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Tag: Dick Wilson

In my past three blog posts, I’ve focused on the planning and production of January Leadership Conferences.  Many of my suggestions concerned using your January Conference to gather what you need to promote your big event, your national conference, which most companies hold in the summer.   

 For the most part we’ve discussed what to do.  Today, I’d like to explore who will do these things, and how they’ll get them done.  But first, let’s take a quick look back at the key “what’s.” 

 WHAT:  At your January Leadership Conference, what you want to do is:

-         Collect  quotes about your 2010 event

-         Record leaders talking about your 2011 theme

-         Gather stories you can use at your 2011 event

WHO: Since we’re essentially talking about interviews, you need an interviewer. Make being that interviewer someone’s assigned job. Don’t let it be something someone will get to at some point. If your company has a relationship with a local videographer, consider bringing him or her with you to do it.  If not, designate someone on your January Conference team as the official interviewer.  This should be someone who can devote a couple of hours a day to the project and is comfortable working with the sales force.

HOW:

1.  First, invest in some kind of video camera if you don’t have one already.  Prices have dropped amazingly over the past few years, and the week after Christmas is a great time to find bargains.  A collapsible tripod is a good idea too.

2.  Set a time and place at your January Leadership conference for the interviewer to videotape Leaders.  A separate room is best.  How many Leaders you interview is up to you, but definitely set a schedule. 

3.  Create a list of interview questions. Then share those questions well ahead of time with the people you’re going to interview. You want them to already have their answers in mind when you meet with them.

4.  Ask open-ended questions that can’t be answered with a simple yes or no. Some examples might be:

-         What is your fondest memory of our 2010 event?

-         What would you say to someone considering coming to their first national conference?

-         Describe what (2011 theme) means to you.

-         How would you relate (2011 theme) to our business?

-         What made you decide to become a Leader?

-         What person or event has most shaped you professionally?  Tell us about that.

As mentioned in an earlier blog post, asking attendees to bring a personal photo they can tell a story about is a great way to get compelling stories. 

It may sound like work now, but it’s truly time well spent. Once you have these interviews done, you’ll be amazed at the wealth of rich, human-interest material you’ve accumulated. You’ll have everything you need to promote your national conference, and build great presentations for it as well.  

Writer/Events Producer Dick Wilson has been adding creative touches to direct sales meetings for over 20 years.  Learn more how Dick can help you at http://luceandassociates.com/Dick-Wilson.html.

Remember Joe the Plumber?  Of course you do.  He became one of the stars of the 2008 presidential election, a living symbol of the issues that divided Republicans and Democrats. Joe the Plumber was a classic example of using storytelling to liven up otherwise unlively information.  That’s because storytelling is a great tool, and it’s something that should be part of every one of your events.

Why?  Simple—people love hearing about other people.  And whether you use storytelling to illustrate a theme, support change or inspire performance, it’s arguably the best way to hold an audience’s attention while you make your point.

We hit on the idea of storytelling briefly in my last blog post, when I wrote about using the personal photos of leaders to build content at your January Leadership Conference.  Collecting photos and inviting people to talk about what’s in those photos is a fantastic way to incorporate the power of storytelling into your key messages.  You have words AND pictures.  But there are other ways to go about it as well.  Here are just a few ideas:

 1- Solicit!  Your audience at any event is a library full of stories waiting to be told.  Before, or even during an event, ask who has a great personal story that can support an idea you’re presenting.  Then incorporate that story into your presentation, or better yet, ask the owner of the story to tell it.  Your January Leadership Conference is a great place to collect and solicit stories you can use throughout the year and at your national convention.  Don’t miss the opportunity!

 2- Search!  What’s your topic? What words or terms might be related to your topic?  Use Google or any other search engine to uncover news, anecdotes, videos and more things that will add variety and human interest to your presentation.  Or go to the creative commons section of Flickr.com or other photo websites to find images that can help turn your words into pictures.

 3- Reflect!  What about your own stories?  What moment happened in your own personal life or career could carry your message forward?  The memory doesn’t even have to relate directly to your topic, as long as it helps you transition to it.   

 I’ll leave you with two great websites that are excellent storytelling resources.  Check out www.StoryCorps.org and www.TheMoth.org.  They’re both full of great stories from everyday people.  And if you still doubt the power of storytelling to add power to your event, check this out– The Moth website even has its own Corporate Training & Events page at www.themoth.org/corporate.

Writer/Events Producer Dick Wilson has been adding creative touches– like storytelling– to direct sales meetings for over 20 years.  Learn more how Dick can help you at http://luceandassociates.com/Dick-Wilson.html.

Continuing with our look-ahead to your January Leadership Conference, this week I’d explore what a great creative opportunity that event can be—if you’re ready to take advantage of it.

Think about it.  You’ll have all of your top people together in the same place at the same time.  So why not let your leaders help you build your national conference program? Here are just a few of the ways you can do that:

1.  Harvest the national conference quotes you didn’t get in 2010. As I mentioned in earlier posts, strong quotes about the excellence of past events are a great tool to promote future events.  If you missed getting quotes about your national conference when it was happening, your leader event is a chance to play catch-up.  Collect quotes in writing or as audio or video recordings.   Then use those quotes in your invitation, on your website or within event promotional pieces. 

2.  Ask leaders to talk about your national conference theme.  Let’s say your theme is “Excellence 2011” (with the number eleven replacing the two l’s in Excellence, of course).   Ask your leaders to think about what excellence means to them, or cite examples of excellence in their lives or the lives of others.   Again, you can collect these quotes in writing, or as video or audio recordings.  Then use your excellence quotes as the basis for talks or other presentations at your national conference.

3.  Invite leaders to bring personal photos they can tell a story about.  Sticking with our imaginary “Excellence 2011” theme as an example, you would then invite leaders to share why or how the photo they chose came to represent excellence for them.  Be ready to scan the photos on site (if they’re not already in digital form).   It’s also best if you can video tape leaders speaking about their respective photos.  Now you have both the visual and verbal elements you need to create powerful “mini-documentaries” that can become the creative threads of your national conference.

If nothing else, set aside time in your Leadership Conference for some free-form brainstorming about your national conference.   You’re certain to learn some things you probably didn’t know.  And more than likely, you’ll hatch a bunch of good ideas while it’s still early enough to work with them.

Regardless of how you go about it, your January leadership conference is a wonderful opportunity to make progress on your national conference.  And in the process, you’ll make your leadership team feel like they’re part of the process as well!

Writer/Events Producer Dick Wilson has been adding creative touches to direct sales meetings for over 20 years.  Learn more how Dick can help you at http://luceandassociates.com/Dick-Wilson.html.

So many companies begin the event planning process by pulling out their last schedule and using it as a template for their next schedule- new products on the first night, awards on the second night, incentive trip on the last day and so on.  That approach certainly works.  And it’s certainly boring and predictable.

Of course there are often good reasons to do some presentations “the way we’ve always done them.”  But that doesn’t hold true for all presentations all the time, year in and year out.  Which is why now is a great to time to think about mixing things up at your 2011 event.

You still begin by looking at your 2010 schedule.  Identify the key events.  Assuming they were in the right place to begin with, ask yourself if they really need to be in same place next year, or if they need to even need to be at all.  For example, could the recognitions that made up your awards night be spread throughout the entire event?   Did having a guest speaker make that much of an impact on your sales force and how they approach their business?  How many keynote speeches were there, and how much value did they really add?  In other words, what would really be missed by your attendees if it weren’t there? 

Once you’ve determined what really needs to be part of the program, take a look where you placed it on the schedule.  Does it have to have the same time and place in your schedule again this year, or can it occur elsewhere?   For example, maybe this year your new product introductions needed to be followed by training, but that’s not going to be the case next year.  So maybe your new product introductions could wait until the last day instead of being earlier.

Or instead of waiting until the last day to kick your 2011 incentive trip, do it on the first night, then follow it up with intensive “How You’re Going to Qualify” training the next day.  Maybe you could even turn your incentive trip announcement into your opening presentation and accomplish two things at once.

There are many ways you can approach your schedule.  But the one approach you definitely want to avoid is making your 2011 schedule an exact copy of what you’ve done before.  That’s no treat for anyone.

Writer/Producer Dick Wilson has been adding creative touches to direct sales meetings for over 20 years.  Learn more how Dick can help you at http://luceandassociates.com/Dick-Wilson.html.

Pumpkin carving & photo: Dick Wilson

Soon you’ll begin planning and promoting your 2011 national convention. Maybe you’re thinking about sending out printed invitations, professionally designed evites or maybe posting videos online. All of these are great ideas, but they can be time-consuming and costly to produce. However, one of the most effective tools in your arsenal is also one of the easiest (and cheapest) to implement—plain testimonials from your attendees. And if you didn’t collect these at your 2010 event itself, now is the time to get them!

Simply send an email to everyone who attended your 2010 event and tell them you’re looking for quotes you can use to promote your 2011 event. Ask for short comments on specific aspects of the events—the training, major announcements, guest speakers, the recognition or any special fun events you had. Invite attendees to share their photos with you as well! While many may not be useable, others may be and you’ll be glad you have them.

Comments on training are especially valuable. It’s been my experience that training, more than any other part of a convention, is what brings people in and keeps them coming back. So be sure to ask specifically for comments on training.

Your own field events happening over the coming weeks are another great source of testimonials. Many companies will be having fall meetings or Leadership events in the early part of the new year. These are great opportunities to harvest testimonials, both written and on video. These days, decent video cameras can be purchased for surprisingly little money. So use your fall/winter events to collect more testimonials. You’ll be glad you did!

Then once you have your testimonials, post them on your website, put them in communications about your convention, make them part of your printed invitations or evites. There are many places and ways to use testimonials, but first, you have to have them. So start collecting your testimonials now, and then use them to promote your 2011 national convention in the best, easiest way possible.

Dick Wilson has over 20 years experience writing and producing events for direct sales companies. Learn more how Dick can help you at http://luceandassociates.com/Dick-Wilson.html.