Business Speakers – Don’t Follow Your Bliss – Follow Theirs!

As a professional telemarketing speaker, customer service speaker, and negotiation speaker, those that aspire to this profession or that just want to be paid for their platform pyrotechnics, ask me for advice.

Recently, just such a hopeful, residing in a town with a famous prison, said to me she wants to position herself to speak for money. I gave her the standard suggestion for novices.

Start “free,” and evolve into “fee.” This is to say, offer your services gratis to service clubs such as Rotary and Lions. Suggest a breakfast speech topic or two.

Join the local chamber of commerce, and do the same. And in her case, I suggested she offer speeches and training at the prison, particularly on vocational topics that have a good chance to attract funding.

She wrote back that the lockup “is not a place where any of my topics would fly.”

If there’s anything more annoying than someone that asks for free consulting it is a person that argues with it once it is politely tendered. Anyway, here was my reply to her rebuttal:

“Fit the topic to the venue. We don’t get paid to deliver what we want to say, but what audiences want to hear, and above all, what they’ll pay value for. Joseph Campbell notwithstanding, don’t follow your bliss, but theirs. Over and out.”

Public speaking seems to be a great profession for extroverted egomaniacs that want to strut their stuff. But it is a career disaster if we don’t put audience wants and needs, first.

If that speaking wannabe is genuinely interested in talking for a living, she should pitch the prison. That will help her to come face to face with the relative constraints and freedom involved in starting her own speaking enterprise.

Beginners’ Guide to Business Intelligence Solutions

Current Condition of the Business Intelligence Tools Market

The sustained interest in Business Intelligence applications has driven large corporations, offshore software development centers as well as custom software development companies to focus on developing a wide range of Business Intelligence Tools suitable for each and every industry. The use of Business Intelligence tools in key industries from aerospace to iron and steel has also increased in recent years due to the uncertainty in global markets. Currently available tools including the Microsoft Business Intelligence software include numerous paid, freeware as well as open source and proprietary software, which are often customized by a custom software developer to suit the requirements of a specific client. Some of the additional categories of Business Intelligence Tools are discussed here and these constitute only a few of the business intelligence reporting tools commonly utilized by the enterprise.

Data Mining

Data mining combines key elements of statistics and computer science with the objective of identifying patterns in large data sets. Currently implemented data mining methodology includes various elements of database systems, statistics, machine learning and artificial intelligence to deliver actionable intelligence to managers, decision makers and data analysts in an enterprise. Apart from the analysis of the available raw data, additional operations performed by data mining process include online updating, visualization, discovered structure post-processing, complexity considerations, metrics to determine interest as well as data management. Data mining is distinct from information processing or large-scale data analysis as the process is based on “discovery” i.e. the detection of something new. As data mining deals with large data sets, various automated and semi-automated solutions are available to carry out the task. Data mining applications developed by any software development company focuses on performing the following tasks- anomaly detection, association rule learning, clustering, classification, regression as well as summarization. Current business applications include data mining in applications related to customer relationship management, determination of successful employee characteristics using HR department data, identification of customer purchase pattern by the marketing department as well as much more. Leading companies engaged in providing data mining tools for use in business intelligence reporting include Extra-Data Technologies, Clarabridge, Versium Analytics, emanio and Polygraph Media.

Data Warehousing

Data Warehousing in simple terms refers to any database utilized for reporting as well as analyzing enterprise data. The data in an enterprise is usually obtained from all over the organization including the HR, Marketing, Sales, Customer Support, Warehouse, administration departments. In some cases, the raw data may undergo a small degree of pre-processing prior to being used for reporting in a Data Warehouse. A traditional data warehouse (a warehouse operating on the extract-transform-load mechanism), houses the key functions by using separate staging, integration and access layers. The staging area stores all the raw data obtained from various enterprise-wide sources. In the integration layer the raw data stored in the staging area is integrated to transform it into a form suitable for analysis and stored in the data warehouse database. The data stored in the data warehouse database is arranged in hierarchical groups, which are accessible by the user through the access layer. Each data warehouse is often subdivided into data marts, which store subsets of the data integrated in the warehouse. The key objective of a data warehouse is thus to store data in a format suitable for analysis by the user using various techniques including OLAP and data mining.

The earliest data warehouses used by an organization were offline operational data warehouses. In these warehouses, the data was updated periodically (fortnightly, weekly or monthly) from operational systems and stored in a report-oriented format. In the next stage of data warehouse evolution, offline data warehouses came into existence. In offline data warehouses, the data was updated regularly from operational systems and the structure of the stored data was designed to aid the reporting process. The offline data warehouses later evolved into Online Integrated Data Warehouses, which updates the data in the warehouse in real-time by recording every transaction performed on the source data. Further evolution of data warehouses has resulted in the creation of the integrated data warehouse, which compiles the data obtained from the various departments of the enterprise to provide users with real-time access to actionable intelligence from all over the organization. Leading data warehousing solutions companies include Accenture, IBM, Igate and Infobright.

Decision Engineering

Decision Engineering is defined as a framework, which unifies various leading practices in the field of enterprise decision-making to improve the overall decision-making procedure by providing a structured approach. The decision engineering process is designed to overcome problems resulting from a “complexity ceiling” of the decision-making process. This “complexity ceiling” usually results from a mismatch between the complexity of a particular situation and the sophistication of the decision-making procedure being implemented. Decision engineering acts as a framework for providing advanced analytic techniques to a non-enterprise user while simultaneously integrating machine learning and inductive reasoning techniques to streamline the organizational decision-making procedure. The use of Decision Engineering as a business intelligence tool by enterprises is still in its infancy and further development would be required before decision engineering develops into a viable business intelligence reporting tool.

Reporting and Querying Software

Reporting and querying software are designed to provide users with access to the data stored on enterprise databases subsequent to submission of user-queries. Such tools are designed to provide a logical format to the available data sets to support enterprise-wide data accessibility as well as speed-up the organizational decision-support process. Currently, various open source business intelligence tools as well as commercial business intelligence reporting software are developed by software development companies all over the world. Some of the leading reporting and querying tools are mPower, Zoho Reports, Cognos BI, GNU Enterprise and JasperReports. Many offshore software development companies in India also provide customized versions of reporting and querying software to streamline the overall enterprise-wide decision making process.

Spreadsheets

A spreadsheet is defined as an interactive computer program, which allows the analysis of available information by use of a tabular format, which originated from the use of paper-based accounting spreadsheets. On a spreadsheet, users can modify the values in each cell of the spreadsheet and are now used widely by the financial sector as a replacement of paper-based accounting methods. The digital spreadsheets allow users to automatically calculate values after making modifications to the available data as and when necessary. Apart from the standard arithmetic calculation support, currently available spreadsheets also features support for a wide range of statistical and financial operations built into this commonly used business intelligence tool. Spreadsheets are probably the most widely used and easily available among a wide range of proprietary and open source business intelligence tools. The first spreadsheet introduced for a micro computer was Visicalc, which was overtaken by Lotus 1-2-3 at a later date. Currently Microsoft Excel, available as part of the Microsoft Office Package, is the leading spreadsheet solution utilized by enterprises all over the world.

Business Is Theater – How Entertaining Is Yours?

All business is theater. Recognize this truth and implement a way to deliver it. A very successful business man said this, adding: “To the degree you satisfy this aspect of your presentation, you will be very competitive and very profitable.”

Few small business owners think about their business in this context, and now must as the market has shrunk and the competition for the remaining discretionary spending is fierce. This requires paying close attention to successfully delivering the best presentation to the market that you can, gaining share and protecting what you have as profits are challenged by deep discounting and lower volume.

Here are a few examples of successful theater in a business scenario resulting in increased sales revenue, even in a down market:

1. A furniture store in Framingham, MA puts on a Disney World-caliber show with large props, moving lights, live theater, video, movie, music, pantomime, live presentation and interaction with the customers, creating a party atmosphere where children and families want to go. Yes, many will buy while there, more than if the entertainment was not provided. A competitor’s furniture store features a huge IMAX theater with state-of-the-art 3D movies shown on its huge screen. What’s next?

2. Many restaurants get this point and feature everything from stand-up comedy, table-side serenades, table-side cooking, live music and even, quite literally, theatrical productions. Of course, Hooters provides some of the best entertainment available–beautiful, scantily-clad women serving you beer! How can you compete with that?

3. A chocolate manufacturer with a strong brand name and distribution features Easter bunnies, Santa Claus, a Halloween haunted house, tours, tastings, and on Thursday evenings during the summer, old car rallies! Great crowd-pleasers, lots of fun and of course, sales revenues and profits greatly increase as the brand is tremendously enhanced.

4. Many manufacturers sponsor local demonstrations at stores on weekends with large circus-like events with hot dogs, etc. for children who will coerce their parents-who will shop-to bring them. Often these include radio personality appearances, athletes, celebrities, book signings, autographs, cooking lessons, lectures, trip raffles, tours… think about it. There are many forms entertainment and theater can take.

5. Office settings are rich with more subtle opportunities, such as ambiance created with comfortable furniture, rugs, fish tanks, music, art, plants, gratis refreshments, special lighting and generally treating visitors like kings or queens while visiting the place of business.

6. Many large sporting goods and outdoor gear stores, like L.L. Bean in Maine, have huge stuffed animal displays and other hunting and fishing scenes throughout their buildings, or simulated outdoor scenarios where you can test equipment. L.L. Bean even has a live trout pond in the middle of the store! It’s a great place to go just to see the stuffed animals and, of course, to buy a few things while you’re there. It works.

7. Even the Empire State Building, the tallest in Manhattan, has telescopes on the observation decks for tourists to view the city scape… pure entertainment.

The question is, how do you add theater, drama, entertainment to your business model? Anything can contribute to the theater, the entertainment value, if you understand the need and figure out how to deliver. Theater creates a competitive advantage, leading to greater revenue and higher profits, so figure out a way and deliver-it’s worth it.