Ha Ha Ha: Being Funny in a Speech is No Laughing Matter

One of the time-honoured secrets of speech making is to start with a joke.
Easier said than done.

Not that there is a shortage of material in this world. You can borrow a joke from a speaker you’ve heard in the past. Tread dangerously with an inappropriate line you picked up from the drunken MC at your cousin’s wedding. Search the “www” and commit larceny by using someone else’s material. If you’ve been drinking you may think it wise for some reason to try to write your own. Or if you’re a bonehead, you can always pick someone to make fun of.

I’ve tried all of the above and more. Unfortunately, I think I’ve used the “pick on the innocent” option much too frequently. It’s the chicken’s way out, but it’s far too easy.

But being truly funny. Wow. That’s an art. A craft. A science. Is it a gift? I would say to a point. But it’s a gift that needs the preparation, practice and refinement of an Olympic ski jumper.

I have been thinking about “being funny” in preparation for chairing the 2012 Canadian Sponsorship Forum. I’ve told my team that we need to be funny. Not silly. But funny. Forum is loaded with great information, research and inspiration. Serious stuff. Continue reading “Ha Ha Ha: Being Funny in a Speech is No Laughing Matter”

Child’s Play: Today’s Kids Are Stressed, Too

Do you remember what it was like to be a kid?

I’m talking about being an eight year old. Or maybe ten. Twelve at the most.

What a time.

Your only worries were whether to play baseball or hockey. Go to your friends or have them to your house. Or which magazine to read first.

No bosses. No mortgages. No email.

Look at your calendar. Your June 1st of many moons ago was a welcomed date. It signified that your school year was coming quickly to a close. That your summer break was just a few weeks away. Your teacher was creating fun activities versus drafting tests.

You weren’t thinking of hitting your Q2 numbers, about covering for a co-worker’s vacation or if you were even going to be able to take your own.

Kids have nothing to worry about.

If you believe that, then perhaps your head is buried deep in the sand of your summer cottage rental.

I have no expertise on the subject, but through my work with several clients in the sector, it’s abundantly clear that today’s children face more issues than those of my generation could ever imagine. Divorce. Bullying. Depression. Obsession. Poverty. Obesity. Violence. Isolation. Racism. Continue reading “Child’s Play: Today’s Kids Are Stressed, Too”

She’s Grand

We all have our cute names for the projects or initiatives we love. When we create something from scratch, conjured by the heights of our imagination, and fermented by the hard work of many hands; there is no greater feeling.

This past weekend was one of those moments for me. The inaugural Nike High School Grand Prix, held at Varsity Stadium at the University of Toronto, featured over 250 athletes from all over Canada. Built with our partners at School Sport Canada, and obviously entitled by Nike Canada, the Grand Prix was designed to be a celebration of high school track and field. Boy was it ever.

But to get you to read further, I am not going to painstakingly take you through the schedule, the special events or the exhaustive media coverage. No, I want to tell you a story. Continue reading “She’s Grand”

Practice What I Preach

Lately Reverend Harrison has been monopolizing the pulpit.

With religious fervor, I have been sharing lengthy sermons to whatever congregational victim is within earshot. In some cases the congregation has been made up of my staff, my kids, their friends, my neighbours, my clients, my suppliers, my peers, my twitterverse, my conference audiences and my volunteer charity council colleagues.

Oh, and you.

These collective discourses have covered a wide variety of topics. I like to jump on the bandwagon of various management, marketing and leadership trends. Want to preview my next leap? Clean out my recycling bin and see what magazine I just read. Scroll through my Firefox history and track the sites and discussion groups I have visited. Hijack my iPhone and see the tweets consumed.

Or you can just sit back and listen to the rabble babble that comes out of my mouth. I consider myself a great parrot. I read everything. Distill it into a few
short sounds. Then squawk like mad in a convincing enough manner that perhaps some people feel I’m an expert.

If you followed my flight pattern over the course of this week, you would have heard me encouraging my team to release their entrepreneurial talents on every project they tackle. Then you would have heard me urging a charity I volunteer for to push its brand revitalization project to the utmost limit to be able to play in today’s highly competitive world of cause marketing. You would have witnessed me telling another charity CEO who I support that social media can drive business results. In between, I was providing feedback to a team member about the value of keeping and reviewing a daily and weekly task list. Especially the magic of evaluating yourself and actually grading your own performance. Later with a blue chip client, my pontificating reached a high point as I talked about the need for us to make all program decisions based on the OGSM (email me if you don’t know what that stands for) priorities and strategies. Tomorrow, I will be sharing best practices in developing sponsorship proposals for sport tourism and sports event rights holders.

This is a pretty typical week for me. I’m a talking head.

But lately the shadow of doubt has crept into my head. In my mind, I’ve been tearing apart how our business works and – more importantly – how I work. Faced with a little adversity, I think this is a natural tendency for humans to follow.
I’m not too worried about our business. But I am not sure that I personally always earn a passing grade. For example, I used to be crazy anal about my daily priorities and following a TO DO list.

Then for about three months, I just spent all day reacting to email and phone calls. Candidly, I got nothing done! Nothing of real value anyway.

I’m constantly telling my clients to keep their digital assets up to date. Then I checked out my website. Hello 2009!

If I want you to keep score, I need to keep score.

If I want you to work more effectively, I need to eliminate the goop that gets in the way.

If I am preaching to you that the power of your brand is your highest equity, I better invest in my own brand.

The guilt is slipping away. Quietly replaced by the thrill of a challenge. This shoemaker’s kids are not going to wear worn shoes. I am going to turn my lens inward. Fix me and my brand. Then my work habits. Then my interpersonal habits.

Then, keep striving to improve our company. Our process. Our product. Our performance.

Then I can come see you.

Bracket Busters

I finished second in our company NCAA pool this week. Thought I had it all locked up…until Ohio State blew it!

How did you do at yours?

What was your secret method?

I think we had 31 folks battle it out for company bragging rights and I am pretty sure I am the only one spoiled enough to attend two Final Fours. But it was so long ago that it was actually the last time Kentucky won the entire shebang.

Nevertheless, I had to go with the flow and pick Kentucky to win it all. But the rest of my picks were more or less random. So I thought I would ask some of my team how they went at it. Needless to say, the approaches were both random and humourous. Continue reading “Bracket Busters”

The Agony of Defeat

I don’t know if you read Success magazine. I admit, I do. And I listen to the monthly CDs featuring the publisher Darren Hardy. And I read some of their “self-help” publications.

Some of you may find this sort of publication cheesy. In a way I agree. But I also find a lot of value in them. It’s always good to spend a few quiet moments reflecting on my professional and personal life.

The most recent issue really resonated with me. Unfortunately. Continue reading “The Agony of Defeat”

Home Run

I often wonder what people are thinking when we get in front of them to make a new business pitch.

We had a couple going on last week. Big ones. Agency game-changers in fact.

Each is with blue chip companies. Good-sized budgets. Great brands. Plus a history of doing interesting experiential and event work. Which makes me both excited and nervous.

Often people ask me to provide them examples of our best pitch ever. Hard to say. Perhaps because the process is like speed dating meets job interviewing. Continue reading “Home Run”

Make New Friends, But Keep the Old

There is an old poem, author unknown, which includes a key stanza by which I have always lived my life. It goes like this:

Make new friends,
But keep the old.
One is Silver,
The other Gold.

I have tried to live most of my life and my career this way. Like any principle, it’s easier said than done. But it’s probably the most valuable one I have professionally. Continue reading “Make New Friends, But Keep the Old”

Not Another “Year in Review”

It seems this time of year, journalists get even lazier than normal and run endless versions of Year in Review, Year in Photos, Year in Quotes, Year in Tweets, etc.

So as a casual blogger and wannabe scribe, am I going to hold myself to a higher bar? Heck no. My middle name is “Bandwagon,” so look out because I am jumping on. Continue reading “Not Another “Year in Review””