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Shark Tank – Testing Services at a Conference

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May 29th, 2024

Episode 2

When you want to vet an idea, conferences are a great place to get unbiased, often challenging feedback. Stu and Mariah weigh the pros and cons of using conference platforms as a Shark Tank for new services and concepts. 

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Show Notes


Stu Eddins: If you step off that soapbox, that everybody says, oh my gosh, this is the best thing I’ve ever heard of. I can’t believe you thought of this and I didn’t. That doesn’t mean you have something successful, right? It just means that you have more assurance that you’re maybe on the right path. 

Stu Eddins: Something occurred to us the other day, we were sitting around and just kind of tossing ideas back and forth. And I recalled something from earlier conference, it was a less formal setting than what I what I attend today. Yeah, there were keynotes. There was everything else going on. But they provided a soapbox space. It was kind of interesting. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen such a thing like that. Mariah said I don’t think so. But what was kind of cool about it was in this space, they would set up multiple platforms were moved enough one from another so that you wouldn’t get a lot of crosstalk. And people were allowed to just stand up there and pontificate here’s an idea I have, let’s talk about this, they are able to broadcast to a small group of people in front of them a concept they’re working on an idea something so that they could pitch their idea, think of Shark Tank. And then the other people that were out there would listen to the entire presentation not interjecting in the middle of it. But then at the end of it, the person would either usually just step down and walk into the 1015 people around them and start the conversation about what was just presented. Interesting. The thing I thought was cool about it was it gave immediate feedback from peers. You know, we we spent all of our time in an agency among the people we know. And it’s not that we eventually start sharing a brain or anything. But we tend to have the same perspective, because we’re all serving the same type of client. We have the same experiences with expectations that we’re currently working under. And the thing that kind of resonated with me, was this type of a process allow me to connect or whoever was given the presentation with like minded people who did not share the same background of experiences. That sounds like something you’d want to do. 

Mariah Tang: 100%. 

Stu Eddins: Really? I love that. Okay. Okay. You know, it takes a very brave heart or a large degree of hubris to decide to do it because you’re putting yourself out there. 

Mariah Tang: Well, it’s like being on social media, especially in a not to get political. But in an election year, if you’re only listening to the opinions of people who sound like you, if you’re only getting information from sources that sound like you, then you’re in an echo chamber, like, what are you learning? 

Stu Eddins: Yeah, I could see that. The other part about this is it was the people who present it may have had some tentative feedback on their process or their idea. They may have tested it once or twice. One objection I’ve heard in the past is, you know, I’ve got these great ideas. I don’t know that I want to release them to everybody in the world. Yeah. Secret Sauce. Yeah, that could be my competitive advantage or something. Yeah. Yeah, I can see that reservation. But I think you have to balance that against the potential of what you can learn from the feedback. Yeah. 

Mariah Tang: And a lot of the times, I mean, we come across this all the time, like, your organic search query dashboard. As an example, you came up with this cool idea, not many people are doing it? Or if they do, they’re not talking about it. And you were very forthright with it. Like, we’ve got to share this with everyone. Just because you tell somebody about an idea doesn’t mean they have the skill, the know how the time to do it themselves? 

Stu Eddins: Well, right, it actually that’s a good idea. Or excuse me a good example. I did give a couple of presentations on this, this tool, this this search query tool. And then within about a week, I had three comments back with yet additional ways to use the tool, the expansion benefit of everybody, because now the people who shared individual insights on what how they used it, I was able to take that and multiply it across all the clients that I talked to on the topic. And I think that that, in some ways, is some synergy, some, some, some back and forth that we may be lacking, particularly in a more diffused workspace that we have today. I don’t want to tap into the the entire conversation about remote working. But I do think that that some, some venue where I can where I could present my ideas. A podcast is one example where there’s no feedback. Yeah, I gotta wait for it to get published and then for somebody to type in a response or call me or email me. Tell me my gosh, I listened to That entire podcast and I have never heard such a stupid idea, whatever it might be, but getting that immediate feedback in, I wonder if having a little bit of fear of putting it up there putting your idea out there is what you want. Because if you don’t have that, maybe you’ve got too much certainty in your process. And all you’re doing is bragging. Oh, yeah, 

Mariah Tang: I had an experience like that. Last week, two weeks ago, I have spoken at Content Marketing World seven times, okay, I’m not a I’m not a newbie to the speaking circuit. But I just published my first article with them on their blog two weeks ago, I have never felt more tiny and more afraid in my whole life than when I hit that send button. And the feedback was awesome. Like, if you don’t have that healthy, oh, my gosh, what am I doing? Feeling? Maybe you’re too comfortable in your role? Maybe you need to reach out and start learning more outside of your little bubble.  

Stu Eddins: Yeah, I can see that being beneficial. And I think that they the risks that you take, sometimes it’s gonna blow up in your face, otherwise, it wouldn’t be called risk. You know? I think Google’s the one who keeps putting forward the concept that 90 Some percent of experimentation fails, otherwise, it wouldn’t be called an experiment. Yeah. I think a similar thing applies here. A significant percentage of the of the ideas and concepts you have probably won’t survive first contact with your peers. They’re going to have better ways they’re gonna see holes that you did not see. And honestly, I think that may be a better outcome than using our clients as guinea pigs. 

Mariah Tang: Yeah, yeah. And I think it’s, I think it is gorgeous. I have clients too. It’s one thing to present to your peer group, you know, to, I’m going to bring this idea just do what just do think, okay, Stu validated this, I’m gonna take it to Sandra, okay, Sandra, had this idea, this idea, we’re going to take it to somebody else. And you know, walk through that process. When you bring it to a client, you’re talking about their experience, their goals, everything, and they bring you like, Well, what about this? Did you think about this? How does this work here? Love that. I mean, when you get that, that challenge that question that? How are you really going to use this with my work? It makes you stop and think either my idea has been validated, or there’s room to grow here. 

Stu Eddins: Yeah. The other thing I think about presenting it at a setting like a conference in a from a soapbox, instead of from the from the main stage and podium. I have had that feedback at roundtable discussions. And we can have that there. In this case, the roundtable was not set up to be something about concepting and talking about the direction you want to go, we’ve got a completely different purpose. And like you, humans of our type did, we completely strayed from that topic is talking about things we wanted to try. But my goodness, we were so energized afterward, I frankly forgot what the purpose of the roundtable was, I had to look at my at my agenda to remember what why I was sitting there. Because what I took away was much more valuable in the moment than what I sat down to take away in the first place. I’m sure that the roundtable sponsor was was completely beside themselves, mad as hell at us all. But, you know, we weren’t having a round table that others were observing. It was a everybody had their own table that they were discussing things on. But I guess I guess my point is, I think, maybe conferences, we we tend to go to the looking for, I want to gain ideas from the people who I sign up for to go to their presentations. I want to see people at different booths or different installations, and see what they want me to, to learn and understand from their offerings. We have Hallway Conversations with that person. We met three conferences ago, hey, how you doing? What’s going on in your life, we eventually get down to that. But I think that that, a another facet of that could be putting your idea out there, offering it up and saying, I have an idea. I’d like for you to present it to everybody. Or not everybody but to a select group that wants to hear it. And then I’m asking for your feedback. This is not to be a passive exercise. It’s something where I’m expecting you to come back and challenge me on it. Constructive criticism is is often how things go from idea to actuality. Oh, yes, the step in the middle. 

Mariah Tang: Yeah. And then you have that built in accountability of those people who are sitting there who are going to pester you later how that thing turned out. Did you use my idea? I want to you know, yeah, 

Stu Eddins: in, you know, there’s an entire avenue of after the fact Hey, you know, folks, thank you so much for your feedback. Give me your names and email addresses and I’ll let you know where this goes. I, you may go that far, you may not. But if you’re not furiously taking notes during the feedback session, perhaps you haven’t given it your all here. The other part about this that occurs to me is, we really do want to talk to our peers. And I’ve said that like 93 times so far, but we shouldn’t consider this to be something as formal as a peer review. It’s not that type of a thing. If everybody if you step off that soapbox, that everybody says, oh, my gosh, this is the best thing I’ve ever heard of, I can’t believe you thought of this. And I didn’t. That doesn’t mean you have something successful. Right? It just means that you have more assurance that you’re maybe on the right path. It is some sort of a validation to keep going. If you step off the podium and eat and you take the critique that comes towards you and saying, you know, that’s a great idea. But I think you have a narrow application in front of you, it’s not going to have the scope of application, you think it will, then here’s why. That may be the most valuable part of the interaction. Because if you leave it at the at their statement, and you don’t ask the return question, okay. Why don’t you think it’s my Why do you think my scope is limited? Yep. You’re not going to get the most from your from your presence there. Oh, yeah. Anyway, it just something that you and I were talking about, it occurred to me that I had experienced something similar at that roundtable, I mentioned that at a less formal convention, in different industries, we’re not talking about marketing at the time, they had provided space for this type of soapbox communication. I don’t think they actually envisioned what it was going to turn out to, they just said, Hey, you want to talk about you want to have a conversation about an important topic to you? Let us know, we’ll tell you at 1015 Your time is is at zone B. Something as simple as that. You’re also leaving your stuff out there little exposed to be somebody standing at a podium with nobody to talk to ya. What if you gave a party and nobody came? But again, it’s risk? Yeah. And in our world agency world, our particular focus with this agency is in marketing. And if I were to, to present scheduled to present my idea, nobody showed up, man, what a bad job of marketing I did, right. Maybe the punishment is twice over the I don’t know, the the feedback I got from you on how you feel when you present, particularly in larger groups. Others around you like Sandra and so on, when she presents, they get warm reception. They get a lot of positive feedback. They get some questions afterward. But it kind of occurred to me to take that information and reach back to the experience I had before and say, Okay, let’s make it intentional. Yeah. So a smaller group, you do have a greater tendency for somebody to poke at you. Yeah, yeah. And you’re inviting it. 

Mariah Tang: Like you said, those pokes are the growth opportunities. You’re not going to grow in your comfort zone if people telling you what a what a great job you did pat, pat, pat, right. 

Stu Eddins:  Right. I will take all of those though, that I love it. But now 

Mariah Tang: I gotta think of a topic for use do to have your soapbox conference? 

Stu Eddins: Oh, geez. i Yes. i, i Yeah, I have so many. You know, let’s realize that the name of this podcast is did I say that out loud? Honestly, that may be my test for whether I have such a topic. 

Mariah Tang: I love this idea. And I think I think people in an agency setting or people that are really hungry to make change in their organization would be interested in this, this small group idea is less intimidating in a lot of ways than being passed the mic in a great big auditorium full of people. And it gives the people that are quiet with good ideas and opportunity to raise their hand and beard. Yeah. 

Stu Eddins: You know, I I’ve been living with this idea for a couple of weeks. And in my mind, inventing the worst case scenario, I envision myself standing on the soapbox and and issuing my ideas and my concepts on the best way to handle something for search marketing. And Frederick Falaise is standing right in front of me in the group. Kind of like the the person who was the original Evangelist for Google search and pointed out virtually every hole in my idea, but I tell you what, I almost paid for that to happen. 

Mariah Tang: This is like the modern-day equivalent of showing up at school without your clothes on. 

Stu Eddins: I think I would prefer to remain dressed at that podium, but yes, you’re right.  

Thanks for listening to Did I Say That Out Loud? with Stu Eddins and Mariah Tang. Check out the show notes for more information about today’s episode. And if you have any questions, concerns or comments, hit us up anytime at stamats.com. 

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