The Power of Participation: Scenes from SXSW

It’s day 4 at SXSW, and as always, it’s a seriously dense, information-packed and highly experiential event. Look out for my SXSW diary post after the event on the Convince & Convert blog.

In the meantime, I wanted to share a couple of cool experiences where I actually got to participate in the experience.

Make the Audience Work for Their Supper

On Friday night, I attended a Facebook Live broadcast of @Midnight, the comedy game show from Comedy Central. Chris Hardwick and the comedians were fantastic. And they invited the Facebook Live audience to use the reactions emoji to vote for the contestants to award bonus points during the broadcast. It was a great way to get the virtual viewers invested in the game.

Acknowledge The Audience

At a panel featuring the ever-insightful Carlos Gil, as well as Snapchat influencers CyreneQ, Danny Berk, and Shaun Ayala, Danny shot a Snapchat video featuring the audience itself. This got people in the audience excited and, I’d bet, got them to follow his account to see that story and others from him (I know I did).

Turn Them Into Collaborators

At a session with creative agency, 1st Avenue Machine (and a virtual Flula Borg, comedian and DJ), the audience got to participate and help make a music video in less than an hour. Not only was it fun, but it made us want to spread the word about the experience.

This is one session that stands out in my mind from the festival so far, and I’ve told dozens of people about it already.

Engage Them with Each Other

At the Columbia University (alma mater, what what!) digital storytelling lab session with Refinery29 on their “Empathy Lab” project, the facilitators had the audience interview a stranger in the audience to evoke empathy and deepen our understanding of each other.

It was a great exercise to demonstrate the kind of work they were doing. Exercises to frame your thesis and build relationships within the audience can be powerful tools.

Ask Their Opinions

At the premiere of American Gods, I was interviewed by Rotten Tomatoes as part of their “fan reaction” piece. Getting validation from fans (third party social proof) helped to showcase the initial thoughts and feedback from real people, not just the critics.

Create Reciprocation

As author Robert Cialdini said in his session, one way to persuade people is to build reciprocation. If you give me something, I’m more likely to do something for you.

All of these different types of participation get the audience to spread the word and be invested in the experiences.

Submit Your Best Work to the CMAs!

As we head into February, I’m starting to look forward to spring, and with that comes the annual Content Marketing Awards from Content Marketing Institute. I’m excited to be a judge for the second year in a row, and I’m always psyched to see what creative concepts my fellow marketers bring to the table.

The Content Marketing Awards honor the best projects, agencies, and marketers of the year and include 92 different categories from distribution to editorial.

If you’re a content marketer, I hope you’ll submit your work, and I hope to read it in a few months’ time.

And if you’re not ready to submit yet, but you’re looking to hone your marketing skills, I hope to see you at this year’s Content Marketing World, where I’ll be presenting a lab.

Good Things Come in 3s: Retreat, Podcast, Webinar

I love the beginning of the year because I always feel energized to take on new things and look ahead to new projects. In 2017, I’ll be teaching for the fourth year in a row at the City College of New York. I’ll be speaking at events across the country (look for me in March at Social Media Marketing World). And I’m excited to be working with new clients through my marketing agency, Media Volery.

As always, lots of things are in the works, so here are a few quick takeaways from the last 7 days.

Make Time to Grow

Earlier this week, I spent a couple of days with the crew at Convince & Convert. It’s always incredibly invigorating to be in a room with savvy marketers, content producers, social media gurus, business development specialists, and writers—all working towards one goal.

Working with them reminds me that we have to make time to take ourselves to the next level. Even if you’re busy with your nose to the grindstone, you have to systematically make time to get better, analyze where your deficits are, and make a plan for the future.

(And you should also make time for a little fun.)

Shout It Out

This week, I had the pleasure of sharing my thoughts on content marketing as a pillar of thought leadership on the Platform Giant podcast with Shane Purnell. It’s a great reminder that thought leadership is built upon creating content that people benefit from and building a community who trust you and your story.

In other words: To build thought leadership, you have to tell your story in a compelling way, build content for them, and create a space for others to connect with you and each other.

Don’t Just Make Content; Get the Most Out of the Content You Create

Finally, I’ll be speaking for the Mutual Fund Education Alliance next week on content marketing and best practices for distributing content. Instead of creating lots more content, spend 2017 focusing on how to get the most out of the content you already have.

Join me at Wednesday, January 25, at 1pm for this discussion.

Click here for more information.

3 Books to Become a Better Business Person

If you know anything about me, you probably know that I’m busy to a fault—which in 2016 meant that I didn’t as much reading done as I might have liked.

But of the books I did manage to read*, there are three that truly stand out as great resources for anyone looking to become a better business person, a more effective marketer, a more comfortable presenter, and just a better and more empathetic person in general.

Thank You For Arguing by Jay Heinrichs


We all need to make our case at work, at home, with our friends and loved ones, and with clients/customers. If you’ve ever found yourself having trouble persuading people or you just want to be a more effective communicator, be sure to check out this funny and enlightening book by Jay Heinrichs.

With a combination of Aristotelian methodology and pop culture references, it should keep your attention and teach you a thing or two.

Steal the Show by Michael Port


I’m pretty comfortable in front of a crowd. My earliest memories of speaking in front of 100+ people was at the tender age of 5. But even so, I found that I learned quite a few useful techniques from this book by Michael Port.

From structuring speeches to working on your vocal techniques, there are lots of specific skills for even seasoned speakers.

Thanks for the Feedback by Douglas Stone & Sheila Heen


As a professor and as a consultant, I constantly have to give and receive feedback. And as we’ve all experienced, sometimes there are miscommunications or misunderstandings. This book shares some great frameworks for how to better reframe conversations. And it also shares advice on recognizing communications issues so that you can head them off.

This is definitely a book that just about everyone can benefit from—from parents to business people.

As we head into the new year, I look forward to reading lots more books. I hope that you’ll check out my 2017 picks. Do you have book recommendations for me? Leave them in the comments! 


*I did manage to read both Hamilton by Ron Chernow and Hamilton: The Revolution…so you can see what might have captured my interests this year. Other books I read included some Neil Gaiman, the helpful Locavore’s Handbook by friend Leda Meredith, and the excellent Hug Your Haters by friend Jay Baer.

This post contains affiliate links; when you purchase one of these books, I get a small commission. 

Two Podcasts to Jump-Start Your New Year

As an erstwhile podcaster and content marketing consultant (a career that lets me tell other people how to podcast, to my heart’s content), I listen to a lot of different podcasts. From productions made by two people on a laptop to fully professional affairs, I like to hear what’s out there.

Since it’s the beginning of the year, there are a lot of great podcast episodes on self-improvement being released/re-released, and I wanted to share two that really struck me as wonderfully inspiring.

Hidden Brain: How Silicon Valley Can Help You Get Unstuck

Hidden Brain is NPR’s podcast on social psychology, behavioral economics, and “life’s unseen patterns.” Since these are topics that I teach, they’re also topics that I enjoy learning about.

In this episode, host Shankar Vedantam and producer Maggie Penman explore how design thinking can help when you’re feeling lost and unsure about what’s next in your life (career, relationships, etc.) and how to get unstuck. Full of personal stories and useful advice, it’s definitely worth listening to.

Freakonomics Radio: How to Become Great at Just About Anything

Another show that explores behavioral economics and the impact of economic thinking in our everyday lives, I love the unique perspective with which Freakonomics views the world.

In this episode, host Stephen Dubner interviews scientists and writers to find out how we can become better at anything through “deliberate practice.” Not only does the story that forms the throughline of this episode have a lovely pay-off, but the whole episode has inspired me to be more deliberate in several of my hobbies.

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