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December 5, 2008

Do you stand out in a roomful of chatter?

I have posted before about the evolution of communication. We saw the telegram and the telephone, all one-to-one mediums, grow into Television and email. Conversation evolved from one-to-one, to include one-to-many.

Recently we seem to have crossed the latest threshold. Twitter and Blogs in particular have given us the ability to speak many-to-many.

LinkedIN, FaceBook and MySpace (which I still have never seen) are allowing us to connect multiple people with multiple other people. All simultaneously.

The Twitter conversation on election day was probably the largest single themed conversation in the history of humanity. The explosion of information during the Mumbai terrorist attacks is still being analyzed. 

This is happening so fast that we are still trying to find meaning in it. How will it change our world, how will we communicate in a years time, and where is this all taking us?

An Internet filled with millions of channels, all clamoring and clawing at our attention, on every issue ranging from breaking news, through to opinions on lunch places, through to shoes. 

Even if you are not online a lot you cannot help but be butressed by continual streams of information out of the virtual world and into the real world as the two merge. 


How can we benefit from this? How can we get our voices heard over a room of chattering people? I have been wondering this for a while now, and there doesn't seem to be any clear answers.

Even in a room filled with chatter there are some voices that are clearer than the others. Some voices that stand out and call your attention no matter what else is going on.

It could be because of what they said, but more likely it will be because of who they are.

1) Don't be ordinary! Ordinary is background noise in a room filled with chatter. You must be extra-ordinary to get through the fog.

Extra-ordinary means you are offering something that is fresh, a different view, something that people are n't thinking of and something that offers them immediate value in some way.

I run a once monthly teleconference for some of my clients. In my field, at this time, this is extra-ordinary. people talk about it, we get a lot of subscribers every single month, and they email uis to tell us how much they enjoyed it.

2) Their isn't an online world and an off-line world, just a world. Everyone is obsessed about the online world, often to the exclusion of the off line world. How did I get the monthly teleconference going? I called people on the telephone. (Strange thing, you have to talk in it rather than type. I wonder if it will catch on)

You get work through referrals, through networking, and through cold calls. (Or just calls) These aren't online activities. At least not exclusively. People want to meet you, they want to be in contact with you, and to put a face and a body to a name.

3) Join the conversation. You are not going to benefit from many-to-many conversations if you continue to try to speak to them one-to-many. Don't just lob your posts into Twitter, answer theirs, answer their issues, throw in useful links, and try to deliver that "just helped somebody" feeling with every tweet.

Don't be the guy shouting on the soapbox who everyone walks past hoping not to catch his attention. be the guy working the crowd talking to everyone and making connections.

Get onto Twitter, use, check out, get LinkedIn and investigate FriendFeed. (I have no idea what FriendFeed is by the way)

If you are going to have a conversation with somebody, then you at least need to be nearby.

4) Be trust-worthy. Being worthy of somebodies trust is actually not that difficult. If we put the issue of capabilities aside, then most of it stems from your sincerity and authenticity.

If I don't know you, then don't send me a one line email saying you want to connect with me on LinkedIn. Why should I give you access to my network?

If I follow you don't send me a "gift" in your answer message.

If we aren't friends, and have no real reason to be friends, then don't try to friend me on Facebook.

Why? Because all of these are inauthentic. All of these actions show that you want me as a number, a statistic, that you are hoping to leverage my network for your own financial ends. And that your interest in me is nearing zero.

It doesn't take much to spark up a conversation. It takes very little to see if there is any common ground. And in the cyber-networked world where information is king, it often takes very little for you to help me out in some way.

It is very tempting to go over to the dark side. To start wildly growing a network of millions of unrelated people. But my experience has been that one connection made through authentic attitudes and sincere intentions, is worth 20 made through random links and follows.

5) Be interesting. Again, boring is background noise. people don't re-tweet boring messages. They don't tell their friends about them, and they don't share the links, or conversations, with others.

Are you interesting? Are you up to date with current events and specific issues relating to the world at large? Are you well read? Do you remember the last time you read anything that wasn't business related? Are you informed on a wide range of issues or just those relating to your narrow area of focus?

Being interesting is also about authenticity and sincerity. I could feign knowledge about the economic woes of the Detroit car makers, but it would be transparently obvious that I knew very little to nothing...but I could tell you what I saw Michael Moore say on Countdown yesterday...

The world is filling up with noise so fast it is almost unbearable. As many-to-many conversations multiply and give way to yet more complex forms of communication, you need to star thinking of ways to be the voice that stands out in the crowd.