You got a meeting with a client scheduled. Maybe just a “if you have five minutes, would you swing by my office? Thanks!”-type of event. If you don’t present something on screen, don’t bring your computer. Keep your phone in your pocket, and have it on mute (without vibration, that’ll still be audible and sound like… well, other things that vibrate). Client time means that you give your client full attention. So – bring nothing? Wrong.
I have tried coming up with good examples that enforce this point, but they all seemed terribly stupid. I mean – how hard can it be? Bring something to take notes whenever you sit down with a client, full stop. I recently switched to using an iPad with a stylus and the NotesPlus app, but it is the same thing really.
You’ll be amazed at the results: No more “I forgot we agreed on that”, and your clients will have the good feeling that your conversation matters to them. Even if you don’t note much more down that the date and time, the name of your counterpart and the general topic of what you talked about, they’ll feel good about it.
Got it? Wonderful. Now back to that “end of the weekend” glass of red wine!Read More
Tell you what: I might have been awfully silent on this blog for a while, but I sure haven’t been sitting around doing nothing… Oh no.
Last March, I made a move and went to work with SCHICKLER, a boutique consulting firm based in Hamburg, Germany. There, I am specializing on the media industry – newspaper publishers, TV and radio networks, and of course a lot of online business as well. Also, I am heading the Social Media practice, where we help our clients make strategic sense of all the buzz. (Views on this blog are still all my own – just thought I’d let you know, because the firm is swell and I like working there a lot!)
This has kept me quite busy for sure – but I still got a big heart for the KillerConsultant, and it is far from done. Oh no – as I see it, we are just getting started!
The first new thing is the (Killer) Consultants’ Manifesto. It is a draft, a first outline. It is not MECE. It is exaggerating. It is not politically correct. That is why it has been so much fun to write!
Have a look at version 0.1. Comment. Tell me what parts you agree with. Call me out on utter BS (it is in there, for sure!). I’m looking forward to refine this. Because really – apart from some bad jokes, prejudices and anecdotes – has the spirit of what we do really ever been covered on one page? See – we need a manifesto!Read More
Working on weekends is a hot topic when it comes to consulting. Many think it comes with the job, and it sure is part of the whole consulting life myth. In reality, as with all myths, that is only partly true.
There can be situations where working on a weekend cannot be avoided – but there are many more situations where you can. Today’s post is all about how to achieve that and make sure that as many weekends as possible stay free – ’cause you are working enough from Monday to Friday.
- Scope with a hidden agenda
You have a secret plan. You do not want to work on the weekend. Of course, you don’t want your project lead to know, because you’d seem all weak and “not taking one for the team” or even “not cut out for the job” (I am joking. Mostly.) Scoping to the rescue! It’s simple in theory: To avoid working on the weekend, plan your work so that the need does not arise. In real life, that might be trickier. My best tip is: Don’t agree on Monday as deadline for a deliverable. You’ll often end up on Friday thinking “gosh, I need to finish that… but hey, it’s only due in three days!” and end up sitting on the desk the next two days while your buddies are out having fun. On the other side, your project lead – depending on their style – might think “hey, he’s got some extra time for that over the weekend!” and adjust their expectations accordingly.
There’s a thing about consulting. It’s a high-demand, always-on job. You live and breathe it. Throughout the week. It’s fine, it’s almost a necessity to be good at the job.
Being able to become a normal human again, though, is an equally important quality. You need to relax. You need to take care of the rest of your life that is more or less on pause during the week. Friends and family want their attention. If you keep your suit on (in your head), there are problems ahead:
- You don’t give yourself a break. That’s the sort of people who just keep on working on their assignment during the weekend and think it is a great achievement when they had a beer instead of a coke while crunching on the next slide deck. As a result, you burn out quicker.
- People outside of consulting don’t really get you. It might be funny for your friends the first time you squash them with consulting lingo, but it gets boring and then annoying quickly. Especially if you simply don’t notice it and think that it is totally OK to talk to your girlfriend about certain pain points that pose the risk of being a show-stopper for the next milestone in your relationship.
- You become a boring person. You will. If everything you can talk about is related to your job, that’s awful. What about all those other interests you have?
Convinced now? Hopefully. Now, on to the plan. Three easy steps you can use to transition from hotshot consultant to likeable human being:
- Establish the fact that you are not working on the weekend
Oh, I hear the screams already. “I can’t do that!” “all my colleagues work on the weekend, too!” “but I get emails from my boss!” “I need to show that I am putting in the extra effort!” For crying out loud, that’s rubbish.
Of course, there are times when you really have to work on the weekend, be it because you were a slacker during the week or an emergency came up on Friday evening. Still, these should, need to be exceptions. And it can be done. I’ll actually write a post about that, next – simply because it is such an important thing to achieve, in my opinion. And because I strongly hold the believe that if you work 7 days a week, that’s not a life worth living. [Update: Here is the post on "how to NOT work on the weekend"]
- Use the travel home for winding down
For me, this is a way of starting the weekend early. The moment I checked in for my flight home, out comes the iPod and the non-project-work-related book I am reading at the time. Take off the tie for added relaxation. Take your thoughts on vacation, and after a few minutes, you will be able to look around you and pity those worker bees who still have nothing better to do than be stressed and see if there still is someone sending them emails they can reply to and make a busy impression.
- Create little rituals that make you really come home when coming home
Everything goes here. For some, it might be changing into something comfortable, hanging up the suit and kicking the laptop bag into the far corner of their apartment. For others, it is calling up the (hopefully still existing) friends and checking for the latest news or the plans for Saturday night. Some might simply watch their favorite sitcom or pick up their guitar and play a few tunes. As long as it is not work-related and gets you back in touch with your private life, it works.
Now you are ready to kick back and relax. Plus, your friends will keep liking you because you remain a cool dude / girl. Double-plus, you will still be interesting to the rest of the world because you talk in normal sentences and have actually seen the new Bond movie.
Extra-tip for the 5-4-3 people:
(For those not in the know, that is 5 days working for the client, 4 days on client site, 3 nights in the hotel)
Hey, you got it good – things should be way easier for you, simply because winding down happens in two steps: First you come home, then there is still a working day left, but in your office, and then you can start into the weekend directly. Use that advantage! Dress casually in the office (people wearing a suit and tie on office Friday simply get a sneer from me… really, what is the use?), chat with your colleagues, and get as much paperwork done as possible (one tip that will come up again in the post on how to NOT work on the weekend).
Consultants do present in front of board rooms full of CXO’s the whole time, from Monday to Friday, even the most junior ones.
Nah, ‘course not. Most of the time, the Powerpoint slides you do never end up being projected on a wall, but rather emailed and printed. And, I hate to brake it to you, there are weeks when you don’t have a sit-in at the CEO’s office. He still calls you, of course, but that’s just a given. (If you haven’t noticed the tongue-in-cheek yet, for all its worth, go become a banker)
Still there regularly are occasions when you get to actually present. For those times, the right tools can kick your performance up a notch. There’s no use in gadgets without solid preparation – both of the material to be presented and the performance itself – but let’s assume that you did your homework for now.
Think about one of the last keynote presentation Steve Jobs gave. See what you don’t see? Right. He doesn’t stand there hunched over his laptop, clicking the slides forward.
He’s got a remote. You need one, too.
Maybe not the exact same one – that one costs you around 500 EUR minimum. It’s a great piece of tech, but for 99% of the settings… a bit over the top. But fear not, there are many affordable options out there.
What you want is a device that advances the slides on the push of a button, remotely. There are many option out there, the cheapest I saw cost about 25 EUR. I got myself a Logitech Presenter (about 60 EUR), mainly just to pamper myself, but there are some features I like:
- It has a built-in timer that gives you a countdown, an indication which quarter of your time you are in, and buzzes when you are about to run out of time: This saves me looking at the watch, plus I can glance at it relatively unnoticed.
- It has buttons to get the presentation started, to blank the screen and a switch on the side to control the volume of the computer – great when you are showing embedded video/audio files and the sound level is not perfect from the start.
- There’s a laser pointer embedded. I mostly use it to fool around, but it might come in handy.
- It has a three-level battery indicator which reduces guesswork
- The USB dongle fits inside the remote, so risk of losing it is minimized.
The basic feature set you are looking for, anyway: Slide forward / slide backward, a button to blank the screen as bonus. Don’t go for anything that just submits “left mouse click / right mouse click” – especially in consulting presentations, you almost always have to get back a few slides when questions pop up, and it’s worth nothing when on a right click the context menu pops up. Too much hassle.
What is in it for you?
- You can move about freely. Most often, you still look at the screen of your laptop to see the slide that is shown behind you, but now you don’t hunch over it like a hen protecting its eggs. This leads to…
- Better presence on stage. Your posture is a big part in how you are perceived as a presenter. Plus, it has a feel of professionalism to it when you don’t have to glance over to your colleague to have him click to the next slide or do it yourself.
- Last and most importantly: You are more relaxed while presenting. This cannot be paid in gold. When you are in front of the client, presenting the results of that big, expensive consulting project – you need all your mojo on the content and on your performance.