Evolving the Presentation

The other day I saw Nick Parrish of Contagious Magazine speak here in Toronto. While I thoroughly enjoyed his talk, one thing struck me: Here we are celebrating whole new ways of communicating, marketing and advertising, yet the way we talk about them hasn't changed. When is the last time you went to a presentation that was something more than a guy (or gal...or even a Guy Gal) behind a podium (or holding a microphone) and standing next to or beside a screen displaying their slides? Sometimes there is video. Sometimes, cool demos.

The last big change to the way we presented was with Twitter. Rather than having to wait until a more formal question and answer period, or leaning to the person next to you to whisper your opinion, you could take to the internet and communicate with the rest of the people in the room about what was being said on stage. For many conferences, this Twitter backchannel was as important was what was going on at the front of the room.

However, it still feels like an add-on, and has changed the audience's way of experiencing a presentation rather than the way the information is being presented.

Prezi shows promise as an alternative to Powerpoint and Keynote, but it is still just another way of putting information up on slides (it's the unique transitions between slides that makes it stand out). Plus, I've heard Prezi gives people motion sickness.

Live streaming and the TED-like practice of putting everything online has given more people access to presentations, but it certainly hasn't changed the presentation format.

So what's the next big step for presenting? We know our content is interesting, but how can we utilize some of the new media technologies we talk about to deliver it in a more interesting way? How can we engage the audience while still sticking to script and not getting distracted? If the content is the problem, how can we make it better?

I definitely don't have the answers, but I'm going to look for them.


Heather at Mesh!

Here at BlogCampaigning, we've been pretty big supporters of the Mesh Conference over the past few years. That's why I'm super excited that BlogCampaigning's own Heather Morrison is going to be speaking at Mesh this year! Along with her colleagues Ujwal Arkalgud and Michael Coulson from Sequentia, Heather will be speaking on a panel entitled "Digital Ethnography: How to build a better online community by understanding your audience's culture"

From the description:

"This workshop will introduce you to the power of digital ethnographic research. Through the use of interactive exercises, we will walk you through a practical application of this research method to examine the cultures of two prominent online communities, Reddit and Digg, and spark ideas for how you can use digital ethnography at your organization. Here are three key questions that we will address:

  1. What is digital ethnographic research and why is it useful to me?
  2. How can the idea of contextual observation, the foundation of ethnographic research, be used to: better understand audiences, optimize marketing initiatives and messages, and better position products and services
  3. How can digital ethnographic research be applied to understand and build online communities?"

I'll definitely be heckling live Tweeting this panel, and I encourage you to check it out!


Adventures in Sydney

As some of you might have noticed, I haven't contributed much to Blogcampaigning lately; not only was I busy sorting out paperwork in order to be able to stay in Australia, but I also started a new job (editor's note: Oh, I've noticed!) As of this month, I started work as a lecturer for game design at Qantm college. It sure feels good to turn a life-long passion into a job.

As you can imagine, talking in front of 80 students in a second language and helping to develop part of the curriculum is pretty exciting. Experience in public speaking certainly helps, but when you walk in your first lecture, all eyes on you, people in the back complaining about not being able to hear anything, other students explaining that there's a microphone you don't know how to use – that's when your heart skips a beat.

A couple of lame zombie jokes later and the ice is broken. Hopefully they're enough to motivate the students to do work. Getting them to actually do something for the course is not going to be too easy, given its rather dry content: project management… Not the most electrifying lecture, but certainly necessary. Somehow I'll get them there!

I also started blogging for the Goethe Institute, Germany's global cultural institute. Their Sydney office started the CityScapes blog. This blog:

aims to make visible what unites us and what may divide us, to create an awareness for the necessity to act locally in response to global issues. It endeavours to research the human condition of the young urban dweller in the 21st century.

Every month three bloggers in 12 cities all over the globe write about different aspects of these cities. There's a text blogger (me), a video blogger and a photo blogger.

Step by step, they will create a kaleidoscope of impressions, opinions, ideas and… plain fun.

In January we covered “My year in the city - Work, Play and get out of here!”; this month we looked into “Going Local - Neighbourhood, Kiez and Suburb in my city”; March will be about a theme you've all been waiting for: "Sex and the City."

You can find my first posts here and here.


MAVERICK Idol Is Back Again

Last year, I wrote about how MAVERICK offered an internship position via an American Idol-type of competition.

Now that I work at MAVERICK, I'm excited to see that the agency is doing it again. One of last year's contestants, Katie Boland, is still a full-time employee here and I work with her on a couple of different projects.

This year's competition will mean that the aspiring intern has to face two rounds of questions from a panel of MAVERICK employees. I think this is a great chance for the applicant to show that they are good at public speaking and can think quickly on their feet.

The winner will be notified that day, and will receive an twelve-week paid internship (from what I've heard, the pay for this is above average for similar internships). More importantly, they'll get experience in media monitoring, writing, planning and social media. While there is no guarantee that they will end the internship with a job, the experience will help them in their career.

For more details, please see Julie "The Maven" Rusciolelli's blog post about the contest (or check the MAVERICK website) . Interested applicants should send an email with their resume to idol@Maverickpr.com by May 7 at 5:00 p.m. They will then have to show up in person at the MAVERICK offices on May 12 at 10:00 am.

Is this a good way to find interns? If you are a student, would you apply for a position this way?


Snobs of Old Europe (Jens Schroeder in Australia)

Behind the scenes of BlogCampaigning, I'm often giving Jens a hard time for not contributing more often. Some of it is good-natured ribbing about how he's lazy, some of it is a little more serious. The reality is that for the past few months he's been busy finishing up his PhD, and is now on a speaking tour of Australia, so I really shouldn't be so hard on him. (Espen, however, has no excuses.)

Part of Jens's hard work has paid off in the form of recognition by the Sydney Morning Herald, which published an excerpt from the abstract of one of his presentations:

"For Europeans, as the Swiss banker father of a friend of mine once said, Australians are the plebeians of the Western world.

"The clichés were presented by the editor-in-chief of the German broadsheet Die Welt, Thomas Schmid, last year in an editorial. He argued that Australia lacks civilisation, everyone is dressed informally, there is a lack of social differentiation and the only thing setting the upper class apart from the middle is its higher income.

"It is an empty place with nothing in the middle—in geography nor identity. These are prejudices Australians have had to deal with almost since the arrival of the First Fleet, a fate they shared with other New World societies such as the United States."

Read the full article here.


My Trip to Australia

As you may have noticed, I haven't contributed much to blogcampaigning lately. The main reason is that I was organizing a trip to Australia. Now that I have finished my Ph.D. thesis about the differences in perception of digital games and mass media in Germany and Australia, I'm going to introduce it at several Aussie universities. If there're any Australian readers out there, I'd love to meet you!

I'll be in Queensland from 1 April to 11 April. I'll be giving a presentation at QUT on 7 April (Z2 Block, Level 3, Room 306, Creative Industries Precinct, 2pm – 4pm). Later that day, I'll probably be at the Mana Bar.

From 11 April to 15 April I'll be in Sydney. On 13 April I'll give a talk at the Centre for Independent Studies. It's not game-related, but it'll deal with the question why Europeans often see Australians as the plebeians of the Western world.

On 15 April I'll arrive in Melbourne. I'll be at the University of Melbourne on the 16th, at Monash at on the 19th and at RMIT on the 20th. I don't know the exact times yet, but let's hope I'll be able to get to sleep in.

I'll continue to Adelaide on the 21st. No talks this time, but I'll meet Melanie Swalwell who has done a lot of research on the history of digital gaming in Australia. I'm looking forward to some exciting talks with her. Maybe I'll also get to meet the people behind the Gamers4Croydon party.

On 24 April I'll fly to Perth. My presentation at Murdoch University will be either on the 27th or 28th. Again, some details still have to get figured out.

In the first week of May I'll give a talk at my alma mater, the Gold Coast campus of Griffith University.

And that's pretty much it. For further details check my twitter account, as I'll be posting updates about the times and dates of the talks.


Posting, Pitching and PR: The Presentation (#TalkIsCheap)

Last week, I gave a presentation at Centennial College's Talk Is Cheap unconference. The talk was Music Blogging: Posting, Pitching and PR, and if that sounds familiar, its because I wrote a blog post with the same title a few months ago. I've gone to #TalkIsCheap for the past few years, and I've always had a great time. I think it's one of the better social media events in Toronto these days, and the organizers deserve a round of applause. (Thanks for letting me speak!)

The gist of my talk was that as much as I enjoy writing the occasional post here on BlogCampaigning, I don't really like writing about PR, and I don't like reading about PR and and communications. By the informal polls I did of the audience, it seems like most people agreed with me. (I mean, c'mon: do you REALLY enjoy reading about PR and communications?)

I went on to talk about how much more I enjoyed writing about electronic music and science fiction for my other blog, and how doing that has taught me way more about PR and online communications than writing posts for BlogCampaigning.

While I didn't get too deep into the details of music blogging, I did talk about some of things I'd learned about PR from my other blog:

1. Your pitches don't have to be personalized – I feel like PR and communications pros who blog are the only ones who insist on pitches being personalized. The rest of the blogging world will post about something if they feel its relevant to their audience. Personalized pitches can help, but they aren't necessary.

2. Your pitches should be well targeted – if they aren't, you're just wasting everyone's time. When talking about this, I used an example of a PR person that sent me an album to review for my music blog. I normally only blog about electronic music, but the album was folk guitar. I'm going to ignore every e-mail I get from that PR person from now on, because I'll just assume it is the same type of music.

3. Don't send fancy HTML emails - once again, you're wasting everyone's time. They don't show up well on mobile devices, Outlook frequently blocks the images and even Yahoo! and Gmail don't seem to like them.

4. Don't follow up – it just pisses people off. While admittedly I've gotten some great coverage out of following up with a journalist, and have also posted something just because some guy followed up so often that I started to feel guilty, nobody feels good about a PR pitch being followed up. It's one of those things that everyone just feels awkward about. In the case where you have a good relationship with a journalist or a blogger, then its probably alright to follow up because you'll know when it is appropriate. As someone else commented during my presentation, if you're pitches are well targeted then you probably shouldn't have to do a lot of follow-up.

In the end, I tried to encourage the audience to start a blog about something they care about. For example, if they want to work in PR for one of the big car companies, they should start a blog about cars. If they want to work in fashion PR, they should start a fashion blog. Seeing the world in the eyes of an online journalist will be far more valuable than writing the occasional post about something like the "intersection of PR and social media".

So what do you think—should students blog about their thoughts on the PR industry, or should they be blogging about something they care about?

Have you started a blog, and given up after a while because it was about something you weren't interested in?


When Is It Okay To Take Off Your Suit Jacket In A Meeting?

I really don't mind wearing a suit and tie. When you're walking around, they're perfect. When you're sitting down, in a meeting, they're less perfect. I find that jacket always bunches up, and since most meeting rooms are at a temperature for shirt sleeves, I find that the extra thick layer of suit jacket always leaves me feeling a little bit warm.

However, you can't just loosen your tie, undo the top button of your shirt, take your jacket off, and roll your sleeves up in the first few minutes of a meeting.

In fact, I'm not even sure you can do any of those things in most meetings.

This normally leaves me with an internal dialogue as I sit across the table in a discussion: "Okay, we've been talking for fifteen minutes... Can I take my jacket off now? Or do I have to wait until someone more senior does so first? Or do I have to wait for a break in the conversation? Or should I wait until there is a break, and then just come back without my jacket, like nothing happened?"

Tired of this endless internal debate, I threw the question to Twitter and got some good responses.

Brad Buset and Greg"Blazer" Blazina both agreed that if you're the client, you can take your jacket off.

Buset also adds that if it is an internal meeting, and the senior colleagues their jacket off first, then it is appropriate.

I still feel like this leaves a lot of times when I'm going to be left sitting down with a suit jacket on.

Any other ways to justify taking it off in a meeting?

Suit-related etiquette tips also appreciated.


Everything I Need To Know About Social Media I Learned From The Globe and Mail (THE VIDEO!)

A few months ago, I gave a presentation as part of the Canadian Institute's Managing Social Media Conference titled "Everything I Need To Know About Social Media I Learned From The Globe and Mail." A few weeks ago, the good folks from the Canadian Institute were kind enough to give me that presentation in video format so that I could share it with my readers.

I pretty much walked straight from the presentation to a job interview at MAVERICK PR, where I now work.

For more on this presentation (including my explanatory notes and the slides), please see this post or visit ParkerMason.ca/Globe

Anyways, it looks like the Canadian Institute has another Managing Social Media conference coming up in Calgary in March. I'm sure it will be good, so if you're in town you should check it out.


PS: You should totally follow BlogCampaigning on Twitter. It is twice as easy as RSS, and all the cool kids are doing it.

Coffee Time

For the past few weeks, my employer CNW Group has been hosting a series of informal "Coffee Break" webinars aimed at educating people about our various products. (CNW is WAY more than just a newswire.)


Laurie Smith, CNW's VP of Culture and Communications hosted all of theses sessions, and I joined her to talk about Social Media Releases and CNW's MediaRoom product. I kinda like to think that if we'd done more of these we could have had a chance of becoming the Regis and Kelly of the newswire circuit.

Most of them are now archived on the CNW Group website, and you can access them in the Events section.

Everything I Need To Know About Social Media I learned From The Globe and Mail

@parkernow gets a laugh as he disses the title of his own session at #CdnInst A few days ago, I gave a presentation as part of the Canadian Institute's Managing Social Media conference here in beautiful, downtown Toronto.

As often happens with these things, I agreed to participate in the conference months ago, and I'm not even sure how I arrived at the title of "Integrating Social Media With Traditional Media" for my talk.

As I began to put my slides together, I realized that I'd need some solid examples of organizations that had successfully "integrated social media with traditional media".

The one that kept coming up was The Globe and Mail, and I think that communicators can learn a lot from the way this organization, which used to be a traditional, print newspaper, has morphed into combination of newspaper and social media portal at TheGlobeAndMail.com.

The main lessons that I think we can learn from them are below:

1.) Make it easy for people to get the information they want in the format they prefer: By this, I mean offer your content across different channels and in different places. The Globe and Mail has a print edition that I can buy at the newsstand, I can download a PDF version from their site, I can subscribe to their news via RSS, or I can read the actual stories on their website. The point is that I can access it in the way that I want.

2.) Embrace multimedia: The Globe and Mail is a newspaper, yet they use audio content in various sections on their site, and they also frequently embed video in their articles. This is similar to point one in that it offers the information in other formats.

3.) Easy URLs: Social media is about sharing. Make it easy for people to share your information (or access it in the first place) by giving them easy URLs. The example I use in my presentation is how The Globe and Mail has done this by telling readers of their print edition that they can access more information about the Toronto International Film Festival at globeandmail.com/tiff09. Its easy to share, its easy to remember and both of those mean that there is a greater chance that people will view it and give it to others to check out.

4.) Do It Live: The Globe and Mail used to print a paper edition once a day (they might have also had an evening edition or something), as most papers did. However, they constantly update their website. They also frequently hold live chats with reporters and cover events live using tools like Cover It Live. Communicators can adapt this kind of strategy by holding press conferences online, or making their spokespersons available for online discussions.

5.) Keyword-rich, easy-to-understand headlines: Admittedly, this isn't something I learned from The Globe and Mail, but another source. (Props to my friend Michael Allison for pointing this out to me!)

6.) Be part of the community: Inspired by a quote I heard attributed to Mathew Ingram, that "Linking to other sources and reading comments makes journalists stronger", I suggest that the lesson for communicators is to get involved in the community they are trying to reach. Their messages will be more relevant, and chances are the community will be more likely to accept the messages if they come from a trusted member.

7.) Keep it fresh: The reason people read the newspaper everyday is because it has new information everyday. Stories have updates. The take-away from this is that once a story goes live, you don't have to forget about it. Follow up on it, provide more information, and keep the story alive in the public eye with a new angle.

8.) Try new things: As I said in a post earlier this week, stop thinking about best practices and case studies and just go out there and do something new and interesting. The Globe and Mail is undergoing all sorts of change, and I'm sure they are the first ones to try some of the things they're doing. Let's learn from that.

I've embedded the slide show below. Since I'm as much of a student of the Masnickian school of Powerpoint presentations as I am his thoughts on economics, the deck has 103 slides that I covered in just under 40 minutes.

You can also download it at ParkerMason.ca/globe. Thanks to the Canadian Institute for giving me the chance to speak and to everyone in the audience for listening.

And special thanks to Joe Thornley for preserving on his blog what the Twitter community said online during my presentation. Credit for the photo above also goes to Joe.


Have A Coffee And Learn About Social Media Releases

header-eng Starting next week, CNW Group will be hosting a series of coffee-break webinars every Wednesday at 3pm EST.

The topic of the first one will be Social Media Releases, and I'll be stepping up to the mic (handset? speakerphone?) to tell you everything I know.

There will be plenty of time for questions, but are there any you think I should specifically address?

I promise that I'll try and make it both informative and entertaining, so grab a coffee and log in from your desk. It'll be like hanging out with me for a few minutes, but you can count it as doing work.

CNW Group Coffee-Break Webinar Series


So You Think You Can Intern Toronto

What an innovative idea - MAVERICK Public Relations is offering aspiring young PR pros a chance to win an internship.

According to the blog of Julie Ruscioelli (Maverick PR President and founder), " the lucky winner of the first MAVERICK Idol will be granted an eight-week paid internship at the award-winning PR firm during the summer of 2009."

The contest will take the form of two rounds, giving the participants a total of seven minutes to show that they've got the MAVERICK stuff.  From the news release, it sounds like they're encouraging the applicants to be as creative as possible.

I think this is a great idea for a number of reasons. First of all, it is much more of a real-life experience than a job interview. Being in PR means giving a lot of presentations and having to sell your idea. With a format like this, MAVERICK is more likely to find an intern with the workplace skills they're looking for (and, as sometimes happens with internships, result in a full-time job later on). It also gives the aspiring intern a great chance to practice their presentation skills. Scotty Mac, who works at MAVERICK and is no doubt one of the brains behind this idea, adds that the presentations will only be in front of the MAVERICK judges, rather than in front of all the other applicants as well.

For more information and the full contest rules, check out the MAVERICK Idol event on Facebook


PS: what's the deal with PR firms and their insistence on capitalizing their names? NATIONAL? SHIFT? MAVERICK?

Toronto Social Media Summit

I'm pretty excited that I've been asked to speak at the Toronto Social Media Summit happening at the end of April. The title of my workshop is "How To Use Social Media Releases As A Part of Your Communications Campaigns." As part of the presentation, I'll be going over my 4M Theory of Social Media Releases in greater detail.

It looks like my workshop will be in the slot right before Mark Goren'sworkshop. The two of us also presented on the the same day at a Social Media for Government conference in September '08,  and they were quite complementary to each other.

I think that if attendees learn as much about social media as conference producer Kelly Flynn did at the Social Media for Government Conference last year, it will be a huge success. Kelly has done a great job of embracing Twitter as a way of connecting with conference speakers and online communities.

For more information about the Social Media Summit in Toronto, check out their website.


Advice For PR Students

Next week I'm going to be giving a presentation to a group of PR students. Besides telling them about Canada's favorite newswire, I thought I'd also give them a bit of advice.

As I mentioned earlier, Julie Ruscioelli Rusciolelli* recomends that they include some of their interests on their resume, so I'll probably tell them about that.

I also plan on telling them that they should get involved in social media - its a great way to start learning about PR and a great way to start interacting with the people that will eventually be their peers (and potential employers).

Can you think of anything else I should tell them?

*UPDATE: Also make sure you check your spelling.

Getting CIRI-ous about Social Media

This afternoon I'll be joining social media vet Michael O'Connor-Clarke and Natalie Johnson, manager of Social Media of General Motors Global Technology Group onstage at the Albany Club in Toronto to discuss Using Advanced Technologies Effectively in front of members of the Canadian Investor Relations Institute. From the event description:

Advanced technologies are revolutionizing communications in every field. Investor Relations is no exception. New technologies such as blogging, Web 2.0, RSS feeds, search engine optimization (SEO) and new channels such as Facebook, Google and Yahoo Finance are changing the way IR professionals execute their strategies. Join us as our expert speakers explain how best to employ these technologies to improve the effectiveness of your capital markets communications.

I think it should be a great talk, and I'm looking forward to a healthy discussion period with some of Toronto's IR professionals.

-Parker Mason

Hustle Is The Most Important Word Ever

A few days ago, a friend of mine asked me for advice about work. She said she enjoyed part of her job, but not all of it. I told her to focus on the things she enjoyed doing, and make those her jobs.

Gary Vaynerchuk takes my advice one step further.

"Ask yourself: What do I want to do everyday for the rest of my life? Do That. I promise, you can monetize that shit," he says.

"Stop crying, and just keep hustling."

(thanks to Todd Defren for pointing out the video)


Public Speaking Tips

I am by no means an expert at public speaking, but over the past few years I've found myself in front of an audience more and more often. Some times I've excelled, sometimes I've bombed, but I've managed to learn a few things along the way. Eat before your presentation Especially if it is a presentation centered around a meal, like a "lunch and learn" or if you are the speaker at a dinner. Normally, you'll be scheduled to speak at around the same time others are eating. Even if is a casual setting and you'll be dining with your audience, you don't want to look like a glutton. Your audience is there to hear what you have to tell them, not watch you eat.

Eating beforehand also ensures that you don't spill anything on your shirt.

More water, less coffee Coffee gives me the jitters, and I tend to speak too quickly and excitedly. Water keeps me hydrated and my mouth moist so that I can keep on talking.

Know Your Material Your audience will be able to smell bullshit more easily than fear. If you don't know your material very well, then you shouldn't be speaking about it. If you understand your material well enough, no amount of distraction, nerves or difficult questions will throw you off.

Engage your audience Look them in the eye, ask them questions, make them feel like they are part of a conversation rather than being lectured at. Look around at different people in the crowd (rather than at the back wall, as I used to do) gives you a better idea about who is paying attention and who isn't so that you can measure the level of information getting across. If all you see are glazed eyes and people praying into their Blackberries, you need to be doing something different to get their attention.

Make sure your fly isn't open and that your shirt isn't tucked into your underpants Seriously. It takes two seconds to check. (Hilarious anecdote related to this tip available upon request.)

Any other advice?