Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Social Local Mobile Running Info

I've been running road races with some consistency for the last ten years.  I'm perhaps a bit faster now than when I started so I am glad for that.  What has been interesting for me has been the evolution of how sign-ups and data sharing work.  Many race organizers rely on multiple vendors for these tasks. They'll use Imathlete or Active.com or some ticket website to gather sign-ups.  Usually a local firm handles the timing and chips because onsite work is required.  Finally the starting gun goes off and the racers cross the timing mat and head out on the course.

If it is a 5-K race the speedy finishers cross the line in 16+ minutes and look to see what the big time clock says.  As more racers come in the computer dutifully logs in their time until everyone finishes.  Meanwhile the timing company starts printing out result sheets and taping them to tables or walls so people can see how they did - and some will take pictures of the sheet with their mobile phone. These results need to be compiled in almost real time so that ribbons, medals, or blueberry pies can be doled out to the winner in each age group.

After a recent 4 mile race in our hometown, my son and I were surprised when our phones received the following text:
It contained our respective race results!  This was much better than elbowing our way up to the taped up copies or even the kiosks that some organizers have.  We now had an artifact of sorts sent right to our phones.  In the context of SOLOMO (Social, Local, Mobile) - this text kind of hit all three.

In the grand scheme of things, this communication is just one more way in which our phones are becoming a little bit more indispensable as collectors of our digital detritus. Although many of the runners undoubtedly use Strava, MapMyRun or some other trackers - this text provides another artifact to validate those providers.

So far we've not been spammed by the provider for other services or races, but I wonder if they'll reach out next year to remind us to sign-up?  It also raises the question of whether the race organizer gets access to all those mobile numbers.

Is there a lesson here for information companies? Perhaps - it reinforces the way our mobile devices deliver timely alerts for our weekend activities and it raises the question as to what information providers can push through to your phone Monday through Friday that you can't wait to receive.

What content does your team create that customers need right now and can you provide it to a mobile device?  

Monday, July 20, 2015

Public Speaking - Are you practicing?

A few years ago I had the chance to speak at a panel at the O’Reilly Tool’s of Change conference. As part of the attendee registration package I was given a copy of the book Confessions of a Public Speaker, by Scott Berkun. It was a great read packed with humorous insights as well as useful tips that the author has honed over the years. I enjoyed it so much that I took it as one of my vacation books and have bought copies for colleagues. Here are a couple of highlights:

1. Good Discussion of the Practicalities of Public Speaking – Berkun has been on his own making a living by speaking and writing. As a result he’s compiled a lot of best practices and tips that come from his extensive experience. Some are obvious like showing up early while others are clever like wiring the microphone through your shirt so the cords are not swinging while you are speaking.

2. Tools of the Trade – Berkun writes about what kind of equipment to have, what kind of back-ups to use and shares an extensive bibliography for further study. He also gives valuable advice on slide design – very appropriate given the recent article in the NY Times about use of PowerPoint in the military.

3. Exhortation to Practice – This was the biggest reminder for me. Too often I wait until the last minute to finish up my slides. Sometimes that means writing them on the plane enroute to your destination. Since Berkun charges to speak and is taking up a lot of people’s time, he makes sure to practice over and over until he has the presentation right. His encouragement is for all public speakers to do the same.

4. Tips for when things go poorly – Let’s face it, we can’t always hit the ball out of the park when we speak and sometimes you have to just get through the presentation. He shares some of his experiences and how to cope with them if they happen to you.

5. Confessions – one of the most memorable sections of the book was the end where he compiled confessions of other public speakers. Most were humorous examples of where presentations went off track or did not go as planned. It was a nice ending and helped put the rest of the book in perspective.

It’s a quick and valuable read so get your hands on a copy – it will make your next presentation go much more smoothly.