Yesterday, I did a “career day” presentation at my kids’ school about working as a Marketing Director – you know, a “stand up and talk with PowerPoint slides and video in the background” kind of deal.
I speak fairly often as part of my job, and my platform skills are pretty darn good, so I wasn’t particularly nervous about it. Bring some props, show some video, it will be fun. Right? Right?
Ummmm, well….I gotta tell ya – those fifth graders were the toughest house EVER.
Eye-rolling. Fidgeting. Looking-at-anyone-but-the-speaker. Yawning. And when I asked questions, you could practically see the kids diving under the tables to keep me from calling on them.
The longer I went, the sicker to my tummy I got. “You’re not reaching them,” my cynical brain whispered. “You’re making yourself look stupid. You’re wasting their time. You’re wasting YOUR time!” By the end, I was feeling pretty crumpled – chewed up and spit out in a vortex of pre-teen apathy. I packed my laptop case in a funk, pretty much determined I would never do anything like THAT again.
So, imagine my surprise when the guidance counselor who’d invited me walked up and said, “THAT was GREAT!”
Whaaaaat? How in the Sam Hades could that spectacular display of “I don’t care one bit about what you’re saying” be GOOD?
“They might not have looked like they were listening,” she said. “But they heard more than you think. And for a handful of them, you said some things that will really impact them later on. You wouldn’t know it now – but you planted seeds. It was perfect.”
And this morning, when I took my kids to school, that very smart counselor was proved 100% right. A kid stopped me in the hall. One of the ones whose eyes were rolling the WORST during my speech. Her eyes were bright and she was grinning as she said, “Hey! Thanks for coming yesterday – I thought you were awesome. I didn’t know all that stuff you do was out there. Pretty cool.”
So… Lack of immediate positive reaction does NOT necessarily equal failure? Wow.
When I got to my office a little while later, I understood exactly why I had felt so bad yesterday – and why the counselor’s version of “success” seemed so strange. That’s because I turned on my computer, and my first actions were:
1. Check my firm’s Twitter feed to see how many retweets and mentions we’ve had since yesterday
2. Check Facebook to see who liked and shared my stuff
3. Check my blog to see how many people have visited and who’s reading
4. Check email to see who’s responded to notes I sent earlier
ALL of it an exercise in immediate gratification. Who likes me RIGHT NOW? What are they saying TODAY? Now, now, now, now, now! Show me the return on my investment! This minute!
How utterly short sighted.
And here’s what else I realized: a lot of professional services firms are doing this.
When we come back from a seminar, we don’t wonder how many people might remember us months or even years down the road. We count business cards to see who spoke to us and provided a lead we can follow up on TODAY.
When we post articles, we don’t think about someone stumbling across the piece in a Google search six months from now. We want to know who read them right away so we can contact them immediately for “warming up” in our leads pipeline.
We don’t think about who might look at a year’s worth of our Facebook feed, or three weeks worth of Twitter, to get a sense of our company culture. We think about who we snared with THIS post, RIGHT NOW.
ROI, ROI, ROI – Google Analytics, multivariate testing, analysis, monitoring – all designed to tell us how our stuff is performing in the moment. And sure, that’s important.
But maybe we shouldn’t forget that every time we put ourselves out there, every time we share good ideas and information and part of ourselves with the world, there is a strong possibility it will make a difference somewhere down the road (maybe far down the road). And that’s true even if the reaction is muted or nonexistent at first.
You never know whose mind and heart you will touch – or how, or when.
So as we go to work each day, doing the business of business development, of course we should all keep an eye on the now – but perhaps we need to focus more clearly on taking every opportunity to share what we know, wherever we can, whenever we can.
Because the real work we’re doing is planting seeds – and we don’t control when they bloom.