” the authors say. “It is the combination of portable skills and knowledge and a good reputation that will help bridge into new fields.”

They go on to write that “over the coming decades, it is likely that reputation will be based on a broader range of inputs. As future careers embrace more stages and more transitions, then inevitably this will create a broader range of information.”

Enter social media.

“Social media will increasingly broadcast your image and values to others and allow others to track and monitor performance,” they say. “So it is inevitable that you will need to curate a brand and reputation the covers far more than just your professional behavior.”

Everyone will need to signal their skills, their capabilities and their values during a longer life that potentially has multiple transitions. And transitions can take many forms – from one functional area to another, from one company to another and from one type of work to another.

Social media makes it easy to do this.

Over time, you can share your skills and abilities through many platforms – a Twitter feed, a YouTube channel, an Instagram stream, a LinkedIn portfolio, a Snapchat story or a personal blog. And these platforms will continue to change and evolve, with new ones emerging over time.

If you want to make your life’s transitions easier and more fulfilling, then social media is a must. And this doesn’t mean being on a few platforms to share photos with family and friends. A deliberate strategy and a plan for your personal brand in social media is imperative.

But where do you begin? Which social media platforms should you use? How do you curate and create content without it taking over your whole life?

Those will be the subjects of several upcoming posts.

What If?

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Have you ever spent a day trying not to cry?

For me, there are always moments that prompt tears. Our national anthem at a school event. The doxology at church (with the gender-neutral, more inclusive lyrics for me). Pomp and Circumstance at a graduation ceremony.

Thank goodness for sunglasses. Because one of the last things I want to do is reveal my emotions in public.

After this week’s experience, though, I wonder if that’s because I go to extremes to avoid being labeled as an emotional woman.

But it may be pointless to try, because as a woman I’m going to be labeled anyway. And I can’t control that.

I can only control my own thoughts and my own actions. And there’s power in that.

What made me want to cry for an entire day this week? None other than the TEDWomen 2016 conference. Phenomenal speakers with ideas worth sharing took the stage, with the theme of “it’s about time.”

I was drawn to TED for many reasons. As a communicator. As a lover of ideas. As someone profoundly saddened by our national conversations – on race, on religion, on gender, on guns, on others. 

As in, people who don’t share the same worldview. People who can’t or won’t listen to each because they’re so busy screaming about how the other group is wrong. And not even wrong, but deluded, dumb and not deserving. Of a voice. Of dignity. Of empathy.

What if our conversations in the world could be more like what I saw, heard and felt on the TED stage?

  • A famous singer talked about channeling her pain from the abusive household where she grew up into her music.
  • An actress shared how she fought back against cyberbullying and violence.
  • A couple who work to improve a Nairobi slum spoke of the randomness of how privilege or poverty are bestowed.
  • A journalist and author talked about the death threats she received when she came out as a lesbian.
  • A rape survivor and the perpetrator shared the stage and their agonizing experiences.

Throughout each electrifying talk, a common question emerged: what can I do?

What if I made it a point to seek out different points of view? To listen to a different newscast or podcast. To get out of my social media stream and hear different voices. To seek out people with more diverse backgrounds and life experiences.

What if I spoke up more forcefully to inappropriate comments? The next time someone says something offensive about another group of people, I will ask why they think that and why they would say that.

What if I was more curious about people and their stories? What has their journey through life been like? What experiences shaped them? What do they struggle with? What brings them joy?

What if I used every means of power available to me for good? How can I encourage people to reach higher? How can I help people expand their networks? How can I empower people to open doors to more opportunity?

What if I took action? While I don’t know exactly what that is yet, I do know it starts with better educating myself on multiple perspectives about what’s going on in the world. Kimberle Crenshaw‘s eye-opening #SayHerName is where I’ll start.

Hearing from so many inspiring people reminded me that each of us can make a difference in the lives of others, every day.

As Kennedy Odede said during his talk with Jessica Posner Odede, “We can’t walk in each other’s shoes, but we can walk together.”

Who are you walking with?

Is Everyone Faking It?

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Yes, everyone is making it up as they go along.

And that means you can, too, as you work toward your biggest goals.

I’ll tell you why in my post on the USC Annenberg Alumni website.

I’m a proud Annenberg Alumni Ambassador this year, sharing all the best of this distinguished school for communication and journalism.

Some of my fellow ambassadors, pictured below, were featured alums at the Annenberg NETworks event this fall with students and recent grads.

What a fun evening it was, full of interesting people and fascinating conversations.

#FightOn!

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Cut Email Time in Half with this Simple Trick

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Need a simple hack to motivate yourself to slog through your email backlog?

Here’s a great one from author and Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Charles Duhigg: as fast as you can, write a one-sentence reply to each message.

But don’t send them right away.

Just read and write a sentence in response that “expresses an opinion or decision.”

And if you can exercise control over the situation in your response, you’ll be more motivated to continue, Duhigg says in his book Smarter Faster Better.

Then you can can go back into your draft messages and add the rest of each message – salutations, specifics and signoffs.

This is a terrific example of two ways Duhigg says you can generate motivation.

The first is to “make a choice that puts you in control.” And “the specific choice itself matters less in sparking motivation than the assertion of control.”

The second is to “figure out how this task is connected to something you care about.” If you can “explain why this matters, then you’ll find it easier to start.”

Duhigg’s book is full of fascinating science behind motivation, teams, focus, goal setting, managing others, decision making, innovation and absorbing data.

You’ll learn “the secrets of being productive in life and business” – not only for yourself, but also for your colleagues and your kids.

If you’re looking for an interesting and insightful summer read, this is one to download on your mobile device or pack in your beach bag.

3 Ways to Push through Fear

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Here be dragons.

It’s been more than 500 years since Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo was the first European explorer to navigate the coast of what’s now California.

Yet dragons in the form of swells and currents confronted me every time I went stand-up paddle boarding this spring and contemplated venturing beyond the marina.

The conditions were never right. Or at least that’s what I told myself. The waves were too big. There were too many big boats coming and going. I didn’t know how to navigate the open ocean.

Yes, as a kid I’d made it though the shark level of YMCA swim classes. I still remember the trauma of having to do a back dive to pass one of the classes. And yes, time proved that I was correct that I’d never, ever again need to know how to execute a back dive.

But fast forwarding to the present day, it was getting a little boring paddling around the Redondo Beach marina, as scenic as it is. I mean, how many laps can you paddle back and forth past the sea lion barge before you want to venture further and try something new?

So my husband and I decided on a three-pronged approach. We’d take another lesson to get some coaching. We’d go in the early morning, when the water was calmer. And we’d be prepared to fail – in this case, to fall off our boards.

Here are three things I learned from this today.

  • Take the counterintuitive approach and relax. This is similar to when your car skids and you need resist slamming on the brakes. Instead, you should just lift your foot off the accelerator and steer into the skid. It’s not the intuitive approach.

“Paddle boarding is a weather sport,” our instructor from Tarsan Stand Up Paddle Boarding reminded us. So you have to go with the conditions. Move with the water. Stay relaxed.

And that’s the last thing I wanted to do. But breathing, focusing and staying in the moment helped. Before we knew it, we were past the small swells at the breakwater and out into the ocean. We did it. Amazing!

  • Try something, see how it works and adjust the approach on the fly. Our instructor gave us a few strategies. Stay low, with your knees bent. Kneel on your board if you have to. The paddle is a great stabilizer, plus it floats (who knew?). And think of your paddle as an extension of your arm.

Try leaning left. Leaning right. Padding straight into and over the swells. Wiggling toes when they go to sleep. Trying something to see what happens. Adjusting the approach as needed.

  • Go further every time. The best way to make progress is to keep pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone. Just try something new and see what happens.

It doesn’t matter if it’s your career, your family or your hobbies. More often than not, it will be like today – much easier that anticipated (or dreaded, in my case) and a whole lot of fun.

And who wouldn’t like more fun in their life?

Speak Effortlessly with a Compelling Opening

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Thrill your audience. Spark engagement with your ideas. Transform people’s views of the world.

That’s the promise of TED Talks: The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking, out this month by TED curator Chris Anderson.

And it’s also the new bar in public speaking. It’s no longer acceptable to under prepare, to meander or to bore your audience.

With so many people taking in a steady diet of TED talks to enlighten, educate and entertain themselves, the bar is sky high for anyone who speaks in public.

It doesn’t matter if it’s a keynote speech for an audience of a thousand or a tabletop presentation to your colleagues. Using the strategies in TED Talks will help spread your ideas.

Elements have come in handy for me in everything from town hall meetings and operations reviews at work to city committee meetings and inspirational talks in my community. Not to mention a decade of writing speeches and presentations for C-level corporate leaders.

Speaking effortlessly ties into my recent posts on grit and on sprezzatura, the art of making the difficult seem easy. In his book, Chris Anderson does a terrific job of outlining the hard work it takes behind the scenes to give a compelling talk. One that might change the world.

Take openings, for example. You have to grab people from the very first sentence. The opening words or a talk are similar to the way you need to think about headlines, subject lines and the first line of an email message. You only get a few words to pique people’s interest, or cause them to tune out.

This month I was presenting to a live and web-based audience in a town hall meeting. The topic? Our team’s annual scorecard – the priorities, initiatives, metrics and targets we’re striving for this year.

It had the potential to be boring. How to capture people’s attention? For that, I turned to the chapter on “Open and Close: What Kind of Impression Would you Like to Make?”

According to Anderson, “you have about a minute to intrigue people with what you’ll be saying.” He encourages readers to “script and memorize the opening minute.”

Here are 4 ways he offers to start strong:

  • Deliver a dose of drama. Anderson suggests asking yourself, “If your talk were a movie or a novel, how would it start?”
  • Ignite curiosity. Here you can ask a surprising question or give a little illustration that piques an interest to hear more.
  • Show a compelling slide, video or object. These capture even more attention when you reveal something surprising about them.
  • Tease, but don’t give it away. “Channel your inner Spielberg” and imagine what will make your audience want to learn more.

So how did I start my scorecard talk? My current work focuses on metrics and measurement. But numbers alone wouldn’t engage or inspire my colleagues.

I thought about how to link it with our bigger purpose. At our annual leadership kickoff meeting, our technology leader talked about the magic our team creates every day in marketing a storied, nearly 140-year-old company.

And there it was – the dramatic contrast of measuring magic.

“If you think you can’t measure magic,” I began, “I’m here to show you how we’ll do just that.”

Yes, the opening may have given too much away. But when a few people mentioned the magic reference to me later that day, I knew it had been a good way to start.

Equally important is how you close. And everything you do in between. I’ll explore those in future posts.

For a spine-tingling close, check out Brené Brown in her TED talk, The power of vulnerability.