Three audiences, three different cultures

You might think that the trick to good speaking is speaking well. Being confident. Having interesting content. And all that.

Now that I've given a bunch of speeches (four in the past two days), I'm learning that the real skill a speaker needs is listening. Can you take a question during a talk and turn that into something useful? Can you do it from Amazon's CTO? It's hard.

What was interesting was how different all four audiences are. The Chamber of Commerce audience asked lots of questions that showed they were hungry for ANYTHING that could help them get their business more exposure. Guerrilla marketers. The government audience asked lots of questions about how to get approval to do a blog. They pointed out that there are lots of rules inside governmental organizations about how to, and when to, share information with the public. Made me realize why the government took a couple of days to really start to deal with Katrina.

The Amazon audience told us that they like to let their product do the talking and that then they'll listen to the feedback and participate in their forums. This matches the kind of stuff I heard at Target and Google.

Doc Searls, in 2004, noted that great brands won't get blogging. It's too bad, too, there are so many passionate people inside Amazon who are just waiting to share their passion about online shopping and books. I took pictures of them so I could remember them. To me the people who work at Amazon are Amazon (yes, I can still hear Jeff Bezo's laugh in my head — I remembered that he hung out with everyone else at O'Reilly's FooCamp all night long — that drive to find a better idea is why they have such a great company).

One thing I learned, though, at Amazon is the deep love of their customers. That resonated with me a lot. Appreciate the people who pay your paychecks and reward them with killer stuff and listen to them when they talk with you. I love that culture.

I guess that's why I'm different than a "consumer." I wanna know what's on the minds of the people creating products and services, and, I'd love to have conversations with them about their products and learn some stories so that I can better evangelize their work. Ben Hollis asked "what about Apple?" during our talk at Amazon today (and, I missed, that he asked the same thing on his blog earlier). Yeah, maybe Amazon, Google, Apple, and Target don't need that — this quarter.

But, long term? Most people I know like doing business with people and companies 1) that they know and 2) that they like 3) that listen to them when they ask for something better/different. I was reminded of this the other night when Shel and I were out to dinner. He got a piece of duck that simply was not worth the $28 he was paying for it. He complained, nicely, but the woman serving us didn't do anything and just said "I don't make the prices here." It isn't lost on me that he's not gonna go back there (and neither will I, to tell the truth cause it was damn tiny).

Aren't you more likely to be a happy customer when you're listened to? Maybe if the chef came out and explained why the price was so high and gave us a good story things would have been different "that duck is a very rare one hunted in an exclusive area in Canada and air-flown straight here so it's really fresh." Heheh. I'm reminded of that every time I look at Microsoft's Product Feedback Wiki. You do realize that Microsoft didn't create this, right? Our customers did. Allmost everything there is written by a customer. Why in heck would they do that if we weren't gonna listen? And, if we don't listen, do you think people will keep doing it?

Other things I learned? Everyone is proud of what they do. I met people from FEMA (Michael Howard, PIO is someone I wish I could go on disaster drills with — he told me that there's a 25% chance of a major earthquake sometime in the next 30 years here, so his team is working to try to get ready for that kind of disaster), from the Red Cross, from universities (hi Kathy Gill, nice tech blog by the way), from small businesses (if you ever need a DJ to host a wedding in Seattle, check out Susan McKee), to Ann Marshall, director of public relations for Cingular Wireless (I thanked her for my great phone). All authorities on their business, their communities, their competition, their marketplace.

I keep asking myself this week after my big blow up last week. "Are you listening?"

Update: Steve Rowe wrote, on his blog, about our session at Microsoft yesterday. I hear that the video will soon be made available publicly from that session.

45 thoughts on “Three audiences, three different cultures

  1. Pingback: does levitra work
  2. Pingback: tanoludlta
  3. Kathy: excellent point! The real fun is when you can switch roles back and forth. It explains too why there will always be conflict in our world. One man’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter.

  4. Kathy: excellent point! The real fun is when you can switch roles back and forth. It explains too why there will always be conflict in our world. One man’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter.

  5. Hi, back … I forgot to tease you about your son’s Apple fetish. :)

    I was reminded, and again this afternoon, that the frame (window, perspective, point of view) with which one looks at something can dramatically color perception. Like some folks this morning having to deal with layers of bureaucracy … but others, not so much. That really colored their enthusiasm and interest in this technology.

    This afternoon, I saw how a rhetoritician views/analyzes/understands “interactivity.” We look at the same website… “see” many of the same things … but we take away different lessons/questions.

    Kinda like me seeing OS requirements to view a news video as a threat to democratic access to information and you seeing “less effort” for programmers and DRM for command-and-control content managers. :)

  6. Hi, back … I forgot to tease you about your son’s Apple fetish. :)

    I was reminded, and again this afternoon, that the frame (window, perspective, point of view) with which one looks at something can dramatically color perception. Like some folks this morning having to deal with layers of bureaucracy … but others, not so much. That really colored their enthusiasm and interest in this technology.

    This afternoon, I saw how a rhetoritician views/analyzes/understands “interactivity.” We look at the same website… “see” many of the same things … but we take away different lessons/questions.

    Kinda like me seeing OS requirements to view a news video as a threat to democratic access to information and you seeing “less effort” for programmers and DRM for command-and-control content managers. :)

  7. Pingback: Russell Dicker
  8. Zoli: we didn’t start the wiki. Our customers did. It’s a good way for customers to rank their priorities for us.

    I’m not sure it’s the best way for us to get feedback either. It certainly doesn’t work for things like MSN Search (we get thousands of pieces of feedback every day from people who click on the “Help us Improve” link at the bottom of every search page).

  9. Zoli: we didn’t start the wiki. Our customers did. It’s a good way for customers to rank their priorities for us.

    I’m not sure it’s the best way for us to get feedback either. It certainly doesn’t work for things like MSN Search (we get thousands of pieces of feedback every day from people who click on the “Help us Improve” link at the bottom of every search page).

  10. I did not even know MS had a product feedback wiki, but I looked at Amazon’s ProductWiki, and have long wondered if a wiki is the right application for this.

    Wikis are ideal for collaborative, creative activities, where the desired outcome is the synthesis of the collective wisdom, since we get to edit each other’s entries.

    For product reviews the key should be to preserve the individual comtributions in their original sequence, there is no synthesis in the end. If there is a debate, even better, nobody has to win, the conversation is what matters.

    Shouldn’t a traditional forum application be better for this situation?

    Don’t get me wrong, I  love working with wikis, but sometimes have the impression that picking a wiki for the “wrong” project gives wikis a bad name.  It’s important to pick the right tool for every situation.

  11. I did not even know MS had a product feedback wiki, but I looked at Amazon’s ProductWiki, and have long wondered if a wiki is the right application for this.

    Wikis are ideal for collaborative, creative activities, where the desired outcome is the synthesis of the collective wisdom, since we get to edit each other’s entries.

    For product reviews the key should be to preserve the individual comtributions in their original sequence, there is no synthesis in the end. If there is a debate, even better, nobody has to win, the conversation is what matters.

    Shouldn’t a traditional forum application be better for this situation?

    Don’t get me wrong, I  love working with wikis, but sometimes have the impression that picking a wiki for the “wrong” project gives wikis a bad name.  It’s important to pick the right tool for every situation.

  12. Robert, now this is what I expect to see from a blogging pioneer. Most corporate types I know are fascinated by the ezposure and risks of blogging unlike what Carr may say and you are telling them what you are learning – good and bad. I know it is hard for you to not be defensive of Microsoft. But MS does have a lot of problems. Its R&D is going to be measured against newer benchmarks of cost – $ 6 bn a year v/s 7 employees at 37 Signals and other web 2.0 stuf, its speed v/s Google; its qaulity v/s CMM level 5 stuff out of India etc). The best thing you can do there is to showcase what MS is doing to radically change, not just defend it. You are humanizing a $ 40 bn corporation – keep up the good work.

  13. Robert, now this is what I expect to see from a blogging pioneer. Most corporate types I know are fascinated by the ezposure and risks of blogging unlike what Carr may say and you are telling them what you are learning – good and bad. I know it is hard for you to not be defensive of Microsoft. But MS does have a lot of problems. Its R&D is going to be measured against newer benchmarks of cost – $ 6 bn a year v/s 7 employees at 37 Signals and other web 2.0 stuf, its speed v/s Google; its qaulity v/s CMM level 5 stuff out of India etc). The best thing you can do there is to showcase what MS is doing to radically change, not just defend it. You are humanizing a $ 40 bn corporation – keep up the good work.

  14. If Amazon wants to show their deep love for me, tell them to bring their customer support back from India to the United States so that when I have a problem I don’t have to sink a lot of time into explaining it to someone for whom English is a second language.

    Also tell em to toss a cheap paper bookmark into the box.

  15. If Amazon wants to show their deep love for me, tell them to bring their customer support back from India to the United States so that when I have a problem I don’t have to sink a lot of time into explaining it to someone for whom English is a second language.

    Also tell em to toss a cheap paper bookmark into the box.

  16. The Amazon audience told us that they like to let their product do the talking and that then they’ll listen to the feedback and participate in their forums.

    Oh my…. if what Amazon wants is their product doing the talking, then they sure ain’t listening to the responses. I blogged about this a little over a year ago in my posts Fix Bugs First and Creating Pissed-off Authors.

    If Amazon actually cared about service, they’d spend ten minutes talking to authors. But if they did they’d have a to-do list a mile long, full of boring non-whiz-bang stuff, and that wouldn’t be Web 2.0.

    One thing I learned, though, at Amazon is the deep love of their customers.

    Snort.

  17. The Amazon audience told us that they like to let their product do the talking and that then they’ll listen to the feedback and participate in their forums.

    Oh my…. if what Amazon wants is their product doing the talking, then they sure ain’t listening to the responses. I blogged about this a little over a year ago in my posts Fix Bugs First and Creating Pissed-off Authors.

    If Amazon actually cared about service, they’d spend ten minutes talking to authors. But if they did they’d have a to-do list a mile long, full of boring non-whiz-bang stuff, and that wouldn’t be Web 2.0.

    One thing I learned, though, at Amazon is the deep love of their customers.

    Snort.

  18. It’s years since I had any training in presentation delivery but I do remember (1) tell them whay your going to tell them (2) tell them it (3) tell them you told them.

    Having a story to tell and using “Beyond Bullets” and “Presentation Zen” techniques takes this to another level. And practice definitely helps.

    I was almost physically sick before the first corporate presentation I gave over 20 years ago. I hear the same kind of fear today when geeks I work with are confronted with a requirement to deliver a presentation.

    Eventually practice at presenting leads you to a level where you can be comfortable enough to allow questions to shape your presentation without totally disrupting your story. The best interruptions add to the story.

    Sounds like your having fun with the presentations.

    Keep on truckin!

    Do you think there’s any chance Christopher Coulter isn’t listening anymore :)

  19. It’s years since I had any training in presentation delivery but I do remember (1) tell them whay your going to tell them (2) tell them it (3) tell them you told them.

    Having a story to tell and using “Beyond Bullets” and “Presentation Zen” techniques takes this to another level. And practice definitely helps.

    I was almost physically sick before the first corporate presentation I gave over 20 years ago. I hear the same kind of fear today when geeks I work with are confronted with a requirement to deliver a presentation.

    Eventually practice at presenting leads you to a level where you can be comfortable enough to allow questions to shape your presentation without totally disrupting your story. The best interruptions add to the story.

    Sounds like your having fun with the presentations.

    Keep on truckin!

    Do you think there’s any chance Christopher Coulter isn’t listening anymore :)

Comments are closed.