Speaker | Entrepreneur | Author

Sam Davidson's blog

Every Tuesday, I write.

I share an idea I’ve come up with, a struggle I’m wrestling with, a puzzle I’m turning over in my head, or a story that I think the world needs to hear. You can sign up to get these emailed to you each Tuesday morning by clicking here

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Posts tagged technology
Turning Gen Y Liabilities Into Assets

The more I speak to nonprofit groups, businesses, or associations about Millennials (also known as Generation Y), the more I hear from people who want to harness the potential of this generation. This is a good sign. On the whole, Millennials are not being written off without a fair hearing. Today's business leaders believe that the youngest generation in the workplace can do great things for companies and causes. The struggle lies in the ability of organizations to understand this generation and then use that understanding to work with them to do something meaningful.

I've found that most people get stuck when trying to get beyond Millennial stereotypes. It seems that previous generations see Generation Y as an entitled, tech-happy, group-thinking, fickle bunch that is just too hard to manage. With these four glaring strikes against them, managers and directors move on and work with someone else.

But, I believe Gen Y's liabilities can be turned into assets for any organization to use well. In fact, some of the perceived "worst" things about Millennials can actually be big upsides for your work and mission. Here's what I mean:

Generation Y is entitled.

Neil Howe took this stereotype head on when I heard him speak. Addressing the issue of this generation thinking of themselves as special when in reality everyone got a trophy or a ribbon just for participating, Howe suggests using the idea of entitlement to raise expectations. His advice? Acknowledge an entitled Millennial with, "Yes - you are special. And we expect special things from you." In other words, validate their feelings and then use it as a jumping off point to set a standard of excellence. Good Millennials - good people, really - will rise to that challenge.

Millennials are always looking at a screen.

Then who better to bring your digital marketing strategy up to date? Who else could teach other employees about texting, tweeting, or tumbling? Being digitally native has its advantages. While not true of every single Millennial, most will have an understanding of emerging technologies, like cloud storage, video conferencing, and social media. Before you shell out big bucks for someone who calls themselves a "guru" on Twitter, roam your hallways and see what ideas young people may have for understanding bits and bytes.

Gen Y always wants to do something in a group.

Gone are the days where isolation is paradise. Generation Y was raised in a group setting. Not only were they over-programmed with Scouts, Little League, and dance classes, they also went to prom as a unit, did science projects in groups of four, and grew up with multi-player video games. This generation understands teamwork. Let them work together on a problem. They'll love the camaraderie and connections developed way more than Generation X will (okay, so that's a Gen X stereotype). Set the bar high for good group work and then cut them loose to see what current issue they can address together.

Millennials have short attention spans.

First off, we all do. Secondly, you can use this to your advantage by getting new hires to focus on special, short-term projects. Many Millennials job hop, mainly because with mounting debt and high unemployment, they're looking for work anywhere. This means you may not have to commit to a long-term employee from Day One. Bring on a Gen Yer to handle a short-term need, like planning an event, running a social campaign, or lending an extra hand during a busy season. Let them know up front it's a temporary gig that could turn into something more if it works out for everyone. This gives you a chance to see if they truly play well with others and lets them work on something to completion to see how much they like what you do. Then, if they leave after eight weeks when the assignment is up, you're not left with loose ends.

Ultimately, working with Generation Y is like building the plane in midair. This generation is still being understood and defined just as they're entering the workforce in droves. Smart companies are beginning to truly take on this generation and use their chief characteristics in order to grow well.

They question isn't whether or not you'll hire, manage, and work alongside Millennials; it's when.

What about you? What other liabilities of Generation Y can be turned into assets with a little finesse?

I'd love to hear your comments below.

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Speaking Event: American Bus Association

This January, I'll be addressing the attendees at the American Bus Association Marketplace. This is a chance for people in and around the bus industry to get together for learning, networking, and dreaming. I'll have the chance to present three workshops over two days:

  • Why Gen Y? Reaching Out to Millennials in the Right Way
  • Get Smart, Get Strategic: Why You Need a Social Media Strategy Now
  • BRB, TTYL, LOL: Managing Millennials in the Workplace

I'm looking forward to meeting everyone at the event and to having deep discussions about how those in the bus world can leverage the power and possibility of technology and the next generation.

And if you're in Charlotte, drop me a line so we can grab coffee!

The Internet is Making Us Dumber

As you may well know, I'm struggling of late to come to grips with our fascinating and messy world of social media. What once seem so cut and dried to me as I worked with nonprofit and corporate groups to teach why they needed to update and tweet and tag is now a confusing minefield of statuses and likes. For me, this is amplified in my attempts to be a great parent and a good friend. It seems as though I'm not alone. This past Sunday, a lengthier analysis of what Facebook may being doing to us appeared in the New York Times. We may be coming for a digital reckoning, it seems. I don't care what these do for the profits of a now-public company. But I do care more than ever what our picture posting and online commenting is doing for us humans as we try in our fallible ways to build real community in our messy lives.

These aren't the gripes of an old curmudgeon, mind you. These are the concerns of someone who wants authentic friendship and meaningful relationships with those who help me feel significant and like I belong. I'm merely searching for the same things my ancestors needed while painting on cave walls and packing up camp when the seasons changed.

And maybe a season is changing for those of us who have grown accostomed to what all this newfangled technology was once able to do. 

There was a delightful novelty to the way Facebook once helped you find an old summer camp buddy or peer into what your old high school classmates were up to. Half a decade ago, it was neat to get a friend request from your old teammate, use your lunch break to scan through some pictures of his family, read about where he works and what movies he likes, and then mention it in conversation with your wife over dinner. And now? Now he's hidden from your newsfeed and you kind of hate him because he really loves posting misleading information about the President or how he can't wait for the new Nickelback album.

We wrongly assumed that we wanted thousands of connections that lacked real depth. As another reporter put it:

We are tempted to think that our little “sips” of online connection add up to a big gulp of real conversation. But they don’t. E-mail, Twitter, Facebook, all of these have their places — in politics, commerce, romance and friendship. But no matter how valuable, they do not substitute for conversation.

A world without conversation is a world without give and take. It's a world where learning takes a backseat to broadcasting. And we're all a little dumber because of it.

Compare our lack of conversation to the lack of relationship depth we have, magnified by our logging in (over and over again) to view the constant stream of updates and tweets. If you think you can get deep in 140 characters, I'm sorry, but you're badly mistaken.

What's another way to say lack of depth?

Shallow.

Assuming that online connection points are a valid substitute for offline relationships means we're shallow. Another word for shallow?

Dumb.

Our relationship IQ is shrinking right before our eyes.

I'm undertaking some steps over the next few weeks to better get a handle on what these tools can do for us - and what they need to stop doing for us. Balancing the private world of Dad with the public world of speaker and author is getting harder. Tools that promised convenience seem to fall silent in the face of moral or ethical ambiguity. Then again, they should - they're just tools. Faceless, soulless tools that do a job. They don't make judgements, wrestle with dynamic notions of what's best, or feel regret when a connection is missed (or even destroyed).

That's my job.

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The Hardest Thing About Parenting Today

I'm sure parenting was never easy. So, it's not like parents today have it harder than their parents did (or their parents did). Sure, maybe we have to lock our doors now and the threat of nuclear annihilation hangs over all our heads, but parenting a child is still fraught with challenges, whether it's a Cave Mom teaching her son to share rocks or it's a Soccer Mom teaching her daughter to share iPods. For me, the hardest thing about being a parent in 2012 is this:

To put down my f**king phone.

It's not that I'm texting friends when I should be playing Legos, or that I'm checking email when I should be reading about Curious George. When your phone is a camera and a voice recorder and a video camera and a photo editor and a blogging tool and a way to tell all the grandparents what's going on, the natural instinct is to get it all on tape (surely that expression is on it's way out). Let me record every tower, every costume, every utterance, I think, so that she'll have one heck of a rehearsal dinner video one day.

My parents didn't have the challenge of having to parent with a 4" connection to the world in their hands. Cameras were trotted out on vacation or at ballgames, never for lining up Little People or naming stuffed animals.

I don't think I can be a great parent if my daughter begins to think half of my face is usually blocked by a magical rectangle that has the ability to bring her Elmo on demand.

Dollhouse

A few weeks ago, I wrote (in one of my most popular posts ever):

Parenting – and life – happens in between online posts and updates. It happens when we least expect it. And when it does, when those memorable moments of teaching and learning and being happen, the best thing we can do is put down our phone and live as deeply and authentically as we can in that moment.

Capturing everything so we can tweet it and share it and edit it isn't living. I don't care how second nature our phone or computer usage has become or how more connected (is that even possible?) my daughter will be when she's a mom. When the need to record or document becomes greater than my need to be present, I've become more journalist than dad. 

That's not what I signed up for.

Here's to putting down our phones today until Grandma calls.

On My Impending Digital Detox

This time tomorrow, I'll be boarding a cruise ship. And when I do, my phone will be off and I won't check email for an entire week. I'll be on vacation. A real vacation. For the first time in over six years.

When you start and manage your own business(s), you take vacation, but you're never really not connected. I've taken time off from work, but checking email via my phone just to stay on top of things still happened while lounging near a pool or taking in a new city. Yes, I've relaxed, but I've never gone off the grid.

But, I'm doing it. I won't be going to the handy (and expensive) Internet cafe on the cruise ship just to read that day's email. I won't be posting pictures to Facebook of my daughter with Mickey Mouse in real time. I won't check voicemail. I won't be tweeting. I'll be radio silent.

When I decided to do this three weeks ago, I was a bit nervous at first. But after that initial anxiety went away, I've been nothing but excited.

I'll have a whole week of in-between. Whatever comes in can wait. I won't mistake urgent for important (at least for this week). I'll do nothing digital.

Pre-scheduled emails (like Dose and Cool People Care) will still fly. Tweets and status updates that were pre-planned will still happen. But no blogging. No commenting. No tagging.

Just being.

See you in a few.

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Good Parenting Happens in the In-Between

From the looks of it, we're all fantastic parents. Our Instagrams from Disney World and the Facebook albums of Easters and Christmases show smiles, laughter, hugs, and happiness. It's as if nothing goes wrong in our lives or for our families. It's easy for people to think I'm a great dad because sometimes my blog posts show that I'm willing to get dirty with my two-and-a-half-year-old daughter or that I'm at her beck and call when we go out to eat. And while I'm learning myriad life lessons from this pint-sized princess, certainly we all know that for every muffin she eats happily, there's a little girl (and her dad) who gets frustrated when it's time to change a diaper, take a bath, or go to the doctor.

I don't think the good parenting we're all doing happens when we post the highlights of our lives to Facebook. It happens in between those moments.

Somewhere between your Christmas morning and the craft your child made for Valentine's Day, you were a great parent. You taught a life lesson, moved heaven and earth in order to make your kid happy, or put off what you wanted to do so they could do what they needed to do. There is no album on Facebook for that. 

At some point between the school portraits and your summer beach trip, you snuggled next to your son or daughter (or both) and watched a silly TV show. As their eyes followed the dancing monkey or uncoordinated clown, you looked over and caught the smile that was curling upwards from the corners of their mouth. You didn't take a video of it, but it's etched in your mind forever.

The times when you didn't let them have dessert because they didn't touch their vegetables? Or when they couldn't watch TV because they didn't clean their room like you asked? When they left toys lying about so you told them they'd have to clean up before they could play with a friend? When they needed to apologize to their brother before they got certain privileges back? None of those times go on Facebook. Few of those instances involved smiling. But good parenting probably happened.

Do not judge your parenting skills - or the quality of your life, for that matter - based upon what you or anyone else is putting online. Those are the highlights. That's the SportsCenter of living, not the full game with its ebb and flow, its rhythm and mistakes, its moments of terror, uncertainty, and desperation.

Facebook is an idealized representation of ourselves, how we parent, how we live, how we love. It is anything but authentic.

Parenting - and life - happens in between online posts and updates. It happens when we least expect it. And when it does, when those memorable moments of teaching and learning and being happen, the best thing we can do is put down our phone and live as deeply and authentically as we can in that moment.

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Tools of the Trade

Grace Boyle recently wrote about what tools she uses or has had recommended to her to better manage her work or life. Read her post for a full list of new, cool apps and online tools. I thought I'd follow suit and make a list of the stuff I use regularly to do what I do (write, speak, travel, and help run two companies and advise a handful of others). Click around and who knows? You may find something that saves you time, money, or both!

  • Evernote - I tried it a year ago and it didn't catch on. Then, I read an article about the company and was intrigued by the possibilities. Now, I use Evernote to keep track of everything from blog post ideas, articles and stats for speeches, and even gift lists for family and friends. Most useful is the iPhone app for notes on the go.
  • Gmail and Google Apps - I still use and love Gmail, Google Calendar, and Google Reader. Both of my companies (Cool People Care and Proof Branding) use the Google suite, including Google Voice.
  • TripIt - No better travel app exists to keep track of all my plans. It's as easy to organize as forwarding an email.
  • Wordpress - My personal blog, CoolPeopleCare.org, and ProofBranding.com all use Wordpress.
  • Wufoo - Contact forms are easy (and cheap) to build and maintain. The days of contact pages just listing email addresses are over.
  • Rafflecopter - Thanks to Grace, I found this beauty and have suggested it to many people. If you run contests on your site, use Rafflecopter. Setting up, running, and picking a winner for a contest has never been easier, especially if you want an easy way to include entry options like tweets or people who follow you.
  • HootSuite - This is how I manage two Twitter accounts and three Facebook pages. I plan out tweets and posts sometimes up to 30 days out. I still use the free version.
  • Shopify - Cool People Care's store is built on Shopify, which keeps improving. It's an easy and efficient way to set up your own online store.
  • Dropbox - Hands down, the best way to store files in the cloud. I put my large presentation files here so I can get to them no matter where I am or what machine I'm using.
  • Flipboard - If you have an iPad or iPhone, get Flipboard and you'll marvel at how fun it is to read nearly anything online, including your Facebook news feed.
  • Alice - You can skip trips to the store because Alice delivers home goods to your door. Best of all, they keep track of the brands you use and can send you reminders when they think you're nearly out.
  • OpenTable - Want to make sure you have reservations to your favorite restaurant? OpenTable can handle it.
  • Kayak - The easiest way to search flights, especially if you have tight travel windows like I do and takeoff/landing times are important.
  • Uber - It's not available in all cities, but if you're in a city with Uber and you use it, you will immediately wish that all taxis were the same.
  • Pandora - Because when I write, sometimes it's a Jay-Z kind of day, and sometimes it's a Taylor Swift kind of day. Seriously.
  • MailChimp - The easiest, most affordable, most foolproof way to send emails. Cool People Care uses it to send over 125,000 emails a month, and at Proof, we recommend them to nearly every client.
  • QuickBooks - I started using it because my accountant prefers it. I keep using it because it's a fantastic web-based way to track all financial records and invoicing.
  • Square - Selling books at a conference is super easy (and sometimes fun) with Square. It's also easy to take a credit card payment over the phone.

What about you?

What tools do you use in your personal or professional life to be more productive and keep track of stuff? Share in the comments below and let's get a good list going together.

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Review Something

Want to do a good deed today? Go review something online. Rate a book on Amazon or leave feedback for a restaurant on Yelp. Enter your thoughts about a product on Target.com or any other retail site. Endorse someone on LinkedIn. Just leave feedback. Weigh in.

If you leave a good review, you'll be helping the author, eatery, or manufacturer (hopefully) make more sales. And if you didn't like it and say so, you'll be helping your fellow man or woman not make the same mistake you did. They can skip over this choice and move on to something better.

You have an opinion. It's easier than ever to share it. Participate in the discussion and be heard.

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An All New SamDavidson.net

If you're reading this via RSS, you should click through to check out the new design for SamDavidson.net. I worked with Kate Hall and Matt Cheurvont (via Proof Branding) to produce this new look and organization. Part of investing in myself this year as I chase down the dream of speaking more was to overhaul my website to feature my speaking offerings more prominently. Now, you can learn more about my messages to particular audiences. Soon, you'll also find videos of me given some recent talks.

You also have the ability to get my daily blog posts via email now. Click here to sign up.

And, if you have time today, I'd love it if you did one of these things. I'm happy to return the favor - just say the word!

Have a great weekend, and thanks for reading.

The Speed of Change

The speed of business or the speed of life isn't any faster than it used to be. What's accelerated is the speed of change. Stuff is new and different faster than it used to be. And if we're not able to keep up, we'll get left behind. I've been watching a lot of Disney cartoons lately with my daughter. While Finding Nemo was on the other day, I was enchanted by the East Australian Current, that mass of water that ultimately lets Marlin and Dory get to where Nemo is. The current moves fast. Hopping in and out is dangerous. But, once you're in and adjust to the speed, you can go anywhere.

Businesses that succeed today don't just move fast, though. They change fast. They explore new ideas and products quickly. They fail rapidly, learn even more rapidly, and try again most rapidly of all. As Rupert Murdoch says:

The world is changing very fast. Big will not beat small anymore. It will be the fast beating the slow.

This is why Netflix and Redbox can shake up an entire industry. Why Pinterest grows hot. How Apple keeps winning. Some of these companies are big. But they're all fast.

How fast is your company? It's important that you get to market quickly or start a trend. But it's even more important that you stop that trend or get to market quickly again once tastes, economics, or technology change. If you can change quickly, you'll be poised to succeed for a very long time.

Case in point: Starbucks. Check out why their CEO thinks they'll keep growing:

Innovative companies

It's about behavior. 

So, how are you acting? Are you nimble enough to go with the flow of change?

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Five Technology Tips for Your Next Presentation

Don't let bad technology use kill a good presentation. Technology (PowerPoints, laptops, videos) are becoming more and more commonplace when presenting, whether you're on a stage in front of thousands of people at a trade show or you're in a small classroom in a high school. But, things can go wrong or we may sometimes overuse these assets available to us. So, here are five tips when it comes to presenting well when using technology to enhance your presentation.

First, know your material

I'm a big fan of memorizing your talk. Sure - it'll be more polished, but you'll also sound more natural. And, familiarity with your material will come in handy if you need to keep things going during a technical glitch or respond on the fly when someone has a question. PowerPoint slides aren't for reading; they're for calling attention to a key point or to showcase an image that gets at the heart of what you're saying.

Don't over-rely on technology

It's easy today - with all of our digital tools and toys - to want to make a slide deck that has lots of features or to show videos to illustrate your points. But, many times, presenters overdo it on the tech side. If I wanted to see a video, I'd ask you to email me a link. I'm coming to a presentation to hear you and see you. So, give me you. Make sure your presentation is solid with no slides and videos. Then, add those things in as accessories and nice touches. This way, if something goes wrong with your slide deck, you can still keep talking and presenting and the audience will barely be able to tell.

Treat tech glitches like part of the show

Computers break down and projectors overheat. If you give a presentation that requires bells and whistles, then you're running a risk that your entire presentation will fall apart if something goes wrong. You don't want to take valuable time away from what you need to say because the tech guy is fixing something on stage. If this does happen, knowing your material well will let you keep presenting in a compelling way while The Geek Squad fixes what you broke.

Better yet, carry your own gear

When I travel and speak, I bring the following items with me:

  • Laptop
  • Adapters to projectors from my laptop (both Mac to VGA and HDMI)
  • Flash storage drive
  • Wireless mouse
  • Audio cables

Amazingly, all of this fits in a small accessory bag. The venue, then, only provides a projector, screen, and microphone. I don't want to show up somewhere and find that they don't have the right adapter, or that the range of the wireless mouse is a short distance, or that the audio cable is incorrect. In other words, I eliminate as many variables as possible to ensure that stuff will work right the first time.

Know your hardware

Spend an hour or two this week getting to know your laptop better. Because we've all been using computers for so long, we overlook the fact that an hour spent reading about our model and playing around with it will make our familiarity with it skyrocket, which is handy come presentation time. For example, many PCs have PowerPoint shortcuts controlled by the function keys, allowing you to start your deck or go to black with a single stroke. Same goes for calibrating laptops to projectors. It's a great feeling when you show up and don't even need the tech person to help you get ready. The more time you spend with your machine and your presentation software, the better your presentation will look and feel.

Start using these practices and you'll be sure that your presentation is different from every one ever. In other words, you won't feel like this guy:

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How To Say No - Part Two

Yesterday, I shared how to say no to someone or to an opportunity that won't add value to your life. Many times, we say yes when our heart's not in it, when an opportunity to serve arises that doesn't play to a strength, or out of sheer obligation. Doing so makes us unhappy because it takes away time that we'd rather be spending doing something we love. I shared five easy steps for saying no to someone in a way that is polite and will also ensure that you'll say no a lot less because people will learn what types of opportunities you're looking for. Then, they'll start to bring you the right ones.

As promised, here's a follow up to that post. Below is a simple email template you can use to send to people when asked to do something that will complicate your life, and not simplify it. Copy and paste as much as you like.

Dear (insert name here),

Thanks for your email yesterday about (insert offer or opportunity here). It means a lot that you think I have the skills to contribute. Unfortunately, I need to say no to this opportunity right now. This year, I'm only able to take on new projects that are directly in line with my strongest talents, which are (insert up to three talents or passions here). If you think there's a chance to use me in these areas, I'm all ears.

If you know someone who would like to serve in this role, use this next part.

I would also like to mention (insert name of person this opportunity would be perfect for) to you - have you two met? (Insert name) used to (insert offer or opportunity here) and could be a great fit for you. Just last week, (insert name) was asking me about ways to get involved. Would you like contact information?

Thanks again,

(Insert your name)

And there you have it. Start using this email when you'd like to say no and the person asking won't be offended and will be well aware of what opportunities to bring you next time. Once you start saying no, I've found that you'll be amazed at all of the perfect opportunities that start to present themselves.

Personal note: Both of these steps (how to say no and the sample email) are in my book, Simplify Your Life, which is on sale on Amazon for less than $10. The Kindle Edition is just $3.99. Pick up either (or both) for more ways to keep things simple (and keep you happy).

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