Over the past four years, across the St. Louis area, I’ve been giving presentations on social media. The topics have ranged from Twitter to personal branding to creating the right attitude and mindset for success to social media case studies. Often, once I step off stage, attendees will approach and say thanks, make a comment, or ask a question. I always enjoy chatting with people afterwards; it’s nice when they pay me a compliment, and I also like the constructive criticism I sometimes receive. I don’t even mind the “unconstructive” criticism.
I have taken note of one peculiarity. More often than not, attendees ask me a question completely unrelated to my presentation topic. If I spoke about online etiquette, the question would be “Do you recommend Hootsuite or Tweetdeck?” If I presented on the use of video to enhance company storytelling, the question would be “Does Pinterest need to be a part of my company’s marketing plan?”
Even if I had been trying to prepare and deliver presentations that I thought people needed to hear, these questions made me realize one thing: quite often, no one cared what I had to say; they had their own conundrum they were trying to solve, their own question to which they were seeking answers, and they didn’t want to bother the whole crowd with it by asking it during Q&A. So they approached me afterwards and got with me one-on-one.
This gave me an idea. I needed to do a Seinfeld-esque presentation. I emailed Carrie Zukowski at the United Way of Greater St. Louis and said, “I’d like to come in and present about nothing.” Actually, I stated it more appropriately as, “Let’s have a big two-hour Q&A session. Invite all member agencies, and tell them to bring their questions. I will answer every question they have.”
I did end up making a short presentation at the beginning before taking about an hour and 45 minutes of questions. I was so pleased to see a crowd of about 60 nonprofit marketers and Executive Directors. And they asked some excellent questions. Two of the most difficult were:
1. “How does one make the time to do this?” I encouraged each of them to audit their organizations. I explained that this form of communication, creating deeper relationships with people, was too important to ignore. So they had to find a way to find the time. I actually got a little serious for a minute (and this advice is based on personal experience). Companies, both for profit and nonprofit, often become like families. Eventually, as Jim Collins put it, people are sitting in the wrong seats on the bus. It becomes harder to make tough decisions about moving people around, restaffing and what not. I learned this from Gary Vaynerchuk – look closely at how you and your people spend your days, and find the weaknesses and holes. I do respond to tweets at stoplights, and in the evenings, and on Sundays. I choose to keep up; it actually takes very little time. I encouraged them to try.
2. “How do you not let this become a complete distraction?” I did not have a good answer for this one because, frankly, social media is often a huge distraction in my daily life. While it’s hard for these guys to pick it up and start using it, I find it very difficult to put down. I admitted to them that this could prove to be a big challenge to them, but if they kept “results” in mind, I had confidence they would not waver from their mission (whatever that NFP’s mission happened to be).
I want to thank Carrie and everyone at the United Way of Greater St. Louis for helping me pull this off. It was an honor to speak to your member agencies, and I just hope they got something out of the time spent. Let’s do it again next year.
Follow them on Twitter:
Some tweets from the day: