How To Recover From A Zidane Moment

(Also listen to the audio at the end of this article)

bad hair day, customer retention, marketing strategy

Your business will have a Zidane Moment. Some time in the future, you’ll run into a situation that you cannot foresee; cannot perceive; and one that will cause your business to feel an instant shudder.

What’s the Zidane moment, and how can you recover from one?
The referee didn’t catch it. The linesmen were focused on the ball. The crowd was not even looking in his direction.

Yet in the final of the Football World Cup, Zinedine Zidane captain of the French football team, did what most businesses may inadvertently do. In one fraction of a moment, he went from being the darling of the crowd, to a villain, who was sent off the field in disgrace.

One moment of anger, led to Zidane head-butt his opponent–an action that caused the red card to come out and cause the French team to be instantly handicapped without their star player.

Your business can be instantly red-carded at an unexpected moment
Some time in the future, your business will come under an unexpected spotlight. You’ll do something that you just didn’t want or mean to do, and suddenly you’ll be faced with a crisis that you’re not sure how to handle.

Have you ever got 35 emails from one person?
One morning on a day local retailer Janet would rather forget, her company managed to send out over 7,000 emails in less than an hour. In effect, she accidentally sent out 35 emails to each of the 200 people on a particular list.

Here’s How Her Horror Story Unfolded…
Janet was new to email. And didn’t have any software, and even less of a budget to send out email through an email-based company. So she wrote a little do-it-yourself program that sent out an email to each individual address, without revealing the whole ‘cc’ list.

She was so proud of her programming prowess! All the names of the recipients were on that list, and the server picked them up one by one, sending the email to each individual.

Which Was Fine in Theory…
None of the recipients could see the other people on the list. They didn’t know that it had gone to 199 other people. But she hadn’t thought through the complete process. One unforeseen bug dialed Murphy’s number. When a recipient hit reply, her little program sent their message to everyone else on the list!

All it Took Was One Person to Hit the Reply Button
It just so happened that the first person who did, also attached a personal note to Janet. This personal note then went to all 200 people on her list. A client who got to work early, saw it, and emailed Janet to say that she was getting Janet’s personal mail.

The client hit reply and sent her reply to 199 other people she didn’t know were on the list. Soon everyone began complaining by hitting reply, and thousands of emails danced Janet’s server dizzy.

As if that weren’t enough, the Take-Me-Off-Your-List Brigade started their charge, effectively turning a sunny day into a raging cyclone!

Not to belabor the story, Janet had the problem fixed within the hour. But by that time, she’d already been ‘Zidaned’.

So which are the instances of a Zidane Moment in a business?

Here are just a few instances of things going wrong, either by mistake or in some cases, even on purpose.

1) You could have inadvertently overcharged a client.
2) A client may have received defective/incomplete goods/services.
3) The client may have had to pay for a mistake you made.
4) You may have been tempted to extend a special offer and be caught out.
5) You may breach an unwritten confidentiality understanding.

And yes, you’re in a soup. But there are simple rules to get out.

What are the core rules to recover from a Zidane moment?
1) Don’t try to hide the truth: Clients (and viewers) understand that things go wrong. And if you tell the truth, most of them understand and sympathise. The more you try to hide the matter under a bushel, the more likely you are to make clients really mad at you.

And if you’re a public figure, you’re really dealing with reporters who are going to dig out the truth, no matter what.

So you can save yourself a lot of embarrassment, by revealing the truth upfront. The truth has a ring of ‘boredom’ and ‘sympathy’ around it. Lies have a distinct flavour of ‘gossip’ and ‘excitement.’ The last thing you want to do, when you’re in trouble is to foster the gossip and excitement. And if you have any doubts about the truth, speak to Bill Clinton and his Monica affair. :)

2) Apologise instantly: Clients aren’t out to get you. Yes, you’ve had your Zidane moment. Yes, you’ve done what you shouldn’t have done. But there’s no need to hide or sulk. The best thing to douse the flame of ‘gossip’ instantly, is to apologise profusely.
The more repentant you are, the more you’re likely to be forgiven by your clients.

3) Make amends: Wherever possible, make amends. Give clients a future credit. Give them a small gift. Send them a small note apologising and making sure they know you didn’t mean to do what you did.

Is this advice too simple?
Do you think the Zidane moment won’t hit you?
Well, it will. If not today, sometime in the future you’ll goof up. And when you do, simply get into recovery mode.

And turn your Zidane moment into a PR coup instead!

Epilogue:
Janet apologised to her clients, and offered them a bar of chocolate for her ‘email fiasco.’ Most clients were happy to just ‘forgive her’. Some took up the chocolate offer. And as a direct result of the ‘fiasco’, and the ‘recovery’, Janet got additional work worth over $5000. Now isn’t that a story with a nice ending?


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Why The Bad Economy Is Good For You

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The economy is getting bad, they tell you.
The economy is getting worse, they tell you.
The implosion is about to come, they tell you.

And Leo Burnett would laugh (or at the very least, softly chuckle).

Leo, who?
It was the Great Depression. The economy had done exactly what everyone said it would. It tanked. And it was at this very point, that Leo decided to leave New York. Now, this may not seem very relevant to you, except for the fact that New York was the advertising capital of the United States. It was New York or Hicksville.

Well, at least ‘Hicksville’ in the advertising world.

Well, Leo didn’t care
He moved to Chicago. And not only did he move, but he set up his own advertising agency, with his own principles, and his own sense of above-standard ethics. And his competition jeered.

They pointed to the people selling apples on the street.

“You’ll soon sell apples on the street”, they mocked with one voice
“Not only will I not sell apples,” said Leo,”but I will give them away.” Leo refused to bow down. Instead he believed in himself, and put in more effort than ever before. And Leo Burnett went on to grow one of the largest advertising agencies in the world: The Leo Burnett Agency.

And eighty years or so later, that agency–formed at the core of the Great Depression–is still going, and going, and going.

And that’s because Leo refused to bow down.

So are you bowing down?
You should be. If you read the newspapers, they’re telling you it’s all kaput. If you listen to the news, it’s pretty much ditto.

And even if you escaped all that, there are at least half a dozen emails in your in-box reminding you about beefing up your knowledge; perhaps attending a workshop so that you can rise above the imploding economy.

And yucky as it sounds, those emails are right
When times get tougher, it’s not time to be bowing and scraping. It’s time to do exactly what the masses are not doing. And the masses are masses, because they all act alike. They’re all scared witless, and all cutting back. And if you want to be with the masses, then you’ll be cutting back too.

Which is what I’d do every June and July
June and July were officially the ‘thunderstorm’ months of the year, way back in 1997. They were also the worst months of the year in 1998. And 1999, as you would expect. My business (which was cartooning back then) would sputter. It would stall.

And I’d sit witless in my office, having to pay staff who had little or nothing to do. And I’d moan and groan about how life was unfair. Till I had a little conversation with my mother.

“You should spend the quiet months, getting ready for the not-so-quiet months,” she said. “You won’t get anywhere with that moping. And you won’t get any smarter.” Luckily I took her advice. Every time the ‘bad months’ came along, we’d spend time learning, and educating ourselves.

I’d buy new software, new hardware, and do a lot of self-education through books, materials and workshops. The staff would spend time improving their skills, and getting ready for the ‘thunderstorm’ to pass

And eventually it would pass
And the work would flow in by the truckloads. And we’d be better placed in terms of hardware, software and capabilities. And it was all because we didn’t care to follow the masses.

The masses are still moaning.
They’re still telling you that the economy is getting bad.
They’re still telling you that it’s going to get worse.
They’re talking about implosion.

And you’ve got a choice
You can buckle down, and cower.
Or you can do what Leo Burnett did.
Learn. Spend more time upgrading your skills.

And you don’t have to buy anything
Use the public library.
Borrow information from friends, if you have to. And if you can, invest in new hardware, software, and especially upgrade your skills.

Because the storm will pass. It has to!
Yes, the economy may be tanking, but things will change. And when it does, you’ll come out smarter, and better placed than everyone else.

Ask Leo. He not only didn’t end up selling apples like everyone on the street, but he actually gave them away. So if you were to walk into a Leo Burnett agency anywhere in the world today, you’ll be guaranteed to see a bowl of apples at the reception. And yes, you can have it, absolutely free!

Pick it up. And eat it.
Taste the depression. And the method to rise above that depression.

And as you crunch into that apple, somewhere in the heavens, Leo will softly chuckle.


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Why Urgency Succeeds Like Nothing Else In A Bad Economy

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urgency, marketing strategies

Let’s say you have to pee.

So this is a normal bodily function, eh?

It means that if you feel that sensation, and you don’t go soon enough, you’ll be in trouble.

But how many of us go to the loo when we first feel the sensation?

And how many of your customers are buying your products or services in a bad economy?
Should you discount?
Should you put in bigger signs?
Should you send out a zillion emails?
Or would it be more prudent (yup, prudent), to understand the factor of urgency?

So what’s this factor of urgency?
Let’s analyse the situation:

1) The client has the need for your product/service.
2) They know you’re the right person.
3) They even know where to go, and what to do.

They should be rushing to buy your product or service. But good grief, they’re holding out.

Holding out?

What are they holding out for?
If a person has a backache, shouldn’t they fix the backache right away?

If they have a backache that drives them insane shouldn’t they be rushing to fix it? Yes, they should, and no they don’t rush.

In fact, they’re doing something quite the opposite
They’re putting up with the pain.
They’re putting up with the frustration.
They complain about it often enough, but won’t get it fixed.
Surely that’s madness.

Yes, but not on their part.

It’s madness on your part!
You are the person to blame.

You haven’t provided them an incentive.
Or haven’t given clear instructions.
Or haven’t created enough risk reversal.
Or haven’t created urgency of any kind.

Which takes us back to someone in a dire need to pee
They’re going to be uncomfortable soon enough.

So why won’t they go?

There’s no incentive: Is the toilet you’re providing right next to where they are? There are no clear instructions: Do they know where to find the toilet? Can they see the signage?

Have you created a well-lit toilet area? Or is it dingy and kinda scary? And is there an urgency? Is this the last toilet for the next 50 miles?

Urgency isn’t created with one angle.
There are half a dozen angles.

At the very least.

And each angle has its own job to do
Each angle removes one more objection.
Creates one more reason to act right away.

You see humans don’t behave the way you think they behave.

They don’t fall madly in love at first sight.
They don’t buy stuff the moment they see it.
They don’t even pee when they first need to.

They wait.
They wait.
They wait.

And it’s your job to minimise that waiting time
By repeatedly educating your customers using different angles. But education isn’t enough.

You have to give them a reason to buy.
You can’t be shy about selling. And it’s the education combined with the sales that creates the factor of urgency.

This understanding of urgency is critical in any economy.

But here’s what happens in a good economy
People buy easily, because hey it’s herd-mentality: You’re buying, I’m buying, and so it’s okay to buy.

But then the economy closes in.
The clouds graduate to that menacing shade of inky-blue.

And all this time, the herd-mentality hasn’t gone away. Everyone is still following the herd.

Except now, no one is buying
You’re not. And yup, I’m not.
So in that worsening economy, urgency becomes ever-so critical.

Even when people are quite clearly in trouble. Even whey know they have a need for a product or a service, they’ll wait.

And the only thing that will get them to act, is an even bigger problem.

So let’s take an example:
Let’s say your customer needs to fix his roof.
It’s raining. There are a dozen leaky spots in the house, and two dozen buckets.

But this customer is still waiting.

Unless someone educates him that if he does fix the roof, he’ll pay a lot of bucks. But if he doesn’t, then he’ll end up paying twice as much, as the damage worsens.

And then, that ‘educator’ must provide the incentives, instructions, risk-reversal and yes, urgency.

Over and over again.
From multiple angles.

You see, creating urgency isn’t a one step
It’s a series of steps.

We have to go, when we have to go, only because we feel safe to go. It’s your job to create that safety net, with repeated education and sales.

And that’s when the customer really goes.

Aaaaaaaaaaaaah.
What a relief, huh?

For both parties too. :)


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How to Segregate Sticky-Pairs at Workshops

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You see it in sci-fi movies.
You see it at workshops.

It’s called the ‘force shield.’

Once the ‘force shield’ is up, nothing can penetrate the shield. The people within the shield are cocooned. And the people outside the shield are isolated.

Sticky-pairs cause force-shields at workshops

So what are sticky-pairs?
Sticky-pairs are people who know each other.
Like husband and wife.
Like co-workers.
Like friends.
Like participants who speak a common language. Or have a country/city of origin.

They stick to each other like glue. And in doing so, create a clique; a force-shield.

And your first job as a presenter or facilitator, is to destroy that shield.

And there are good reasons why.
1) Other participants avoid sticky-pairs.
2) Sticky-pairs get less working time.
3) Sticky-pairs get less ways to solve their unique problem.
4) They end up unhappy, and grumbly.

So let’s quickly see what happens at a workshop.
Sticky-pairs tend to stick together at breakfast. At lunch. At dinner. And are almost always seated right next to each other in a workshop.

This causes other participants to get intimidated. That’s because it’s two people vs. one. As a result, when they bring up a problem in the group, the problem is treated as a single problem.

So if the group has one hour to work on their own business, and about fifteen minutes is allocated per person to a group of four, a sticky pair is often treated as a unit, and given less time by the group.

So they tend to get the same fifteen minutes even though they’re two. And should logically get half an hour.

But that’s not all. If the sticky-pair weren’t so gooey, and separated into two groups, they’d find they’d get two different points of view to solve the same problem.

But because they’re part of the same group, they invariably end up listening to just one angle, thus depriving the pair of different viewpoints.

If your workshop lasts for less than a day, this stickiness isn’t quite as noticeable.
If it lasts for a day, it kinda surfaces by the second tea break.

But if the workshop lasts for three days (as our workshops do), then the sticky-pair becomes totally isolated.

Of course, no one is isolating them on purpose, but invariably the isolation kicks in. You’ll find that sticky-pairs then get more grumbly, and are far more dissatisfied.

As you can tell this situation isn’t good for the stickies, or the group, or the facilitator.

So the best thing to do is un-stick them as soon as possible.

So what’s as soon as possible?
And how do you un-stick them?

The sticky-pair need to be un-stuck before the first workgroup session itself. The sooner they’re separated, the better. And the way to separation, is an overt as well as a subtle method.

So let’s look at the overt method.

You announce to the group about the sticky-pair syndrome and why it causes an issue. This brings the problem of stickiness to the fore. Now the sticky-pair, as well as the rest of the group are aware about the issue, and with a little luck, they’ll quickly separate.

But luck isn’t always a good method, so it’s time to use the subtle method.

And here’s how you do it. Any big group can be split up into smaller groups of four or five members. Well, let’s assume they’re five. And let’s assume you call those five the following: A, B, C, D, and E.

Here’s what you do next…
You assign the letter A to the first person. And then B to the next. And C to the next and so on.

So now the first five people have the letters from A-E. Now continue assigning letters to the group, going from A-E.

As you’ve figured out, the sticky pair will be A and B. Or B and C. Essentially, they’ll be consecutive letters, because they’re seated right next to each other.

But your next command is simple. You tell all the A’s in the room to form a group. And all the B’s to form a group, and so on.
In a second, you’ve separated the sticky-pair.

But won’t that make the sticky-pair feel a little unsafe?

After all the reason they got sticky in the first place was because they share a common background. And in an alien workshop, sticking together provides a sense of comfort.

And yes it does, but only for so long, because eventually the pair alienates themselves, and in turn gets alienated from the group.

Bring down the force-shield. Get the sticky-pair unstuck. And your workshop and experience will be more sticky as a result!

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How to Engage an Audience with Props

(Also listen to the audio at the end of this article)

bug2a

Imagine you pulled out a chair.
Or two large pieces of paper.
Or a balloon.

What you’re doing is waking up the audience with a prop.
And props wake up the sleepiest of audiences in a matter of seconds. Yes, even if the prop isn’t remotely connected to your business.

So here’s what I do when I’m presenting the ‘Brain Audit’ presentation.
I set a chair in the centre of the room.

I then proceed to sit down on the chair.
Then I stand up.
Then I sit down.
Then I stand up.
Then I sit down.
Then I stand up.

It doesn’t matter what the audience was doing/thinking about/fiddling with before I put that chair in the centre. Now they’re looking at me. And in an instant, I’ve got their attention. They’re wide-awake. Aha, and it’s all because of the prop I’ve used.

But the prop alone won’t work
The prop will indeed get the attention of the audience, but it’s now up to you to create the connection with that prop.

So here’s how I connect: I ask the audience a question that’s impossible to goof up.

I say: Who among you expected the chair to break? I then wait for a few seconds and ask another ‘impossible-to-goof-up’ question. And say: Why didn’t the chair break? And after an initial hesitation, I do get a response.

Sometimes two or three.

And then it’s time to create the connection:
The chair didn’t break because it was built on science. Our communication, however, is not built on science. It’s built on randomness. This is why so many people misunderstand what we say.

This is why we spend thousands, tens of thousands, even millions of dollars, and still don’t get the message across. This is because our communication is built without parameters.

The Brain Audit, however, is built with parameters. It’s built with benchmarks. And like the chair, it’s built on science. Which means that you can be sure if you use the concepts outlined in the Brain Audit, you’ll get specific, consistent results.

So you see, using props is a three-step process:
1) You pre-determine the prop you’re going to use.
2) You take the prop out of context (if you can) to create drama.
3) You then make the connection and snap your audience out of la-la land.

Pre-determining the prop is important.
If you don’t prepare in advance, your presentation may get their attention, but you’re more than likely to goof up on the connection, and make a hash of your presentation.

And taking the prop out of context is also important, because a chair is a chair, is a chair—until you put a chair in the middle of the room. The prop out of context is what creates the drama.

But the question that may arise is: Does the prop need to be connected to your business? So if you’re presenting a phone, do you need a phone? Or should you always use something that’s not quite connected, like a sneaker, or a cup of coffee instead?

I’d always use the prop that’s not connected to my business. The reason is drama. When you stand up to talk about phones, the audience is expecting you to talk about phones.

But a sneaker or a cup of coffee, or some completely unrelated object throws them off guard in mere seconds. And creates instant drama.

But hey, you don’t have to listen to me. You can use props that are connected to your business, as well as props that are not connected. And here are two solid examples.

Example 1: Connected to your business:
Imagine you’re presenting an Icebreaker garment. Now Icebreaker is a brand of garments made from pure merino wool. And what’s cool about them is that you can sweat, and sweat and sweat, and they don’t stink. So in effect, an Icebreaker garment itself can become a prop.

The marketing executive can stand up in an audience and say: “I have a secret. I’ve been wearing this t-shirt for the past thirty-five days.”

Boof! She’s got the attention of the audience. And she continues:“And guess what? It doesn’t stink.” In fact, the late Sir Peter Blake wore it for forty-five days and forty-five nights, while he was yachting. And it still didn’t stink.

See the connection? Icebreaker’s uniqueness is that their garments just don’t stink. And they used the prop that’s connected to their business. This of course, takes us to the second example.

Example 2: A prop that’s not connected to your business
Let’s imagine the marketing executive removes a stuffed skunk and places it on the table. And then says: “If you were to wear your t-shirt for the next thirty-five days, your t-shirt would smell like this skunk.

But not with Icebreaker. You could actually wear an Icebreaker t-shirt for thirty-five, forty, or even forty-five days, and do the most rigorous activity…and still not stink.”

Got your attention didn’t it?
It most certainly did. And props—when properly used—will always get the attention of the audience, no matter whether you use a prop that’s connected or disconnected to your business. So the next time you’re making a presentation, don’t just blah-blah.

Use a chair.
Or two large pieces of paper.
Or a skunk for that matter!

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How The Wrong Example Alienates Your Audience

(Also listen to the audio at the end of this article)

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Examples have a singular goal: They help the reader understand a concept. But could the wrong example actually alienate an audience? And how would you know which kind of example would alienate you?

Let’s look at a simple example of a ‘rocking chair.’

So if were to talk about a ‘rocking chair’, for instance, you’d immediately see an image in your brain. I could then connect the concept of a ‘rocking chair’ to the concept of ‘lots of motion, but going nowhere.’

But why choose a rocking chair?

You choose a rocking chair, because you’ve seen a rocking chair.
I’ve seen a rocking chair. Even in today’s world, where rocking chairs are rarer, we know what a rocking chair looks like.

And how it rocks.

Baseball on the other hand, doesn’t ‘rock.’
You may be a great fan of baseball, for instance. And so to illustrate a point, you may use an example of something that happens in baseball.

And immediately you’ve alienated a good chunk of your audience
No matter if you’re speaking to group of people, writing an article, or writing a sales letter, you’re sure to send a decent part of your audience into a tailspin.

This is because they probably don’t watch baseball

They don’t know the rules of baseball.
They come from a non-baseball playing country.
They live in a baseball-country and detest the darned thing.

On average, no one detests rocking chairs
Or teapots.
Or computers.
Or airports.

What’s more, every member of your audience can relate to the example, because it’s so common.

What you’re looking for is to keep your example as common as possible
The purpose of using an example is to simplify things. If you use examples that put up a wall in my brain, you’re doing quite the opposite of simplification. You’re causing my brain to rebel, To stutter. Or for the example to plainly bounce over my head.

Bounce ain’t good
That’s why, when I do a Brain Audit presentation for instance, I’ll use simple examples such as:
1) Collecting your bags at the airport.
2) The news on TV.
3) Dog poo on the road

When I write articles, I’ll write about:
1) Firemen putting out a fire.
2) The lawn mowing guy
3) The plane flying outside my window.

In salesletters, I’ve used the concepts of:

1) Getting into the wrong car.
2) Fly buzzing on the window.
3) Eating at a restaurant.

And other such examples which are every day occurrences.

This keeps my audience/readers focused on simple examples.

So make sure your examples have a singular goal because they help the reader understand a concept. That way you won’t alienate your audience. Hey, you’ll probably get a standing ovation.

P.S. Despite the need to be clever, also avoid any references to ‘mother-in-law jokes, ex-wife/husband’ and other such issues that bring up strong emotions.

Every day objects and situations don’t carry the baggage of emotion. So stick to every day objects and situations. It’s simpler.

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The Article Writing Challenge – How To Write Articles While Driving A Taxi

write articles quickly, article writing, article strategy

I was on my way back from the airport, when I struck up a conversation with a taxi driver. He was originally a landscaper, but was now driving taxis (as part of his retirement plan) and he did like the job a lot. But he did have some regrets.

He wanted to write. It had always been his dream to write a book about landscaping.
But despite several attempts, he’d failed. Every time he sat down to write something, he’d struggle. Then he’d give up. And in his mind he’d decided he wasn’t much of a ‘writer’ after all.
So I told him he was mistaken. By the time I told him he was mistaken, we were already on the Auckland Harbour Bridge, and about 15 minutes away from my destination.

I had 15 minutes to get him to ‘write’ an article…

And so we started. I asked him to pick a topic on landscaping. And he started talking about soil. Somehow that topic veered to good soil. And bad soil.

And my questions were:

1) What is good soil? Why is it considered good?
2) What is bad soil? Why is it considered bad?
3) Can you create good soil from bad soil?
4) Can you mix good soil and bad soil? (And what are the ramifications?)
5) Where would you recommend a person start when putting together the soil for planting.
6) Summary

And exactly twenty five seconds before we got to my house, he’d finished his ‘article’.
All while driving a taxi.

But can you write articles while driving a taxi? Or headed home on a bus?

Of course you can. In fact, anyone who can formulate thoughts can write an article. The problem of ‘writing’ isn’t in the thought process. We’re all able to structure our lines easily. When someone asks us questions, we’re easily able to give answers—if we know the topic. The problem arises when you sit down to ‘write’. The moment you sit down to write, you forget how to think. You suddenly are so focused on structuring your information, that you forget to ask the questions. If all you did was ask the right questions, you’d be able to write an article, give a speech, write a book, create a presentation. Because all you’re doing is putting thoughts together. Nothing more, nothing less.

In fact, I have an open challenge
I can teach anyone to write articles in thirty minutes or less. Anyone. Yes, that’s correct: anyone. Even an illiterate person can learn how to ‘write’ an article. And it doesn’t matter where they come from, or their background, or their level of education. If they can have a conversation with me, I can teach them how to ‘write’ an article. Of course, becoming a writer who brings drama, flow and power to the article takes a little more than thirty minutes, but that too is possible. Education, background or ability has zero bearing on writing articles.

All you need is a good teacher.
A robust system.
Good questions.
And a short taxi ride.

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Why Too Many Ideas In An Article Make You Feel Nauseated

too_many_ideas

In the year 2003, I got on a cruise ship from New Zealand to Australia.
And those cruise ships are so big, that you’d never believe you’d get seasick on one of them. And yet it’s quite easy to get seasick when the sea is churning and monstrous waves keeping battering the ship time and time again.

Which is a lot like what happens when the reader of your article has to deal with waves of ideas. Even if you’ve got a robust article with lots of solid information, it’s easy to let the waves of ideas make the reader feel a bit ‘seasick’.

So what are waves of ideas?
Waves of ideas are simply when you expect the reader to deal with too many ideas too quickly. When you’re writing an article, you often get loads of ideas. So you put some of the ideas down at first. And then as more ideas stream in, you add the new ideas to your article.

But the reader is barely working out the first idea—when the next appears. And the second idea hasn’t been fully understood—and then yet another idea pops up in the article.

So what does the reader do when faced with these waves of ideas?
Readers tend to do one of two things:
1) They scan.
2) They leave.

When faced with too many ideas, some readers will just skip over the words; then the sentence; and sometimes the whole paragraph. When our brains don’t understand something, we simply bypass the information because our brains can’t make sense of it. So rather than spend valuable time and resources trying to find out the details, the brain does a skip.

And this skipping is dangerous because you may have written something important in that paragraph, and because the reader can’t work it out, they miss that important point. And this missing of important points leaves gaps in the reader’s understanding. So the reader may struggle through the rest of the article. Or they may not struggle at all.

They may just leave.
When faced with something that’s complicated, it’s easy to get distracted and leave. The brain doesn’t like to deal with information that’s tedious. Or complex. It finds too many ideas too difficult to process, even if those ideas are indeed simple ideas. This causes the brain to tell you that you’re better off reading something easier. Something that’s not causing the brain to feel so queasy.

And to explore this concept of queasiness fully, let’s take an example:
If I say: Imagine you’re having a cappuccino, but wait don’t mix it with a flat white….

As soon as I made that statement above, you may have been confused. You see a ‘flat white’ is a common coffee here in New Zealand, but may not be quite as common in the rest of the world. So when I put in something new, you are instantly confused. This is because you may not know that flat white is a type of coffee. And that’s not the only reason why you were confused.

You see, your brain was busy conjuring up a cappuccino and then suddenly it has to conjure up a flat white.
It’s very hard for the brain to make these sudden jumps—and inevitably there’s a feeling of nauseousness.

So how do you make sure that you aren’t creating this nauseo
us feeling in your articles?
Make sure you know what you want to communicate. And then stick to one idea. In this article I wanted to communicate the concept of feeling nauseous. And so I chose the concept of a cruise ship being battered by waves. But of course there are lots of situations where you feel queasy.

- You could have eaten too much and felt queasy.
- You could have been sitting in the back seat of a car and felt queasy.
- You could have been reading while moving and felt queasy.

There are lots of ways to feel queasy, but I chose one way to demonstrate the fact: I chose the cruise ship. And the same advice applies to you. You’re going to have many ways to represent an idea. But choose just one way. Choose one example to explain your concept, and make sure that example doesn’t require the reader to think too much all at once.

So if you noticed, the article flowed from one point to another, only a
fter making sure you understood the previous point.
So it went from:
- cruise ship
- cruise ship being big and hence not likely to cause seasickness.
- how stormy seas can cause seasickness anyway, even in the big ships.
- how too many ideas can cause seasickness even in a very detailed article.

So each point is clearly and simply presented before moving to the next. And next. And this creates a nice flow. And that’s what you’re looking to achieve in your article.

Or in other words: Don’t rock the boat!

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How To Avoid Throwaway Lines In Article Writing

How To Avoid Throwaway Lines In Article Writing

Let’s say you’re writing an article. And let’s also assume that you’re writing a pretty good article when suddenly you manage to slip in a ‘throwaway line’.

So what’s a throwaway line?

A throwaway line is a line that’s often not related to the article. It’s probably just a thought that popped up in your head at that moment, and so you just dropped it in. You didn’t think that a single line would disrupt the entire process of the article, would you? And yet it does.

So let’s take an example
Let’s say the article is about ‘How to speak well in front of a video camera’. And there you are writing away about how to speak well, when you say something like:
“Public speaking has never bothered you.  So why are you so camera shy?”

Now see what you did there? It was a throwaway line.
And you know that it’s a throwaway, because when you read your completed article you notice that you didn’t mention public speaking at all in the rest of the article. And yet it’s probably created a disruption in your article that you just don’t need.

And here’s how the disruption plays itself out…
If you ask around you’ll find that people are quite shy of public speaking. They’ll do it, but doesn’t mean it hasn’t bothered them. For instance, my wife Renuka has given dozens of presentations, but it still sends her into a tizzy getting ready. You could wake me from my sleep and ask me to give a presentation, and I’d do it. But not Renuka.

So when Renuka reads that throwaway line, she freezes.

Now she can’t focus on the article, because there’s a burr in her head. That burr/obstruction causes her brain to bring up all the emotions of being ‘bothered’ by public speaking. And so once that ‘emotional dam’ breaks, you’ve lost Renuka. And therefore lost the control over the reader.

Notice that if you just remove that throwaway line, there’s no emotional dam breaking. And so the reader stays with you.

Throwaway lines are dangerous.

We put them in articles.
We put them in videos.
We put them in speaking.

Even as we say them, we realise that ‘Ugh, I shouldn’t have said that.’
And yes there’s a way to sharpen your article and reduce throwaway lines. When writing an article, don’t just write an article. Think of a person who it would apply to. e.g. When I was writing about discounts, I thought about a marketer who is my friend and is always discounting. When I wrote this article, I thought of a client called Perry.

So I’m rarely just writing an article. I’m thinking of how youÑthe readerÑwill react to the article.

And so you have to decide who you’re writing to.

You may have been writing to me, and hey the line “Public speaking has never bothered you” would be just fine. But if you’re not speaking to meÑand it’s more than likely that you’re notÑthen you need to keep the person in mind.

That’s the first step to reducing throwaway lines, but hey, there’s a second step.
The second method is read your article again, and you’ll discover that you’ve made random comments that have little or no bearing on the article. All you have to do is simply remove those random comments, and your article will flow nicely once again.

So let’s summarise:
1) Throwaway lines are lines you think of on the spur of the moment.
2) You’ll include a throwaway line and forget about it, but the customer gets distracted.
3) This distraction could be a minor distraction, or an emotional dam of sorts.
4) If it’s an emotional dam, you’ve completely lost the customer over a single line.
5) The best way to avoid throwaway lines is to write with someone specific in mind.
6) Writing for someone specific will make you think of that person in greater detail.
7) Of course the other way to reduce throwaway lines is to read your article and ruthlessly edit any unnecessary lines.

This ability to avoid throwaway lines in your article writing isn’t always easy.  This is because you get one thought, and then the next thought slips in, and you want to put both the thoughts on paper. And it’s perfectly fine to put those thoughts down.

But when you’re done with the article, and you’re giving it a quick scan through, see if there are any throwaway lines in the article. Lines that may have relevance to the topic, but are still just a distraction. And once you remove those lines, your article will flow smoothly once again.

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How To Write A Book Using Articles: Part 2

how to write a book, become an author, book writing

How to use article writing techniques to produce a book
Have you heard of the story of the ‘Goose that laid the Golden Eggs’?
What about ‘The Tortoise and the Hare’?
And surely you must have heard of ‘The Fox and the Grapes’.

And what do those stories have in common?
All of these stories are credited to a Greek slave who lived from 620-520 BC.
You know the name of this slave and story-teller: His name was Aesop, and his stories are well-known as Aesop’s Fables.

But what has Aesop’s Fables got to do with writing a book?
When writing a book, it’s important to come up with an angle. Or a theme. Or a specific direction.

And here’s where most writers go horribly wrong.

Most writers are too eager to start writing when they should be outlining and create the theme
The outline of any document, whether it be an article or a book rarely takes more than five-six hours at best. The writing of such a document can take weeks, and even months. And if you’ve not created an outline and theme, then hey you may get lucky and still put a document together, but luck is not a good strategy.

Because even as we go back to the 5th century BC we see a running theme.
1) Most of Aesop’s fables aren’t just fables: They are fables with a moral.
2) Most of them have foxes, lions, tortoises, hares, dogs, grasshoppers: You get it, right? They’re mostly animal-based.

And of course we see the outline:
1) The story begins. (The tortoise and the hare have a race).
2) It has some drama and flow. (The tortoise is left behind, but soon overtakes the sleeping hare).
3) The story ends. (The tortoise wins, much to the hare’s dismay).
4) There’s a moral to the story. (Slow and steady wins the race).

Themes and outlines give structure to just about any communication.

And the way to understand the core of structure it’s best to look no further than the contents pages of just about any book from just about any book store.

So if we were to look at “The Long Tail” by Chris Anderson, we get the following on the Contents Page:
1) The Long Tail.
2) The Rise and Fall of The Hit
3) A Short History of the Long Tail
4) The Three Forces of the Long Tail
5) The New Producers
6) The New Markets
7) The New Tastemakers
Long Tail Economics.
9) The Short Head
And it goes on…

See? There’s a theme. And there’s an outline. But interestingly (and yes this is interesting) those eight chapters could almost be eight articles strung together.

And ironically the answer to the question of ‘How to use article writing techniques to produce a book’ falls in place, doesn’t it?
If all you ever have is a theme and an outline, you can even take seemingly unrelated articles and put them together.
And we see this with Jim Collins’ book “Good to Great” (that has to date sold over 2 million copies).

1) Good to Great
2) Level 5 Leadership
3) First Who Then What
4) Confront the Brutal Facts.
5) A Culture of Discipline.
6) Technology Accelerators
7) The Flywheel and the Doom Loop
From Good to Great to Built to Last.

If you were to read this book, it’s almost like reading seven or eight different books in a single book. Each of the chapters goes off on its own tangent. Yet what holds the book together is the theme. And the theme ties together the content to cohesively create a book.

But is there a rule of what to throw away and what to keep?

Sure there is. You keep the articles that loosely fit to the theme. When put together, these articles will form your outline and give your book the structure and flow. The articles that don’t fit the theme can be kept aside. You can’t have a 10,000 page book, so it’s just a matter of picking articles that create chapters or sections for your book. Malcolm Gladwell’s book on the “Tipping Point” had only three main sections. Jim Collins had eight. Chris Anderson had fifteen. Aesop apparently had 650 (though hopefully not in the same book).

So as you can see, throwing and keeping is just a matter of choice. Which of course, brings us to the moral of the story.

And what’s the moral?
- Take a bunch of ‘articles.’
- Create a theme.
- Create an outline.
- Throw away the articles that don’t fit the theme.

And you too can be like Chris Anderson, Jim Collins or Aesop.

And so the story ends.
And every writer that followed this method, lived happily ever after, and went on to write many a book…just by writing articles!

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How To Write A Book Using Articles: Part 1

book writing, article writing, how to write a book

How to write a series of articles to make up a book
Imagine you wanted to write a book in December. And right now it’s January. When do you begin to write the book?
Should you start in August? Or is July a more auspicious month? And wouldn’t it be better to outline the whole book in advance?
And is there a way to get this book planning absolutely right so you write a series of articles that make up a book?

Yes there is a way to get this absolutely right and get that book out in the shortest time possible
To begin this exercise you must first take a visit to the library, or if you’re feeling too lazy fire up that computer and go online.
What you’re looking for (either at the library or online) is the Contents Pages of books that have topics just like yours.

So if you’re writing a book on Yoga, you’ll get a whole bunch of books.

Some of them will be about Tantric Yoga.
Some of them will be about Yoga for pregnant women.
Some of them will be about Yoga for pets.
Some of them will just be the generic yoga book.

It doesn’t matter what the cover says: As long as it’s Yoga it will do.

Then get a sheet of paper out, and create a mindmap or a bunch of notes on paper.
On that mindmap, you’re going to put all the possible angles you found from the Contents pages of the Yoga books.
Well not all the possible angles, but the ones that seem interesting to you.

So because I’m too lazy to go to the library today, let me go online
And from an assorted number of books I got the following broad topics:
1) Yoga History
2) Yogasanas
3) Hints and Caution

Now you may pull up as many as seven-ten broad topics. And once you have your topics, here’s what you do next.

You simply write down in point form all you can think of under those points.
So if you’ve done your homework, you now have a list that looks like this:
1) Yoga History
-  Subtopic 1
-  Subtopic 2
-  Subtopic 3
-  Subtopic 4
-  Subtopic 5
2) Yogasanas
-  Subtopic 1
-  Subtopic 2
-  Subtopic 3
-  Subtopic 4
-  Subtopic 5
3) Hints and Caution
-  Subtopic 1
-  Subtopic 2
-  Subtopic 3
-  Subtopic 4
-  Subtopic 5

Goody! Now you’ve got your list of articles. They’re all stacked up. You know the angles you’re going to write about.

But what if you can’t come up with the sub-topics?
What you do is the following:
1) Either ask for help in a forum/or through your blog/ or Twitter/Facebook.
2) Take each of those main topics and do a random search in Google and you’ll come up with sub-topics.

But isn’t this technique breaking some copyright law?
No it isn’t. All you’re taking are the topics and the sub-topics. You’re not using anyone’s brand names or methodology. The contents within your sub-topic based article is going to be your own. But now you have a direction. You know that you’re moving ahead steadily to that book.Ê And yet, it’s more than likely you’re not going to finish the book.

Why won’t you finish the book when it’s all so well planned?

It’s because you’ll fully intend to write an article, but never get down to it. You’ll do other stuff that’s more important. You’ll make excuses, and the book will get postponed.

Of course there’s a way around this, and that’s to get a coach (it needs to be an outsider), or use the chocolate system, or join a course to getÊ moving. Or yo can pre-sell the book to your audience (even if ten people buy it, you’ll be forced to write the articles).

The other reason you’ll get derailed is because you may not want the outside world to seeÊ your work.
If for instance you had about 40 sub-topics, you could write one article a week and post it on your blog, but you may not want your audience to see it in advance because you’re afraid they won’t buy. Well, get over it. An audience always looks for complete information, and they will indeed buy yes even when it’s more than apparent that they can get it free. And even if your current audience won’t buy, your future audience will indeed buy. So not only are you creating enormous credibility with your current audience, but also able to produce an outstanding piece of work within the time period. Plus there’s the added bonus of getting feedback as you go along.

I’ve personally written several books this way. I actually get my customers to participate. Sometimes there’s no cost to the participation. Sometimes there is. And the books get done in a systematic fashion.

But won’t my style be different at the end of the book?

Sure it will. As you keep writing, you’ll learn more and your style may change a bit. Or a lot. It doesn’t matter. You’re not a pro-writer just yet. Your job is to finish the book. And finish it on deadline. Pro-writers would take the same job and do it in three-four weeks. That’s why their style doesn’t show so much variation. If you wanted to put your nose to the grindstone and turn out an article a day, you could quite easily finish an entire book in a little over a month and get into the exalted world of pro-writers.

So to summarise:

1) Get several books on your topic.
2) Get even more topics from their contents pages.
3) Now that you have a list of 5-10 topics, it’s time to get sub-topics.
4) These sub-topics can come from sitting down and working things out yourself. Or the easy way through a forum or even Google.
5) All you’re getting are the topics and sub-topics. If you copy brand names, ideas and text then you’re in the con business and not the book-writing business.
6) Then it’s a matter of writing the articles. I’d even recommend you write it on a blog week after week. You can password protect the blog but you’re better off having readers egg you on.

And then spring will be gone, summer will be but a memory and Santa will bring you a complete book for Christmas.
The journey of a forty-article book starts with a single visit to the library.
And a series of swift kicks to make sure you don’t get derailed.

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How To Speed Up Your Article Writing By A Third

How To Speed Up Your Article Writing By A Third

Speeding up your articles writing: Is that really possible?
Do you want to write articles and write them faster?
Do you want to write outstanding articles and write them faster?
Do you want to avoid slogging over one darned article for three hours?

Let’s answer that question by looking at piano lessons.

If you started piano lessons two and a half weeks ago…would you want to play faster?
Or better?

Would you want the notes to sound like a bit of a melody? Or would you want to rush through it, just to be quick?

I know the answer: With the piano, you’d want to play the melody. With the article, you’d want to write faster -without losing the melody.

So you have one standard for piano lessons, but quite another for article writing, but hey, that’s not a problem.

Because lack of speed does frustrate.
But no matter how slow you are, you need to know something. It’s important know that when I was in your situation, I was taking two DAYS to write an article! I’d have given anything to write in three hours. Man, writing in three hours that would have been like taking the bullet train!

But surely there’s a way to speed up things without sacrificing on quality…

Yes there is. It’s called posting on forums. Or blogs.

Because it takes me just a few minutes to answer a post on a forum or blog. And it takes you approximately the same few minutes to answer a post. Of course, if you answer a post with a longer answer, then it may take fifteen minutes. Or thirty.

But when was the last time you answered a post on a forum or on a blog and took a chunky three hours? Never, eh? Never is the answer. Neither you, nor I have ever sat there and composed a three-hour answer.

Any answer to any post is always done and dusted in less than about 20-30 minutes, no matter how detailed. No matter how long.
And that’s because you’re emotionally charged.

Your neurons are doing the salsa the moment you hit the keys. By the time you get into the first few lines of your answer, your neurons are on their third margarita. And that’s when you really start to write with a flow. Often the thoughts come so fast, that you can barely get them onto the screen.

So try it. Try answering a post.
Jump onto a forum if you can. And see if a question tickles your fancy. Then answer the question in great detail. I do this on several blogs. And several forums. And as you’ve seen time and time again, in 5000bc.

I simply answer the questions in great detail and then I have an article. Of course, if it’s on a forum or blog, then the person posting the question may come back with more questions.

And because as I get more questions to my original answer, I can fortify my original article as well. Or in some cases, the consequent questions may lead to different angles, and hence different articles on the same topic. And you know what? It’s much easier to answer a question when you’re charged up and all excited, than to write from a cold start.

I know this because I write hundreds of articles every year.
Of course if you’re on the Article Writing Course, you know that’s no big deal. A person who’s been on the course just for a week, is writing six and seven articles a week. Even if you take a couple of months off in a year from writing, you can still turn out about 250 articles reasonably easily. But you have to ask: Where are you going to get questions for those hundreds of articles?

The answer is forums. The answer is blogs.

But what if you don’t find blogs or forums?

Well get a student

Get someone who you can work with. Charge them a fee. Let them come over week after week, and you train them.  The discipline of having to train them will fill your head with ideas and concepts that you need to write down. And of course, students have an unending number of questions. All you have to do is to remember to make notes of what you said in your answer.

So keep a piece of paper and a pen handy. As you give that student the answer, make sure you write down the points of your answer. Do this all the time and for any question you answer.

Suddenly you’ll have so many articles that you’ll be like an air traffic controller over Heathrow airport.
Dozens of articles waiting to land. Dozens of articles circling the airport. And you’ve got the questions and the answers.

And of course we come full circle. You’re not taking three hours (or a miserable two days to write an article) Instead you’re doing it in 20-30 minutes or less.

And yes, it may not be the best article in the world…yet!
But hey, you become a lot faster. As you write on a daily basis you’ll get better too.

And then you’ve got the best of both worlds: Speed and quality.

Just don’t try this on piano lessons, ok?

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