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.

Comments

  1. 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 :)

  2. 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 :)

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  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. 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).

  12. 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).

  13. [...] Scoble makes a good case here for why a company’s employees should be blogging: 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. [...]

  14. [...] I missed Scoble’s talk about his book at work today. I had planned to attend but work priorities intervened. I was also a little alarmed to see the animosity displayed towards Amazon by a couple of his posters who are authors who think they are not getting good treatment from us. That’s not how we want to be seen and its definitely not indifference. Everyone is empowered to point out problems and demand they be fixed. We all work together on that. Its one of the things I like about working there. [...]

  15. Amazon Gets Scobleized

    Amazon has ongoing series of internal events known as the Amazon Fishbowl where people stop by and promote their new album, book, or whatever by talking to or performing for a set of interested Amazonians. For example, Monday had Ben

  16. [...] A lot of what he said didn’t gibe with me, although that may be cultural. Web 2.0 and the blog is bollocks, it’s the latest technology doing variations on this thing we call life while claiming to be a revolution (remember “The Internet”?). My CTO asked him sound hard questions and he responded well, and his synopsis of Amazon was on the mark: 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. Scoble’s take on the day, I guess he talked at more than our shop, is here. Even despite of the expectations, he was surprisingly anti-Apple too. Posted by bfp in Blog This, Rants |Wednesday, March 29th, 2006 at 10:31 pm | [...]

  17. Naked Answers

    Today Shel Israel and Robert Scoble
    stopped by at Amazon to present their book in our
    Fishbowl series. As you can read in Shel’s observations and Robert’s
    they appear shocked that we used a critical
    voice to address their work. Welcome to life at Am…

  18. 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. :)

  19. 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. :)

  20. Scoble, Shel, and the Amazon CTO

    So Scoble, Shel, and the Amazon CTO walk into a bar… No, that’s not how the story goes. Scoble and Shel have been road warriors in the 3 months since their book Naked Conversations published. They’ve spoken at countless conferences,

  21. 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.

  22. 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.

  23. Amazon Bad Boy – Werner Vogel

    You’ve probably noticed that a bunch of big companies are getting this or that smart person to come by and chat with the troops on particular topics. Seth Godin was recently at Google, for example, and gave a great talk which is on Google Videos

  24. [...] Amazon invites Robert Scoble and Shel Israel, co-authors of Naked Conversations, to give a talk on blogging on Wed Mar 29. In the spirit of Amazon’s culture of challenging others to defend their ideas, Amazon CTO Werner posed some tough questions for the speakers. Acccording to Robert and Shel, Werner’s tone turned confrontational and he frequently interrupted their responses to his questions. Later that day, after the talk, Scoble suggested here that Amazon “doesn’t get blogging.” Werner blasted the speakers in a post here, and Shel responded here. Venture capitalist Rick Segal, seeking to validate the speakers’ observations of Werner, does some digging among his Amazon contacts, and reports here that even the Amazonians thought Werner was rude. Fortunately, the storms calmed…Scoble admits here that he could have done a better job of answering Werner’s questions, and Werner apologizes here. [...]

  25. [...] John Moore, over at Brand Autopsy, has a good post with pointers to a recent blog-off between Robert Scoble and Shel Israel on one side, and Werner Vogel on the other, with color commentary from a bunch of other blogs as well. [...]

  26. [...] What’s worse than bad e-mail marketing? Overzealous, premature bad e-mail marketing: From: Amazon.com [mailto:promo-core@amazon.com] Sent: Monday, April 03, 2006 7:19 AMTo: Heather HamiltonSubject: [placeholder for winning team] Wins the NCAA Tournament!   Dear Amazon.com Customer,   Congratulations, [placeholder for winning team]! As someone who has purchased sports-related products, we thought you should be the first to see our selection of NCAA championship products.   <redacted>   Available only while supplies last.   We hope you enjoyed receiving this message. However, if you’d rather not receive future e-mails of this sort from Amazon.com, please follow this link to opt out:   <redacted>   (c) 2006 Amazon.com, Inc. or its affiliates.  All Rights Reserved. Amazon.com and the Amazon.com logo are registered trademarks of Amazon.com, Inc.  “and you’re done” is a trademark of Amazon.com, Inc.   Amazon.com, 1200 12th Ave. S., Suite 1200, Seattle, WA 98144-2734.   Please note that this e-mail was sent to the following address: heathham@microsoft.com OK, seriously. Seriously? It’s not enough that someone in their direct marketing group had an itchy trigger finger (feel free to speculate as to whether this was a technology error or a human error). The best part is that I went to USC. And I buy USC merchandise (probably too much of it) though I don’t recall  buying any through Amazon…I may have. Now if USC is going to pull out a win in the NCAA championship, it’s going to be a flippin’ miracle (if you don’t know why, then, well…nevermind). Do they expect me to buy merchandise of some other team? Do they not understand that peoples’ interest in sports is, for the most part, team specific? Yeah, that means I won’t be purchasing the UCLA or Florida items featured on their site (shuddering at the thought). Know me better, Amazon…sheesh. Placeholder. I’ve heard a lot of talk lately about how well Amazon knows it’s customers. The timing is interesting. This e-mail is three different kinds of wrong.   Filed Under: Marketing Info [...]

  27. [...] herrlich, diese Story ist einfach nur herrlich. Amazon CTO Werner Vogels auf seinem Weblog: Today Shel Israel and Robert Scoble stopped by at Amazon to present their book Naked Conversations in our Fishbowl series. As you can read in Shel’s observations and Robert’s they appear shocked that we used a critical voice to address their work. Welcome to life at Amazon, we set a very high bar for our own works and we expect anyone that comes to sell us an approach to actually be prepared to really defend their ideas. Just because blogs are cool and everybody is doing them does not automatically mean that we should institutionalize them at Amazon. We have a long history of promoting customers to use their voice about our products and our operations, so if you come to Amazon to tell us our business is going to really suffer if we do not blog, you better be prepared to defend your ideas with very strong arguments and hard evidence. We expect that from anyone, externally or internally, who wants to promote an idea within Amazon. [...]