Christmas, A Season for Gratitude

Cocoa the Cat

The snow is falling gently at my home in Colorado and it reminds me of the purity of birth that Christians celebrate at this time of year.

One of the purest ways to communicate is to express gratitude. This is one of the practices of cooperative communication. There are so many way to express gratitude. A thank-you when someone does something nice is a good start, since we often take these simple acts for granted. There are people in our lives who are often unseen as we go rushing through our lives, like the person behind the counter at the post office who scarcely has time to look up from work for the throngs of people sending out and picking up holiday packages and greeting cards. This year I decided to bake some cookies for our post office staff in my little home town. I took them in last Saturday about 15 minutes before closing. The line was about 40 people long and it was so hot in there. I just walked up to the middle clerk and put the cookies on her weight scale and said, “Merry Christmas, thanks for all that you do.” All 3 clerks looked up at the same time, somewhat dazed from their frenetic pace, and smiled. The cookies evaporated…I had been meaning to do this for several years, but had never remembered. My husband and I sent out many Christmas packages that day, and were happy to share a little gratitude in the midst of the holiday craziness.

This Christmas is bittersweet for me as I mourn the loss of my Dad who died just before Thanksgiving. It takes a while to bring the good memories to the forefront of one you were with pretty intensely as he died.

I like the anticipation that accompanies the Christmas season. When I think about my Dad I anticipate how my life is going to change as I more avidly bring in his good practices into my life. I am so grateful to have been influenced by this good man. He was very warm and giving, and shared a great enthusiasm for life. It’s one thing to bring these practices into your personal life, but I find it more challenging to bring them into business since business is often so self-centered, especially in competitive intelligence, where often companies are looking to be better at the expense of their competitors. Maybe it’s time for me to shift my focus towards opportunity analysis, that is helping companies uncover and develop business opportunities. Competitive analysis is a part of the process, but looking ahead and anticipating and planning are the focus of this initiative.

Ever since Dad died I have brought this blog back more to its original focus of cooperative intelligence since it focuses on being warm and giving—a lot like my Dad.

Meet August Jackson, Competitive Intelligence Podcast King!

AugustJacksonI first met August Jackson several years ago when he was leading the Washington, DC SCIP chapter. Since then he has taken the program lead for SCIP annual conferences, a monumental task, and is one of the profession’s leading edge users of social media, which he openly shares. I was honored earlier this month when he interviewed me for a podcast on cooperative intelligence. I shared a lot of examples from my experience in sales, and relationship building to create a competitive intelligence process at Bell Atlantic, now part of Verizon. The first 20 minutes is all about how I got into the field of competitive intelligence since I wanted to win more deals as a sales person. The cooperative intelligence discussion starts after that, and consumes most of the rest of the podcast—the last 40 minutes. The right people connections and effective communication are what separate best in class competitive intelligence operations from the rest that rely too heavily on digital monitoring in its many forms and are less sensitive as to how people want to be communicated with.

As August was interviewing me I had the feeling that he had done a lot of podcasts! Check out his podcast postings which go back to 2005. I’ve selected some of my favorites, but there are more!

CI 2020 with Arik Johnson (2009)
Eric Garland the Futurist (2009)
Suki Fuller on Social Networking (2009)
Adrian Alvarez on CI in Latin America (2006)
Alessandro Comai: Mapping & Anticipating the Competitive Landscape (2007)
Roger Phelps on LinkedIn (the podcast) (2007)
Ben Gilad on Strategic Early Warning and Blindspots, & David Hartmann on Proactive Asymmetric Strategy (the podcast) (2006)

You can read August’s blog.  He shared a nice slide deck on competitive analysis in his blog on Sept 17th, from his lecture at Johns Hopkins.

August is a Senior Consultant and specialist in competitive market intelligence and analysis at Verizon Business. His area of expertise is emerging IT and communication (ICT) technologies and their impact on business. Working in the private sector as a competitive intelligence manager with British Telecommunications, AT&T and MCI, he created competitive intelligence materials to support executive scenario planning, to turn insights from sales cycles into priorities and recommendations for operational and product development; maintained industry, technology and competitor profiles for diverse audiences.

August has provided technology trend analysis which guided major strategic decisions, and has developed profiles and delivered training globally. He is also recognized as an expert in the application of advanced secondary research methods including social media in competitive intelligence practice. Just look at his podcast collection and download most of them here!

August holds an Executive MBA from the University of Maryland’s Robert H Smith’s School of Business and earned a BA Cum Laude from the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University. August can be reached at jackson.august at

Real-time Collaborative Architectural Modeling Enhances Complex Product Development

Bryan Moser spoke to our Denver PDMA (Product development Management Association) chapter about the value of models such as the one his company, Global Project Design (GPD) developed  to forecast, optimize, allocate and measure coordination in complex product development projects. These models take into account different cultures, time zones, language barriers, and dispersed decision-making. They also incorporate engineering behavior among different cultures based on their typical interaction.

Today there is pressure to succeed in a dramatically concurrent fashion, which increases the risk of rework, quality and design. The thinning of the workforce affects production as does the loss of deep knowledge and connection from workers who have been laid off or who have retired. Another finding in these complex product development initiatives is that the cost of coordination is high and is on average 30%-35% of the time consumed.

Bryan walked us through the example of the Sikorsky S92 helicopter product development project. Their biggest concern was defending their intellectual property as they selected companies in various countries to work as an integrated team. The team was spread across the globe in countries such as Brazil, Taiwan, Spain, China and Japan, and included big company names such as Embraer of Brazil and Taiwan Aerospace, for example. Sikorsky USA was the decision-making company.

Sikorsky had predicted that it would take 5 years from product spec to prototype development. It took 9 years, and GPD’s model prediction was only off by 2 months from the actual time. Sikorsky hadn’t taken into account the dynamics that would add considerable time to product development, such as coordination, culture, language, time zones, and a lot of dead time that one team would experience if another was late in delivery, for example.

We can’t turn the clock back on product development since the expertise for various segments of complex product development is best served by a global team. However, putting on a nationalist hat, previously teams all worked for one company, in similar time zones and had strong connection and communication since they all spoke the same language, and could develop products more expeditiously from having worked together extensively over the years. This is lost in these complex product development projects where people who have never worked together, are thrust together to develop a product.

This real time collaborative model takes into account the various languages and points of view, and the time needed to build relationships with people who have never worked together before.

One of the key findings for these complex projects is that there is a fair amount of wasted time as work time averages:

~54% Direct Work
~30% Coordination
~16% Less Useful Time

The key takeaway is that coordination is often way underestimated in these complex product development projects across multiple countries. It’s better to run the model earlier in the process, so as to re-schedule or re-work pieces to reduce the less productive coordination time. GPD’s model is agent based on simulation models about how teams make choices and includes the last 30-40 years of research of behaviors in engineering work.

In conclusion, product development professionals face:

A decline in judgment based on experience alone. Traditional centralized and detailed plans ignore and misrepresent the complexity of projects.

Coordination – Interaction of teams to satisfy dependence across subsystems can be 35% of the effort, cost and duration of these development projects.

Choosing the best coordination architecture can lead to a 20% improvement in time/cost performance and will improve your competitiveness! Judgment through situation awareness is also gained.

Improve Your Competitiveness: Adopt Technology & Pharmacology to Boost Intelligence

I read “Get Smart” without any reference to Maxwell Smart by Jamais Cascio in the July/Aug Atlantic Online magazine. The focus of the article was on how technology is making us smarter.  Those who don’t take advantage of technology and pharmacology might be at a competitive disadvantage, increasingly so in the future.

We are still biased towards near-term solutions and winners will need to plan for and understand long-term risks.  Today we are getting smarter through what Jamais describes as intelligence augmentation.

While Nicholas Carr (“Is Google Making Us Stupid“) argues that the Internet with its information dense, hyperlink-richness makes it harder for us to engage in deep, relaxed contemplation, Steven Johnson (Everything Bad is Good), argues that the increasing complexity of the media we engage with, is making us smarter. With this intelligence, we are able to make connections and see patterns in order to avoid being overwhelmed by this information glut.

As a competitive intelligence professional, I am expected to uncover patterns to predict where a competitor, the market or technology is going, so ” getting smarter” really resonates, especially from the information glut, never mind the increased connections due to social networks.

What’s exciting about the future is how tools for managing information overload are being developed. Fluid intelligence, the ability to find meaning in confusion and solve new problems, independent of this knowledge, is what competitive intelligence professionals do today. Just imagine how much more powerful we’ll be in the future.

When I interviewed some competitive technical intelligence (CTI) experts for my chapter in CI Foundation’s Competitive Technical Intelligence, these experts were already using some great visualization tools to harness the tons of information they must process to compete in the pharmaceutical and chemical industries, for example. Several experts cited Eastport Analytics as a resource to help CTI managers select the right software tools to support their needs for monitoring, mapping and analyzing the competitive marketplace. Eastport Analytics offers 450 software tools and stays informed with all the latest software changes, upgrades and new providers.

Jamais writes about the development of attention filters or focus assistants which would focus our attention on messages that are important to us, based on learning what kinds of messages we are reading and which we discard through the various media we subscribe to. We would move from a world of “continuous partial attention” to one of “continuous augmented awareness,” as the messages we don’t care about would be faded on our display screen, for example. As our capacity to provide that filter becomes faster and richer, it becomes akin to collaborative intuition.

Pharmacology can also help enhance the brain. Modafinil, originally developed to keep people alert for an extended period of time like 30 hours, also provides cognitive enhancements, such as pattern recognition, spatial planning and sharpens focus and alertness. There are other brain boosting drugs, but the point is that people seeking competitive advantage may include brain drugs to improve their competitiveness.

The article also goes into the development of an artificial mind which would continue to modify itself to get smarter. That seems pretty far out to me.

However, I agree with the conclusions of the article that by 2030, we’ll live in a world where sophisticated foresight, detailed analysis and insight and augmented awareness will be commonplace. Many professionals will use simulation and modeling in their daily work as the supporting technology will be readily available.

While cultures may adopt these technologies differently, hopefully our global diversity will help us be cooperative and cope with the various world dangers such as the climate crisis, energy shortage, growing population density, global hunger, global healthcare and the spread of pandemics, which will require the greatest possible insight, creativity and innovation.

Deloitte Shift Index Findings: Global Collaboration Will Improve Business Competitiveness

The Deloitte Center for the Edge recently got my attention with its findings that competition is intensifying globally with a US return on assets dropping consistently across 15 different industries by 75% over the last 40 years!


Some other key findings: 

US competitive intensity has more than doubled during the last 40 years. The “topple rate” at which big companies lose their leadership positions, has more than doubled, suggesting that “winners” have increasingly precarious positions. Customers appear to be gaining and using power as reflected in increasing customer disloyalty. 

The exponentially advancing price/performance capability of computing, storage and bandwidth is driving an adoption rate for our new “digital infrastructure,” that is two to five times faster than previous infrastructures, such as electricity and telephone networks.

The Shift Index consists of 3 indices: Foundation, Flow and Impact, plus 25 other metrics that together quantify the stock, pace and implications for change. Given that competition is intensifying, here are some ways organizations might improve their performance.

1. Recognize the Foundation Wave: The business landscape has changed through the spread of the digital infrastructure and this has been reinforced by long term public policy that shifts towards economic liberalization. Changes in Foundations tend to reduce barriers to entry and movement, leading to a doubling of competitive intensity.

2. The Flow Wave looks at drivers of performance shaped by digital infrastructure. This wave looks at the flows of knowledge, capital, and talent enabled by foundational advances. Knowledge flows are the key to improving performance. This is a key area where many conventional businesses fail as they are too insular and have developed serious blindspots. This is the opposite of “Command and Control” leadership.

3. The Impact Wave comes last, as it will take time for companies to participate in and harness knowledge flows leading to improved performance and more innovation.

Successful firms will shift from what’s worked in the past, scalable efficiency to scalable learning. 

This is a huge shift for most large US companies, and many of them are failing due to their closed nature, lack of flexibility and poor use of technology to gallop past competitors and collaborate with suppliers, customers and many other sources to develop innovative products. 

Think Apple Computer when you think about a successful company by these “Shift Index” standards.  Apple has kept its entrepreneurial magic largely by reaching out and being innovative in product development, and using all the technology, including social networks to continue expanding its connection to knowledge. This is a company that knows its customer. It’s no coincidence that Apple customers enjoy the experience of using its products. Who doesn’t just love their iPhone!

The conclusions and details of this study go far beyond what I can cover in a blog.  Check it out. I think a lot of what it preaches is what good competitive intelligence has been preaching for YEARS.  Keep reaching out and connecting both internally and externally and build on the intelligence you gather. Stay connected with people through all the means technology allows you to reach them. Isn’t this the foundation of a good early warning system?

Improve your Competitiveness: Learn about AIIP


Chris Marcy Linda

Chris Marcy Linda


Marcy Phelps, CEO of  Phelps Research and AIIP (Association of Independent Information Professionals) President and Linda Rink CEO of Rink Consulting and Chair of AIIP’s Industry Relations Committee were interviewed by Chris Kenneally, Director of Author Relations for Copyright Clearance Center during SLA’s 2009 Annual Conference! In the spirit of cooperative intelligence, here are some facts about AIIP that Marcy and Linda shared.

I must disclose that I am a proud AIIP member, and that I get enough benefit from our electronic community sharing forum to justify the annual membership dues: never mind the local AIIP gatherings we have in Colorado, my home state or the annual AIIP conference–all rich repositories of connection and knowledge sharing.

Another great AIIP member benefit is that many electronic providers of information give us special benefits and discounted rates. This allows AIIP members to reach information that the average person doesn’t have access to. Another reason that information vendors give AIIPers those discounts is that the reach of AIIP is huge, not only our direct clients, but we have a publication, Connections which shares many tidbits of our trade.  Numerous members are authors of books, articles and blogs.

AIIP’s has 600 members in over 20 countries, information professionals who run our own businesses and support businesses which range from start-ups to Fortune 1000 companies. Some members specialize by industry, and one that seems particularly prominent is pharmaceuticals. While many AIIP members are researchers, we also have library consultants, writers, editors, and taxonomists. AIIPers do a lot more than simply find information: many members provide analysis to help clients make sense of the information, and provide ongoing updates.

Many people come to AIIP companies since they have not done their homework, nor do they know how to do their homework or if there is a niche for their business ideas. For example, they don’t know how large the market is for their product or haven’t developed a prospect list or industries to target for marketing. Everything that goes into writing and developing a business plan needs to be researched, and many people think they can just go online and dabble around and get it, and that’s not the case.

Pertinent to the copyright world: AIIP members follow a strict code of ethics, and one of the elements of the code is that we not only have to adhere to and follow copyright laws, but we need to teach others about it.

On a personal note, I specialize in primary research–that is finding and talking to people who “know” the answers to business issues my clients seek. Most AIIP colleagues are experts in electronic research, the necessary pre-requisite to primary research. They dig up awesome information and great contacts for me to follow-up with. My firm gives clients recommendations for action and digs up opportunities for additional revenue streams, which is particularly appreciated in this weak economy.

I feel fortunate to meet my AIIP colleagues in our electronic sharing forum and you can connect with us through our AIIP member directory, which is open source, and you can research and search for an information professional by name, industry expertise, location…

Thank you Chris Kenneally for giving Marcy and Linda this opportunity to share the good news about AIIP! Check out the podcast!

Jeffrey Immelt’s Ideas on Renewing America’s Competitiveness

As we approach this Independence Day in America, my cooperative spirit pushes me to share Jeffrey Immelt’s ideas about how to renew America. Jeff Immelt, CEO of GE is one of America’s stewards of leadership and innovation and I highly recommend that you view his talk given in late June 09 at the Detroit Economic Club.

America has a myriad of economic problems, not the least of which is it has moved from a technology-driven manufacturing economy to one that is services oriented. We are known as a country where CEOs are viewed as short-term speculators, which has been re-enforced by our “leadership” in the financial global meltdown. There is something seriously wrong when “a mortgage broker is pulling down $5 million a year while a Ph.D. chemist is earning $100,000.”

Jeff thinks the US needs to create an industrial renewal as follows:

1. Invest in new technology

2. Win where it counts in Clean Energy and Affordable Healthcare

3. Become a country that’s good at manufacturing and exports

4. Embrace public/private partnerships

5. Encourage leaders that are also good citizens

During this recession, GE has not reduced its R&D expenditures, which are pegged at 6%, while the US average is only 2% of sales. In 2008, GE exported $19 billion and plans to increase exports each year. GE is partnering with local government to fix the US educational system by investing at inner city schools to improve math and science since only 4% in the US study engineering, which often produces innovators.

GE has two great initiatives to stimulate innovative product development: “eco-imagination” and “health-imagination”. Eco-imagination focuses on alternative, clean energy development and renewable energy products as well as making better use of traditional energy sources. One initiative is a GE + Duke energy coal degasification plant project. America is like the Saudi Arabia of coal supply! Through innovations in health research, GE will launch hundreds of new products in the next few years to reduce the cost of healthcare, particularly in areas like infant care and mammography.

GE invests $1B per year in training. One way this has paid off is that their educated locomotive teams reduced the time it takes to manufacture a locomotive from 100 days to 20. Jeff’s talk is full of these examples of “can do”, which I think is missing from America’s fabric in these tough times.

GE practices what it preaches: it changes with the global demand for its products. Over 50% of what GE produces today didn’t exist 10 years ago. GE will introduce more new products during this recession than any time in its history.

Big business needs to fund small businesses to invent and in the supply chain to compete globally. He states that as “Business leaders we are responsible for the competitiveness of our own country.” This comes from a free marketer and Republican. I wish more of our country’s leadership felt this way. The US is at a competitive disadvantage globally since the private and public sectors are often at odds and do not cooperate like they do in most other countries in the world! The US needs to welcome government as a catalyst for leadership and change. Look at all the creativity and innovation that came from NIH and NASA over the years. The government can be creative and foster cooperation!

I’ll conclude by sharing that Jeff is practicing what he preaches: GE is investing $100 million to develop a manufacturing lab near Visteon Center in the Detroit metro. This will provide 1200 professional jobs to start. Jobs will focus in three areas of innovation: advanced manufacturing technology including applications in aviation and energy products; software applications such as the smart grid; and a training program for information technology. GE is working with the public sector in Detroit and drawing talent from MI universities, in addition to the local work force.

I hope more of America’s leadership adopts Jeff Immelt’s attitudes and practices so America can once again feel proud. US competitiveness will only improve as we become a more self confident society. America’s consumer spending is not going to pull us out of this recession: this alone is not sustainable! America’s business investment in technology, innovation and value-added manufacturing will.

Competitive Intelligence at SLA 2009 & Other Favorites

SLA2009SeeYouJust before SCIP09, we shared a list of 10 things we wanted to do while at the conference, so in the spirit of cooperative intelligence, I’ll share the talks in the Competitive Intelligence Track and some of my favorites at SLA2009, which takes place in the Washington, DC Convention Center June 14 – 17.

Pre-conference workshops will be conducted on June 12 – 14. I am giving two all-day workshops which are part of SLA’s Click University program towards the Competitive Intelligence Certificates Program. CI Analysis: Intermediate Frameworks is on June 12, and Management Analysis for Competitive Intelligence is held on June 13. These classes cover CI analytical tools and techniques and include case study learning.

Here are Competitive Intelligence Track sessions and some others I recommend!

Saturday: June 13

Mary Ellen Bates will lead a seminar “Publish or Perish: Producing Fabulous e-Newsletters,” 1 – 5 p.m., June 13.

Sunday: June 14

Mary Ellen Bates leads a full-day workshop on “Build Your CI Skills Parts 1 & 2.” Attendees can elect to attend the full day or either half day, and this is part of the Competitive Intelligence Track. My colleague, Jennifer Swanson will lead the Click University CI Certificate Program (CIC07): “Human Source Collection–Research Beyond Published Sources,” an all day session. Jill Hurst-Wahl will co-instruct “Ten Things in One Day: Applying Social Tools to Your Library,” an all day workshop. Colin Powell, 65th Secretary of State, will give the SLA’s keynote address from 5:15 – 7:15 pm.

Monday: 15 June

Mary Ellen Bates will present “Painless (No, really!) Negotiating” from 9 – 10:30 am. “Expert Databases: Leveraging for Success” is led by panelists, Catherine Monte, Monica Ertel, and Medha Devare, from 9 – 10:30 am, part of the Competitive Intelligence Track. Claudia Clayton and Toni Wilson will present “Skills for the Effective CI Practitioner” from 1:30 – 3 pm, part of the Competitive Intelligence Track. August Jackson will present “Cast a Wide Research Net, Save Time with Really Simple Syndication (RSS)” from 1:30 – 3:30 pm. Jill Hurst-Wahl will be a panelist at “SLA Hot Topic: Wikis, Tweets, and Blogs, Oh My!” from 1:30 – 3 pm. Marcy Phelps will lead “Power Networking for Info Pros” from 1:30 – 3 pm

Tuesday: 16 June

Arik Johnson will be the featured speaker at the Competitive Intelligence Division’s Breakfast meeting from 7 – 8:30 am. Roberta Shaffer will present “Competitive Intelligence and the Government Librarian” from 9:30 – 11 am, part of the Competitive Intelligence Track. Mary Ellen Bates will present “Lies, Damned Lies, and Annual Reports: Reading and Interpreting Company Financials” from 11:30 am – 1 pm, part of the Competitive Intelligence Track. Ulla de Stricker will present “The Consultant’s Toolkit: Discovery in the Round” from 11:30 am – 1 pm. Jennifer Swanson and I (Ellen Naylor) will answer questions at “CI Clinic: The Prescription for Your CI Needs” from 1:30 – 3 p.m.

Wed: 17 June

Mary Ellen Bates will present “Creating Groupies: How to Add Value, Make Yourself Irreplaceable & Beat the Pants Off Google” from 8:30 – 10 am. Marcy Phelps will present “I’m Not Cheap, Just Cost-Conscious: Market Research to Fit Your Budget” from 8:30 – 10 am. “Incorporating CI into Your Services: Real Life Examples from Legal Info Pros” is led by panelists Tim McAllister, Greg Lambert, and J.O. Wallace from 8:30 – 10 am, part of the Competitive Intelligence Track.

I know there are some wonderful talks I haven’t included here in my list, but check out SLA’s conference agenda for all the details!

2014 Update: Books on Analytic Tools for Competitive Intelligence

This is a 2014 update of new and updated books on competitive intelligence tools and techniques from a 2009 blog.

Business and Competitive Analysis: Effective Application of New and Classic Methods by Craig S. Fleisher and Babette E. Bensoussan, 2007.

Strategic and Competitive Analysis: Methods and Techniques for Analyzing Business Competition by Craig S. Fleisher and Babette Bensoussan, 2002.

These above two books have not been updated, and are classic reference material and describe competitive intelligence analytic tools in great detail. These are written for the academic market as well as competitive intelligence, marketing and strategy professionals. There is no repetition of tools between the two books with about 50 in total. The authors also provide their assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of each tool. I have a copy of each book, since I use analytic tools when they help me tell the story of my research, interviewing or win loss analysis findings.

There are three more books on analytic tools and techniques which are a shorter and simpler read.  Analysis Without Paralysis was updated in 2012 and The Analysts’s Cookbook, Volume 2 was published in 2011.

Analysis Without Paralysis: 12 Tools to Make Better Strategic Decisions by Babette E. Bensoussan and Craig S. Fleisher, Second Edition, 2012

The Analyst’s Cookbook by Kristan J. Wheaton, Emily E. Mosco and Diane E. Chido, 2006. (Mercyhurst University) (paperback only)

The Analyst’s Cookbook, Volume 2 edited by Nicole Pillar and Dominic Vallone, 2011. (Mercyhurst University) (Kindle only)

Analysis Without Paralysis is a great book to have your boss read or someone who would like a simpler explanation of competitive intelligence tools and techniques without as much depth as Babette and Craig’s previous two books. In addition to updating techniques, the second edition has included 2 more techniques than the original did in 2006.

The Analyst’s Cookbook is another favorite since it is easy to read and understand. Kris Wheaton, leading author, teaches competitive intelligence at one of America’s foremost competitive intelligence colleges, Mercyhurst. They breathe competitive intelligence for a living and it shows as they clearly describe 16 analytic tools in 164 pages. Mercyhurst students published a volume 2 to their Analyst’s Cookbook series in 2011, available only in Kindle format.

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Integrate Competitive Intelligence and Marketing: Jazz Up Your Presentations!

Last week I shared a book list which we used to supplement our AMA (American Marketing Association) course on Integrating Competitive Intelligence into Marketing. In the cooperative spirit, this list continues with 3 books to help you spruce up your communication and presentation skills.

I love Advanced Presentations by Design: Creating Communication that Drives Action by Dr. Andrew Abela, associate professor of marketing at the Catholic University of America in Washington, DC. He was the founding managing director of the Marketing Leadership Council, and is a former McKinsey consultant.

I had the good fortune to attend Dr. Abela’s full-day training session at the SCIP’s (Society of Competitive Intelligence Professionals) Annual Conference in 2006.  It is one of the most practical workshops I have ever attended and I couldn’t wait to use my new found skill as I re-wrote my SCIP presentation based on what I learned right away!

Professor Abela goes through 10 steps that are guaranteed to help you write a persuasive presentation.  He starts out by making you think about the motivation, personality and communication preferences of those who will be in your audience and thus tailor your message and style accordingly.

As we went through his 10 steps to create an “extreme presentation,” I realized that I would have to re-think my presentation look to be more audience-centric.  I had been creating Power Point decks to help me remember the points I wanted to convey rather than considering how my audience might want to be communicated with.  And heavens my slides were laden with bullet points and lacked life!

Dr. Abela suggests two presentation styles: Ballroom for large groups of 100 or more, and Conference room, a 1-3 page handout for smaller groups.  The Ballroom look is mostly pictorial and is a one-way communication, whereas the Conference room is more like an architectural drawing and is designed to engage and persuade your audience and to change their behavior.

I use both of Dr. Abela’s styles with a large audience at SCIP conferences since SCIP attendees tend to be analytical and like to take notes.  I’ll present using the Ballroom style and give each attendee a one-page handout summary in Dr. Abela’s Conference room style so attendees can take notes.

Dr. Abela’s presentation book concentrates on the back room operations of presenting–that is planning and presentation creation—not delivering the talk.  However, if you follow his format of either a Ballroom or Conference room format, you better know your material.  In Ballroom, you are not reading bullet points, but showing pictures that tell the story.  In Conference room, you have 1 or 2 handouts for a meeting which might run an hour.  Again you better know your material since you can’t cram it all on a page or two.

The second book I recommend is: Presentation Zen: Simple Ideas on Presentation Design and Delivery by Garr Reynolds and is endorsed by none other than marketing guru Seth Godin. “Please don’t buy this book! Once people start making better presentations, mine won’t look so good. (But if you truly want to learn what works and how to do it right, Garr is the man to learn from.)”

The third book is The Back of the Napkin: Solving Problems and Selling Ideas with Pictures by Dan Roam. The premise behind Roam’s book is that anybody with a pen and a scrap of paper can use visual thinking to work through complex business ideas. This book is recommended by Dan Heath of Make to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Other Ideas Die who says, ““Inspiring! It teaches you a new way of thinking in a few hours — what more could you ask from a book?”

Remember you can still attend this AMA workshop in Chicago on March 12.

Happy Reading!

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