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Telling your story – The Elevator Pich April 4, 2008

Posted by fredillies in Communication, Gadgets n Gizmos, Work.
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I’ve been facinated for some time now with the concept of “telling your story”.  My two favourite recent business books are “Presentation Zen” by Garr Reynolds, and Made to Stick by Chip & Dan Heath.  One area of particular interest is the applications of their philosophies to the “elevator pitch”.  For those not familiar with this term, imagine you had 30 seconds to tell a prospect what your product or service is and why they should use it.  From my experience, it is extremely hard to do this.  Most people I know (myself included) have difficulty being able to consistently pull this off under time pressure, but I believe it can be mastered.   It requires 3 things:

  1. The ability to distill your company/product/service message down to its essence;
  2. So much practice delivering this message in 30 seconds that you could do it instinctively at any time of the day when confronted by a co-worker with a stopwatch;
  3. The charisma or presence to be able to connect with your listener(s).

Although I don’t have any video example of Steve Jobs doing an elevator pitch, I’m sure he would be outstanding, given that he is the the zen master of Presentations.  See this post by Garr Reynolds or this video of Jobs announcing the iPhone. It’s not a stretch to imagine him giving the greatest elevator pitch of all time.  Yet so few people seem to get it right.  The following are some examples of “elevator” pitches featured on the NY Times website this morning.  The clips are from the CTIA Wireless 2008 (the largest mobile phone industry trade show).

The first example, an exec talking about the new Samsung Instinct, lacks any passion, and seems to speak more to features than benefits.  A better example is this clip of the LG Vu, which is more passionate, more benefit-driven (and BTW is given by someone who is much more believable as a spokesperson… which one of these two people can you see tuning in and watching TV on their phone?)  Note that she actually showed what the experience of watching TV on the phone was like.

What would the video of YOUR elevator pitch look like?  Would you want it on YouTube? 

MacBook Air January 15, 2008

Posted by fredillies in Gadgets n Gizmos, Travel, Work.
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Well, I’ve been waiting for 14 months (since before MW 2007) for Apple to release an ultraportable.  Just watched the blogcast of Steve Job’s MacWorld 2008 keynote address… and it’s finally here.  Frankly, I’ve been waiting so long and my hopes have been so high (fed by some crazy online rumor activity and this awesome_mockup.jpg ) that it’s probably inevitable that I’m a little dissapointed.  Don’t get me wrong…. It’s unbelieveably thin and an elegant design… it’s one beautiful machine.  It’s just that I travel a fair bit, and I was looking for something that had the same footprint as the sony Vaio TX.  While the MacBook Air IS thin (and a respectable 3 pounds), it’s 2 INCHES wider than my current notebook (a Compaq 2510p) and is about 1 INCH deeper.  The Sony Vaio TX is 10.7″ (width) x 0.83″- 1.12″ (height) x 7.7″ (depth).  The biggest difference for me is the depth.  One can comfortably open the screen on the Vaio while sitting on an airline seat (even with the seat in front of you reclined). The Macbook Air is 9 inches deep, which means its WAY taller when opened, which is a bad thing if you’re flying.  So for me… the Air is not ultra portable (but it IS way lighter than the MacBookHeavy).    Easy to say all this now… but I can’t wait to get my hands on one!  I’m hoping that the design/thinness/Leopard will be enough to swing me away from getting a smaller notebook. 

overView – my version of GTD October 2, 2007

Posted by fredillies in Simplifying your life, Work.
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Like many people, over the years I’ve tried many systems for “managing my life” including paper-binder systems, Outlook Tasks, various PDA’s, etc.  I was really enthralled when I was turned on to David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” methodology, and I was convinced that this was going to be the one system that STUCK.  For a time, I used the GTD Outlook Plug-in, but eventually I stopped using that tool. 

I compared notes with the colleague that introduced me to GTD, and we shared an interesting experience… that neither of us had successfully done a “Weekly Review”,  where you view all of your projects in the context of your roles, and goals.  That is arguably one the most important concepts of Allen’s philosophy, but for some reason it didn’t happen.  It occurred to me that the system itself (and the GTD Outlook Plug-in) didn’t really support me in doing that… ie the concept of Roles and Responsibilities and Goals was separate from the management of projects and tasks.  I decided to take a stab at creating a VERY SIMPLE tool that would allow me to manage my projects and tasks within the context of my roles/responsibilities.  In addition, I wanted a more elegant way to hand Allen’s concept of Agendas (his was a bit kludgy for me).

I’m happy to say I’ve completed the beta version, which I am sharing freely.  I will NOT be offering this for sale as a commercial product at this point.  I have a day job, and I gave up on the “sit on a beach and collect software royalties” dream long ago when I discovered how much work it was to support a product -)

To learn more about it, see the “overview software” tab above. 

Shout Out to Mark Fraser – Top 40 Under 40 May 8, 2007

Posted by fredillies in eBusiness, Work.
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Just wanted to give a shout out for my good friend and colleague Mark Fraser…who today is honoured as one of “Canada’s Top Forty Under Forty”. You can see the article in todays Globe & Mail or click here.

I’ve had the good fortune to work with Mark for the past 7 -1/2 years (since I started at T4G) and we’ve worked closely on the Sears business since that time. It’s been an amazing ‘partnership’ and all I can say is that this couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy. I always joked that someday I’ll be saying ” I knew him when….” well, I guess that day is today 😉

Out of Balance (w/ some bright spots) November 6, 2006

Posted by fredillies in Life Balance, Music, Work.
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I wrote before about irony and life balance. Here’s another one: I’m living in one of the most beautiful cities in the world (Vancouver) where so many people are outdoors and physically active, and where life balance is so revered….and yet for the past few months I’ve had the poorest life/work balance I can remember.

It really requires practice, and I find that once the balance is tipped severely, it tends to pick up speed. I haven’t been running for 2 months due to a knee injury, and running had been the catalyst for my efforts at balance. When I was running, I was going to the gym more, eating and sleeping better, and was able to handle the stress of my job much better. So I need to practice! One way is to take a breather and write here.

This weekend I also played the guitar a bit, and learned a nice ballad: “I will follow you into the dark” by Death Cab for Cutie. Then Ali & I walked in the rain and went to see the 3D Imax movie called Deep Sea. It was INCREDIBLE. Young or old, you must go see this movie. The 3D technology was truely remarkable, and the cinematography was so beautiful.

Finally, one thing that definitely helped me put things into perspective, was this story from Sports Illustrated, about a heroic everyman Dad who does the Ironman with his disabled son in tow. This may be the most inspiring thing I’ve ever read/seen.

The future of ecommerce October 14, 2006

Posted by fredillies in eBusiness, Gadgets n Gizmos, Work.
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This week I attended the Shop.org conference in NYC. I’ve been to a number of ecommerce conferences, and I think this one is the best. The keynote speakers were great, and I particularly enjoyed “The Digital Millenials RU Ready?” by Kelley Mooney of Resource Interactive. She started out by asking the crowd of 2300 ecommerce professionals “how many of you are 23 or younger?” One girl raised her hand. Kelley then asked the audience if they could identify the IM acronyms that appeared on the screen one at a time. After LOL (which everyone new) the crowd was lost. At each chair was a cool circular cardboard decorder gizmo that explained what about 50 acronyms meant. Her point was you better get used to this generation (she calls them Millenials because they graduated HS around 2000). They have HUGE influence on family spending, and are going to be greater in number than Boomers (due in part to immigration). They are an extremely demanding group, who are the most coddled generation in history. They have unrealistic expectations about their income and want everything yesterday. The biggest single characteristic is how connected they are… to the world and to each other. Their social networks (MySpace, Facebook, etc), their preference for mobile phones, and their ability to multitask (they can process information up to 8x faster than their parents generation) indicate why online retailers really need to have a strategy for selling to this demographic.

I was also intrigued by Professor & Author Barry Schwartz’s “The Paradox of Choice“, which basically showed that while choice is a good thing, unlimited choice can be paralyzing, and can lead to inaction by consumers). I can relate to this given my ongoing search for the “perfect” smartphone 😉

I missed Seth Godin‘s talk cause the conference organizers underestimated the attendance, and the Fire Marshall wouldn’t let anyone else into the room (hundreds were turned away).

And finally, the best Panel discussion I attended was “eCommerce 3.0” moderated by Doug Mack of Scene7. Panelists were internet execs from Sears Holdings, Nike & QVC. It was all about why the online shopping experience is so similar between various retailers when it’s so different in the stores (think any Nordstroms vs. KMart) and how the next generation of eCommerce needs to provide better differentiation of the experience. I’ve run on too long now, so I won’t get into deets. Doug Mack has writen a white paper on it, and I’ll post a link if he’s made it available online.