How to Work a Crowd

In a previous post, I spoke about the number one leadership killer.

Although it’s crucial to be aware of that very common misstep that passionate visionaries make, it’s even more crucial to acknowledge a skill that is the backbone of leadership: crowd control.

We’re not talking “police officers on mounted patrol” type action. I’m talking about honoring a group of people who believe in your vision enough to give you their attention.

If you honor them, then you’ll treat their attention like the gift that it is and move them into a place they’ve never been before. That is “crowd control.” To do that, you have to build trust, and build it fast.

One way or another, a vision will attract attention and an audience. If you have a compelling vision, eventually you’ll stand in front of a group of people. It may be a group online, or it might be in person.

A good leader addresses these three types of people in the group in order to build the trust needed to move people where you need them to be:
1. People who have questions Continue reading

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The Leadership Killer

I write on leadership because it’s my assertion that anyone can learn the skills to become a leader for a good cause. Not everyone is built for the task.

tombstone

Here lies leadership. Source: Columbia.edu

I design events and experiences for all kinds of audiences. I’ve spoken in front of and facilitated experiences for professionals, youth, government officials, private clients and the general public.

I have a sixth sense for group energy. I also have two certifications in adult and youth curriculum design and a degree in dramatic arts. So I can always sense the moment a speaker is losing the crowd, or leading them to a higher place.

Here is the thing killing your potential for leadership.

You’re not listening.

Really. I bet you think you’re listening.

You probably have a great cause. There’s something tremendously important that has to get done. You have a great vision and people have bought into it.

Now, some of those people are giving you feedback.

1) They have questions.

2) They disagree with you.

3) They may have been distracted and didn’t hear what you said.

All of that is feedback. If you push ahead and don’t address every one of those concerns, your leadership begins a slow death.

Or spirals down out of the sky like a kamikaze-driven plane.

People need to trust you. They need to know you’re paying attention to them. Even the dissenters. If you don’t address everyone, you’ll lose them ALL in some way or another.

How do you handle those three types of people giving you feedback?

I’ll discuss that in this post. For now, ask some questions. Tell me about the leaders you admire, and even the ones who you believe shouldn’t be leading. If you’re thinking of stepping into a new position, what’s your concern? Leave a comment, or share your insights.

 

Why the Right People Don’t Care: Part 2

You got 'em!  Wait...You lost them.

You got ’em!
Wait…You lost them.
Photo credit: http://benedikawidyatmoko.wordpress.com via Bing

Last week, I posted 3 of the 6 great reasons the right people don’t care about your cause. If you missed them, read more here.

Today, I share the other 3, and one crucial thing everyone misses when looking for a sponsoring partner.

Who are the right people?

They are people with a) connections you need, b) the resources your cause requires or c) the talent that will take your cause to higher level of contribution to the community.

As stewards of their resources, they won’t invest in your cause without thought.

And you can’t change the world alone.

Don’t make these mistakes:

4.            You’re telling the wrong story.

Successful people and companies will not waste their time with someone who isn’t working on the things they care about. Once you get yourself in front of the right people, are you telling them the story that most aligns with their own vision?

5.            You’re depressing us.

Telling the most depressing story about your cause is not going to win you a deeper contribution. It will make a funder feel like they are dropping their talent or resources into a black hole of despair. Why should we invest if what you’re doing is hopeless? Find the light.

6.            You have no space for us.

This is the most important. You’re standing in front of the right person, you’ve wrapped us in a compelling, hopeful story, and your organization is going to save the day! Great!

Then why do you need us? Somewhere within your story you need to find a space for that right person. If not, you just told us a great story, and raised our awareness, but didn’t give us room to be a part.

Here’s the crucial thing that everyone people misses. Ask for a referral. Birds of a feather flock together. If you’ve won over one company (and even if you haven’t), they may know another organization that will also believe in your work. Ask to be introduced.

My hope is that these tips will help you make the connections you need to continue your great work. Click on the title above, and comment!

Why the Right People Don’t Care About Your Cause

No sign

Hard to hear, right?
Credit: ginaverdezoto’s weblog

I write compelling stories. They turn into grants.  Speeches. Marketing and collateral for interesting people. Branding for causes.

Invariably, everyone who comes to me has the same problem:

Great idea or cause… and no one cares. They approach a partner or funder and get denied. They put things out in social media and have no interest.

Why is that?

You’ve got irrefutable data. You got stories about how if we just do this one thing, things would be better for a lot of people. Or maybe your life has been one adventure after another, and now you’ve written a book.

Still not getting as many clicks as you’d like?

I understand. A few years ago (okay, maybe 10 years ago), I was coordinating a conference for a major university. The speakers were well-known in their field. One was a MacArthur Genius Grant winner, and another a local legend. We were expecting close to 500 attendees from across the country.

I couldn’t pull a sponsor to save my job. Things weren’t going well and I was actually going to quit to save the conference when I (finally!) recruited my first donor.  I asked why she was sponsoring.

What you’ll read below is her answer and 5 more crucial pointers I’ve learned over my years of grantwriting that I will share in this 2-part blog. (Part 2 is here.) Feel free to comment, or ask a question. Tell me how you got to your “yes”—or ask me how to get past a “no”.

Why people don’t care about your cause:

1.            You don’t know what you want.

When you get on the phone or in front of the person who can make a difference, do you know what you need from them? If you speak in broad terms, or make general statements, I think you’re not really sure what you’re doing. Don’t try a shotgun approach to asking— know who I am, and be laser-focused with what you’re asking for.

2.            You’re talking to the wrong person.

Every great idea has natural advocates. Organic farmers will support the locavore movement. Animal lovers will support PETA. A good actor will have an audience of people who like great characters.  Are you approaching a funder just because they have deep pockets? How does what you do support what they do?

3.            You’re talking to the right company, but the wrong person.

Great! You’ve found a company that naturally aligns with your mission or your message. You know that they would love the event you’re planning—or the cause you’re promoting. You’re getting a “no” because the person you’re talking to has different priorities than you. Who in the company has the same priorities as you do?

Here, I finish this 2-part blog by discussing these high-stakes reasons why no one cares:

4.            You’re telling the wrong story.

5.            You’re depressing us.

6.            You have no space for us.  

And one crucial thing that everyone misses when looking for a sponsoring partner.

Am I right on the nose? Leave me a comment, or tell me your story.

5 tips to get your cause into print media (and why you’d want to)

They say getting into the media in a positive way is difficult. “If it bleeds, it leads.” Without a PR agent, I’ve been able to get at least one major feature for my events in print media every year consistently since 2005. (I took a break last year to produce a Broadway show for a local elementary school.)

Print media is still a very important media outlet, because more established sponsors and partners recognize it as unbiased media. Also, older patrons who are committed donors still look to newspapers for local news. Since advertising revenue determines paper space, a newspaper feature is a hot commodity. At the end of the day, no matter what other priorities exist for a newspaper, the newspaper is a storytelling outlet.

Knowing this, I always create “reporter bait”, which are press releases that fit what a newspaper needs. If I create the press release and it’s distributed as I recommend, the event will get press.

If you’ve got a worthy cause, you may not yet have the resources to pay someone like me. And as urgent as your work is to our community, the newspaper doesn’t need your story…unless you tell a story they need to write.

Here are some tips to get your very worthy cause some well-deserved press.

1. Know your newspaper.

It’s your local paper. Do you read it? Who is your favorite reporter? If you don’t know who is writing the stories, you won’t know who would be interested in your cause and your event. I was a featured story on WLRN’s ArtStreet because the producer and I communicated about their work. I mentioned the work I was doing with arts advocacy and it fit one of her upcoming shows. She worked with the newspaper– but also had a connection with a TV outlet.

Get to know the paper and its staff—and definitely honor their time tables.

2. Your press release should be a story, not just facts and names.

Yes, you know  the fundraiser will help needy kids. The community will look better because of that beautiful mural. But a title, event description and a location isn’t enough to warrant space in print. You can find that out on Google.  Tell them why did you get involved. I should know that you’re fundraising for the homeless shelter because of the little girl who walked into her own bedroom for the first time. Reporters and editors are storytellers too, and the best stories are the ones that remind us about the hope in the community.

You’re it—so tell the story we can’t wait to hear. This event and our cause struck home with the reporter, who had a personal affinity to the organization we were supporting.

Teach-a-Thon - My first foray into a public school classroom

Teach-a-Thon – My first foray into a public school classroom

3. Have high-quality photos.

Deadlines for news media are fast. They have to research the story quickly, and many times, run with the story within a day or two. Pictures are 90% more likely to catch a viewer’s attention than text alone. They can’t always come out to take pictures. Make their job easier. Provide pictures with at least 300 DPI—and forward it to your media contact in a separate email from the press release. The reporter thanked me for having photos ready for him for this spread.

Re:Vision (Art and Collaboration for the World)

Re:Vision (Art and Collaboration for the World)

4. Connect your event to a current event or a current issue.

What’s important in your community? Who are the major players or the major influences in your part of the world? Prior to the event featured in this article, there had been a lot of press about employment, career transition, and the need for companies in South Florida to retain their best talent.  My perspective was that our best talent needed to take ownership of their careers, and build their own creative businesses.

The Artist in Business - the first of a rising tide of new entrepreneurs

The Artist in Business – the first of a rising tide of new entrepreneurs

What a refreshing angle to take on a hot topic. What new angle does your cause bring to light? Make sure it’s in your media.

5. To keep the media coming back, have a quality event.

So, yeah, you can tell a great story and get press.  Eventually, the media will come out to see what you’ve got. I had spoken to the reporter for a few weeks prior to the event featured here, and she wouldn’t say whether or not they would cover the story. She came, introduced herself at the event, and she wasn’t disappointed. When I saw the spread, I celebrated with my collaborators.

Sharing the Word - Poetry in Spirit

Sharing the Word – Poetry in Spirit

Have a quality event that really serves the greater good. If you don’t deliver on what you promised in your press release, just burn your media contact list. In fact, don’t mention I gave you any advice either.

Try any one of these tips, and get yourself in the news. Feel free to let me know how it goes!

P.S. I hope I don’t need to say this. For the love of Pete, spell-check and grammar-verify your press release. Thanks!

How to Become a Leader No Matter Your Position

football plan

What’s your position?

I’ve been on the board of 3 major community based nonprofits, and I’ve been called to help launch or consult with over two dozen more, including our local County Commission.

At the forefront of every worthy cause is a gamechanger.

Most gamechangers don’t have a position of power.

But within them, there is a sense of leadership.

Whether you’re a mid-level executive, an entry-level employee, an intern or a volunteer, if you wait on your position to make you a leader, you’ll never become one.

Leadership isn’t about being out front. It’s about shifting dynamics so that fresh insights, greater success and new opportunities are possible. It’s also about being humble enough to serve the bigger picture.

You have a position — be gracious enough to honor it. But be ready to be a gamechanger when the time comes.

1. “It’s the economy, stupid.”

This was the platform that was said to lead to the Republican party’s loss of the 1992 election. Candidates had distanced themselves from the majority of the American people, and therefore couldn’t understand the plight of the middle class.

Your organization (whether corporate or nonprofit) is driven by its economy. How does it generate revenue?

What are its major expenses? What role does its client base play in making sure the lights stay on and employees get paid?

When you understand that, and you ensure that your work contributes to its economy, you are leading the rest of your colleagues who are just interested in their corner of the world.

2. Silence is golden, but paper is platinum.

Nobody wants to be in a meeting longer than 15 minutes. Why are you still talking, then?

Especially in nonprofit work, passion about the work means that personalities will clash. Even when you’re on the same team. So, it’s best to get as much work done virtually as possible. Try to anticipate the questions that will be asked, and provide documents (with graphs and pictures!!) to validate your solutions.

There it is. Shhh.  Photo credit- unknown- Source: Bing

There it is. Shhh.
Photo credit- unknown- Source: Bing

And, oh yeah, talk only when you have a solution. I know it’s tempting to be the one to point out the elephant in the room. But they can all see it. Do that only if you’re telling people that you are about to get it out of the room.

3. Solve the tiniest edge of the biggest problem, and engage others to do the same. AND THEN, SHARE THE CREDIT WIDELY.

The biggest problem in most community work is getting resources. Resources can be volunteers, staff, money, venues for programs, partners, governmental regulations, money.

Did I say money?

So, if you’re there to make a difference, do that for the organization or the company that is investing in you. What in your scope of knowledge gives your organization a little edge? Are you making it accessible to them? Of course, make sure you’re doing your job/volunteer description too. But the biggest problem stays the biggest problem because no one has the boldness to take it on.

Now you do. Bite off just a little bit of it, and solve it. What do you have to lose? If you fail, you had the guts to look outside your department. If you don’t fail, you’re a hero!

Here’s the background of this post.

In my earliest years of community service, I created a long-running social event for one of my favorite nonprofits. Not only was it revenue-generating, it attracted a new client base that increased members. In our volunteer and board meetings, I kept trying to explain how the other departments in our organization could replicate our success. Everyone thought I was trying to toot my own horn. It was the most frustrating experience ever because I loved the organization, but to staff members who had been overworked, I looked like a bright-eyed volunteer who didn’t understand the struggle. So instead, I worked with my “boss” to engage other members of the organization in a way that didn’t overburden them. Each department then had a part in our success, and each department gained re-energized staff and new volunteers.

An Empty Shampoo Bottle

I was in the shower the other day.

Well, I take a shower EVERY day, but on this particular day, my favorite hair product was almost finished.

I felt a bit disappointed, and squirted only a little bit out. Now I’ve got a lot of hair, and that little dime-sized portion they talk about just doesn’t cut it.

The Empty Bottle

This is how we live life, y’all.

But then I remembered that I was going to the mall and I could pick up some more easily.

I squirted a healthy portion and got busy styling my hair.

This is how we live life, y’all.

We have a whole lot of love and talent and genius to give to one another. We’re so stingy. We wait for the right moment, the right person or the right opportunity.

God help us if the person we gave our gifts to uses them in a way that we didn’t plan for. Our feathers get ruffled, and we get self-righteous.

That’s because we think we have a limited amount of brilliance and love to share. We hoard it, because we forget how much we continuously have to offer. Your talents don’t disappear. You have more love even when your heart has been broken.

hair, beauty

My Fabulous Healthy Hair with Plenty of Product

And despite reports to the contrary, people still give to great causes. You just need to tell a story that speaks to your givers.

Give inspiration and honesty– don’t hoard yourself– and the right people will respond.