E L S U A ~ A KM Blog by Luis Suarez

From the blog

Work Stream #4 – Speaking at Client Events

Gran Canaria - Sunset Cafe at Meloneras Beach

A couple of years back I wrote about ’The Magic of That First Client Engagement’ as perhaps being one of the most self-energising thrills any freelancer can experience as we begin our own journeys of being independent and become part of the so-called Gig Economy knowing that, if anything, we might have just made the right decision, after all. We are back in business! I guess there is another kind of unexpected thrill around freelancing that I didn’t think would be possible before, and yet it’s been one of the most rewarding I can relate to from my nearly three years long journey as an independent adviser on Social Business and Digital Transformation: speaking at clients’ events.

After having written about what are some of my current work streams as a freelancer in the realm of Social Business and Digital Transformation (i.e. Client Work, Face to Face Workshops and Public Speaking), I just couldn’t finish that series of blog entries, at least, for now, without referencing what has been one of the most rewarding work related activities I have embarked on and that I totally didn’t think I’d be able to pull it off. Not necessarily because of not being capable of doing that kind of work, frankly, but mostly, because I didn’t know it even existed in the first place! You know, when people keep talking about doing public speaking at conference events, I guess they always keep missing out from the equation the opportunity to do public speaking, but at clients’ events. Yes, I know it may no longer qualify as public, really, but still it’s speaking nonetheless in front of a small, medium or large audience about a particular topic that both you AND the client are truly passionate and motivated about. And I love it!

In terms of (public) speaking at clients’ events, it’s my favourite kind of work related activity, and for multiple reasons altogether: first, the opportunity to have a more targeted audience to engage AND learn with about a particular subject matter; secondly, the huge bonus of having a more intimate setting where you can truly dig in deeper on that particular theme both parties are really interested in learning more about (you and the client); and thirdly, the wonderfully inspiring set of conversations you get to spark and learn from with your audience because there is an innate trust element, along with a certain level of openness, that has already taken place for you to be there, in the first place, which is very very different than traditional public speaking; in most cases, the latter feels as if you are delivering a massively inspiring talk on a topic that perhaps some people might not be interested in, at all, and, of course, with no time for an opportunity for questions or interactions with the audience, because, before everyone realises, you are already off to the airport, to the next potential gig, to catch your flight that you are rather late for already, while you send out a tweet thanking everyone for being there. It’s a pity, really, that, when talking about public speaking, we seem to have lost that touch with the audience, learn along the way with those who have perhaps very much anticipated your presence on stage, and eventually leave everyone (including yourself!) with that afterthought confirming whether it was truly worth it being there that day in the first place… 

Anyway, back on topic, please. That’s exactly how I feel about speaking at client events and why I treasure them to bits. Back in the day, a really good friend of mine, once told me that we are, typically, touched by the clients we work with. They help shape us to become what we are, just like we help shape them to become what they might want to become. It’s a massive learning opportunity, not only because of the unique chance of engaging with an audience on a particular theme you’d both want to talk about more in depth, but also because it gives you, as a freelancer, the unprecedented chance of constantly challenging what you know and would want to share across, so, as a result of such discussions and interactions you become better at what you do, client after client.

David Weinberger wrote up in the Cluetrain Manifesto the following quote: ’Business is a conversation because the defining work of business is conversation – literally. And ‘knowledge workers’ are simply those people whose job consists of having interesting conversations’ and along with Biz Stone’s wonderful write-up about how ‘the future operating system for humanity is conversation’ I don’t think it can get any better than that. In fact, if there would be a need to justify the business case of social networking tools behind the firewall (Yes, in 2016 we still seem to have to do plenty of that!), that would be it: nurturing and cultivating the art of hosting some really good conversations

And that’s exactly what client events are all about, specially, if you are freelancing, and why they’d be totally worth it investing your time and energy in them, in case you might be wondering; it’s about having the wonderfully inspiring and exhilarating opportunity to converse WITH your clients, AND learn along with them in a unique setting, unfiltered, trustworthy, rather open and collaborative, where you prepare yourself to roll up your sleeves and start doing the client work you agreed upon through the co-creation process I mentioned and blogged about extensively on another article. That good!

Ok, ok, I can see now how you may be wondering what kinds of themes have I been working on within those client events, right? They usually last for about 60 to 90 minutes, or from half a day to a full day or two full days (at least, so far) and they, typically, range a fair bit in terms of topics, although, all along the same subject areas I talked about more extensively over here:

  • Social Business and Digital Transformation: ‘Where do we begin and discover what may lay ahead us, as we embarked on that journey of becoming a successful Socially Integrated Enterprise?’ 

  • Connected Leadership ‘What are the new traits, capabilities and qualities of leadership in this Social Era of social networks and social networking tools? How management transforms itself into leadership through social software enablement. How do we facilitate the successful transition from hierarchies into wirearchies as a new organising principle?’
  • Social Learning:How can we utilise our existing Enterprise Social Networking platform(s) to enhance and augment the way knowledge workers learn and get work done more effectively while on the job?’ 
  • Knowledge Management strategies: ‘How Enterprise Social Networking platforms can help us retain some of that critical knowledge we exchange on a daily basis with our peers, customers and business partners through social software and knowledge networks?’ 
  • Social Collaboration: Cooperation vs. Collaboration, how can we differentiate between one and the other when we have got (virtual) teams, networks and communities making smarter use of social tools and still make sense out of it all?
  • Online Community Building: Why should we invest in designing, creating, cultivating and nurturing an online community building programme to help accelerate the adaptation rates around our Enterprise Social Networking platform? Can’t online communities manage themselves as is? Haven’t they done that for years already? Why Now?
  • Enterprise Social Networking Adoption & Adaption plans: ‘Once we purchase our very first Enterprise Social Networking platform, how do we get started to sustain our adaptation efforts, change plans and activities beyond the One Year Club milestone? How do we manage to make social networking become our new, enhanced, operating model?’ (A good number of times around IBM Connections, to name one of the most popular ones I’ve been able to host so far).
  • Working Smarter with Less eMail (#NoeMail): How can we work smarter, not necessarily harder, by eliminating vast majority of the email clutter we currently get exposed to on a daily basis? How can we tame the email beast and free ourselves from its yoke and into social networking tools? Is there a way to have a successful working life without email?’ (The answer, of course, is yes!).

Phew! Yes, I know, I know, that’s quite a few topics to cover! My goodness! Indeed, but remember that this is just a handful of the ones I can remember having done successfully in the last 3 years, or so, as there have been plenty more! I just wish I would have had the opportunity as well to blog about them in the moment, including the sharing across of the different presentation materials I may have used over time, but, alas, that didn’t happen. But that’s about to change, since this is, partially, also the reason why I wanted to resume my blogging mojo and stick around with it from here onwards, because in the last few months I haven’t been able to do a good job in working out loud myself, even though I’m such a huge fan of it, and I definitely want to change that. Why? Well, because a few years back I realised the moment I stop sharing what I know and what I learn along the way that’s the moment I start dying out a bit more inside.

Over the course of last few months I had enough with that long, slow, and somewhat painful process of seeing my knowledge stagnate by not sharing it across over here in my blog, where it could get constantly both challenges and improved, even if by my own writing of my own thoughts, ideas and experiences, so it’s a good time to stop with all of that nonsense about protecting and hoarding one’s knowledge and blog again at the home I never left. If anything, for my own sanity.

Knowledge was meant to be free, accessible and available to everyone, because the moment it isn’t, that’s the moment we are in trouble, as human beings. And now that we have got social software tools to help out freeing up our knowledge for everyone else to be part of that co-creation process, we no longer have got an excuse, don’t you think?

PS. Psst, you may have noticed how throughout the article I haven’t mentioned anything about the fees I usually work with for speaking at clients’ events, so if you’re wondering about what those would be like, well, it depends… on what you would need and what I could offer based on those time frames of 60 to 90 minutes, half a day, full day or two full days, amongst others, of course. 😀👍🏻

[Contact me via Twitter DM at @elsua – got open DMs-, should you have any further questions or queries you would want to discuss in private, or, alternatively, leave a comment below (with your preferred contact method, if you wish) and I’ll reach out to you as soon as I possibly can. Thanks!]

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  1. Thanks Luis – great challenge topics. A lot of those arise in the civic social space in slightly different forms, where we need to facilitate ways for citizens to connect and cooperate. Have you worked out of the enterprise sphere, or seen scope for cross-over?
    I also lost my blogging enthusiasm, partly by working in a rather closed consulting environment. Now exploring Connecting Citizens, and enabling the connectors. Your posts are an inspiration!

    1. Hi David, thanks a lot for dropping by and for the wonderful commentary! Greatly appreciated! RE: Have you worked out of the enterprise sphere, or seen scope for cross-over?, yes, I have worked with clients from the public sector, i.e. government agencies, although that work was mostly focused towards internal rather than external, i.e. with citizens.

      It was a rather interesting experience and also a confirmation as to why I don’t get to work with the public sector much, since there seems this, unjustified, fear towards working with freelancers. In my experience, not sure about others, hope they can comment as well on the topic, most of those public sector organisations would want to work with consulting agencies, the larger the better, because they feel their needs may well be better suited.

      It’s a pity, because, if anything, it is an indication of the old world they seem to be living in still, i.e. the XX century, instead of understanding how networks operate nowadays. Yes, I’m working myself as a freelancer, but I do have an extended network of friends / colleagues / peers who I rely on to collaborate and share our knowledge closely to help out get whatever the work done more effectively, in a timely manner and with excellent quality results. But, like I said, public sector needs to understand that a bit better and get on with the times and it’s our collective job to help out raise awareness where possible.

      That’s why, upon reading your comments about civic social space I got reminded of this blog post I put together nearly 9 years ago and it’s scary how accurate it still is and a testimony of the wonderful and exciting work ahead of us!

      RE: Blogging enthusiasm, I think all of us, who have been bloggers for a certain period of time, have lost that enthusiasm at some point in time, for sure. But contrary to other social technologies blogs will always be there, which means that, whenever we’d be ready we would be coming back to them in full force again. To me, for instance, it took me 8 months to realise that and here we are, once again, blogging away and enjoying, very much so!, the conversations!

      So keep blogging, David! Give me a shout-out if you do, because I’m very much interested in the whole civic social space, as you can see from the blog post I wrote on the topic almost nine years ago 😀👍🏻

  2. Thanks Luis – prescient post! In the spirit of your pieces, here’s a bit of my story and perspective.
    In the UK civic space we have government, non-profit organisations with paid staff, community groups who seldom have staff, volunteers helping groups and organisations. As state support and services are cut, it’s increasing important that people are well informed about what’s happening to their community, what opportunities there are, how to help each other. But relatively few are actively involved in social action and the different elements of the local ecosystems could benefit from more joining up.
    Over the last nine years we’ve seen a lot of enthusiasm for the potential of social media to enable local social action and collaboration, and project ranging from modest community blogs to ambitions platforms. But I’m not sure they’ve made as much difference as we hoped. Facebook has triumphed. Of course.
    My hunch is that one way to go now is to focus on the connectors in the civic ecosystem as well, of course, as aiming to enhance the capability of government, non-profit, groups etc.
    Despite all the tools, we still exist in silos at a time when cooperation is increasingly important.
    Back in 2006 I came up with “socialreporter” as way to describe how I wanted to make sense, join up ideas and people, help others do the same thing http://socialreporter.com/?p=40
    I did interviews, video and social media reporting from events, workshop games, presenting. It sort-of worked, and I got commissions to do open explorations of topics to inform agencies and funders.
    I’m now wondering whether a way to get some fresh momentum is explore the similarities of skills, attitudes and tools needed in the civic and enterprise spaces for connectors and curators.
    That would benefit from more of us in the space regaining our blogging and connecting enthusiasm. Is it worthwhile … if so, how can we help achieve that?
    (OK, I know, start by turning this into a post:-)

    1. Hi David, thanks a lot for the follow-up commentary and for the terrific insights! Much appreciated as well the kind comments on the blog post and comments. I really appreciate the extended explanation of the current state of things, very helpful! If anything, because it confirms it’s perhaps a bit more complex than what I thought it may well be and for good reasons.

      RE: ‘relatively few are actively involved in social action and the different elements of the local ecosystems could benefit from more joining up’ I guess the main reason for this to happen is mostly due to the fact that perhaps we’d need to do a bit more extensive work around explaining the reasons ‘why?’. Try to help answer the WIIFM question for them, because I suspect that’s the main argument they would have about their little involvement in social action. If it doesn’t hit them, in the good sense of the word, I guess it’s not going anywhere. It’s pretty much like in the enterprise world and time and time again most of these change initiatives keep failing along because no-one dared to ask the WIIFM for each and every single individual, which is what’s needed to get things going…

      I am not too sure ’Facebook has triumphed’ is a good thing, necessarily, specially, judging how much of the ‘we’ve become the product’ mantra it’d still apply to it, with very little return for each and every individual, if you know what I mean. Media companies have that. They are incredibly hungry about your data, but don’t do much around the ‘social’ part, missing it out on it big time! Somewhere along the way, we seem to have lost the good old Web 2.0 spirit of social networks and social networking tools, whether in the public or private sectors and somehow we need to get that back, if we would want to succeed in the original premise for social change.

      I agree 100% with you that we need to collectively work together on removing the silos, where needed and appropriate, because, if anything all of these social tools are perpetuating what we have been going through all along, or perhaps even worse, if we keep insisting on making use of these walled garden media tools thinking they could help us out. No, they won’t. They are only interested in our data, so we need to shift that game and bring up the ‘social’ tidbits back again… I guess blogging is a good starting point altogether. Perhaps the one Web 2.0 component that may help us break through those silos and starting re-gaining back the Social Web we once envisioned, even for the social civic space.

      Thanks much, once again, for the wonderful commentary and blog on! 😀

      [PS. Just subscribed to your blog as well, by the way 😀👍🏻

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