My first assignment as a consultant was as speechwriter to my boss, legendary creative director and copywriter Martin Puris, formerly Chair and CEO of Ammirati Puris Lintas.
In addition to be being a gifted creator of speeches for others, I speak and conduct workshops on direct marketing, marketing discipline integration, account management, Creative Brief development, and related topics for a wide range of organizations. I do book signings and Q&A sessions around the third edition of The Art of Client Service.
Here are some examples of the workshops I conduct and the speeches I deliver:
- “How to Run a Meeting, Brief a Colleague, Write a Conference Report, and Formulate and Give a PowerPoint Presentation” to digital media shop PMG and Syneos Health Communications.
- “Five Ways to be More Creative,” a presentation given to the entertainment agency AKA.
- “Can Account Management be Saved?” a presentation and workshop conducted for The Four As (American Association of Advertising Agencies) “Ivory Forum” group of agency founders, CEOs, and other senior executives.
- “Five Ways to Build Trust with Clients and Colleagues,” to The Miami Ad School, as part of their “Industry Heroes” program, to the experiential agency IMG Live, to Razorfish Health, Syneos Health Communications, and to the Search agency Improove.
- “Formulating a Creative Brief that Drives Great Creative” for AKA, for museum designer Hadley Exhibits, and other shops that don’t have Planners on staff, plus “How to Help Planners Formulate a Brief that Drives Great Creative” for Syneos Health Communications and others that do.
- “One Agency Meltdown plus Two Client Disasters equals Three Difficult Conversations and How to Navigate Through Them” for Syneos Health Communications and Search agency Improove.
- “What Clients Want, and How to Give it to Them,” for AKA, DCI, Hubspot, and o2kl.
- “How to be Great at Client Service” for Deep Focus and Digitas Health.
- “The Quest for a Unified Theory of Client Service,” address at HubSpot’s INBOUND14 conference.
- “The Past, Present, and Future of Marketing,” address to DMIX.
- “Three Theories of Client Service for the Digital Age,” webinar for The Society of Digital Agencies (SoDA).
- “Client Disasters, Agency Meltdowns, and How to Avoid Them,” workshop for Impact Branding & Design; webinar for Thought Legion.
- Book signings and Q&A sessions for MWW group and Kaplow Communications.
- “Why Client Service Matters:” address to Saatchi & Saatchi X, Springdale, AR; Avenue A/Razorfish, San Francisco; Eleven, San Francisco; and [X + 1], New York.
- Keynote at the first Hellenic account management conference, Athens, Greece, as part of Advertising Week for SE Europe.
- Keynote to the Carat senior management conference, New York.
- “Direct Marketing 101,” workshop for students in Columbia University’s Masters Degree in Strategic Communications.
- “What Makes a Great Account Person,” presentation at DM Days New York.
- “Managing Relationships,” seminar for senior account staff from Omnicom/DAS agencies.
- “Everybody’s a Client,” presentation at Messner Vetere Berger McNamee Schmetterer / EURO RSCG.
- “Avoid the Pitch from Hell,” presentation to the Association of National Advertisers, Advertising Management Committee.
Why do a Workshop?
These days the new business presentations I pursue are pretty modest affairs, most often about a possible workshop, consulting engagement, or a coaching assignment, but it wasn’t long ago I was part of an Ammirati & Puris pitch team hunting multi-million-dollar national and even global accounts, opportunities like Burger King (a win) and Delta (a loss).
A technique once used to advantage might no longer be germane these days – advertising and marketing has evolved in so many ways – but we often found it effective to end our presentation with a PowerPoint headline like this: “Five Questions We Would Ask if We Were You.”
Clients immediately were drawn to this, partly out of curiosity – “What will they ask?” – and partly out of cynicism: “This should be interesting; I didn’t know you could read our minds.” For us, it was an opportunity for the agency to do three things:
- Demonstrate an ability to view matters from the clients’ perspective, not just the agency’s.
- Substantiate the shop’s skill at being insightful, by crafting exactly the right list of (no more than five) questions to ask, inevitably leading to discussion that often was the very best part of the meeting.
- Shape the conversation to play to the agency’s strengths and competitive advantages over competing shops (assuming the client revealed them).
I thought of questions like these as I prepared a workshop proposal the other day, writing this headline in my letter: “Why do this?”
Considered from a client’s perspective, it leads to a question about, “Why should we pay this much money to have Solomon visit, when for 15 bucks we can just buy his book on Amazon, then read it and maybe discuss it among ourselves, no Solomon needed?”
This is what every prospective workshop client should ask. It’s what I would ask if I were the one in the market for a workshop.
As I thought about this, I was reminded of a trip to see the San Francisco Giants play my hometown Philadelphia Phillies when the team visits. I realize how much I had to pay for tickets, and how much time it would take to go up and back to the ballpark, when I surely didn’t need to do either. I could watch the game on television, record or stream it, and certainly read about it afterwards in the papers. Yet I am the first to admit I get pretty excited about seeing the game live.
So why do people attend concerts when they can download the music or stream video on YouTube? Why do they pay way too much money to catch a live performance on Broadway? Why do people attend conferences to hear people speak?
There is something galvanizing, almost electric, about live performance, and, in a modest way, that’s what I try to replicate in my workshops. Needless to say, I want people read The Art of Client Service; I didn’t write it to make money (I haven’t), or to become famous (I’m not); I wrote it simply to be helpful. That said, reading or even discussing a book doesn’t come close to matching what live learning means in terms of professional growth.
Late last year I actually wrote a blog post that touches on this, called, “Am I any good at this?” Shortly after the post went live, I heard from one of my readers, someone who had attended the workshop:
“In your latest post you questioned whether or not you did a good job. Well, around here they’re still talking about your visit; you were amazing.”
I always am more than willing to conduct a workshop session via Zoom — something I’ve done frequently as a consequence of Covid — but there is something almost magical participating in an in-person session with someone who brings a bit of perspective, a dose of wisdom, and a wealth of learned experience to share with those assembled.
Zoom or in-person, this is what I strive for in every presentation I conduct. And it’s why I continue to believe the benefit you receive from it more than justifies the money you put into it.