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Between 2005 and 2011, IMC published Daily Tips every weekday on consulting ethics, marketing, service delivery and practice management. You may search more than 800 tips on this website using keywords in "Search all posts" or clicking on a tag in the Top Tags list to return all tips with that specific tag. Comment on individual tips (members and registered guests) or use the Contact Us form above to contact Mark Haas CMC, FIMC, Daily Tips author/editor. Daily Tips are being compiled into several volumes and will be available through IMC USA and Mark Haas.

 

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Top tags: client relations  communication  customer understanding  your consulting practice  marketing  consultant role  learning  client service  reputation  goodwill  consulting process  market research  practice management  sales  ethics  planning  client development  engagement management  innovation  proposals  professional development  professionalism  knowledge assets  prospect  trends  presentations  recommendations  consulting colleagues  intellectual property  product development 

#667: Cell Phone Manners

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, October 4, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, October 4, 2011
The great thing about texting is that I can stay in touch with people even when I am in a meeting without interrupting anything. Isn't this better than taking a cell call?

The message you send (and I mean the one to your client, colleague or others with whom you are meeting, and not the text message) is that they are easily demoted to lower importance by anyone else who happens to want your attention. Most people feel the same way about being bumped by a text message as being told by someone with caller notification who says, when beeped in the middle of a call, "oh, just let me see who this is." The message is that whatever we are talking about is so unimportant that, even though I don't know who is on the line, I'd rather be talking to them.

The same applies to texting, even though it is less obvious. If you know you are likely to be interrupted with an emergency message (e.g., waiting for word from the hospital) then announce this in advance to the person or group you are meeting with, just as you would with an expected incoming phone call. If you must make or receive a text, excuse yourself from the room while you do it. Just because it does not involve conversation does not mean that it does not interrupt or annoy others.

Tip: The good thing about cell phones is that you can turn them off when you are in a meeting or talking with someone else. Giving them your undivided attention is just a matter of basic respect.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client relations  goodwill  meetings  reputation  technology 

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#424: Make Preparedness Part of Professionalism

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, October 28, 2010
Updated: Thursday, October 28, 2010
A colleague is making me frustrated. She arrives without business cards at one meeting, with the "wrong" flash drive at another one, and often seems to not have the right contact information when we are on the road. How can I help her without it seeming like I am calling her professionalism into question?

You are not talking about professionalism as much as being prepared. The Boy Scout motto "Be Prepared" reflects an attitude that, since you don't know what you will face, you need to be ready for everything.

A consultant is possibly more likely to face the unexpected than many other professions. Because our charge is to provide a wide range of services, we may not know in advance what those services will be on a given day. For that reason, we need to be more formalized in our "being prepared."

Make a list of everything you might need for a client or prospect visit. For example:
  • Cell phone and/or iPad/eReader, fully charged
  • Directions and/or map to your day's destinations
  • Flash drive or storage device - with the right data for today's visit/trip and project data
  • Your business activity projections and commitments for the near future (so you can make or change commitments in real time)
  • Pens, markers, paper, post it notes, other office supplies needed for facilitation or presentation
  • Laptop, fully charged
  • Product or service samples
  • Business cards
  • Power cords and other peripherals, as needed
  • Other items specific to your type of consulting discipline or industry
Create and refine this list regularly. Place it by your door, inside your suitcase, on your phone or by your desk. Refer to it every time you leave your office.

Tip: Give a copy of your list to your colleague as an example of something that helps you "be prepared" for your day. Ask them for comments or to share their list with you to see what you might have missed.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  consulting tools  meetings  presentations  speaking  teaching/training  your consulting practice 

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#379: Consultants Really Can Use Humor Effectively

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, August 26, 2010
Updated: Thursday, August 26, 2010
Including a little light humor in my presentations and speeches seems like a good way to improve how well the message is received. However, a joke that bombs can create a disaster. What should I do to make sure that humor is effective?

"An accountant, attorney and management consultant are in a lifeboat . . ." is one way to start a speech, or "Tom Feldman is the kind of HR Director that . . ." can kick off a client presentation. They can win the audience or start the paperwork to assure you are not welcome back. Humor is something that needs to be planned carefully. If you can't pull it off well, then be cautious about giving it a key place in your opening remarks.

A couple of thoughts:
  • Make sure the joke isn't offensive. You don't have to be mean to be funny
  • Make sure the humor is simple to understand. The audience should not have to work to understand it. Don't require the audience to get obscure references or need information that few have.
  • Make sure the joke is blindingly relevant to the topic of your speech or presentation. Jokes are useful to introduce a topic or point of view, not distract the audience. Too oblique and people might not get or misinterpret the reference.
  • Make sure humor is the best way to make the point. A serious topic should be expressed in ways other than humor.
  • Make sure the humor is timely. Most jokes have a shelf life - be careful yours hasn't expired by the time you deliver it.
  • Try it out on people like those who will be in the audience. This makes sure they get the joke and the point you are trying to get across.
Tip: Your talk doesn't have to incude humor. Martin Luther King, Jr.s, "I Have a Dream" speech and Lincoln's Gettysburg Address both did OK without an opening joke. So can yours.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client relations  communication  goodwill  meetings  speaking 

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#290: Presentation Disasters

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, April 23, 2010
Updated: Friday, April 23, 2010
I recently attended a seminar held by a fellow consultant. During the presentation, his computer ran out of batteries and he had forgotten his power supply. The material he was presenting to the group abruptly stopped and he was forced to continue the seminar without the benefit of his slides. Unfortunately, the rest of the seminar was not well received, as the presenter never truly recovered from losing his material. What a nightmare!

A/V problems occur, and when they do, it's better to be in the audience than leafing through the projector manual and fielding "helpful" suggestions from the audience. This is classic risk management - making sure the worst case doesn't happen.

First, be able to walk through your material without the A/V. If you understand the material well enough, even with a few notes to make sure you cover all items, then you will not miss a PowerPoint "crutch."

If that's not possible, always test the computer and projector in advance with a dry run. Go through the list of failsafe items: your power supply, laser pointer, three pronged adapter plug (the $0.50 part that could save the day), a flash drive with a copy of your presentation. If possible, make sure there is an extra projector and/or computer available just in case. Always bring a paper copy of the presentation with you and, if possible, some handout copies for the audience.

Don't panic. This can be as uncomfortable to the audience as it is to you. Finish your thought with confidence and then decide how to proceed. If a hardware change is necessary and possible, calmly ask for a short break to make the switch. If you are prepared for what to do in these circumstances in advance, it should be as simple as executing your plan for continuing your presentation.

Tip: Even if you are ready to restart, this doesn't mean the audience is. Even a few minute break can bring the mood and attention of the room to a dead stop. The sign of a pro is, when you restart, to rewind your presentation a bit and review the few minutes prior to the event. Make sure the audience is in sync with you by summarizing the top few points of the presentation (your roadmap) and making sure everyone is back on board before you proceed. Given that you are in a break, this is a good time to offer to answer any questions. Your goal is to make it like it never happened.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  meetings  planning  presentations 

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#177: Death by Power Point - Again

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Updated: Tuesday, November 17, 2009
I cringe every time we are asked to deliver our consulting report to clients. Inevitably, they expect a briefing package and Power Point slide show. Are there some better ways to deliver these reports?

Power Point is just a technology. It is not the reason these presentations are so deadly. It is how you use it that causes angst. There are two strategies. First, if your client requires Power Point, make it less dreadful. The approach is logical: keep slide decks as thin as possible, use as few words possible per slide, use images that support your verbal presentation (not replace it), have a great roadmap so everyone knows where you are going, and practice a lot so the transitions and flow is smooth.

Second, don't do it. Look for alternative presentation approaches. This is a challenge because the nature of findings is analytical and traditionally presented in a linear fashion. I have seen incredibly powerful and memorable presentations with nothing other than photographs. Each image represented the theme of the point being made and none were originally intended to be used in a business setting. You'll have to get your client on board with this approach, but if the presentation is to be more than a data dump.

Tip: You should take Power Point's reputation to heart. Whether it is using a better storyboard (e.g., Beyond Bullet Points) or non-boring technologies (e.g., streaming video, Flash, and other multimedia images), it is you, not Power Point, per se, that is being judged.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  meeting preparation  meetings  presentations  technology 

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