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Article of the Week: 3 Reputation-Saving Responses to Use When Someone Requests a Great Idea on the Spot PDF Print E-mail

By Kat Boogaard, themuse.com

You’re in a meeting with your boss, discussing an upcoming initiative your department is working on. Suddenly, he springs it on you—that nausea-inspiring question you weren’t at all prepared for: “So, what are your ideas?”

Your mouth goes dry and the room appears to spin. Your supervisor is looking at you expectantly, like you’re about to spit out a suggestion that tops pre-sliced bread on the innovation scale. But, unfortunately, you’re drawing a total blank—you have absolutely nothing to share.

What do you do? Trying to ramble on and talk your way around the issue will only make things worse, and you can’t very well pretend your phone’s ringing and hightail it out of there. Well, you could, but I don’t recommend it.

Instead, use one of these simple responses the next time you’re feeling fresh out of ideas. Whether it’s in a sit-down with your manager, a meeting with your team, or a call with an eager client, you’ll have something to fill the silence—without seeming unknowledgeable or unprepared.

1. “Let Me Think About That and Get Back to You”

Being put on the spot can be nerve-wracking, and that insanely high pressure and looming expectations usually only serve to completely stifle your creativity. When that spotlight’s shining on you, it’s tough enough to remember your own name—let alone come up with an earth-shatteringly good idea.

So, sometimes the best thing you can do is just buy yourself a little bit of time. Not only does that take the stress out of the heat of the moment, but it’ll likely also give you the thinking room and information you need in order to actually come up with a brilliant suggestion.

Don’t worry, admitting that you’d prefer to have a brief pause rather than flying by the seat of your pants doesn’t need to make you look unimaginative. Instead, drive the point home that you want to come back to the drawing board with valuable contributions—rather than half-assed, completely off-the-cuff ideas you felt pressured to generate.

2. “Just Off the Top of My Head…”

You’ve convinced yourself that you have absolutely zero ideas to offer. Believe me, I’ve been there. But, I’m willing to bet that if you really did some thinking, you could come up with at least something to say in response to that request for suggestions.

No, maybe you won’t have an idea that’s so unbelievably genius you’ll be heralded as your company’s know-it-all for decades to come. But, remember, not every idea needs to be a huge one. And, oftentimes you’re better off sharing something—rather than letting your mouth hang open and listening to the crickets chirp.

Again, I know this can be tough when you’re feeling fresh out of any worthwhile contributions. But, your response could be as simple as a nugget of wisdom about one small piece of the project or even a recommendation for another teammate who could really help push things along. Your idea doesn’t need to be grandiose—every little bit helps.

Furthermore, prefacing your suggestion with something like, “Just off the top of my head,” makes it clear that you’re thinking on your feet, and that your idea is in no way meant to solve all of the world’s problems. If you feel so inclined, tack on the fact that you’ll continue to do some further research and thinking on the matter, and you’ll manage to skate out of that tight spot with the utmost poise and composure.

3. “Can You Elaborate Further On…?”

It can be hard to generate amazing ideas if you’re feeling unclear about a purpose or fuzzy on the necessary details. So, oftentimes, getting further explanation can solidify your understanding of the objective, help you come up with some new concepts, and just generally get those creative juices flowing.

When you’re pressed to contribute your own suggestions, don’t hesitate to request some elaboration and clarification on an area you’re somewhat confused about. Many times, this can actually serve to spark additional meaningful conversation that leads to even more (and ultimately better!) ideas from everybody.

Plus, if nothing else, you’ll have a clearer understanding of the project or challenge at hand—further arming you with the knowledge you need to pour into some research and come back with a well-informed suggestion at a later time.

What ideas do you have?

When you have so many great suggestions they’re practically spilling out of you, that question can be exciting. But, when your mind is as empty as a grocery store during the Super Bowl? Well, suddenly that question is no longer thrilling—it’s terrifying.

Do your best to resist the urge to ramble incessantly (or worse, feign food poisoning in an effort to get out of there as soon as possible), and instead rely on one of these three responses. They’ll get you out of that bind in a way that’s perfectly professional and polished—no fake doctor’s note required.

Article of the Week: 'Pokémon Go' is Driving Crazy Sales at Small Local Businesses - Here's How to Cash In PDF Print E-mail

By: Walter Chen, Inc.com

The speed at which Pokemon Go has spread is unprecedented. Less than a week after launch, this augmented reality mobile exploration game has been installed on twice as many phones as Tinder, it has double the engagement of Snapchat and it is eclipsing Twitter in its percentage of daily active users.

People are spending so much time journeying around looking for Pokemon that getting sore legs from playing for hours on end has practically become its own meme.

Smart businesses have caught on too. As Pokemon Go users traverse their towns in search of Pokemon, local stores, restaurants, movie theaters, and other businesses are capitalizing on this massive opportunity, driving huge amounts of foot traffic and conversions both with simple in-app purchases and creative marketing campaigns.

To start turning the ambulating gamers around you into your new best customers, all you need is to know how to play the game. Here's how:

1. Find Out if Your Business Is a Gym or PokeStop

What makes Pokemon Go different from many other games is that it doesn't keep people shut up in their rooms. The game runs off an augmented reality HUD, or heads-up display, of the real world. Players' avatars explore with them as they catch Pokemon, collect rewards from PokeStops, battle other users at Gyms, and team up to defend their territory.

Figuring out whether your business is a PokeStop or Gym is the first thing you should do. PokeStops and Gyms attract foot traffic without any effort-players flock to them for rewards and to battle other players-and they can be leveraged for massive sales if you know how.

There is no official Niantic map that lists all the PokeStop and Gym locations yet. One workaround is to use the online map of portals created over the last three years for the game "Ingress," also developed by Niantic, which maps virtually 1:1 with Pokemon Go's PokeStops and Gyms.

Check out the map here after you install the Ingress app on your phone and sign in (you can use a Google account, and it only takes about a minute to set up).

Once you have it set up, you'll be treated to a searchable world map of different "portals"-each one being either a PokeStop or a Gym in Pokemon Go.

2. Sit Back, Throw Down a Lure, and Enjoy the Show

Pokemon Go offers a range of in-app purchases. The one that is most important for your small business is Lures.

Lures increase the rate of Pokemon generation in the area around the PokeStop where they're placed for one half hour. That may not sound that powerful, but Pokemon are scarcer than you think. Luring is an insanely powerful tool that you really have to see to believe. Here's a sample of the comments from some recent Reddit threads on the subject:

We did this last night (college town), and within minutes of dropping the lure, 30 people walked in. Hoooly s#&@.

I own a pizzeria that's a Pokestop and I literally did this all day. I had a ton of kids and adults (mostly adults) come in for a slice of pizza and a drink until the lure ran out.

What's even more incredible is just how affordable luring is. Let's do the math. With $100 netting you 14,500 Pokecoins and an eight-pack of Lures costing 680 Pokecoins:

14,500 Pokecoins / 680 = 21 eight-packs of lures
(21 * 8)/2 = 84 hours
$100/84 hours = $1.19 per hour

All you have to do is:

  • Tap the red Pokeball at the bottom of your HUD
  • Tap "Shop"
  • Scroll down and tap the purple, box-shaped Lures to purchase. You'll re-direct to your app store's payment system
  • Once back in-app, tap the red Pokeball again, then tap "Items"
  • Tap the purple Lure to activate!

For a little more than a dollar an hour, you can bring virtually guaranteed crowds to your business. The ROI here is ridiculous, so if your business is anywhere near a PokeStop, this is something you absolutely have to try.

Capitalize on Your Business Being Near a Pokemon Gym

Gyms are a separate kind of animal entirely from PokeStops. You can't put down Lures, but you don't have to either, because users are converging on Gyms day and night to face off with other users and "take control" of the gym for either team Mystic, Valor, or Instinct.

To see if your business is near a gym, you can check the Ingress map, or just open Pokemon Go on your phone and look for the tall structures with little Pokemon near the top. They're not hard to spot-they're the biggest structures on the in-game map.

Capitalizing on your proximity to a gym is more about creative marketing in real life than anything else. Here are some ideas for ways to engage with the droves of people standing near your business with their eyes glued to their phones:

  • Giveaways: Order Pokemon Gym badges from a supplier that can customize them for your business. A quick Google search of the keywords "Pokemon Gym badge" and "custom" should get you what you need.
  • Keep score: Put up a sandwich board announcing which team is currently in control of your Gym, and then offer a discount to members of that team! Don't worry about staying updated on which team is winning-just ask those who are participating in the promotion to inform you when the gym has changed hands.
  • Get social: Take in-game screenshots and post them on the social-media platforms where you're active. Use hashtags like #pokemongo and #pokemon to get the message out to your potential new customers.

If you're nowhere near either a PokeStop or a Gym, that just means you have to get a little more creative.

3. Go Where the Pokemon Roam

Once you know the basics of how Pokemon Go works, you don't actually need to be near a PokeStop or a Gym to capitalize on the traffic they can create.

Take Your Business on the Road

One way to make your business a part of the Pokemon Go phenomenon is to get mobile and find a spot from which to orchestrate the Lure or Gym strategies. If you're a fashion retailer, maybe this means loading up a van with some of your latest vintage finds. If you're a restaurant, maybe this means going to the park and setting up a barbecue. It's summertime, so get creative.

Since Pokemon are everywhere, you want to go where you have the best chance of finding success. Take advantage of places where you have clusters of PokeStops. If there are three PokeStops on the same block, as is happening fairly often in larger cities, then park yourself in the middle of them and lay down three Lures at the same time.

It's the same effect as if you were laying down one-just multiplied by three. Before you know it, you'll have a serious crowd on your hands.

Promote Your Local Pokemon on Social Media

Even if your business is nowhere near a PokeStop or a Gym, you're still going to have Pokemon.

One way to get people excited about visiting your business is to get on social media and show off the valuable or rare Pokemon popping up in your area. To know what to look for, a Reddit user has created a handy rarity chart.

You could hire a member of your staff to sit on Pokemon Go all day, lay down Incense (an in-game purchase similar to a Lure, but which only gives effects to the person who triggered it), and take screenshots of the Pokemon they capture.

A better option, though, might be to incentivize play on the part of your customers.

Consider running it like a referral program:

  • Tell users you'll pay for their Incense in return for some screenshots of any rare Pokemon that pop up in the vicinity of your shop.
  • Have them upload the picture and tag you on social media, so that their followers know about you too.
  • Promote the fact that you're rewarding users who find rare Pokemon at your business.

Do this right, and you could turn your store into a viral destination.

Advertise Your Pokemon on Facebook

If you don't already have a decent-sized following on social media, or if you're looking to drive an even greater amount of traffic, then Facebook advertising is your best bet.

By creating a Facebook ad targeted only inside the geographical radius of your choice, you could spread the word about your local Pokemon only to those people liable to actually stop into your store.

The vanilla Facebook advertising interface can be hard to use, so check out one of the Facebook ad managers out there if you want help. AdEspresso, one such tool, makes it easy to set whatever targeting criteria you want, whether that's geographic (one mile around your business), demographic (ages 16 to 26), or interest-based (they "like" Pokemon Go on Facebook).

Pokemon Go and Start Marketing Your Local Business Right Now

The naysayers inside your organization will say the same things people say whenever there's a big paradigm shift. "This is a fad," they'll say. And that could be true. People, of course, said the same thing about the original Pokemon game.

The more salient point here is that no marketing channel is evergreen, but businesses that want to win have to keep one eye open for these big shifts-and they have to capitalize on them when it's time. With Pokemon Go, businesses have an unprecedented opportunity to create strong emotional bonds with new customers, and for very little money.

Even if Pokemon Go isn't as powerful a tool for driving sales six months or a year from now, the customers that you delight today are going to remember you tomorrow.

Article of the Week: 7 Ways To Harness Your Emotions To Have More Powerful Conversations PDF Print E-mail

By: Harvey Deutschendorf, FastCompany.com

Casual conversation can be a powerful thing. It's how we share information and connect with each other—often more deeply than we can by digital means. It's the social glue that binds us together and determines how well, and at what level, we're able to relate to each other.

That's just as true in the workplace as it is in our personal lives. At work, conversations create bonds that make for strong working relationships and effective teams. And since communication operates on an emotional level as well as an intellectual one, high emotional intelligence helps us communicate more effectively.

Here are seven habits that highly emotionally intelligent people use to have more powerful conversations—and how you can put them to good use.

 1. Be Aware Of Your Own Emotional State

Emotionally intelligent people understand their own feelings and how that affects their conversations with others. They can use this information to manage their emotions before going into a conversation. This way they don't let their feelings get out of hand and take charge of the conversation.

Sometimes this means delaying or stopping yourself from saying something that might sound harsh or judgmental—even if you don't quite have your emotions completely in check. But you need to know how you're feeling before you can know how to interact with someone else . . .

2. Look For Clues On How Others Are Feeling

. . . which of course matters, too. Those with high emotional intelligence are also capable of checking in to sense whether something's amiss from other people's points of view. Their empathy and sensitivity can help others feel comfortable sharing what's going on with them. Usually you can pick up on this information nonverbally. Stay alert to the tone of words, facial expressions, and body language—these can be powerful clues to understanding how another person is feeling.

3. Be Patient

It can take time to build trust—even in the space of a single conversation, and even with someone you've interacted with previously. Any time you're speaking with somebody because you want something from them, take the time to ease into the technical aspects. Emotionally intelligent people always take time to find out what's going on with the other person emotionally—right there in the moment. They don't rush into laying out their own needs. This paves the way for smoother and more successful conversations for everyone involved.

 4. Include Others Nearby

Have you ever had a three-way (or more) conversation where you felt totally ignored by the person speaking? Did they direct their conversation entirely toward one or more of the people they were talking to? The best conversationalists are more inclusive. They're aware of their environment, which includes the other people in it—even those who may be keeping their mouths shut.

To open up the conversation, simply take turns—and start with eye contact. Go around and look at everyone you're speaking to, then keep returning their gaze when they're speaking. (It's not rocket science, but it's something many people still forget to do.) And while you're focusing your attention toward whoever you're addressing your comments to at a given moment, don't lose track of the fact that others are involved. This way, you can loop them in before they start to feel left out.

5. Listen Carefully and Quietly

It's been pointed out before that the best conversationalists often listen more than they speak. Highly emotionally intelligent people understand this. They take the time to listen actively—as opposed to just mentally preparing a response while the other person is talking.

If their message or intention isn't clear, it's never rude to simply ask for clarification; it can be as simple as a polite, "What do you mean?" The reason here, too, is obvious but often overlooked: If the person you're speaking to doesn't feel heard, they won't much like speaking with you. Listening carefully to someone doesn't mean agreeing with their every remark. It's simply about letting your guard down enough to encourage the speaker to continue opening up and sharing their ideas freely.

6. Find Common Ground

That can make for something of a balancing act, though. In order to have meaningful conversations, you do need to find some measure of common ground—even if there's little agreement about what is being said. If you rank high for emotional intelligence, chances are you're good at picking up the subtleties of what other people mean, even if that isn't perfectly expressed in their words.

This helps the conversation continue respectfully despite any differences in opinion. When those differences do crop up, don't take on others' emotions. Instead, continue to manage your own (see No. 1 above!) so you can influence the tone and mood of the conversation, even if the subject matter hits rocky terrain.

7. Disagree Respectfully

After all, meaningful conversations should include disagreement. If you share identical ideas, neither of you are likely to learn anything new or expand your own viewpoints. People with strong emotional intelligence understand they need to express their views without getting personal. Don't put anyone down for voicing an idea you disagree with. Don't be dismissive.

Remember that the whole point of face-to-face communication is to form connections and relationships with people with a wide range of perspectives and ideas—especially in the workplace. That's one reason why emotional intelligence is a powerful job skill for leadership roles involving mediation and team building.

If you can manage your emotions as well as others', you'll be able to navigate all the nuances that can derail conversations and lead to conflict and hurt feelings. So tune into those feelings rather than trying to contain them. They're your best bet when it comes to supporting people, understanding them, and making them feel heard and appreciated—no matter how much you actually agree on.

Article of the Week: Stop Saying 'I Don't Know' and Say These 4 Things Instead PDF Print E-mail

By: Kat Boogaard, Inc.com

Think of the last time someone asked you something you didn't have the answer to. What was your response?

If you're like most people, you answered quickly with a short, "I don't know," so that you could move on, escape the conversation, and carry on with your day.

However, you don't need me to tell you that simply claiming your own ignorance and hanging that other person out to dry isn't necessarily an effective communication strategy.  

Of course, you're not expected to know how to handle absolutely everything. But, there are alternative phrases that are much more helpful than the obvious brush off a standard "I don't know," provides. Here are four you can use the next time you don't have an answer.

1. "I'll find out."

This response is a tried and true fallback for a reason--it's both supportive and self-assured.

Replying with a shrug of your shoulders and a curt, "I don't know," shows that not only do you not have the answers, but you also aren't willing to put in any work to find them.

In contrast, assuring someone you'll do the legwork to get the information that's needed makes you look like a cooperative, valuable, and resourceful team player.

2. "I have that same question."

There are those moments when you just don't have the answer. But, beyond that, you also have absolutely no idea where you'd even begin to look for it.

In those cases, you're better off assuring your conversational partner that you're seeking that same information. It accomplishes the same thing as saying, "I don't know," -- it explicitly states that you don't have the answer that's needed.

However, it goes one step further and unites you with that other person. Rather than looking like you're simply trying to avoid the question, you're both sympathizing and joining in on the mission to get the required information.

3. "My best guess is..."

Unfortunately, sometimes an educated guess is the best you can do. You're put on the spot, and you need to draw a conclusion based on the information and evidence that's directly in front of you.

It's in those cases when you should offer some sort of explanation based solely on what you know -- making it clear that your answer is simply a theory, of course.

You won't want your guess to be accepted as hard fact. But, at the same time, you don't want to come up short and seem like you're trying to completely avoid the question.

So, go ahead and share your hypothesis or a few ideas. If nothing else, it's a much better launching point for brainstorming and discussion than a simple, "I don't know."

4. "Why don't we ask [name]?"

What should you do if you're truly not the best person to be answering this question? What's the best way to handle that scenario, without relying on the trusty three words you've grown accustomed to?

It's simple: Own it. Admit that it's not quite in your wheelhouse, but that you can undoubtedly find the person that's best for the job.

You might feel like you're shirking responsibility or trying to pass the buck. But, in the long run, you're smarter to send things along to the people who are best equipped to handle them. It's both more effective and more efficient.

"I don't know," is one of those phrases that can easily fly out of your mouth before you even realize what you're saying. However, there are plenty of better responses you should be employing.

Give these four alternatives a try, and prepare for your communication skills to instantly improve.

Article of the Week: Three Better Ways To Start Your Next Presentation PDF Print E-mail

By: Chuck Garcia, FastCompany.com

Here's a fact that most speakers—even experienced ones—tend to forget, even if they know it's true: People internalize the first things they hear much more quickly and effectively than whatever follows it. Your opening words count more in the minds of your listeners than most of what you say afterward.

So whatever you want to glue into the minds of your audience, start there. Startle them. Give them something to ponder. Say something controversial and provocative. The goal is to pique their interest as you build your credibility. One reason this well-known advice is rarely put into action as well as it could be is simply that many speakers don't know how to do it. These three techniques can help.

1. Unearth A Mysterious Date

Don’t lead with something familiar like September 11, 2001. Look for a date in history that will initially puzzle people. "The date was April 13, 1973. An event occurred that day that changed the world. It’s a shame no one noticed. What happened?"

You’re building suspense before you've even finished your first sentence. People will begin wracking their minds for what they know about that date and what was going on in the world that year. They'll being think to themselves, "I don’t know what happened on April 13, 1973" and will eagerly await your explanation: "At noon that day, on the corner of Lexington Avenue and 58th Street in New York City, the very first commercial cell phone call was made."

 2. Find an Intriguing News Headline

Audiences appreciate something timely that they can all relate to. Don’t rely on celebrity stories or exhaustively reported news. Find something unique—or at least uniquely relevant to the people in the room. When Google announced it was changing the name of its parent company to Alphabet, I hooked my Wall Street audience by saying, "Let me tell you why they’re doing this."

If you’re in a room with a sports crowd and something like the Tom Brady "Deflategate" scandal hits, use that. But if the event happened two months before your talk, don't use that. A trade association for textiles? Talk about a headline involving a fashion chain.

Whatever you select, your aim should be to find common ground and then have people in the audience begin thinking, "Yes, I'm familiar with that—now where's she going with this?"

3. Present Visuals Before You Explain Them

You can build an air of mystery by rolling out a series of cryptic slides that lead your audience to an unexpected place. If you're speaking about the power of value investing, paint a scene that doesn't give that away right off the bat. Instead of just plastering an image of Warren Buffett on the screen, show a bottle of Heinz ketchup and a can of Benjamin Moore paint. Put on an apron from the Pampered Chef, and hand out some peanut brittle from See’s Candy.

These companies, all investments of Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway, may not strike people as hot investment properties right away. But you can help set the stage for the idea that extraordinary returns can be accomplished through familiar consumer-goods companies, not just high-tech ventures. This way you've found a fresh approach to introduce the concept of value investing yet relied on a simple way to make your point—all before uttering your first word.

These are just a few techniques. There are are many more that work just as well. Try developing some others based on your interests and the needs of the audience. But never forget that if you want to be remembered, do the opposite of what's normally expected. And don't waste time doing it.

The information you present first acts as a lens through which all subsequent information flows. As a result, it can capture your audience's attention at the same time that it builds your credibility. You need your listeners to believe you when your talk is over. Otherwise, you’re just talking, not persuading. The starting point is getting them to listen—and then getting them to care.

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