Reciprocity Matters. Speaking Without Slides at Social Media for Business

I am thoroughly enjoying Scott Berkun’s work just now, both in book form, The Year Without Pants (more to follow on this excellent volume soon), and his blog.


I really enjoyed last year’s Social Media for Business conference, and as I prepared for my talk at the 2014 event which took place yesterday, I read Berkun’s post about How to Present Well Without Slides. I was unsure how to play this talk, so I prepared a number of different ways. I put some slides together – just in case, but mostly I thought about what the audience might want from a 20 – 25 session on social media in the workplace. I had so many ideas I could have drowned in them, and here are two things I kept coming back to.

I don’t know the people in the audience (with a few exceptions) so how well equipped am I to second guess them?

Reciprocity and generosity matters, and it’s even better when you lead with it.


Over coffee I chatted with a few people and Paul noted I was talking about Social Media in the Workplace. ‘That’s a broad topic’, he suggested. And he was right. I channelled Berkun’s thinking ‘Take a strong position in the title’ and thought, this needs work. So I took his advice, put myself in the shoes of the audience, or the customer and opted for ‘Screw You! What’s In It For Me?’ We often think ‘What can I get from doing x, y and z?’ So I put us in the customer’s shoes and encouraged people to think ‘What can I give?’

Listen and Adapt

During the morning I and the rest of the audience consumed four useful and quite slide heavy talks on: Personality types, Social Media strategy, Blogging and Website visibility. We were fortunate to have Neil Usher in the house live blogging for you, please check his thoughts out for more details. As these talks played out it became clear to me that if I delivered my prepared slides, I was going to come unstuck, and the audience were going to get bored. Too many thoughts that were woven into my slide deck were already being shared by other speakers. Thankfully, because I was in the room I was aware of this and was also able to listen to audience questions along the way, and chat with people over coffee and doughnuts in the break.

Photo taken by Charlie Duff

Photo by Charlie Duff

Stand and Deliver

I confess that when I stood up to talk, half an hour before lunch, I was buzzing. Partly because of the adrenaline rush I always get in these situations (remember folks, if you ain’t feeling nervous, you ain’t doing it right), and mostly because of the two pink ‘nail varnish’ coated sugar bomb doughnuts I ate in the coffee break.

Photo by Su Butcher

Photo by Su Butcher

I hopped quickly to my revamped title slide and abandoned PowerPoint thereafter. Immediately after the abandonment I felt more nervous, but I remembered – dumping the slides was necessary for me to get on a new track. I’m now discovering that without slides, and after too much sugar, it can be tough to recall exactly where that new track led, but I’ll have a go.

Planning and Return on Investment (ROI)

I scribbled out and talked through a version of the Social Framework. It’s a simple conversational prompt designed to help you think about content, audience and mediums in relation to you and your social goal(s). William Tincup’s version is much prettier and available for you to download here. I also referenced the Business Model Canvas as a simple tool you could use to help you build a social plan, and cautioned about doing too much planning. Things change quickly, and because of this, investing in an expensive, detailed plan can often be a waste of money, and something you then wrongly feel you need to deliver against come what may, regardless of the changed circumstances.

Everyone needs to figure out their own ideas on return on investment, and often I think we let an obsession with this so called return inhibit us from experimentation. For me it starts with generosity and reciprocity, leading from a place of abundance. That place of abundance lends you confidence, and I think that makes you easier to deal with. My business is all about helping others grow through improving collaboration, communication and creativity. With that as my direction of travel, is my investment generous and in the spirit of reciprocity, and does it take me in that general direction? If yes – then I give it a go.

Open and Closed

Are your customers on social? If yes, do you want to engage them there? Some businesses use social channels for a degree of internal comms and chat, and you might want to blend that colleague and customer conversation. Channelling some of Berkun’s ‘Year Without Pants’ thinking here for a second…Email is a closed channel – often the wrong people get included and excluded. More open channels reduce these likelihoods. Open channels can be better places to preserve great work, stuff that gets missed and lost in the email mists of time.

More Questions than Answers

I’m not very good at telling people what to do, in fact I usually try to avoid it. So if you were in the audience today I hope my time with you prompted a few questions and signposted some helpful resources. This stuff is not compulsory, and it’s accessible, and easy enough to experiment with in small ways, common sense and corporate culture permitting (lest we forget JPMorganGrant Shapps et al). I want to acknowledge Richard’s great closing question to me – in which he acknowledged the sense that generosity and reciprocity works – and can I get him some good examples to share? I’m working on it, thanks Richard.

Keira is in the final throes of preparation for her next stage of drumming exams so I had to depart the conference after lunch. I had an enjoyable morning and casting an eye over the #SM4Biz twitter stream, more importantly, folks seemed to be sharing and learning, having an enjoyable, useful day. Put that in your return on investment.


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