10 Slides for a Great Investment Pitch Deck

Monday Motivators | Infographics

Check out our infographic that outlines a basic structure for a short, 10 slide pitch deck to get your startup in front of investors!

 

10 Slides for a Great Investment Pitch Deck | The Change Starter | Investment Pitch Presentation Service

3 barriers to achievement, and what you can do about them today

The Change Starter | Business Communications Strategies | 3 barriers to achievement, and what you can do about them today

We’re all a lot more capable than we often give ourselves credit for. Every day, I work with people who want help to achieve their goals, both personally and professionally. Some of them want to take their business to the next stage of growth; others come to me because they’re essentially ‘stuck’ in their current ‘status quo’, and aren’t sure what to do next. From my experience of providing coaching and business advisory, I’ve identified three key problems that are holding us all back; and the simple actions you can take today to help get yourself ‘unstuck’, and move yourself forward to achieving your goals.

PROBLEM #1: AMBIGUITY. It’s much harder to know how to articulate what you want to achieve than it is to talk about what you don’t want. Consequently, people spend more time talking about what they don’t want (the negative), than what they do want (the positive); which further confirms the negative state in which they can (easily) continue to exist.

PROBLEM #2: TIME. Not lack of time, but how you spend your time. Generally, I find that people have not aligned their time with their goals, even though they think they have. Often, when they are made aware of this misalignment, they realise that some simple adjustments to their time management can help them achieve real progress towards their goals. I plant this question in a coachee’s mind; “Is what you’re doing right now, helping you to progress your goals?” If the answer is ‘no’, then read on!

PROBLEM #3: MOTIVATION. It’s not that you aren’t motivated, it’s that you’re so motivated, you can’t see past your excitement and desire to get to the end point. Many people have all the motivation and ideas in the world, but they become overwhelmed at the first task, and find themselves not knowing where to start.

Here are 3 simple ways to help you get ‘unstuck’, and move forward.

SOLUTION #1: ARTICULATE WHAT YOU WANT TO ACHIEVE

I bet you can easily tell me what you don’t want. You can even talk about what you don’t want for hours at a time (we call this ‘letting off steam’), but I bet you can’t easily tell me what you do want, not in a succinct, measurable, realistic and actionable manner anyway. Not many people can. In short, you’re lacking clarity of your authentic goals and what it is you want to do about the thing that gets you revv’d up and makes you feel extremely motivated. So, how can you get rid of this ambiguity? Try this exercise.

  • Switch off all electronic devices and sit down at a clean desk with no distraction, two sheets of blank paper, and a pen (you must use a pen, not a keyboard!).
  • Now write. Just write down everything that’s on your mind. Everything that’s driving you crazy, keeping you awake at night, bothering you, worrying you, annoying you, draining you. Write down everything that you don’t want anymore. Ignore spelling and grammar mistakes, and don’t allow yourself to stop.
  • Keep writing until you have filled at least 3 sides of the paper. If you can easily fill the 3 sides, then write a 4th.
  • Now, take a 5 minute break – make a coffee, walk around the block, whatever you need to do to clear your mind from what you’ve just written.
  • Come back to your desk and take a blank sheet of paper. Now, write down what you DO want. You will find yourself much more able to write it down now that you have cleared your mind of all the clutter that’s been bothering you. The exercise you’ve undertaken has enabled you to open up the part of your brain that creates ideas and certainty.
  • Now share it with the people around you. Be bold! Be confident about what you want out of life! Why not take a leap of faith and share it in the comments below?

SOLUTION #2: RE-DISTRIBUTE & ASSIGN YOUR TIME

Now you’re clear on what you want, you’ll need to assign some time to making it happen. When was the last time you stopped to assess how you are spending your time right now? You might be surprised just how many people don’t plan their time out, meaning they never get the day-to-day things ‘finished’, and constantly find themselves complaining that that they don’t have time to achieve their bigger picture, long-term goals. They end in a status quo of; “I’ll work on that next month”, or “I’ll get to it at the weekend”. Of course, the weekend and next month come and go, and still no time has been assigned or spent on their goals. So, even if you don’t suffer from ambiguity of your goals, you still won’t get very far if you’re directing your attention elsewhere. When you direct your determination at what you do want, rather than at what you don’t want, magic happens! Try this system for assigning your time.

  • Firstly, decide if you’re a ‘horizontal’ or a ‘vertical’ person! Horizontal people like to assign a little bit of time each day to multiple things they want to achieve. For example, an hour each day to work on creating content, 3hrs of client work, 1hr of business admin etc. Vertical people prefer to assign big blocks of time to focus on specific areas. For example, Tuesdays are for meetings etc., Fridays are ‘blue sky’ days. There are pros and cons for each, and I can spend some time on this in another article, if anyone is interested to hear more!
  • Once you’ve decided, then develop a colour-coding system for your calendar and group into no more than 5 focus areas; or categories of what needs to be worked on to achieve your goals. For example:
  1. Long-term goals progress & planning
  2. Client work
  3. Business administration & finances
  4. ‘Me’ time
  5. Pipeline & Networking
  • You can even assign a percentage split to each, in order to ensure you are spending ‘enough’ time in each area. If you want to get really smart about it, then get your Accountant to align it back to ‘the numbers’ too!
  • Now assign your time. Not just the actual meetings, but every single hour of your life! Assign it, and then stick to it.

SOLUTION#3: STOP TRYING TO MOTIVATE YOURSELF

Everyone knows that motivation is one of the keys to achievement. If we’re not spurred on to get something done, we simply won’t. But the problem comes when we try to motivate ourselves. How many times have you woken up with a sudden rush of motivation to take action and turn a goal into a reality; only to find yourself very quickly overwhelmed at the thought of the time investment, or financial investment, or the complexities of the process. Suddenly it all just seems ‘too hard’, and then what happens? You don’t know where, or how, to start.

Not knowing where to start is largely due to the first problems outlined; but it’s also often due to the fact that people don’t commit to their goals, partly because they have already decided sub-consciously that they won’t be able to achieve them. That’s where the visious circle of overthinking begins, and often quickly ends the potential you had for achievement.

There are only ever three reasons people give for not (yet) achieving their goals (or tasks); lack of time, lack of money, or lack of some other kind of resource, usually related to overall self-confidence, or a lack thereof. Once we allow these ‘reasons’ to take hold of us, we often create a vicious circle where we tell ourselves; “I don’t have the time to work on this right now, and I can’t afford to get someone to help me with it”. Once the time becomes available, then the perceived lack of resource creeps in; “I’m too tired to work on this right now”, “I can’t start this until I’ve done another thing”, “I don’t know how to do this, maybe I can’t”. And on we go. Why don’t we give ourselves a break?! Try this for size.

  • Firstly, be honest with yourself and identify the excuse you’re using for not achieving a specific goal. If it’s not a lack of time, or money, then it’s likely about a deep-rooted lack of self-confidence. Let’s just shut that down now, shall we? Because you can do it. You already have all the resources you need; I promise.
  • Now, make an actual step-by-step written plan of how to achieve your goal.
  • If you think you don’t know the steps, use the resources you have around you to discover the answers – Google it, ask a friend, quiz a colleague, pick the brains of your mentor, read the book of someone who has ‘been there and done that’; ask yourself; who has already achieved this, or something similar? What did they do to achieve the goal?
  • Now share it with someone you trust who can help to motivate with an encouraging voice – someone who’ll be in your corner for the fight ahead. Often a mentor, coach or business advisor is the very person who can be your sounding board and your motivator all rolled into one. They will always have your back, especially during those times when you don’t even have your own!

In summary, get clear on what you want to achieve, actively make the time and priority for it, share the plan, and the burden with someone who believes in you.

Why are you still here? Go forth and achieve! Thanks for reading, let me know what you thought in the comments below.

Top 10 Social Media Platforms By Audience

Monday Motivators | Infographics

Social media remains one of the core platforms for small businesses to reach a mass audience at a relatively minimal cost. One of the keys to gaining traction is to choose the right mix of platforms to enage your specific target audience. It’s a handy starting point to know just how many people are using the platforms you choose. That said, remember that whilst audience numbers are important; it’s your ability to engage the right audience by segmenting, targeting, and tailoring your content to them that’s going to help you win the social game!

Below you can see an infographic of the Top 10 Social Media Platforms by Audience with the latest numbers from June 2017.

Top 10 Social Media Platforms by Audience | Infographic | The Change Starter

And here’s the full list.

Social Media Statistics Australia – June 2017

1. Facebook – 17,000,000 Monthly Active Australian Users (steady)
2. YouTube – 15,400,000 UAVs
3. WordPress.com – 5,400,000
4. Instagram – 5,000,000 Monthly Active Australian Users (FB/ Instagram data)
5. Snapchat – 4,000,000 DAILY Active Australian Users (Snapchat data)
6. LinkedIn – 4,000,000 Monthly Active Australian Users approx
7. Tumblr – 3,800,000
8. WhatsApp – 3,100,000 Active Australian Users (30% increase since 2015)
9. Twitter – 3,000,000 Monthly Active Australian Users approx
10. TripAdvisor – 2,600,000
11. Tinder – 2,500,000 Australian users (my estimation)
12. WeChat – 2,000,000 Monthly Active Australian Users approx – (estimation)
14. Yelp – 1,500,000
13. Blogspot- 1,400,000
15. Flickr – 480,000
16. Pinterest – 280,000
17. Reddit – 100,000
18. MySpace – 80,000
19. Google Plus – 60,000 Monthly active Australian users approx – (my estimation)
20. RenRen – 50,000 Monthly Active Australian Users approx – (my estimation)
21. StumbleUpon – 39,000
22. Weibo – 20,000 Monthly Active Australian Users approx – (my estimation)
23. Foursquare/Swarm – 11,000
24. Digg – 10,000
25. Periscope – 9,000
26. Delicious – 7,000

(All figures represent the number of Unique Australian Visitors [UAVs] to that website over the monthly period – unless otherwise stated above. Facebook Data includes users of desktop, mobile, application and messenger services).

Please note that this content comes from https://www.socialmedianews.com.au/social-media-statistics-australia-june-2017/. Their stats source is: Vivid Social – Social Media Agency. No copyright infringement intended.

Top 3 Ways To Improve Your Communication

Top 3 Tips To Improve Your Communication | The Change Starter

Effective communication is probably the most important tool we have to succeed in life, yet especially in today’s digital world, we are often quite lazy about it. For improved communication that starts today, check out our 3 top tips to help you communicate more effectively.

 1. Listen, Listen, Listen (no, really)

The first, and most important factor for improving your communication is to learn to listen. It might sound silly; ‘I do listen’, I hear you protest. But do you? Do you really listen actively to what another person is communicating to you? Do you let the other person talk without interrupting them? It’s not easy to do this all the time, but with practice it becomes a more natural approach to how you communicate.

Silence is the most powerful way to communicate with someone, and great communication includes more listening than anything else!

Have you ever had a ‘conversation’ with someone who needed to get something off their chest? They talk and talk, and you do nothing but sit there in silence listening as they let it all go. After they finish, they’ll thank you for listening. And, they’ll walk away from that conversation having gained much more self-awareness and insight into their current issue, than if you had continuously responded to the talk. Meanwhile, you’re left wondering what you did right?!

Give it a try today by making a conscious decision not to respond to the people around you until they have completely finished talking. Leave three seconds (which will seem like a life time) at the end of their speech, before you talk yourself. See how you go. The need NOT to respond verbally to someone is incredibly empowering for both them, and you.

2. Reflect The Other Person’s Statements in Question Form

Checking, clarifying and re-stating are the strongest ways to demonstrate that you are not only listening to the other person, but that you are understanding and seeking to understand them too. It also helps you to maintain your listening.

So, once someone finishes their paragraph and speech, and after you’ve given the conversation the three seconds of space we discussed in point 1; reflect their statement back to them. For example, an employee explains a situation whereby a customer has made a complaint and requires a refund. You listen to the explanation, leave three seconds, then you say; “so, the customer has requested a refund to resolve this, is that right?”; or; “let me make sure I’ve understood this correctly. You’re saying that the customer has requested a refund, is that right?”. Note that in both instances, the reflection ends with a question back to the other person to double-check you are correctly stating, and therefore understanding, the essence of their communication. Once you have reflected your understanding of their statement, and sought clarification or confirmation of the situation, you can then move confidently onto the solution and next steps.

3. Tailor Your Message To Your Audience

Your communication will be most effective if you tailor and adjust it to the person with whom you are communicating. To do this most effectively, you need to put yourself in the shoes of the other person. By looking at a situation from their point of view, you can build insight and knowledge about what is going to be the most persuasive way to get your point across. Developing a strong sense of empathy is key to this, as it helps you to experience what the other person is going through. We always have a personal motivation in anything we do, so even when your job is to convince someone to do business with you; you need to identify the personal motivation that person has, and what they really want. If you can demonstrate that you understand things from their perspective, and have solutions that align with their sense of the world, then your communication will thrive!

Need more help? Try our Kick-starters series on listening, and other aspects of effective communication! Shop now.

 

Is Your Body Trying To Tell You Something?

Monday Motivators | Infographics

Get to know what your body is telling you, and how it deals with stress – physically, behaviourally, emotionally, and mentally.

Do Your Batteries Need A Re-charge? | The effects of stress infographic

The body is very good at communicating, especially when something is wrong. Stress can be debilitating, especially for business owners who need to stay fit and healthy to best serve their clients and maintain the rollercoaster ride of running a business.

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it could be your body trying to tell you that it’s time to take a break, or slow down! Get to know the signs, and act accordingly! Don’t let stress get the better of you!

Secrets of Success

Secrets of Success | Woman on Grass with Laptop

When it was discovered that people with an average IQ outperform those with the highest IQs 70% of the time; we were all a little taken aback. How could it be that the age-old acknowledgement that the ‘cleverer’ you are, the more successful you’ll become, could now not be the case? The coaching and personal development world found itself shaken to the core!

Luckily, research is now on hand to fill the void, and answer the question we thought we had already answered; What is the critical factor that sets high achievers apart from the rest of the pack? The answer? Emotional Intelligence aka ‘EQ’. In fact, research by Talentsmart shows that 90% of top performers have a high EQ.

EQ is about how we focus our energy to achieve a result. For the first time, we can acknowledge that having the intellectual capacity to take on a task doesn’t mean you have the skills required to succeed in its execution.

So, the good news is that for the first time in history, we are able to start controlling our ability to succeed just by taking control of how we manage our communication with ourselves (intrapersonal), and with those around us (interpersonal). The bad (?) news is that were can no longer use the excuse that we ‘just aren’t clever enough’!

And whilst we can’t do too much to improve our IQ (unless you have the EQ to make it happen!), we can do a lot to improve our EQ. Great news for all!

Below is a framework showing the core skills that make up EQ. The third area of awareness in our opinion is Extrapersonal Awareness – how well you communicate and manage technology. Where are the areas that you can improve and grow?

EQ Awareness & Behaviours

Intrapersonal Awareness is related to how you communicate with yourself. It is the ability to respond logically and rationally without a tendency to emotional reaction. Under pressure, the ability to use your self-awareness to remain calm, positive and adaptable is key to how high an EQ you demonstrate.

  • How well do you control and manage your intrapersonal communication so as to garner an appropriate behavioural response? Do you react to situations emotionally and immediately, or respond rationally and in a timed manner?

Interpersonal Awareness is related to your ability to understand the context in which you’re communicating, and the personalities, moods and behaviours of those with which you’re communicating. Adapting your communication and responding effectively based on your awareness of others is key to improving and managing your relationships successfully.

  • How well do you manage and navigate interpersonal relationships by applying your awareness of context? Are you able to galvanise people to achieve a shared goal? Can you makes things happen?

Extrapersonal Awareness is related to your ability to understand the opportunities and limitations of technology to communicate on your behalf. Finding ways to use technology to help you get things done, and not get caught up in trying to achieve ‘inbox zero’ is the measure of your extrapersonal awareness.

  • To what extent do you use technology to your advantage? How to do you use it to get things done? How well does it help you organise things in your life? How does it hinder you?

There’s no question that keeping all three areas of awareness in check is for many, their secret to success!

What’s Your Style?

Communication Styles | Building Rapport

Mastering the art of building rapport is a key tool for any business owner wanting to build, improve and maintain relationships with clients in the long-term. There are some basic ways to build rapport, the most useful of which is to take the time to identify and understand the client’s Communication Style. Their style will reveal itself in the strengths and challenges of that style, and once identified, the below chart gives you some tactics you can use to build rapport with that person based on their style.

Communication Styles | How to build rapport with clients

It’s important to adjust your own communication style not only according to who you are communicating with, but also in line with context and timing. Some people stick to the same communication style, whilst others will change their style depending on factors such as available time, how they prioritise the subject being discussed, level of trust they already hold with those with whom they are communicating.

Having reviewed the above table, which style do you think is your main communication style? And, can you identify the style some of your clients use? How will you adapt your own style when talking to each of these clients? Why not make a note of each key client, their style and the communication tactics you will use from now on to improve rapport and communication with them. Enjoy!

5 Reasons April The Giraffe Is The Best Thing On The Internet Right Now

April the Giraffe | YouTube Screenshot | Toys R Us

Take one heavily pregnant giraffe, mix with the intrigue of not knowing exactly when her calf will be born; set up a live feed to YouTube, throw in a couple of sponsors, some branded merchandise, and a set of emoji’s. Then sit back, relax, and watch, as the rest of the world drives mass awareness of your cause (and business) for free! Don’t worry, these guys know exactly what they’re doing.

For the last few weeks, the internet has been on edge wondering exactly when April, the giraffe from Animal Adventure Park in Harpursville, NY will finally give birth to her long-awaited fourth calf. A baby giraffe is exactly what the world needs in the midst of all the doom and gloom we’re facing. And the marketing campaign that surrounds it is pure genius. If only April herself knew just how important a case study she has become!

I think it could be up there with one of the best content marketing campaigns of all time; the April the Giraffe campaign has fast become the must watch daily activity for hundreds of thousands of people globally.

When the live feed began back in February, everyone assumed that the birth of April’s calf was imminent, but here we are; and April is almost upon us; both literally and figuratively. YouTubers are completely hooked, fixated on what could actually be described as a fairly boring video feed – a giraffe walking around in a relatively small pen, sometimes eating grass, less often sitting down, hardly ever sleeping (did you know giraffes only sleep about 2hrs a day in 10 minute bursts?). So, why is April so fascinating? Why is the world transfixed? Why are over 100k people watching the feed at any one time, sending messages of love to the live chat, and fighting each other to become the most prominent source of knowledge and resource on April the Giraffe?

Here’s 5 reasons why it’s so damn good.

1. Animals

Animals (well, most animals) always have, and always will be a universal symbol of peace, tranquillity and love. Whilst there are tragically some people in this world who see fit to harm animals; it’s fair to say that on the whole people love animals; and treat them as our friend. As we’ve all seen in the last few weeks, giraffes have a particular majesty and unmatched eloquence that distils a sense of calm. Just watching April walk around her pen relieves your stress, and makes us all think about what really matters in the world. It’s like a meditation for your soul. If you’re lucky enough that your business can use animals to promote its services, then you’re on to a winner before you start. Just look at comparethemeerkat.com for example. Insurance is not your typical animal related service, but the creative people at VCCP made it so; and some much-loved characters were born. Simples!

2. Mystery & Simplicity

Whether we care to admit it, or not, we all have ‘FOMO’ (fear of missing out). No one wants to miss the latest; and in the same way that gambling plays with our psyche, so too does the imminent (plus or minus 60 days) arrival of April’s calf. Once you’ve watched for a bit, you feel the investment of your time would be wasted if you don’t see it through to the end! What if you switch off, and then she gives birth? Did you know, the birth itself will only take around 30-60 minutes? Much speculation abounds the online community about what will happen when the calf drops. Will they hurt themselves in the fall? Is there enough bedding on the ground to soften the fall? Will the park turn off the live feed when the calf drops? The intrigue and speculation continues, and social media provides its usual hotbed of rumour and misinformation. Then there’s the simplicity of it. Set up camera, turn on live feed, watch and wait. And the longer we wait, the great the brand awareness, the more people who tune in, and the larger the number of donations the park can achieve towards their cause.

3. Sponsorship

In this day and age, where would a live feed be without a sponsorship? Luckily, the good people at Mazurri and Toys R Us have jumped on board to provide this. Pretty sure that feeding those 1200 pound giraffes (plus one to come) requires a fair bit of tucker, and there’s the cost of the campaign itself (i.e. website and app development, social media moderation and management, digital collateral creation etc.), but that’s not what the money is for. It’s really all about the giraffes. And that’s where the second type of sponsorship comes in. Having spent some time with April, why wouldn’t you want to sponsor your own giraffe? So, jump on board people, and with a few clicks of a mouse, you too can become a sponsor. A giraffe of your very own? Well, no, not really, but the genius of animal (and child) sponsorship is that it makes it feel personal. When you feel like you are putting your money towards a specific animal (or child), it feels less like you are giving money away ‘for free’ – it builds the value, and you receive an instant gratification, as well as that warm, fuzzy feeling we so often try to achieve with marketing. In reality it goes into one big pot, but let’s pretend that’s not true, so as not to derail this strategy for future use. Ultimately, it’s a great way to encourage and motivate people to donate to charity, and it provides them with something more tangible than a straight-forward donation.

4. Education & Action

This is the crux of the campaign. The real true purpose behind it. The park wants to educate people about the plight of giraffes in the wild. Did you know there are now fewer giraffes worldwide in the wild than there are elephants? Yet no one, until now, seems to be ringing their emergency bell and asking for help (at least not in such a public way). This campaign highlights the beauty, majesty and grace of these incredible creatures; and in doing so teaches not only about the animal itself; but also the danger of extinction, and the importance of breeding programs such as this one. In additional Facebook live videos, the zookeepers and park owner are quick and keen to educate us all on the general make up of a giraffe, their gestation period and what we can expect for the birth; and the breeding programs that they, and other organisations have in place to save the giraffe from extinction. A noble cause – turns out, giraffes are fascinating creatures and I’m certain most people would agree that we want then in our world. So, now we know, but what do we do about it? This campaign gives us plenty of opportunities to further embed ourselves in the ‘April the Giraffe’ brand, and in doing so, support the plight about which we are learning. Firstly, we can purchase a giraffe emoji pack on the app store – a handy little revenue stream that keeps the giraffe top of mind in daily life. Secondly, there is a shop with other branded merchandise. Thirdly, the aforementioned ‘sponsor a giraffe’ component; and finally, we can of course, visit the park itself. And let’s not forget the other dollar value that we, the viewers, bring. Free media exposure. The viral nature of the live feed, the supporting Facebook, the organic reach from likes and comments, and the immeasurable WOM. Every time we engage, we drive further exposure and awareness for the cause. Excellent.

5. ROI

So, when all is said and done, what kind of return can Animal Adventure Park expect on their investment? Well, overall, this is a highly cost effective campaign. Yes, there are some upfront costs for the website, emoji and digital collateral development, costs for merchandise and perhaps additional staff for the social media management and increased enquiries; but there’s no media or advertising cost whatsoever – and in fact, sponsors are lining up to pay them for logo exposure on the live feed. Happy days. The return will be seen in several ways. Firstly, next time you’re in NY looking for something to do for the day; who are you going to visit? That’s right people, April will be on your list for sure. So, the park will see an increase in foot traffic both now, and especially after the calf’s birth. Secondly, who bought some April merchandise, or the giraffe emoji’s? Go on, you know you fell for it! This campaign brings the park additional revenue streams with money going to future conservation and breeding programs; and ensuring our new giraffe calf is nurtured and cared for as they grow into an adult giraffe who is then fit for further breeding. The level of education around the plight of the giraffe has been increased globally with this campaign. People are talking about giraffes, and falling in love with them all over again.

Brand awareness. Tick. Brand engagement. Tick. Conversion. Tick. Loyalty. Tick. Advocacy. Tick.

If some of my words sound cynical, they’re not. I love everything about this campaign, and what I love most is that it uses marketing tactics for a true, and noble cause. So, next time you find yourself being cynical about marketing, stop and ask yourself the true purpose behind a campaign? Does a lot of marketing exist purely to ‘sell you stuff’? It sure does. But some marketing, maybe more than you realise, ‘sells you stuff’ for a really great reason. Congratulations Animal Adventure Park, and soon we’ll be able to say; ‘Congratulations April and Oliver!’ And with that said, I’m off to buy my giraffe emoji’s, and check in on the live feed.

10 Low Cost Marketing Ideas

Monday Motivators | Infographics

Infographic | 10 low cost marketing ideas for small business

If you would like help with your marketing, why not get in touch for a complimentary, no obligation Brand Health Check, and find out how well your current marketing tactics are serving your business; with some recommendations on how to improve on your marketing for further growth?

Button | Get Free Brand Health Check

5 Tricks to Make Your Communication More Effective

Laptop computer, phone and coffee in the garden - freelance or remote work concept. small depth of field, focus on the keyboard

Trick #1 – Write Quickly, Edit Thoroughly

I spend a lot longer editing communications than I do writing them in the first place. You’ll get your true inner thoughts down on paper much more easily and effectively if you just start writing. Forget the spelling errors, or grammatical disasters whilst you type or scribble. Just get the key points down. Don’t worry about sentence structure, or the order of what you’re writing.

Once you’ve finished writing and there are no more points left to make; edit.

Read thoroughly and correct any basic spelling or grammar errors. Now, read for flow. Do you have your thoughts in a seamless order? Re-order sentences with poor, ambiguous construct; and re-organise paragraphs to create a stronger story of what you want to say. The last Communications Tips email provided a framework for organising your emails in a structured manner.

Remember that spell checkers don’t pick up on words that have been used incorrectly in a sentence – e.g. ‘know’ vs. ‘no’, so thoroughly proof read your words to ensure the context and intention is portrayed accurately.

Poorly structured written communication risks being interrupted in a multitude of ways in which it was not intended. This wastes time, resource and energy. If you don’t have time to write something, don’t do it now, find time later. Worst case, send a holding reply letting your recipient know that you will provide a more thoughtful response when you have more time available.

Trick #2 – Be Assertive, It’s Ok

Assertiveness can sometimes be confused with being aggressive or domineering when actually it is neither of these things. To be assertive is to clearly state what you desire from your communication, what need you have, or what action you wish others to take. This only becomes ‘aggression’ when your communication does not consider the needs and rights of others. If you are clear about what you want, you will be more likely to get a quick, satisfactory solution that all parties can get on board with. When we ‘dance around’ our real agenda in communication, it not only wastes time, but it leaves blurred lines and room for ambiguity; something we can ill-afford in business.

Being assertive is sometimes about saying ‘no’ to something being asked of you. The key is to say ‘no’ to the task, whilst reassuring the person asking that you are not saying ‘no’ to them on a personal level. Saying ‘no’ is often a task we avoid. It’s harder to say ‘no’ to something someone wants you to do, than to just agree to it. It can build up in our mind as being a ‘difficult conversation’ we need to have. Difficult conversations should not be avoided; treat them like a Band-aid – just rip it off and the pain will be brief, and not remotely as bad as you have imagined. Don’t dwell on it; deal with it assertively!

Trick #3 – Respond, Don’t React

Reacting is something we do when we feel the need to provide an instant answer or solution to another’s question or behaviour. In most cases, it is not necessary to react; only to respond. Sometimes doing nothing is also the most appropriate way to provide a response. Responding is what we do to manage the communication at the time it is received. Responding is being able to provide a calm, simple reply that lets the other person know that you have received their message, and what you will do next. What you do doesn’t have to immediately answer their request.

Your response could be to let them know that you’ve received their request, and will reply to them within a given time period. Reacting is usually an emotional response often triggered by stress, that sees us providing an immediate emotional reaction to the message we’ve just heard, or read. Mastering the art of responding is a key skill in becoming an excellent communicator.

Think about how your business responds to customers. Do you have an auto-reply set up to provide an instant ‘receipt’ of peoples’ messages, or emails? How does your voicemail message respond to enquiries? What about ‘sudden’ requests, do you have a process in place for how you deal with them? The response ‘clock’ is yours to set; just because people demand, does not mean they get it straight away, but continuing communication is an important part of the process.

If you feel as though your workload is out of control, you might be reacting instead of responding. It is not always easy to be a responder, but it does make for a better experience overall.

Trick #4 – Check For Understanding

It’s easy to assume that because we’ve sent a message, whether verbally or in written communication, that our intended meaning has been received and understood. However, how many times have you seen people’s tweets or comments become the subject of mass hysteria simply because their message was not received in the way they had intended? These nuances of communication are becoming ever more important to understand and master in our own communication.

Always take time to check that people have understood your message. You can do this verbally by asking reflecting questions such as; ‘does that make sense to you?’ followed by ‘how do you see this moving forward?’; or ‘was there any part of what I said that you weren’t sure about?’.

In presentations, never underestimate the importance and value of including a slide at the end to invite questions, and remember to build time into your agenda to ensure people have a genuine opportunity to both ask and receive a reply to their questions. Check understanding and engagement during your presentation also, by inviting feedback; e.g. ‘does that make sense?’, ‘do you understand?’.

Trick #5 – One Size Does Not Fit All

Whilst it can be time consuming to produce individual and tailored communication, a quick cut and paste from one person to another, or a blanket script ignores the nuances of people’s individual circumstances and risks leaving the recipient feeling like a number, not a name. There’s nothing worse than receiving an email or proposal, only to discover a reference to someone else’s business, or industry, or a previous time period. If you send something like this to a prospective client, it could mean your proposal is refused as a result.

It can also risk misinterpretation of your message, as people will receive the message from their personal perspective with their own knowledge, understanding and context of the world overlaid to it.

Try to tailor to individual circumstances as much as possible, and build in difference scenarios to your comms. that cater to the different ways in which people may be coming to your communication. For example, put yourself in the various shoes of those who will receive your communications, then read the intended comms. out loud as if you were coming at it from that person’s perspective. Do this for all the different groups you might be communicating with to check that you’ve covered all eventualities. This enables you to provide clear context, and predict and manage potential responses or questions before they occur.

Which trick will you practice this week?

Why Strategy Is Not A Scary Word

strategy - fish swimming around in a bowl with a whiteboard showing their strategy is to swim around

We talk about ‘strategy’ all the time in business and in marketing. Brand strategy, growth strategy, product strategy, distribution strategy, pricing strategy, media strategy, creative strategy, sell strategy… the list goes on.

It’s a much over-used word, which has led it to becoming somewhat misunderstood. Many people associate it with complexity and grandiose thinking, which I’ve always found amusing considering that designing a strategy is about working out the best way to get something done by simplifying and consolidating the information to hand – not complicating it further.

I love the analogy that if a fish in a bowl were to develop a strategy, it would simply be to circle around the tank and repeat. That’s it. That’s a strategy. It simply means ‘how’ you are going to achieve an objective. Ok, so I’m simplifying it to illustrate a point, but in essence, that’s what strategy is. It’s the roadmap that gets you to the destination, the plan of ‘how’ you’ll achieve a goal.

And what’s more, everyone is capable of developing a strategy. In fact, we use ‘strategies’ every day to complete basic tasks such as our morning routine. The unconscious mind operates on strategies, which it stores and brings to the conscious as required. Otherwise, how would you know how to tie your shoe?

That’s right, you already have hundreds of strategies stored in your brain; strategies are how you communicate with yourself everyday, and how you manage to get things done. Not so scary now, huh? Just kind of regular, really.

Yet, when it comes to business, so many of us skip the strategy and jump straight to the execution.

So, what is it that causes us to shy away from investing in the design of a strategy? And how do we remove those barriers so that strategy becomes a natural part of how we communicate with ourselves in relation to our business?

If you tend to jump straight into execution, then you may be experiencing any one the four components making up the FEAR Factor.

  1. Failure – Strategy forces us to make decisions that close certain doors because that is its nature; and that cause fear that if we’ve chosen the wrong approach, we might fail.
  2. Excess – feeling like there is too much information already and not knowing where to start as a result
  3. Avoidance – thinking it’ll be ok without a strategy, or thinking that developing a strategy is ‘too hard’
  4. Resource – not having the time, money, or skill to be strategic

1. FAILURE

We all have a healthy ego that tells us we must always ‘be right’ and we must ‘look good’. As such, we fear getting things wrong, and looking bad as a result, which can leave us completely paralysed, and resistant of anything that forces us to make a choice about which direction to take. Without a strategy, you are reaching far and wide, spreading resources thinly to attempt to achieve your goal in any which way you can. As a result, you often achieve nothing at all. It takes a mindset shift, but the simple fact is that developing a strategy forces you to ‘close’ certain doors, which in turn focusses your efforts and your resources. As a result, you take a unique approach to achieving your goal, enabling you to stand out from others, which in itself gets noticed. If one strategy doesn’t work for you, you can always try another; but without one at all, how can you know what worked, and what didn’t? Overall, puttting a considered plan in place before execution makes failure less likely, and if necessary, you can adjust your course in an organised, confident manner.

2. EXCESS

One of the key skillsets of a strategist is the ability to take large amounts of information, whether knowledge, data, or existing ideas and content; and identify the salient imperatives that form the right approach to address the objectives, and reach the destination ahead. It is definitely a skill to be able to do this. However, anyone can give it a go; but you’ll need to shift your mindset so as not to get overwhelmed. The easiest way to approach what I call the ‘messy’ part of strategy is to embrace the mess! Get stuck into, underneath of, and all around the information, the data and existing knowledge base. Read it, consume it, then form a general impression of what you’ve read, but do so within a set timeframe. Once you have a general impression, you can right down all the hypotheses you have, then head back into the information to pull out specific proof points to firm up your contentions.

3. AVOIDANCE

It’s much harder to decipher the right approach to something, than to begin tasks and filter their success with trial and error mentality. It’s much more efficient though to take a step back, invest some time in developing the right approach, and save on draining resources in the long run. If you tend to put strategy in the ‘too hard’ basket, remember that you will invest far more time, money and effort without a strategy.

“Execution without a strategy is a journey across unknown terrain without the route planning, the compass, the map, or the provisions for survival; much less successful arrival at your destination”.

4. RESOURCE

For some, it’s a question of missing resource (time, money, energy) that tells you; “I don’t have [x resource] to invest in strategy”. With anything we want to achieve, there is a common misconception (aka excuse!) that time, money or some other type of resource are missing from our reality. Good strategy does take time, and if you use a professional to develop it for you, then of course, it also takes money. But up front investment is imperative for long-term gains. We all fear the concept of ‘waste’, but spending time to plan your business, your marketing or your communications is never wasted. If you can make time for execution of tasks within your business, then you can re-prioritise and make time for strategy up front. Review the time you spend on executing tasks for your business, and ask yourself whether this time is well spent? If you spent the time putting a plan in place before you started executing, would it make the use of your time more efficient? Would you actually get more done, and in a more structured, organised way as a result? You know the answer is yes!

A 3-Part Framework for achieving New Financial Year Goals

With the tax return on its way out the door, the new fiscal is a great opportunity to re-group, re-think, and realign your new financial year goals. Here are some great tips on how to start the new financial year with the clarity with which you intend to continue!

Why is this time of year a great time to re-align plans?

With the desks cleared of end of tax year paperwork, and the tax returns on their way out the door; July is the perfect month to clear your mind as well as your desk! If your new financial year budget just landed, then what better time than now to ‘check-in’ on how your business is serving it’s purpose and values; and how you are serving your own purpose and values.

What’s the best way to ‘check-in’?

There’s a simple 3-Part framework I use to help business leaders check-in; as follows:

Venn diagram showing 3 interlocking components - goal, strategy, message


Man Hand writing "A goal without a plan is just a wish" black marker on visual screen. Business, technology, internet concept.

GOAL: Do you know what you’re trying to achieve?

We can never arrive unless we know our destination. It may sound obvious, but I can’t tell you the number of businesses I work with who have no idea what they’re trying to do! We all get caught up in the day-to-day ‘urgencies’ of life; and often forget to stop and check whether we’re on the right path. As business owners we all ultimately have a goal to sell our products or services, but I’m suggesting we get a bit deeper than this, and take a look from deep within. What do you want? What are your values?

These questions will help you get to the heart of it:

  • What would you like to happen that is not happening now?
  • What is happening now that you would like not to happen?
  • With the answers to the above 2 questions in mind; what does long term success look like?

Ask these 3 questions for yourself, and then separately for your business. If you find there is a misalignment, then it could be time to re-assess your overall purpose.


STRATEGY: How are you achieving it?

business man writing business strategy conceptNow, check in on your strategy. Your strategy is the link between the destination you’re trying to reach, and the action that is going to get you there. Strategy is the roadmap that steers and guides you along the journey, and it is so often dismissed as a ‘time-waster’. Far from it, business leaders who recognize the importance of having a clear plan are the ones who see their goal become reality far faster than those who settle for; ‘any route will do’. Never mistake action for productivity; or completed tasks for achievement.

Handsome businessman in smart casual and eyeglasses thinking of idea in office

The questions should always be:

  • What activities am I engaged with right now?
  • How are these activities serving my goal?
  • Are they serving it at all?
  • What activities am I NOT engaging in that would serve my goal?
  • How can I integrate them into my world?
  • What can I do differently tomorrow, next week, next month to set myself back on the path?

If you find misalignment between the activities you are mostly engaged in, and the activities you know will get you to your goal; then it could be time to re-assess your business strategy and your personal time management. Why not bring in an outsider? An objective viewpoint from a strategic mind with no vested interest in any particular aspect of your business is a proven way to drive strategic, measurable outcomes quickly.


Marketing Strategy Branding Commercial Advertisement Plan Concept

MESSAGE: How are others experiencing your plans?

This is the clincher. You can spend as much time as you like in developing a clear, measurable goal, and aligning on a strategy; but if you don’t execute your plans through clear, succinct communication, then how can anyone be expected to come on board with you, or your business offer?

How well your brand communicates with its customers depends on how well you’ve planned your marketing – both channel and message.

As yourself these questions;

  • Do I truly understand my audience? Do I know where they do life? Do I know what they want from my business?
  • How does my business serve their needs? What problems are we solving for them?
    To what extent do they understand how we solve their problem and what they get from us?

If you don’t know the answers to some of the above, then it could be time to re-assess your marketing strategy and activities. It’s always best to bring in an expert to help you develop your marketing strategy, and to come up with the ideas that can help you effectively communicate your message.

5 Strategies For A Winning Presentation

There is only ever one purpose for a presentation meeting. It is to align your audience with your vision. If they don’t ‘get it’ first time, you could lose them for good. So how you present your ‘pitch’ is vital. 
Whether it’s the idea itself, the project logistics planning, or the budget that drives your business wins, the way you structure and present the culmination of all your hard work is what determines its ultimate impact. A poorly designed, over-worded and inadequate presentation can mean the difference between cracking the champagne and cracking your head against the wall when you lose the business you had hoped for.
For business leaders looking to up the presentation ante, here are 5 strategies for developing an engaging, convincing and ultimately winning presentation!
 

#1 Know Your Audience
It may sound obvious, but designing an effective presentation comes as much from knowing your audience, as it does from organising the content that outlines what you are selling them. It’s important to know exactly who will be in the room, and to identify their angle. A marketing manager will focus on very different components to a sales manager, for example. Work out what all the players want, then stack the deck in your favour by anticipating the questions each player will bring, and answering them before they are asked.

#2 Stucture & Flow
Remember the last time you sat through a presentation and felt completely lost? Not only were you struggling to see where the presenter was heading, you also found the endless list of bullet points and lack of visual consistency greatly adding to your confusion. Hard-to-follow, inconsistently written, high content presentations can be extremely disengaging. Plus, they don’t say much for your business’ planning and organisational capabilities. The audience won’t be with you in the weeks leading up to the day you meet with them, so you need to bring them ‘on the journey’, so they feel the same passion for your product/service/idea as you do. A clear structure that takes them from beginning to end with vision, focus, and a strong flow will only come from an upfront plan with the flexibility to evolve as the project progresses. Plan, write and adjust a presentation outline as part of your strategic process, and do it first, before you do anything else.

#3 Story-telling, Not Story-selling
Now, remember the last time you were truly engaged in a presentation. How did it make you feel? Did you leave thinking, ‘that was interesting, I’ll consider buying that’? Of course not. You left feeling excited, inspired and sold without question (of course you’re buying, it didn’t even cross your mind not to; you’re too busy visualising the future outcomes). Present your content like any story; with a beginning (why we are all here and what’s interesting about it); middle (what we want to tell you, why you should care and what you’ll get out of it); and end (what we want from you, how much it will cost, how long it will take). In other words, stop selling, start telling! When they leave the room they won’t remember everything you said, or showed them, but they will remember the overall sense of how you made them feel. Tell your story in a way that leaves them feeling inspired, understood, and part of something game-changing. 

#4 Not What You Say, But The Way You Say It
This awesome Ted Talk by Sound Expert Julian Treasure outlines how the depth, pace and speed of our voice can make the difference between people listening to you or switching off. It’s worth watching the whole way through as he also covers the art of listening, which is helpful when the time comes to receive feedback and questions. With this in mind, rehearse! Rehearse! Rehearse! Rehearsals give the team chance to build a rapport and flow, and provide each other with feedback. Someone not involved in the project should attend the rehearsal for an objective viewpoint and to check the outtake is received as intended.

#5 Imagery, Words, Colour, Style
You need them all! Effective presentation design relies on a delicate balance between visual stimulation and complementary written and spoken words. This is a strategic, and time-consuming process, which shouldn’t be left to the last minute. Remember that a presentation is a representation of your business, brand, and capabilities, so first impressions really do count. Make building the presentation an integral part of your strategic approach, and respect it as such. Marry a Strategist with an advanced software user (whether its PowerPoint, Prezi, Keynote) for best results.

Happy presenting and good luck!

Get in touch to discuss how The Change Starter can help you present with persuasion!

What Malcolm Said

In The Autobiography of Malcolm X, he outlines his philosophy, “By any means necessary,” which whilst powerful was often misunderstood.

What it meant was:

  1. Examine the barriers you are tolerating.
  2. Determine the vision and set your resolve.
  3. Explore alternative ideas to remove the barriers (clearly what you are doing now isn’t working for you).
  4. Commit to starting change and GO!

No point in doing 1 and 2 if you’re not going to open your mind to #3.
No point in getting as far as #3, if you’re not going to go as far as #4.

What is the #1 thing you are tolerating in your life right now?

THE PROBLEM

Every single Client I’ve ever coached has the same problem – a perceived lack of resources. They have been waiting to get started until they have more time, more money, or more ability. We all use the ‘excuses’ that we don’t have enough time, we can’t afford to do it; or we’re not ‘ready’ to do it yet. I’ve known people to put things off indefinitely because they think they’re missing one of these resources. It is very common to feel this way, but if we do wait, we will wait forever. So, what’s the solution? It’s as simple as this. We have to make the time, make a plan, believe in ourselves, and just get started.

OUR TOP TIPS TO RESOLVE!

  • Firstly, write down your goal, and establish how much time you would need to fit into your week in order to take some steps towards it.
  • With the amount of time you require planned out, you can now assess how you use your time at the moment, and look for efficiencies, or ways to swap your time around to make way for the new tasks and habits. Now plan the tasks into your diary, just as if you were scheduling a meeting – invite yourself to the meeting, you are the only attendee required!!
  • Follow the same process with regards to the other perceived missing resources. How much money is truly needed right now to do what you want to do? Assess how your spend money right now, and look for efficiencies, or reduce or remove unnecessary costs. What skill or other resource do you need that you feel you don’t have? What evidence do you have that you are missing this resource? How could you recolve this?

THE PROBLEM

Whilst habits and routines make everyday life more efficient and easier to manage, they can also hinder our ability to start change. Pausing life to say; hang on a minute, let me step off this hamster wheel and try something different, not only takes more effort than staying where we are, but it also means leaving our comfort zones. Take a look back through your life and look at your successes. How did you achieve each of these? Did you achieve them by staying where you were, or was each preceded by a step outside your comfort zone? Make some new habits. Nobody ever got successful doing the same thing over and over again each day. We must grow and evolve ourselves, and to do so, we must break free from our routine, and start change.
The actual act of behaviour change out of current habits and into new ones; isn’t an easy process, and it’s not what this post is discussing, but it is certainly a future topic that I can discuss. This post is focussed on taking the first step towards behaviour change, which is to recognise that in order to change, you accept the need to step out of your comfort zone (your usual habitual way of life), and change some of the limiting mindsets and behaviours that have formed that comfort zone. This in itself is a huge step forwards.

TOP TIPS TO RESOLVE!

  • Start by identifying the habits you want to erase – the ones that don’t serve you well, and are not propelling you towards your goals
  • Now make a list of these, and categorise into the types of habits they are
  • Consider what has driven you to get into these habits, or categories of habit and what would be an alternative positive habit that does serve your goals.
  • Assess how you feel about your comfort zone now, are you ready to step outside of it?

THE PROBLEM

When we do decide to make a change, we tend to perceive the act of change as one giant ‘beast’, which quickly overwhelms us and becomes seemingly unconquerable in our minds. Essentially we are setting ourselves up to do too much, leaving us busy, yet unproductive. Expecting too much of ourselves in one short period of time can drive us to frustration, as we experience that ‘where do I even start’ mentality.

OUR TOP TIPS TO RESOLVE!

  • Don’t take it all on at once! You will achieve more progress and satisfaction by breaking it down into smaller tasks (sometimes referred to as ‘micro goals’), and setting a timeframe for each one.
  • This doesn’t require lots of time or effort! Just pick the ‘dead time’ in your day, such as your daily commute, whilst you wait for a friend to arrive; or when you’re in a queue somewhere! These are perfect moments when you can open the notes app on your phone and just start listing the specific tasks that are needed to reach your overall goal (the change you want to see).
  • Decide how many of these tasks you can achieve in a given timeframe – e.g. 1 task per month, per week, or per day, depending on your personal availability, and the size of each task.
  • ps, if you’re going to need a month per task, break each task down into 4 steps, then complete one step per week within the allocated month.
  • Reward yourself after each task is completed. Something simple, like allowing yourself to watch an extra hour of television, or buying yourself a small treat!

THE PROBLEM

This is a short post because barrier #2 is one we can all relate to. It’s the inner voice that tells us we can’t, we shouldn’t, we’re wrong, we’re stupid, there’s no point. The longer we allow this voice to rent a space in our head, the more we start believing and manifesting these ideas through worries and doubts. After a while, we talk ourselves out of it altogether! Fill the space with questions that help you evict doubts and fears quickly and efficiently by focussing your mind on solutions and actions that move you forward; and leave doubts behind.

OUR TOP TIPS TO SOLVE IT!

  • Ask yourself; what is the one small step I could take to move me towards a change in this situation (whatever that niggling problem is that you’re putting up with)?
  • Then ask; If I took this step, what is the worst thing that can happen as a result? If I only took this first step, and didn’t continue with any further steps, what would I have lost, and what would I have gained?
  • If you can live with the worst possible outcome relative to the situation you are experiencing; then stop worrying, and start doing!
  • Each time you want to change something, but doubts and fears raise their ugly head, follow the same framework. Each time you take that first step forward, repeat the framework with the next step. Simple, yet effective!

THE PROBLEM

If we spent as much time identifying and focussing on what we want, as much as what we don’t want, just think how much more positive energy we would experience; and how much more forward thinking our lives would become. The problem is that it is much easier to talk about (read complain) the current negative situation we’re experiencing, than it is to focus on what we want to happen instead. Why? Because generally we perceive that changing a situation will require a lot of effort, when in reality ‘putting up with’ a negative situation places far more strain on our personal resources, and leaves us feeling drained.

OUR TOP TIPS TO SOLVE IT!

  • Assess what you’re ‘putting up with’ and make a conscious decision to change it (the easiest way to do this is by identifying what you complain about the most in your life).
  • Put all your energies into visualising what you want your situation to be like, rather than what it is like now. As you do this, don’t think about how you’re going to change it, or even what it will take to change it, for now think only of the end result
  • Shift your mindset from automatically thinking of the ‘negative’ to automatically thinking of the ‘positive’. Try this exercise. Make a conscious decision not to complain for an entire day. No matter what the day throws your way, you can only think positively about it. When a negative, complaining thought starts to creep into your mind; say no to it. Tell it to go away, and consciously assess the opportunities that could come from the situation.
  • For example, you rush to the station only to discover that your train is running 10 minutes late. Now you’ve rushed for ‘no reason’, and you have to wait for the train, which will make you late for your meeting. Don’t let your frustration takeover! Don’t let yourself begin cursing the train company, getting flustered and posting furiously on Facebook about how terrible your day is.
  • Instead, take a breath. What does this mean for you? Well, you didn’t want to miss your train, which is why you were rushing in the first place, and you haven’t; so that’s one task achieved already! You also didn’t want to be late for your meeting, but you can’t control that; the train is late and that’s that.
  • So, focus on what you can control (just stay in your three-foot world), and what you do want, such as; to arrive at your meeting in a professional manner, and leave your meeting with certain objectives achieved. Whilst you may now arrive slightly later, you have effectively gained an extra 10 minutes, as you wait for the train, in which you can sit calmly and go over your meeting preparation, and outcomes, so that when you do arrive, you are feeling mentally prepared rather than aggravated and flustered. Voila!