Starve a Cold, Feed Your Brain

1 Dec

FightingacoldThis Thanksgiving holiday I received a huge gift – a cold.

As annoying as having a runny nose, chills, headache and coughing are, you may wonder how I could possibly consider having a cold a blessing. Having a cold gave me pause, as I was too sick to tackle my unruly kitchen and too well to lie in bed for days over the long Holiday weekend.

It was permission to study, research and then ponder a few things that had been on the back burner far too long. And then allow my brain the time to really think about them and how I could apply this new knowledge in a meaningful way.

I find my thinking works best if I can “feed” my conscious brain with appropriate information and then task it with a specific problem and let it work unconsciously. It’s very good at coming up with solutions, especially if I stay out of the way.

If you’re interested on why this works, there’s a lot of recent neuroscience out there that helps to explain it. Take a look at James Bursley article The Unconscious Mind at Work. In the article Mr. Bursley states: In fact, the idea of the brain processing complex information unconsciously is hardly new: Freud and Jung posited a complex, unconscious part of the mind whose activities influence our conscious thoughts and behavior. With elegant continuity, then, modern techniques in neuroscience and psychology are beginning to reveal the brain’s unconscious inner workings, bringing today’s scientists, like those at Carnegie Mellon, face-to-face with the progenitors of our fields.

The reorganization and deep cleaning of the kitchen will have to wait until I feel better. In the interim my brain will keep amazing me with its brilliance.



Ten Questions To Take With You

1 Oct

Pensive-young-wom-26834318If you attend networking events, you’ve probably experienced some awkward conversation gaps. It helps to keep the conversation flowing if you have a few questions prepared.

My favorites start with questions about the event itself. These are dual purpose questions. The primary purpose is to keep the conversation going by gently “tossing the ball” back. The secondary purpose is to encourage your partner to share their knowledge or experience.

1. How did you hear about this event?
2. Have you met the speaker / presenter?
3. Have you been to other events put on by this group?

Try asking these questions about other events. It keeps the focus on them and can even led to invitations to other events or an information exchange.

4. Are there any events coming up that I should attend?
5. Have you been to [place/event], yet?
6. Do you attend any other networking events regularly?
7. What other events are you planning to go to?

These next two questions are great for making a transition. After all, the point of a networking event is to meet people!

8. How late does this event go?
9. How are the appetizers?

This is my absolute favorite question for departure.

10. Is there anyone you’ve met tonight that I should meet?

Often the person you’re speaking with will feel compelled to walk you over to the person and introduce you. If you use this technique you will only have to make one approach the whole evening and usually end up connecting with more engaging people.

What’s your favorite networking question?
 And when do you use it?

Put Your Name Down

31 Aug

LotsOfPhonesIn traditional print advertising it’s typical to start off with a headline, followed by a sub-header, a visual, some body text and finally the logo and fine print. The logo or name is near the bottom of the page because its not the most important thing.

 Often those new to print advertising will place their logo on the top of the page and make it really big. They think their name is the most important thing.

 Unless you’re really famous, like movie star famous, your name is a detail we’re not all that interested in, until we are interested in what you have to offer.

The same thing is true when you make a phone call and especially true when you leave a voice mail.

When I get a phone message that starts off with a name, followed by a company name, I assume this person doesn’t know me and is trying to sell me something. When I was at a position, where I was getting a few sales calls per day I would simply delete the message after they said their name, before they even got to the point of why they were calling. Their name was not important to me.

When you need to leave a voice mail for someone who doesn’t know you, try to lead off with something other than your name, like why you are calling. The idea is to grab their attention and peak their interest so they will listen to the rest of the message. Put your name down, at the end.

For example:
I see from the Chamber Directory that you offer accounting services; I’m wondering if you could tell me more specifically about what you do. My name is Mary Smith and I can be reached at (123) 456-7890.


 I see from your website that you offer printing services. I have a question about that, when you have a moment, please call me back at  (123) 456-7890. I’m John Smith. The number again is (123) 456-7890.

 Or perhaps you have met them briefly. Please don’t expect them to remember you. The person you’re calling will appreciate a few specific details, which will help them  “pull up your file” in their brain.

 For example:
We met at the recent small business mixer, I’m the gal you spoke to about the color of the flowers, in the red dress – Sally, Sally Smith. It would be great if we could finish the conversation about your business over coffee. You may reach me back via phone or text at (123) 456-7890.

 The job, if you will, of the phone call is usually to get a call back. Before you leave your next message think about what headline or lead off line you could use that will be compelling enough for the receiver to keep listening and then take action.

Does your visual image reinforce what you’re saying?

31 Jul

TennisBallHaircutIrina has an attractive look, for a tennis ball, that is. You see, Irina still is wearing her hair in a very severe, very bleached blonde, very short cut that looks like a barber did it with a single setting on his buzz cutter. I am sure that this was a stunning look on her young face in the 80s. Now it makes her head look like its ready for Wimbledon. Irina is a hair stylist who wonders why she doesn’t have enough business. Has she looked in the mirror, lately?

Your visual image, what you physically look like, is part of your personal brand. It can either reinforce what you’re saying verbally or it can introduce doubt in a large way.

Let’s look at Brandi, a gal who caught me at a recent networking event. Her self-intro was simple, yet powerful and immediately captured my interest when she said skincare. As soon as I heard that word, my eyes went instantly to her face to see how her skin looked. It was flawless. Without her having to say another word, I was completely convinced of her abilities as an esthetician.

Whatever business your in, you want to be sure that how you physically look is cohesive with it. This is especially important if you are in a field that is visually orientated like fashion, beauty, photography or design of any kind.

Color Creates a Visual Personal Brand

26 Jun

KatyPerry_900-600-06-24-13Katy Perry was recently featured in the Los Angeles Times, but it wasn’t for her singing. What caught the attention of the media was how stylish she became by wearing the color blue.

Selecting a specific color for your wardrobe is an easy way to create a signature look. When you mix it up with different textures such as lace and denim you can get a wide variety of looks from dazzling to casual all in the same hue.

Like Katy, you will want to find your favorite colors to go with your signature color. She favors white and silver with her blue.

A word of caution: If you dress in your color from head to toe you risk looking like Mr. Clean. Be sure  to add contrast to your outfits with neutral colors.

When you have a visual signature “element” you become more recognizable. As we know, brand recognition is what its all about.

Do you want to look more sophisticated in print?

1 Jun

By limiting your color palette and using colors low in saturation you can instantly look more sophisticated, elite and expensive. To proclaim these “high-end” qualities to the world, cut down on your use of color.

 High end design is the realm of black, white and grey. Think of luxury cars, they are black, white or silver. If you were to see a purple mercedes, it would feel off or even wrong. In art terms, this is called being less saturated or if you go all the way to gray scale unsaturated.

DarkObsessionFor example: Ads for fragrances, especially for men, appear in using little or even no color – “low saturation” and low contrast.  If you look at the ad for “Dark Obsession” you can barely read the name and “for men” almost disappears.

The bottle has just barely a hit of brown in it, you may not even be able to detect it here. Notice  how the bottle has a strong highlight on it. That is the point of highest contrast. High contrast draws your eye to it. When viewing the piece you will certainly land on the bottle, you can’t help it.

This is also a good example of a pure branding piece, notice how it has no sales copy!

 In the Chrome Azzaro sample, you can see how they have limited their color palette, using a low saturated image with a bit of light blue to highlight the product. Their typography is more readable than the Calvin Klein ad because it is a sales piece, in contrast to the branding example above.ChromeAzzaro

When using these more sophisticated low contrast, low saturation color palettes be sure to keep your text readable.

 You can remember this concept by thinking of high contrast as and shouting low contrast as whispering.

Keep an eye out for this type of color scheme and let me know where you find it.

The door hanger that hung itself

24 May


On my front door I found this door hanger. It grabbed my attention instantly as it looked like a paint swatch. Without reading anything my brain when instantly to its paint chip file, which led to further inspection.

Upon looking at it more closely, a second time, I saw there were words under the color blocks. It reads, “Why it takes a college education to paint your home.” In art terms we call this a “second reading” as it was not the first thing we saw, it took a closer or second look.

The headline “Why it takes a college education to paint your home.” tied nicely to the logo and name of the company “College Works Painting.” The tagline under the logo “A higher degree of painting” followed the theme. It art and branding terms we would say it’s cohesive.

Flipping it to the backside we are rewarded with their second headline “Ninety-nine percent of a great paint job has nothing to do with painting.” As you can see this is followed by a string of nine bullet points, logo, phone, website and license number. The 888 number and noticeable lack of address raise my suspicions. This is starting to feel like some kind of thin franchise deal. Speaking of thin, the paper is lightweight and the ink from the other side is visible. In art lingo we would say “it’s bleeding through.” The front is printed in just one color, blue and the back is printed in two colors, blue and black. The black is used as a percentage and appears grey.

They totally lost me with the headline on the backside of the piece “Ninety-nine percent of a great paint job has nothing to do with painting.” I am sorry, as homeowner, I want a great paint job. The bullet points below don’t adequately “pay-off” or explain the statement.

The second headline introduced a huge quality of doubt. The refrain in my brain is “Wow, they are only going to spend 1% of their attention on the actual paint job.” Which leads me to “So, their college-aged enthusiastic sales person is going to give me a quick estimate, with a great price. Their college-aged painters will, show up on time, smell good, smile, finish on time and slop some paint on my house, get paint all over my driveway and use the wrong color.”

Ok, now you’ve got me going on playing the rest of the scenario out. When I call to complain about my sloppy paint job the college-aged customer service person is going to tell me that “The painters tried hard and did their best and besides my Mom says it looks good!”

The good: Cohesive concept – they used the college theme throughout.

The bad: The text failed to communicate a compelling message. Instead it instilled a feeling of distrust and doubt.

The ugly: The piece was printed on thin paper and in only two colors. It gives the impression of being cheap.

This door hanger hung itself. 

I think I will walk over to my neighbor, Todd, a local contractor with gnarly hands and a gruff attitude and ask him about painting my house. He seems like a better bet.