No Excuses: the art of follow-up

why is consumer relations important

Just a little reminder today that the art of the follow up is now easier than ever. Why? Because of our ever-increasing virtual world of electronic media, social media, video, audio, smart phones and goodness knows what else will be available tomorrow!

Add these resources to what were used even 10 years ago, and there really is no reason not to follow up with your donors and sponsors for their contribution and to keep in touch with your members.

It’s so easy for organizations to post to their donors’ and sponsors’ Facebook feeds: send them a text message, record a personal video or send an email. On top of this you can use Skype, Facebook or Google Chat or Hangouts to connect and have a virtual coffee break to check in.  AND add to this the more traditional ways of keeping in touch with cards, notes and gifts in the regular “snail” mail, there’s no excuse not to keep in touch with your networks.  Personally, I like to mail hand-written cards and gifts.  From a marketing perspective, there’s nothing more alluring than ‘lumpy’ mail, so include a pen, a block of sticky notes or a little gift with a card; the chances of that piece of mail being opened will increase exponentially.  Even if you just write thank-you (for your time, for your call, for your donation, for your sponsorship…), doing so will go a long way. The combinations you can use to keep in touch are endless!

While most organizations spend time recruiting potential members, sponsors and donors, what about your current members, sponsors and donors? Do you ever thank them, take them out to lunch or send them a birthday card or gift? Your current database of contacts are your biggest fans and the most likely to refer. Stay connected with them and nurture those relationships! It doesn’t have to cost a lot of money – it’s the thought that counts.

Finding The Confidence to Speak

Being invited to speak at an in person or virtual event can be a wonderful honour given to the potential speaker by those who want to hear the speaker’s message and share it with others. However, for some, it can be a great cause of anxiety and fear, with the thought that all those eyes will be on them and focused on everything that’s said.

The ability to be a good speaker doesn’t always go hand in hand with the ability to do it easily. It takes practice. I have spoken with many who are fantastic speakers, but they are extremely nervous before hand to the point of being physically ill. Just remember, if you are in this group of uneasy speakers, you’re not alone!  So, then what? What can be done to make this easier, or at least get you through it?

Keep these few things in mind when getting ready to speak to a group when you may be feeling less than confident:

Your audience is there because they want to be: For the most part, people attending a conference, meeting or lecture are there because they chose to be there, they want to hear your message and will be supportive of your efforts. Attendees tend to not be judgmental, are not making snap decisions about you based on your haircut, clothes etc. and are there to hear what you have to say, even if they’re there not by choice (perhaps they have been instructed to go by their boss), these attendees, will most likely just listen politely.

Change your worry to excitement: This is a tough one because you’re so focused on the negative aspects of what you think may happen. What if you switched your thought process and redirected it to excitement at the possibilities of doing a great job? Go into it with a positive outlook and understand that even if it doesn’t go the way you want, you still did it! You would have accomplished a major step in your own personal development and that’s awesome!

Practice and prepare: Practicing the presentation before hand helps a lot. Try getting a small audience together or even just practice by yourself. Give yourself a few days in advance to do this. Go through and read your presentation, re-write if you have to and make a few speaking notes for yourself as a guide. By taking these steps to practice and prepare, you’ll be more familiar with the material, therefore making it easier to engage in a conversational type of presentation and making eye contact with your audience, instead of looking at your notes. Another great place to practice amongst a supportive group would be to contact your local Toastmaster’s group.

Know the environment: If you’re in-person, make yourself familiar with the presentation venue and environment so you’re more comfortable before speaking. Arrive ahead of time, sit in various places in the room for a few minutes to get different visual perspectives and get settled in.  Own the space.

Interact with your audience: If you’re worried about the audience getting bored, make sure to leave room for people to ask questions. Listening to their questions can give you a little break as well to take a drink of water and re-group as needed. This can also help you gain some extra time on your presentation if it seems to be too short. Remember to be welcoming of questions and stay calm.

Take care of yourself: Get plenty of rest, eat well and taking the time to pamper yourself a little before the presentation day provides a little extra boost and don’t forget to give yourself a little time to use the restroom before the presentation. Make sure you have some water by your side to take sips to avoid a dry mouth while speaking. If possible, make sure you’re already standing up a few minutes before the presentation, so you don’t have to maneuver around obstacles to get to your place.

Are you in the audience? Perhaps you are reading this and are not a speaker, but frequently attend presentations. Why not do what you can to make the speaker feel confident and perhaps let them know what you enjoyed in their presentation? We’re all in this together. No matter the size of the group you are speaking to, you can do it and there are people in your audience that are in your corner. Be excited for this opportunity – you’ll do great!

Meetings and Events Turned Sideways

It used to be that running a meeting on Zoom was a ‘luxury’; considered only a necessity for folks who couldn’t attend in person. It was a lot of work to set all that up in the background and run it. Oh, how times have changed! This past year has forced us to switch gears quickly and use technology to create something of a normal way to conduct meetings and conferences with a minimum of disruption.

You may not be the host of in-person meetings these days, but did you know there is such a thing as ‘virtual event hosting etiquette’? Think of all the things that need to be done and need attending to when you’re hosting an in-person meeting or event, like catering, registrations, customer care, speaker needs, documents, presentations, etc. Now do all that with a twist: no one is going to be where you are.  (Yikes!)

Intrigued? Freaked out? Or are you one of those people that are thinking to themselves, ‘Bring. It. On.’?

The beauty of virtual events is that it can be organized in a couple of ways. There is what we might refer to as a hybrid virtual event which still provides an event hosted in a physical location for your attendees, but uses virtual aspects as part of the presentation, is used for messaging in the promotion of the event and provides an online outreach for those that require flexibility, where they may not be able to attend.

An entirely virtual event could allow you to provide your message, engage your audience and simultaneously obtain feedback while avoiding the “production” costs of a traditional event. Some of the more important things to consider with hosting a virtual event or meeting may include:

The Audience – Understand who your audience is for the event and if they would be receptive to attending a virtual event, perhaps if they are in multiple locations.

The Message – Focus on the material to be presented and create your presentation in such a way so you are not just reading material from a slide but showing a high level within the slide and discussing the details, allowing for feedback from the attendees and answering questions as you go.

The Technology – To host an entirely virtual event one of the first items to consider is what event hosting platform you will use and make sure it will function properly. This may include testing your own systems and anticipating what your audience will be using for viewing. There are a lot of new platforms around these days so it’s important to do your research and test, test, test!

The Interaction – Remember to interact with your audience. You may not be able to see if they are engaged or not, but you can do your best to ensure their attention by asking questions, responding to their questions and making your audience aware that you are presenting to them.  You can make your meeting or event memorable by adding in:

  • Mail or courier a conference ‘swag bag’ to arrive to the registrants ahead of the event date. This can include things like chocolate (of course!), tea or coffee pods, popcorn, an ‘I’m attending a conference’ door hanger, hand signage to use while in a session (e.g. ‘I vote yes!’), pens, sticky notes and the list goes on…;
  • Arrange a food delivery so that attendees can have a meal at the same time as the event is taking place;
  • Email documents ahead of time, or upload to a repository and provide the link;
  • Conduct pre-event surveys to discuss at the meeting or event – new data gives people something to talk about;
  • Set up virtual networking rooms;
  • Set up a virtual exhibit hall;
  • Make sure you schedule breaks and lunch time, just as you would for an in-person conference or event.

Of course, all this leads into opportunities to enhance donor/member/attendee engagement before, during and after the event or meeting. The cliché, ‘think outside the box’ comes to mind. What we miss by attending in-person meetings can be easily made up for by a little creative thinking and planning ahead.

How are you engaging with your members these days? Find me on LinkedIn and drop me a line or two: www.linkedin.com/in/virtualworks

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Say what?

Individuals with high EQ (emotional intelligence) are most likely to be strong, effective business #leaders. They realize that trusting relationships built on diplomacy and respect is the heart of both individual success and business #productivity.

Success in business is greatly impacted – for better or worse – by the way in which we communicate. Happiness in our personal lives is also greatly dependent on this very same skill. Becoming a good communicator takes practice. It requires consistent attention and effort on your part, and it is a skill that we cannot afford to overlook.

Dr. John Lund, a lead researcher in interpersonal #communication and an author in identification studies, conducted a significant part of research involved in identifying patterns of speech and differences in how men and women communicate.

There is no doubt that we can all benefit from Dr. Lund’s tips on how to better approach people when we begin a conversation, as well as his advice that we “don`t communicate to be understood; rather, communicate so as not to be misunderstood.”

Take a genuine interest in others. Really tune in to what the other person is saying and don’t think up questions while they’re talking. Think about what they’ve said, ask thoughtful questions and provide considerate answers. Always make an effort to remember names, dates and important life events. If you’re not good at this skill, keep practicing!

Being “liked” or having a “wonderful personality” are highly prized attributes, especially in today’s electronic environs. Supreme communicators also have a keen ability to shift gears when the context calls for it; they respond accordingly to what current situations require.

Good judgment is a key people-skill that comes directly from learning, listening to others and observing the world around you. It allows you to wisely select friends and associates, determine reactions and responses and make sound decisions.

To create trust and respect in others, people need to know that their point of view and feedback will be considered and used. Being known as someone who keeps an open mind also makes you more approachable and easier to work with.

The saying “honesty is the best policy” is not only true, it’s essential in building trust among your peers and clientele. Once it’s lost, it’s almost impossible to regain.

Did you know that when someone else communicates with us, the way we interpret their message is based on three things:

  • 55% is based on their facial expressions and their body language.
  • 37% is based on the tone of their voice.
  • 8% is based on the words they say.

Dr. Lund provides us with the above percentages which are the averages across both men and women together. If you looked at women alone they would even give greater weight to the facial expressions and body language and even less on the words. This tells us that it is critical that we become very self-aware of how our body language is speaking to others as well as the tone we use. A little test: next time you are on the phone look at yourself in the mirror to assess how your body language reacts to what you are actually saying. This will help you become more aware of how you are actually reacting to the conversation.