About Marc Jadoul

Hi-tech marketer, strategist and communicator. Currently, marketing director at Nokia (Belgium). B2B storyteller, evangelist, blogger, speaker and panelist.

When an absurd little bird is popping out

There’s a sad sort of clanging from the clock in the hall
And the bells in the steeple too
And up in the nursery an absurd little bird
Is popping out to say coo-coo

Coo-coo, coo-coo

Regretfully they tell us coo-coo, coo-coo
But firmly they compel us coo-coo, coo-coo
To say goodbye
To you

– from the Sound of Music, Rodgers and Hammerstein

I’m aware that I haven’t been very active on this blog during the past 12 months. I could easily use the excuse that I’ve been too busy at work. But no, but yeah, but no… The creative beast in me hasn’t died either. I have simply run out of inspiration.

During 8 consecutive years of blog writing, I have published 228 articles that amassed a stunning 95k views by 67k visitors from 191 countries. All articles sort of explored the rich universe of corporate storytelling, while diving into best practices for creating, preparing and delivering business presentations. While I’m proud of these numbers and thankful to my audience, my B2B Storytelling story has been told and I’m announcing the start of a non-writing sabbatical.

Just like previous years, I am moving into summer sleep mode now. But this time, I have no idea how long my inactivity is going to last. Possibly a few months, maybe a full year, unlikely for ever. And when I return, I will maybe extend the scope of my posts or simply start writing about something completely different. Food for reflection and introspection.

Still, I made some time to create a yearly update of my ebook. More than 500 pages of best practices, tips and tricks, lessons learned and personal stories. Let me tentatively call it my swan song edition.

As always, you may download the PDF version for free via the download tab on top of this page.

Happy reading. And so long, farewell, tot ziens. This is no goodbye…

download_ebook_2020

Zipf’s law

In some older posts on this blog, I have written about Moore’s law, Metcalfe’s law, Fubini’s law, Occam’s law and Murphy’s law. Maybe you still remember what they are all about.

Today, I want to introduce you to yet another law, which is called Zipf’s law, a.k.a. the Brevity law.

The American linguist, George Kingsley Zipf, formulated this law in 1945. It states that the more frequently a word is used, the shorter that word tends to be, and vice versa. Such negative correlation between the frequency of words and their size can be found in almost any natural languages. Zipf also called it a ‘principle of least effort.’ As humans tend to be inherently lazy (or more positively said, they try to be energy efficient) they prefer to take the path of least effort or resistance. Whatever (English) text you analyse, you will always get the same top-5 of short words and their associated frequencies: the (about 6.5%), of (2.8%), to (2.6%), a (2.4%) and and (2.3%).

Some of the shortest words that public speakers often use, however, won’t show up in these statistics: the innumerable uh’s, um’s and er’s. I recently had a video recorded of one of my presentations, and when I replayed it afterwards, I was embarrassed to hear myself saying these nasty filler words. I really thought I had eliminated them from my professional vocabulary…

In another blog post, I wrote about hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia, or fear of long words. Well, this time I felt more like a micrologophobia patient. But there’s some good news: like most phobias there are some cures for the latter one too…

  • Listen to yourself: this is something I hate doing, but it’s an important first step in acknowledging your bad habits and ridding yourself of those ugly words;
  • Slow down: if your mouth moves faster than your brain, you’re going to stumble a lot;
  • Punctuate: imagine periods and commas in your speech while you’re talking;
  • Pause: some speakers use fillers to avoid silent gaps, though silence may be much more powerful (read also my “P+R” post)
  • Transition: try using transition statements like “let’s now talk about…”, “on the next slide you’ll see…” or even “and now for something completely different…”;
  • Make eye contact: when you’re making eye contact with one or more persons in your audience, it will become much more awkward to say um or uh to them;
  • Be self-confident: when you spend too much time worrying about your words, you’re going to lose the focus of your presentation and… become even more muddled;
  • Practice: practice your presentation as often as possible before you give it. The better you know your narrative, the more confident you’ll be and the less you’ll stumble.

And if you still let an um or an er slip out from time to time, just think of them as a natural part of speaking. Most of the time, your audience won’t even notice. Maybe these short words should have been included in Zipf’s law after all.

Anthem

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in

– Anthem by Leonard Cohen

In his song Anthem, the late Leonard Cohen sings that there is a crack in everything. But that that’s also the place where the light can get in. Cohen’s lyrics are often highly philosophical and subject to different interpretations. For me the phrase means that not everything works out, not everything is great, not everyone is perfect… but if you look at people, things and events with a positive attitude, there’s always something good in everyone, everything and every situation.

I already used the crack-and-light metaphor in another post on this blog, about champagne corks and factfulness, when I wrote about (unfortunately, also the late) Hans Rosling’s book in which the Swedish thinker iterates ten reasons why we’re wrong about the world, and why things are better than we think.

Photo by Sarunas Burdulis (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Today, most of us are locked down and locked in because of the COVID-19 virus and our daily news is dominated by the grim statistics of infections and deaths, by stories of heartbreaking personal tragedies and by gloomy economic forecasts.

But, this dark pandemic cloud has also a silver lining – a crack where the light gets through. Just look at the positive things people are doing today. The heroic dedication of health care workers. How neighbors are taking care of each other. How some (no, not all) governments and employers have become empathic leaders. How (again, some) virologists and scientists turned out to be great communicators. The (temporary?) positive effects on traffic jams and on air and water quality. The growing acceptance of tele-working and home working…

We’ll never live in a perfect world, so let’s not make perfect the enemy of good. We must learn to accept setback and imperfection. It’s all about taking the right perspective. Being positive about the post-corona future. Ringing the bells that still can ring. Thinking opportunities rather than challenges. Actually, the new normal may not be that bad after all.

Presenting behind closed doors

During the summer of 2017, I started creating infographics for some of my blogs.

Working from home because of the COVID-19 lockdown, hopping from one web meeting to another, I remembered an old post I have written, “Your audience may be virtual”.

And, then I spent a few hours creating a new visual with tips for presenting at a webcast or a webinar. Here’s the result. I hope it will help you deliver your message more effective from behind closed doors.

Virtual audience infographic L2

You may download the file through the download tab on top of this page.

Flatten the curve

A well-thought mantra or a well-designed visual may have many uses.

Today’s Twitter feed presented me with an inspiring variant of the ‘flatten the curve’ chart. The double bell curve, which is known by almost everyone today, visualizes the key rationale for keeping social distance in tough corona times. The chart explains why slowing the spread of the infection is nearly as important as stopping it and imposes a country’s health care capacity as the target upper limit for the epidemic’s growth.

The graphic I stumbled upon was attributed to the Sustainable Fashion Forum and promotes a new way of doing business that contains climate change risks by limiting natural resource consumption and carbon emission to the earth’s capacity.

The sustainable business curve does not only hold a clear message, but from a marketer’s perspective it also shows an effective way of capitalizing on a hot and widely discussed topic. What else could a casual blogger wish for writing a new post about, while staying at home to help flatten the COVID-19 curve?

When a virus goes viral

While the COVID-19 virus is spreading around the world, a video clip conquered the internet even faster.

At a press conference, a Santa Clara County health officer offered a simple advice on how people can stop the novel coronavirus from spreading: “Today, start working on not touching your face because one main way viruses spread is when you touch your own mouth, nose, or eyes.” And then… she brought her hand to her mouth and licked her finger to turn a page in her notes.

Video coverage by the Washington Post

The above video reminds me of a similar event I experienced myself long time ago. When I was attending a pedagogy course at the university, the professor in front told his students to “never wipe the chalkboard while pupils are still reading the content on it.” And then… he turned his back to the audience, took the board wiper and started erasing everything he had written during the last few minutes.”

Well, I remember quitting the aula and never returning to that pedagogy course.

For a long time, the subtitle of this blog page has been “keep your audience coming back for more”. I expect the above video will show up in many media trainings and communication courses. But when a speaker or a teacher loses credibility, his/her audience unfortunately will never come back!

Show & tell

Loyal readers of my blog will know that I made it a habit to publish a post while attending the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. In case you missed some of these articles or would like to revisit one or more of them, here’s the list to date:

Unfortunately, there’s no MWC Barcelona this year, no crema catalana this week and no special blog post today.

The GSMA, who organizes this yearly mega event, has cancelled MWC 2020 due to the coronavirus outbreak. The day before, my company had already announced that they pulled out for the same reason. A wise decision by both parties, since it would have been very difficult – if not impossible – to safeguard the health and well-being of me and my colleagues, as well as of the tens of thousands international visitors.

Image by 3dman_eu (pixabay.com, CC0 1.0)

So, today, I’m writing these words with mixed feelings. I really appreciate my employer’s concern for the health and well-being of its employees and customers. But… I also spent the past months defining and creating an exciting experiential demo, which I would have loved seeing go-live in Barcelona this morning.

Well, there’s also a light on the horizon: while communicating their withdrawal from MWC 2020, my company also announced series of “Nokia Live” events with which we will go directly to our customers and showcase them the industry-leading demos we prepared for the Mobile World Congress.

For obvious environmental, family and cost reasons, however, you can’t fly a hundred demo presenters around the globe for a few months. Live streaming, digital content and virtual presence will certainly provide alternatives to physical travel. But one can also educate local people to deliver the respective demonstrations.

That’s why I’ve already started creating a Show & Tell script for the demo I was supposed to give in Barcelona today. The Show & Tell concept is dead simple and implementation doesn’t need much more effort than doing a dress rehearsal of your demonstration. Run it for your colleagues and ask one of them to record it with his/her smartphone. Or just do it in front of a mirror and use a selfie stick.

The video will translate in a two-column document. One column is to be headed “show this” and the other “tell this”. In the first column you iterate the storyboard of your demo, while in the second one you just write down the corresponding transcript of your filmed narrative.

It’s easy as pie and, believe me, your distant colleagues will truly appreciate your effort. Send them the document together with the video source. They will be able to personalize the story, adapt the demo in function of time and audience, and translate the transcript to their local language.

Stories are all about memories

“Somewhere deep in my memory there had to be a frozen mountain lake that was slowly starting to thaw.” – Herman Koch in “Finnish days” (translated)

Yesterday, I listened to a radio interview with Dutch writer Herman Koch, who talked about his new novel “Finse dagen” (Finnish days). In his book, the author tells stories about the time he spent in Finland when he was 19, making a living as a farmer and lumberjack.

Being a perennial blogger and aspiring storyteller myself, one of the excerpts from the interview, in which Koch muses about memories, particularly appealed to me. “Writing makes you remember things of which you thought you didn’t know them anymore.” Memories are records of people’s personal experience. Records of trial and error, of success and failure. Past successes will help you (and others) to gain courage and confidence to move on, while past failures will warn you against repeating them.

Koch’s also talks about becoming an author. How certain pleasant or unpleasant events in one’s life can provide useful material for later use. Already at secondary school, the future writer was observing his teacher and thought: “One day, this guy will find himself in a book.” It’s almost like one can – or maybe should? – (pro-)actively and consciously record his/her memories.

About creating an ideal mix of facts and (a tiny bit of) fiction, Koch says that “reality is sometimes not believable enough.” So, sometimes we need to repaint our memories. As I wrote earlier on this blog: all stories deserve embellishment

Unfortunately (at least for the non-Dutch-speaking readers of this post) the interview is in Dutch. If you want to replay it anyway, you can find it here. Still, after listening to Herman Koch’s inspiring words, I’m almost sure what will be the next book on my reading list.

Why your business presentation is a moment of truth

In 2005, A.G. Lafley, the Chairman, President & CEO of Procter & Gamble introduced a concept known as Moments of Truth:

A ‘moment of truth”'(MOT) is the moment when a customer/user interacts with a brand, product or service to form or change an impression about that particular brand, product or service. Moments of truth represent important touch points along a customer’s buying journey that affect his or her buying decision.

The number, types and application of MOTs have slightly changed over time to better fit the evolving consumer and technology environment, in which digital is now playing a more prominent role.

Today, five different types of moments of truth are often addressed by marketing people.

  • The first moment of truth (FMOT) is when a potential customer is first confronted with a brand, product or service, by reading or hearing about it, either offline or online. It occurs within the first few seconds of a consumer encountering the product and it is during this time that marketers have the capability of turning a browser into a prospect or a buyer. As one never gets a second chance to make a first impression, these few seconds will have a major impact on the remainder of the sales process.
  • The second moment of truth (SMOT) occurs when a customer experiences what a company is offering. This may happen before purchase, e.g. when experiencing a hands-on demo, or after the purchase, when the buyer experiences the product’s functionality and quality after it has been delivered. There may be multiple SMOTs, every time a product or service is used, and they can have a major impact on buyers’ satisfaction – and consequently, their continuing relationship with a brand.
  • The third moment of truth (TMOT), also known as the ultimate moment of truth (UMOT), is defined by the customers’ feedback or reaction towards a brand, product or service. It expresses a vendor’s capability to fulfill end-user needs and provide an overall positive experience. During the TMOT, users may become brand advocates that write favorable online reviews, share their experience via social media, or promote your brand through worth of mouth to family, friends and colleagues – possibly creating a Zero Moment of Truth for future buyers.

The internet has changed the way consumers are interacting with brands, products or services. Nine out of ten people conduct online research before actually buying something. Travelers read at least 6 to 12 TripAdvisor reviews before choosing a hotel. And 20% of purchasing decisions tend to be influenced by Facebook. That’s why Google introduced a new MOT in 2011…

  • The zero moment of truth (ZMOT) refers to the point in the buying cycle when the buyer researches a product prior to purchase, often before the seller even knows that they exist. While companies are not able to control online reviews (though sometimes they will try), they can positively influence their online reputation through appropriate interactions with their audience and by delivering on their marketing promises.

About 5 years ago, yet an earlier moment of truth was introduced in marketing literature:

  • The less than zero moment of truth (<ZMOT) is defined by something happening in a person’s life that causes him or her to start looking for or researching a product or service. Such events are opportunities for a company to actively reach out to a customer via social media, email marketing or target advertisements – even before the potential customer starts searching for information. Such a proactive approach will require data collection, advanced targeting and monitoring of customer activities on social media, but it may drive a candidate buyer to your website instead of your competitor’s.

I’m sure, as new business models emerge and technologies like predictive analytics and AI further evolve, there will be even more MOTs to come.

Image by Tim Reckmann (CC BY 2.0)

Let me now, in-line with the topic of the other posts on this blog, explore how your business presentation or public talk may address, support or influence one or more moments of truth for your company’s brand, products or services.

  • Each time you deliver a memorable presentation that contains lots of information, use cases and evidence, you may be anticipating to a <ZMOT. When, in the near or further future, a member of your audience enters in a specific situation, he or she will certainly remember your capability to address the problem and provide a suitable solution.
  • Connecting emotionally with your audience through storytelling will create brand awareness, as well as appetite for your company and its offering. The information you present about your company’s vision, products and customers will guide them to your website at ZMOT time.
  • The quality of your presentation, as well as the authenticity, authority and experience you show as a speaker will create a feeling of understanding, trust and confidence with your audience. Even the first few seconds of your talk may be determining for the FMOT.
  • Even if you won’t be able to provide your audience with a real SMOT, you may enrich your presentation with a live demonstration or a product video.
  • Putting customer quotes on your slides, playing user testimonial videos or having one of your buyers co-presenting with you on stage are all powerful means for sharing TMOT feedback with your audience.

If you want to learn more about engaging your audience and influencing their buying behavior, you may read my blog post about rhetoric, storytelling and persuasion.

The sound of breaking glass

Something embarrassing happened yesterday to Elon Musk, when he introduced Tesla’s long awaited electric pick-up truck, a.k.a. the Tesla Cybertruck, and demonstrated – or at least, tried to demonstrate – the futuristic vehicle’s armored windows.

I have seen quite a few don’t try this at home videos on YouTube – some of which ended well and others which were, eh, less successful. Well, the one below fits in the second category.

No doubt that the demo was well prepared and that in earlier tests the window didn’t break. “We threw wrenches, we threw everything,” Musk said. “We even literally threw a kitchen sink at the glass.” But, beware: the Demo Devil is always luring around the corner! Each time you’re doing a live product presentation, something can go wrong (a dude called Murphy even claims that it will go wrong). And every well-intended and well-prepared product demo holds a risk of backfiring on the presenter or on his/her company. That should be no excuse, however, to not invest in live demos .

When the other guy, Tesla’s head of design, threw the steel ball a little too hard, the CEO eloquently said: “Oh my f****** God,” the audience had a good laugh, and Tesla will certainly fix the issue in post. And the Demo Devil, who’s second name is Schadenfreude, hit the road for his next guest appearance…

Postscriptum: As is often the case, any publicity is good publicity. The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about. Tesla Cybertruck pre-orders neared 250,000 less than a week after its chaotic launch event. QED.

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