Will we really apply the learning globally?

There's no argument that the tragedy in the USA has touched the hearts and minds of millions around the world. And with Obama in charge, he has been able to capture the sentiment exactly right with the right words and hopefully the right subsequent actions. This is a lesson for us all on many levels and the following question also came up in my head.

20121218-202405.jpg The gunman killed many innocent victims and don't we as nations also kill many more innocent victims around the world every single day? If there was ever a lesson, surely it must be about the death and destruction that the human race engages in? I just hope we can learn from this and apply the learning not only within US gun laws but also around the world at large. Killing humans has to stop by everyone, no exceptions, no exclusions.

When you light a candle this Christmas, may I suggest that we do it for ALL the innocent victims that have been killed by humans?

With Love and Gratitude,

Michael X

What does Ben want for Christmas?

Meet Ben…

Ben lives in Worcester, had a tough time with his girlfriend, who had his baby and a paternity test confirms he's the father (OK so that's his story), but she'd rather go back to her ex boyfriend claiming that he's the father, so kicks Ben out. His now ex girlfriend is back with her ex, who does drugs and now she can go back to drugs too. Wondering what kind of life that baby will have? Ben in the meantime loses his job, loses his car and now has to go on a waiting list for a hostel, as its already full.

If he raises enough money, he may be able to get into a B&B for £25 per night, but only if he's really lucky. So far everyone is passing him by and not paying any attention to him, because they're busy buying Christmas presents for their families and rushing through the crowds, snarling at anyone who gets in the way. Ben reckons it will be the cardboard tonight, which he stores behind the yellow grit bin. That's his bed, the pavement is his home, his desk, his kitchen, his front room, the bathroom, oh I forgot to say his hands and fingers have this black and dirty appearance, you know the ones that look like they've really not seen water for a few weeks.

So I share a few pennies and wish him luck, walking away with my shopping bags and wondering and wishing if Ben will ever get that warm bed tonight or whether he will be under his cardboard bed sheltering from the cold.

If you are visiting the Worcester shops, look out for Ben, you'll only miss him if you are rushing selfishly around the shops, thinking only of the presents you still have to buy.

I know Ben isn't alone, there are many others. Happy Christmas Prime Minister!

The PC is dead, long live the iPad

I've had a life long ambition to operate in a paperless office. And my ambition has finally become a reality. My career using computers covers a short 30 years. But they were never able to deliver a truly paperless office for me. I still had to sort through mountains of paperwork in addition to using computers.

But as this decade can now officially be named the ’decade of mobile computing’, it means that I am able to declare my office ’virtually’ paperless.

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The only paper I still receive are a few bills and of course receipts from shopping.

And now that every large tech company is moving towards tablet computing, it's probably highly likely that they will increasingly dominate our personal and business lives.

For me it's the one tech product I've been waiting for all my career.

And you will probably gasp now when I say that I can't remember the last time I wrote down notes with my pen!

I just don't need to anymore. I do remember the days when I had to take written notes to only transfer these to my computer.

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Now I use mind map software on my iPad and take brief notes to jog my memory of the meeting, which can be typed up if needed, in my writer software. But very often I will send a mind map of the meeting and most people are delighted because its on one piece of paper and a fast summary, nobody has time these days to read even one page of notes, let alone 2 or 3.

If you haven't tried it yet or are sitting on the fence, I highly recommend that you explore what it can do for your personal and business lives.

Typing this article on my iPad, whilst Clair is watching ’strictly come dancing’, would have been unthinkable a few years ago. I don't have a laptop, but even if I did, it would have drawn so much attention to what I was doing by bringing out the laptop. The typing would have been noisy and having the screen open a distraction to anyone else in the room too.

And if I do need to watch some training videos on youtube or watch another TV channel, I can just open up the catch-up channels apps and stick my headphones on!

Try it out!

Success!

Are You Killing the Sale?

Guest blog by John Rees, sales and marketing consultant, mentor and creator of the Holistic Sale model of business development. You’ve read the book, seen the video and maybe even have the T-shirt so you know how the story goes … “This is Sales 2.0. and we will build momentum by using Social Media, Sales Automation and CRM to reduce the cost of sale and improve sales productivity.” This sounds great in theory and some businesses think the technology can and should take over. I don’t.

This approach may work well when selling to consumers, but selling in the business (or B2B) space is different, because trust and credibility are even more important. The strength of a story and the way you tell it, plus an ability to build a relationship can best be achieved by direct human contact. This can, of course use technology called a telephone or a video conference call. Face to face is not always possible, but it is still the best way to connect with others.

We all know that automation is excellent at making mundane tasks more efficient, but some businesses have taken this to extremes. They have lost that human touch. And it’s getting more complicated as Sales Automation and CRM systems connect with Social Media platforms to build automatic sales engagement models. Maybe the aspiration is to do business without having to make a sales call, give a presentation or even shake someone’s hand!

Many businesses use systems to ‘process’ potential buyers. They send predetermined emails at certain stages based on the actions people take. They only actually make contact with those who jump over enough hurdles at the right time to warrant a call from a human being.

The real danger in all this is that while you wait for the buyer to reach a certain stage of ‘sales readiness’ the opportunity may have passed. Either they are fed up with receiving obviously system generated emails, or a competitor beats you to the punch and has already engaged them in conversation.

Evidence shows that this automated approach is becoming less effective. According to recent findings, trust in online content including blogs and tweets is plummeting fast. Marketing-speak is widely used and most platforms have now become bloated advertising channels. It’s easier than ever to build a following of thousands on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook, but what does this prove? Is this an endorsement of the quality of your brand, or evidence that you know how to use Social Media to maximise your exposure?

I’m not a Luddite though because I’ve spent all my working life in the technology space, so I know how it helps people become more efficient. The problem arises when it’s used as a replacement for human interaction and this is happening more and more.

During my career, I’ve used various sales processes that were far too complicated and convoluted. The emphasis was on ‘strategic selling’ by building power maps, identifying buying personas and preference grids and looking for blind spots and red flags. Many processes have now been automated and systems tell salespeople when they should actually call someone. It sounds crazy and it would be funny if it wasn’t true.

I’m not saying you don’t need a sales strategy because you do, but it should be as simple as possible. While some businesses spend far too much time strategising and waiting for the system to tell them the time is right, others are seizing the initiative and actually talking with people.

Let’s be very clear here, the ability to build trust, inspire confidence and develop deep and meaningful relationships can never be achieved by a sales process or a piece of software. People will always make the difference.

Social Media and automation definitely does have a place in business because it enables us to connect with many people at the same time. It’s excellent at building a profile and sharing ideas, but don’t rely on it as your primary means of sales communication. Don’t allow it to dictate how and when you engage with people. Use it to share your big ideas and attract attention and when someone shows interest, call them and start a conversation. That’s where you make a connection and that’s where the selling starts.

John Rees is a sales and marketing consultant and mentor, who specialises in helping businesses who either want to bring a new idea to market or build momentum with an existing one. 

During his career he had sales and marketing roles in the Information Technology sector across Europe, India and North America. He worked with global technology leaders and start-ups who defined new market sectors.

He sold mainframes and minicomputers and witnessed the explosion of new markets created by the development of software application packages.

During recent years he worked with fast growth companies, start-ups and spin-outs and established businesses in many industry sectors. He learned a lot about how to succeed in business, and that’s why he created the Holistic Sale model of business development. This defines world-class ideas that can be used to simplify processes, create a compelling sales story, build a vibrant network of sales opportunities and improve sales performance.

Have you noticed the LinkedIn changes yet?

LinkedIn are gradually changing their look and feel and its not just the way the website will look, see Barack Obama's new profile below, which showcases what all our profiles will move to hopefully very soon!  To request an invite for the new profile go to http://www.linkedin.com/profile/about

Today, I also noticed that they've changed the email layout, which confirms a new connection with the same look and feel.

And furthermore a notification email, showing posts that people have liked and commented on, in a neat summary format.

And the notification email letting you know who endorsed your skills on your profile.

No doubt there will be more changes on the way, like group discussion notifications via email.  LinkedIn's changes in look and feel are very welcome and will significantly differentiate them from other competing social business networks.

Have you ever stood up for something?

I am sure you have.  I found myself angry when I saw a notice in the local paper that the council (Wyre Forest DC) was increasing the car park charges in my local area. Wyre Forest Carpark Charges Increases Table

So I decided to write a letter to the local paper, see below. They actually ran the story on their website on the 17th September, but published the letter in the paper on the 27th September.

Please sign the petition now:

https://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/stop-carpark-charge-increase-in-wyre-forest

Car park charge increase - a very silly approach to regeneration (From Kidderminster Shuttle) 17th September 2012

 

I also reviewed their financial strategy document and noticed their strategy for increasing car park charges. Note that car parks are deemed as low risk and high impact in their risk matrix shown in this document. It also shows that the increase in car park charges will deliver an extra £35k in 2012/13 and £70k in 2013/14.

Also have a look at their Wyre Forest Forward document and note the council's aims. It is commendable especially the statement "help me with my financial situation". Obviously someone forgot to look at this chart when increasing the car park charges.

Wyre Forest DC - Financial Strategy 2012:15 | Carparking Extracts Summary

I had requested under the 'freedom of information act', the actual financial data on the income and expenditure for the car parks and was astounded on how much money they actually make from the car parks.

£1,000,000 from car parks alone and a total of 1,400,000 of income, delivering £500,000 of profit for the council.

Click the link below to read the data for yourself.

Wyre Forest DC | Carparks Income and costs 2009 to 2012 - Oct 16th 2012

 

Please sign the petition now:

https://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/stop-carpark-charge-increase-in-wyre-forest

Thank you for your support to get these increases overturned.

Michael

Are You Supporting Your Local Economy?

If you believe the journalists, you'll be cutting your expenses right now, if you believe the politicians, ah forget that one, I know you don't, lets try that again, if you believe the IMF (International Monetary Fund), then like most of us, you'll be apprehensive of economic recovery any time soon. I know, I know there are always exceptions, but in the main, most people are worried, anxious and cutting back.

Now what does that do for the local economy? You're right, it slowly and gradually kills it. Why? You and me start looking for discounts, bargains, 2 for 1, petrol vouchers etc etc. And because only the giants are able to provide these deals, we're all flocking to them, so they don't really feel the pinch that we're feeling right?

But let me ask you another question! Who would you rather support? The small business on the high street (charities excluded) or the giant supermarket and massive retail chains?

I thought so, cue OnlyUncle.com. I only became aware of OnlyUncle.com a few weeks ago, when I connected with Paul DeCouto, their business development manager.

I became curious because I watched this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r13IdnBEaIo

I became even more interested when I read their Manifesto and after signing it and showing my support, I asked to meet the founder Vinny Hira.

He explained to me how this was a project 24 months in the making, how he has a vision to reignite the local economy by getting local shoppers to support local business and by being a conduit for this.

And how's it done? Very simply by providing a “deals” site for small businesses;

  1. businesses can post their own deals
  2. for as long as they like
  3. with their own terms and conditions
  4. their own social media sharing options
  5. have their own consumer fans
  6. have a profile with images, videos, payment terms, hours of operation etc
  7. a series of tag words that allows for fast discovery and SEO

And the best part of all of this, is that OnlyUncle takes zero commission, not a penny, all the profit stays with the business.

Of course there is a cost but it's tiny compared to what you get. What do you reckon the value of this would be to a small business?

I reckon the value to a small business would be in the region of £250 - £500 per annum as a minimum and some small business owners have even suggested it might be as high as £1,000!

Well, Vinny, Paul and the team at OnlyUncle.com have decided to launch the service for just a tiny, very tiny £29.99 per annum. Watch Steve explain the deal;

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7QlRwTgdjGQ

That's a ridiculous price and well actually that's for free then! Because I can make that money back on just one deal and generating some extra sales in the process. The fact that I don't need to share any revenue with them means its a no-brainer, not just for me, but also for the millions of other small business owners out there.

The moral of this story is more than just getting a cheap website for putting your deals on.

The purpose is to get all of us to consider small businesses in our local economies and start supporting them.

How can you support?

  1. Sign the OnlyUncle.com manifesto pledging your support
  2. Sign up as a consumer on OnlyUncle.com
  3. And if you are a business owner, sign up for the 15-day trial with them and try it out. You could even make the £29.99 in 15-days to pay for the subscription.
  4. Spread the word to others. And yes you could earn through that too. Sign-up to become a referral partner and earn £10 for every business you refer. And if you're a business owner and introduce just three businesses, you could get your subs for free that way.

And why am I sharing all this with you? I've decided I want to support the local economy regeneration as well and I am assisting Vinny and Paul by making that happen and doing my bit. And besides I like the Uncle character too!

Let's do this together!

Success!

Are You Collaborating yet?

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Tech companies are investing heavily in ’Social’. You have to ask yourself one major question; Why?

You like most of us are already wired into ’Social’. And Tech companies know that the next big thing for corporates is ’Social Collaboration’. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_collaboration

After TQM, Six Sigma, Lean and many other management process improvement practices, they have all tried to achieve one thing; ’Social Collaboration’ and never really succeeded, because they created too many meetings and actually reduced productivity, the very opposite of why these practices were actually invented.

Now that you and I are wired into Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and many more social networks, corporates are delighted that those networks have managed to train you and me in the art of being virtually social. You and I have become comfortable in using these networks, happy to share personal and professional information publicly, plus sharing what we learn in our day to day lives, including recommendations for goods and services.

So now that we have been trained to do this, the natural extension of this is to bring ’Social’ into the organisation. Some have already started with patchy success, but the smarter executives realise that in order to capture the knowledge contained in employees heads and get true collaboration started, they will have to, without fail, invest in a corporate social network. By the way women understand this instinctively and men have to work at it much harder.

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A Corporate Social Network, doesn't only connect employees with each other across departments, countries and continents, it will save them billions in travel costs, training programs and on-boarding (induction).

Corporates are a bit slow in the execution of this, because all they have been focussed on was things like, ’if we open Facebook and Twitter to employees, then no work will get done’, instead of saying how can we get those type of networks replicated inside of our business?

So major global tech companies, like Microsoft, IBM, Google etc., have all invested in social network start-ups to add to their portfolio of products allowing corporates to implement these networks seamlessly with existing software.

You might be a small business reading this and thinking, that's great for larger corporates, but what about me as a start-up, a home office or a group of entrepreneurs, how do we do this?

Well the time has come for small business to collaborate with others. In order to compete with the larger corporates it's absolutely essential that we embrace ’social’ as well.

You are already ’wired-in’ to LinkedIn, so now it's time for you to maximise your activity there and start collaborating in order to grow your business footprint.

Ask me how and I will be delighted to collaborate on something with you.

Success!

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Are You Interested in Cost Saving Tips?

Are you a Consumer and also in Business? Then you will be interested in knowing how I have found some excellent suppliers, delivering some excellent savings.

Whenever I research a supplier I evaluate not just the cost but also the customer service ethos, including how they have dealt with my complaints. I am not really convinced that UK suppliers know how to deal properly with complaints, so I will just say that all of them have been satisfactory on that front, apart from one who has been truly outstanding. And yes I do have very high standards when it comes to dealing with customer complaints. I think it comes from my many years in the Textiles Industry and my training within it, which means I am very critical when it comes to receiving customer service, especially when you are connected to foreign call centres, and are given the runaround.

Anyway let's get on with it;

Supplier no.1 is Plusnet

They are a telecoms and broadband company, supplying landline rental, calls and broadband. For the purpose of this article, I am only going to discuss the broadband.

BT have recently upgraded broadband services in the area where I live (Wyre Forest, Worcestershire) and have installed fibre to the green boxes on street corners. It's still copper from there to the house, so it's not cable like Virgin. I have kept looking out for fibre for a while and when I got confirmation that I could get it, I went for it.

So I have fibre broadband for the home/business at £19.99 per month, delivering 55mb download and 18mb upload with an allowance of a massive 250gb per month. This doesn't only satisfy my personal and business requirements, it copes with everyone in the household as well, including accessing internet with iPlayer through the TV, all my video education and my business requirement to upload a lot of videos quickly.

Plusnet are actually owned by BT and only use the BT network. Therefore any upgrades that BT make Plusnet will immediately benefit from this.

If I introduce customers, I can get discounts, so if you are interested, please follow this link.

Click here for information on Plusnet products.

Supplier no.2 is GiffGaff

GiffGaff are a mobile network and run by it's customers, an interesting concept, so as far as I know there are no call centres, but an excellent forum to post questions and interaction via the web with agents.

Freedom from the contract lock-in, when you buy a sim only agreement with a monthly top-up. Your phone does need to be unlocked. So this is what I went through.

I was with T-Mobile, who I haven't had major issues with, but I have just found them too expensive an not very forthcoming with deals. I have been with them for many years and loyalty counts really for nothing when you are in a lock-in contract with a mobile phone company.

  1. I requested T-Mobile to unlock my phone.
  2. I ordered a sim from GiffGaff.
  3. Phone was unlocked, which did take far too long with T-Mobile (30 days and it should only take 10-28 days and costs £15)
  4. I gave T-Mobile also 30 days notice and requested a PAC code, which they gave me straight away.
  5. I activated the SIM online with GiffGaff.
  6. I synched my iPhone with iTunes, plus changed some other settings, which GiffGaff sent via text, which was for MMS settings, although you can do those manually very easily.
  7. I gave GiffGaff via their website the PAC code and when I wanted my number ported across.
  8. They moved my number across on the day I requested and job done.

GiffGaff runs on the O2 network and I know you'll all be thinking, well that went down, but as you will agree that doesn't happen very often, well part from blackberry that is, oops!

Anyway the package I have got with them is just £10 per month, with 250 minutes, unlimited data and unlimited texts, which is a bargain!

If I introduce customers, they get some discount upfront and I can earn points too for discount.

Click here for information on GiffGaff.

Supplier no.3 is 1&1 Internet

1&1 are a hosting company, who provides hosting for my wordpress website, plus domains.

There is not a huge amount to say really apart from the fact that it's easy to use, great support and I mean great support and very good prices.

I also use them for my email against my own domain name and because I use and iPhone, iPad and Mac and they support IMAP for my emails (Internet Message Access Protocol), which means wherever I read my email or delete, its instantly updated on all my devices, which is brilliant.

Same with them, if I introduce customers, I can earn some discount on what I pay.

Click here for more information on 1&1 Internet.

It's really interesting how these companies are very clever in suggesting introductions to others and thereby getting some discounts.  With the advent of Social Media, this is really easy to do, as people like to investigate personal recommendations, as supposed to having to investigate from scratch.

I hope you check them all out and receive the same support and savings I have been able to achieve with these companies. Let me know how you get on!

Success!

Have You Complained Recently?

We don't like complaining much in Britain, it's not the done thing, we prefer to moan about a company or a service we have received to each other, but not actually go to the company and complain and request compensation. Let me share with you three examples that it pays to complain. And...in this current economic climate and the existence of social media means most companies are now well aware what can happen with negative comments, they can go viral and it will most certainly hit them where it hurts. 20120820-210806.jpg

Example number one is Tesco Insurance. 12 months ago I needed to find a new car insurance policy and as we are Tesco shoppers, we have a club card and like to earn points too. So we found Tesco compare and were delighted that not only did we find an affordable policy, they were throwing in club card points and a free MOT. Excellent just what I needed. Except the MOT voucher never arrived and when queried, they needed my proof of no claim bonus before they could send it. So I did this, but still no voucher, chased them again and then completely forgot about it until...now!

I need to get my car MOT'd and so called them 3 weeks ago where they apologized for not sending it and it would arrive in less than 10 days. But it didn't arrive...so I called again and after some investigation and to my horror the answer was...you don't qualify for the voucher...what???

Allegedly I came via an aggregator and not direct via their site, so I didn't qualify. BUT the aggregator was a Tesco site!!! Yes but it's not run by them...well tough!!! I demanded to speak to someone else, who completely understood my feeling and after a further debate, agreed to send me a £50 voucher. Great that will cover the MOT adequately.

UPDATE: And here is the gift card, which arrived in the post!

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Example number two is T-mobile. I am in the process of leaving them and need my phone to be unlocked in order to move to another network. I requested this to be actioned on the 12th July and the promise is 10-28 days, which has now passed. After several calls to UK and Philippines service staff they agreed that it should have been done by now. I also had to pay £15.32 for the privilege of them sending and email to apple, to get the phone unlocked. Anyway finally they agreed to compensate me and added £15 to my account.

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Example number three is South West Water. I was on holiday in Cornwall and doing some cycling on the road. A South West Water van nearly knocked me off my bike and I sent a message via their website to complain.

And here's their response;

Dear Mr De Groot

Thank you for your email received on the 8 August regarding dangerous driving by a South West Water employee on the A3074 between Lelant and Longston, I am sorry you have had to contact us about this matter but I am pleased to have this opportunity to reply to you. In keeping with South West Water’s correspondence policy, I have attached to this reply, copies of our Complaints and Compliments and Customer Promise Leaflets, which offer information about the level of customer service we aim to provide.

I tried to speak with you today and I do hope you received the answer phone message I left. I would like to apologise on behalf of South West Water (SWW) that you experienced dangerous driving and appreciate you taking the time to inform us. I would like to assure you we take these matters very seriously and have strict policies on how we expect our workforce to behave whilst they undertake their work.

Our Transport Department has investigated this further using the sophisticated measures we have in place which allows us to monitor all our vehicles movements and the manner they are being driven, the van in question has been successfully identified and we have provided feedback to the Manager responsible for these employees.

The employees have been made aware that a complaint has been made towards them and have been reminded about how they should conduct themselves in the future. We have highlighted they should always be vigilant for cyclists on the road and to drive in a safe and responsible manner at all times.

I trust my reply has been helpful. If you require any further advice on this matter, please call me. For all general enquiries, please call our free Helpline on 0800 169 1144.

Yours sincerely

Henry

Customer Manager

I was delighted to receive this response from them.

So my message to you is that complaining does deliver results and often in favourable ways, plus you may even change the world a little bit too.

Success!

Are you spending enough time on LinkedIn?

LinkedIn, is getting more exposure, more prominence for business, headhunters and jobseekers. It's been the dark horse in the race for popularity and it's not there yet and has its issues. Company profiles, are still quite basic, but that will change in the future for sure. Network statistics appears not to be working and hasn't been for quite some months or maybe even years when you see the posts on google.

But they are catching up on all other aspects. Their Facebook style newsfeed, is looking better, the fact that they stopped you from posting via twitter into LinkedIn, means they are driving you to post in LinkedIn first and allowing those to go to Twitter instead.

Initially I balked at this change, but now I can see the potential of it being one way only.

For most business people having a business type relationship, means they prefer to stay away from Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and other such personal consumer type sites.

By posting your updates via LinkedIn, means they can still go to your twitter account if you wish. The great thing is all your personal comments won't now pollute your LinkedIn account.

The trick now is to plan what you wish to post on LinkedIn. The best marketeers have an editorial calendar, planning what they are going to post and when. Allowing for seasonal effects, major events and company announcements, blogs and testimonials.

The recommendation is to post at least once per day, and these posts can be via your business page on LinkedIn or your personal profile. Oh yes the morning is the best time, as you will catch the commuters who are looking at content on their mobile devices.

The beauty of the business page, means you can assign admin rights to colleagues, which means you're not the only one posting content.

Content remains 'King', so be careful on choosing what you post. some guidelines on content type: Your own unique content; blogs, video, interviews, webinars, events, white papers 3rd Party content; industry news, expert third party research, news coverage of your company Sourced; customers, strategic partners, guest posts, linkedin polls, cross posts from linkedin groups, product tests, testimonials

Success with your LinkedIn journey and oh yes, please, please, please put a decent photograph of you on your profile!

What is stopping YOU?

I probably speak to people daily about the power of video and how this is such an important area for businesses to invest in. In fact I have been on about this since 2004, even before the birth and rise of YouTube and yes I was way ahead of my time, even if I say that myself. How right I was, if only I had invested more time and effort, I could have been an Internet billionaire by now. Oh well there's still time! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BRC16SEJMmc

And whenever I mention it, they agree, they wax lyrical about YouTube and how they have found stuff on there, which was really useful and how they learned so much from it. Or how they saw this really funny video about a cat and a dog!!

So why is it then that YOU aren't doing it yourself?? I even remember (ok so I am getting on a bit) when websites first started emerging, those horrible American sites with the textured backgrounds, companies were saying that it wouldn't take off and that people wanted to be able to feel something tangible, a brochure or a leaflet, is what they needed. The same people who said that email would never take off, because people wanted a physical letter, and I bet they also said that photography was wrong online and that there was nothing better than having a printed photo, to put into a physical album. You have heard it all before I know you have...

Could these dinosaurs also be the ones who said that social media was for kids and for sharing what you had for breakfast and how they didn't get it? Actually a lot of them are still saying that even now. Yep they certainly are! Ah I nearly forgot of course they also said that music could only be listened to via a physical product like a record or CD, yes even a CD was hard to swallow but they had to give in on that one, because the quality was better.

Back to Video then, let me share an infographic with you. Whether you believe it or not there are a few things I am sure you will accept.

Watching video is fast, you probably watch an average of 5 hours each day, whether through the TV, DVD's and online.

You get what's said in a video very fast, much faster then via the written word.

Most of your senses are engaged with Video, eyes, ears, feeling or VAK as the experts call it Visual, Auditory and Kinesthetic. Yes indeed these senses make you remember so much more from watching video. That's why 'the movies' are still so successful because they know how to get you to get a full sensory experience, which makes you want to come back for more and no I am not talking about the popcorn and coke!

Broadband speeds are getting faster and the roll out of fibre across the UK means soon everyone will enjoy over 30mb download speeds and even more over the next few years.

This means the likes of Netflix, Apple, Amazon and many more will see their video download services explode, in the same way music downloads did. And yes there will be the dinosaurs that say that copyright, piracy will be an issue and since when has that stopped anyone?

My appeal to you then is to get engaged with video, whether it's to promote your business, educate your colleagues or communicate to your staff.

JUST DO IT!!

Is Facebook the new Apple?

Well Facebook have done it. They have silenced the naysayers, the doubters, the fund managers who are still smarting about the dotcom collapse, the users who curse Facebook every day for making changes to the user interface without any regard for them, and the app creators who rely on their business fortunes and hoping for the continued growth of Facebook.

Facebook went public and made billions. Yes indeed someone wrote a cheque to buy loads of shares to make the owners very very rich indeed. (and Priscilla Chan is a very happy girl too!)

If you are reading this then it's an 85% certainty that you have a Facebook account. You may only have one to spy on your kids and then again, you may well be using it to stay in touch with "friends".

How many "friends" do you have? The average suggests you have somewhere in between 100 to 190 based on Facebooks's own research back in November 2011. http://www.facebook.com/notes/facebook-data-team/anatomy-of-facebook/10150388519243859

And of those you probably only interact with a maximum of 6 and of those there are probably only 3 that you have a regular conversation with.

Facebook's growth has been phenomenal and unprecedented and there is no sign of it letting up. The power of personal recommendation has just got a 'whole lot' more important with their IPO.

The other day I was reading my newsfeed when I spotted this amazing image of cookies. Yes cookies! And someone had posted a thank you to the 'Campervan Cookies Co.' (http://www.facebook.com/CampervanCookiesCo) for making a great box of cookies for their client. And I loved them (well the look of them), the only thing was the company who had posted the thank you had actually forgotten to put their Facebook business page, so I had to ask for it and of course they obliged, so that I was able to find their page and like them.

So within in the space of a few seconds I was able to connect with a company I had never heard of, didn't even know existed, was so impressed with the recommendation that I was motivated to go and like their page, actually without even having tried the product!

So what do you think? Are you a business owner, consumer, student, charity or parent? Does the fact that Facebook went public affect the way that you will use the service?

Do you feel that you are going to be bombarded by adverts some time soon and will that turn you off?

Are you fed up of the amount of changes they make to the user interface every 6 months?

I would love to hear your views. So feel free to post them in the comments or if you fancy doing this inside Facebook, please go to http://www.facebook.com/stayingaliveuk

I look forward to hearing from you soon!

Raise your glasses to Facebook and say Cheers!!

Are your presentations 'Social' yet?

Whenever I attend a presentation where the presenter uses PowerPoint, I cringe and my brain goes to sleep. . . for about an hour or however long the presentation takes.

I then look forward to the Q&A section, providing the presenter has planned it in, because believe it or not some don't even bother and believe that their mission is just to give their message and that's it!

Because it's during the Q&A section that I get engaged and my brain wakes up. Up until that moment I have to listen to the presenter, who is of course very passionate about their subject matter but only has their own interest at heart. I am just a 'listening victim'.

But we also know unless you get your audience involved, they will forget 50% of the presentation within 1 hour and 80% within a month. Research by Ebbinghaus back in 1885 proved that point. In fact I reckon we forget 80% within 48 hours, unless we get engaged with it again in that period of time. OK maybe a bit harsh, we may remember the general gist of it but very little of the details. And forget about reading the PowerPoint afterwards, as very rarely people do.

We all know the saying 'Death by PowerPoint', so why do we still do it? There is no better solution I hear you cry!

Yes there is and it's called you and your ability to engage your audience.

I am on a mission to move presenters towards a 'Social Presentation'.

3 very simple steps to become a 'Social Presenter'

  1. Create a short video maximum 3 minutes, to get your point across and what you wish your audience to think about. Play that video at the start of your talk. In fact it is your only presentation. Yes that's it, nothing else to present!
  2. Ask your audience to ask questions or make observations on the video and engage with you. This is your opportunity to shine, don't hide behind your PowerPoint presentation. Your job is to get your audience to remember you and your subject matter, by discussing it with them.
  3. Ask your audience also to talk to each other and share stories, experiences and what the subject that is being presented means to them personally. This allows them to engage even further with your subject and now they are living it in a personal way. Makes sense right?

Here are a few examples of different Video presentations that have been created to facilitate 'Social Learning'.

The first one is by iBDM, who are taking their first step into video.  Please read their blog on the same subject matter via http://www.i-bdm.co.uk/category/blog/

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_LTRINAVtSs

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=inlGqewZtYk

Often sales people have to present a pitch to prospects and equally often they all have different styles, some good some bad, some have success and others don't.

It doesn't mean they are poor sales people, they are just not good at doing a memorable pitch. Having a video to play as part of your pitch, allows the client to grasp your proposal in a few minutes and now you can spend the rest of the meeting understanding the client's needs and requirements, instead of taking up the whole meeting presenting and being left with just a few minutes at the end trying to scramble to get some information out of them and then leaving demotivated and wondering why you didn't get the business.

So whether it's a presentation to a large audience or a sales pitch one on one, ditch the PowerPoint and move towards Video.

You know it makes sense, so have a go and witness the results.

Success!!

Re-Igniting my 'Juicy' Lifestyle!

I discovered the benefits of juicing back in 2004, when I attended Anthony Robbins Health Mastery event in Vieques, which is off the coast of Puerto Rico, it changed my life completely and I started juicing as soon as I got back home. This is 8 years ago. Following that I lost 44 pounds and I felt amazing. My weight has been an issue for me since I was 7 years old. My eldest brother Steven used to make fun of me and told me I looked like a 'Biafran'. These were the kids in Nigeria that were dying from famine in the mid 1960's, during the Nigerian Civil War and we saw photographs regularly on TV and in the press of starving children with huge distended stomachs from protein deficiency, which horrified people around the world.

Here's a photo of me when I was that younger skinny child!  I thought I looked healthy, what do you think?

Now, I am not blaming my brother, because I am the only one responsible for my decisions and what followed was, what I can now regard, as an 'eating disorder' and my addiction with sugar.

I slowly gathered extra kilos and didn't feel good about this, which made me eat more sugary sweets, to compensate for the feeling I had recognising that I was getting heavier and heavier (The Dutch are masters in liquorice and sweets and my Grandfather worked for the Dutch Sugar Company too!).

My Mum told me it was just 'Puppy-Fat' and that I shouldn't worry so much. I believed her although deep inside of me I realised that it wasn't going away.

Cut a long story short, I have struggled with my weight for decades and when I finally shifted the weight in 2004, I vowed that it would never ever happen again, but of course it did…

When I shared with people that I didn't 'do sugar' any longer and that I never wanted chocolate again, they told me not to be so silly and convinced me that I was taking too hard a stance with sugar and should relax a bit. So I did and that was a mistake!

You never tell an alcoholic that they should relax it a bit when they have stopped drinking, in fact we call them a recovering alcoholic and that's what they become for the rest of their lives. Well it's no different with sugar. In fact the issues that alcohol cause in the body, are virtually identical with sugar, see the image below.

Sugar (in the form of chocolate and sugary foods) entered my diet again and it slowly increased week on week, month on month, year on year. And in the past 3 years I have ensured I had my fair share of sugary foods on daily and regular basis.  Besides that most 'label foods' have added sugar to make you want to eat them even more!

I even stopped juicing, which had become part of my lifestyle for years and I was getting major regrets, which made it even worse.

And what's even more ridiculous, I studied this stuff. I am a trained Kinesiologist and I should know better! I also trained to be an exercise trainer in Psychocalisthenics, but gave it up, because I felt a fraud teaching people to exercise, when I was overweight myself.

So I started a new journey back in September 2011 to increase the amount of exercise and upped my cycling regime and I had great success, because I steadily increased my routes and kept adding mileage every week, accumulating 260 miles in a month and even more in October 2011.

But I hadn't changed my diet, so although I was getting fitter and my average heart rate was dropping, the weight wasn't shifting.

So the winter was upon us, my cycling slowed down, because of the weather and the food still hadn't changed. I did 'try' a couple of times to cut out sugary foods, but found it tough with two stepsons, who love sugary food and it's in the house. OK so I could have been disciplined and stop myself from eating it, but I just couldn't resist. Sugar has been an issue for me for over 45 years and the sugar terrorist within me demanded it!

Come January when everyone goes on a detox, weight loss and exercise regime of some kind, I did manage to get back on the bike again and managed 156 miles in the month. Not bad going I thought.  But the weight was still there!

I receive emails from Jason Vale 'The Juicemaster' and I saw that he was organising a worldwide juicefast in January. I didn't join it then and was disappointed that I hadn't. I know juicing works, because I have done it before in 2004/5. When I lost a massive 44 pounds, had a 32" waist, which I can't remember ever having in my adult life!  So why didn't I join in??

So I continued doing nothing about it.  No, it wasn't working, so when Jason Vale sent another email in April suggesting another worldwide event, this time it was called '14-day spring clean', I decided to join it.

I started on the 16th April and within a week lost 6.5 pounds, which I am delighted about. The most brilliant thing of juicing and following Jason's routine is that it stops all the cravings for sugary foods. Once you cut them out for 7 days (and as Jason says, we can all do something for 7 days), you just don't want them anymore. I can truly say that although the snacks, chocolate, donuts, crisps are everywhere around the kitchen for me to see, I just don't fancy them now and in fact, I know that I won't be going back there either, which is the best thing.

Furthermore the fact that this is a 14-day plan, means you are staying off these foods for even longer, reducing the cravings further, literally re-wiring your brain to say, I don't need those any longer in my life.

Here's my testimonial video for the 14-day spring clean.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PrtJeL5wEAI

I did it with alcohol back in 2004 and also with meat and I have never needed them again.

Now they say after 30 days whatever it is that you are doing, you will form a habit. So my decision was to continue on Jason Vale's 'Juice Yourself Slim' plan for an extra 16 days, which consists of juices during the day and soup in the evening.

I love the juices and soup has always been a favourite of mine, so I can't see that I will have an issue with it, in fact to be more positive, I will be very successful in doing it.

Of course I will be flexible, as I know I will have some business meetings to attend, which may include lunch, in which case I will just ensure I eat a salad or rice and vegetables. It's not rocket science is it, I just need to be sensible.

After an extra week after the 14-day plan, I was still on target, the weight loss continued and the soups were getting more varied and tastier. I have even begun making my own soup recipes. Making fresh soups is so delicious and healthy too. Jason talks about 'no label' foods and it makes so much sense.

I even found that I have more energy with my cycling, well I suppose you would have when you are roughly a stone lighter. I set myself a target to lose 10kgs or 22 pounds by the end of June. And I am already 60% there after just 3 weeks in early May, so I guess I need to revise my target to the end of May! At time of writing this, I have lost so far 16 pounds in just 3 weeks.  It really is amazing what you can achieve when your mind has decided to change forever!

Weight reduction chart in kgs.

Whilst doing this I also found some great videos to motivate me.

There is one by Robert Lustig, it's over and hour long but well worth it. Then the University of California also released a short series of videos by Robert Lustig. So I am sharing both of these with you here.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dBnniua6-oM

Some fascinating new research on the effects of sugar on the brain and how in the past 30 years we have managed to switch off the hormone leptin, which tells the brain that we are full. This phenomena has been caused by the amount of insulin that gets secreted when we over eat sugar. But watch the videos and that will explain all.

My clothes are getting looser on me and I can already visualise the fact that I will be wearing those smaller clothes which are in storage. Thankfully I held on to them knowing that one day again I would fit in them again. And I know I will very soon.

Jason talks about 'Freedom from the Diet Trap' and he's absolutely right. I know in myself that I haven't been free for years and that now I know that I am free.

Watch Jason's video here;

It's taken me decades to get to this point and then again I am a classical case of going through the 6 stages of change, where I managed to change back in 2004, but relapsed and went back to the start of the 6 stages of change and my sugar addiction. This has been well researched and below is the link to the article to give you more insight about it.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transtheoretical_model

Note: as with all these things, there are some criticisms on this, but you have to see if it makes sense and relates to you and certainly it relates to me perfectly.

I am pleased to say that I feel and know in myself that I have reached the final stage, which is described as;

'Individuals have zero temptation and they are sure they will not return to their old unhealthy habit as a way of coping'.

If you want to learn more on how to do this, please go to www.juicemaster.com and join the thousands of us that have become free from the 'diet trap'!

Success!

Have you Embraced 'Social Learning'?

The term 'Social Learning' in current days, doesn't mean the same as it did when Bandura did his experiments in the 60's. It encompasses a theory that individuals enjoy learning in a social context, when our learning is discussed and debated.

After all 'everyone has an opinion', and this means that we actually learn more about a topic, news story, event, training intervention, when we can reflect on it and interact with it.

Learning & Development (or training) at school and at work has and will continue to be the holy grail for all education professionals. We're always looking for better ways to engage students and drive a change in human behaviour.

Trouble is millions of $'s & £'s are spent every year to achieve these objectives. And it's so painful to see when the results don't match the spend.

Think about it. The world is at War somewhere in the world and always has been. Consider the economic conditions in most countries currently. If education, training and development works, we would not be in this state of flux. But really think about it. We as humans haven't evolved as much as we like to think. Our nature is closer to animal instinct then we give ourselves credit for.

If we are truly sophisticated and used more of our frontal lobe, which is the part that separates us from animals, then surely we wouldn't be carrying out wars, we wouldn't have an issue with CO2 emissions and global warming, the economies would be running smoothly.

Surely it would? Am I mad? I don't think so, I believe I am quite a rational kind of person, who can usually see both sides of the argument and yes I do see the best in most humans, because after all they should be educated, rational, intelligent and loving beings. And you also know that this isn't always true, but we have to start somewhere and I start with everyone's good until proven otherwise.

Anyway where is this leading us towards?

Oh yes, 'Social Learning'.

Consider the success of Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube and the latest kid on the block Pinterest.

What do they all have in common? Any idea?

Humans connecting with humans, that's the common thread through all of it. So why is this so important at this time in the world? It has allowed millions of us to have a voice, to discuss, comment and debate on news stories on major world events and on individual stories and their life events.

My theory and its only my theory and it makes perfect sense to me is as follows.

Remember the war? Which one you will say, because there have been so many.

Well let's just talk about World War II.

The War brought people closer, they looked out for each other and they knew more about each other's lives compared to any time in history. Well it's nearly 70 years since the ending of that major war and ever since then we as humans have drifted apart and have become more unconnected.

Social Networking is not an accident or a happy coincidence, it isn't either the creation of a Harvard University graduate or silicon valley's entrepreneurs. Their invention would never have worked if there wasn't the appetite for it.

The old saying ’people buy people first’ applies in social networks too, not just in business. We like to connect to like minded individuals or people that interest us and maybe we can learn something from them!

And yes we do like to learn, we are always learning, the brain collects millions of impressions every day, without us even realising it. If we don't learn we will die. As humans we have an inherent need to grow. But when we think about learning we think about, classrooms, teachers, exams, pressure, stress and recall many unpleasant memories.

We don't perceive consciously that reading tweets, Facebook posts, articles, blogs, watching YouTube videos as learning and of course it is, you are learning all the time.

The learning methodology of 70-20-10, is showing us that actually we learn 70% on the job or in our daily lives, 20% from our colleagues or family members or friends and 10% formally, so that's when we sit in a classroom, either at school or in the workplace.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gtdHZQ2VXhE

The development of social networks, will and is changing the world of learning forever. Millions of teachers and trainers are having to adopt these new technologies as part of their delivery methods.

This requires the teacher / trainer to become proficient in these new tools and get their own knowledge of these networks up to scratch. After all their students are using these to learn, so now we better embrace these too and make use of it.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2H4RkudFzlc#!

Those that do, will succeed in helping to change the landscape of learning for themselves and students alike. A more engaged student will mean a more connected world and a more connected world will mean a world with more compassion and understanding for our fellow human.

Success!

 

Has your 17-year old got 'Working Knowledge'?

Working Knowledge is a brilliant Social Enterprise, who invited me to join their 'Splash' event in Bromsgrove on the 15th March 2012.

My role?  An Expert!

I have never been an ’Expert’ before, so it was a real treat.

I was an Expert from the business community together with other business experts, who were all there to support 17 / 18 year olds from Northeast Worcestershire College, to become enlightened about business through the vehicle of a one-day experiential event, allowing them to innovate, create and visualise their own entrepreneurial spirit.

I had never done anything like it before and so did not know what to expect.

What was it like?  In one word...OUTSTANDING!

Basically the event is a cross between Dragons Den and the Apprentice and as a local business I played the role of ‘expert’ advising students from the local College on their new business ideas.  Working Knowledge is a Social Enterprise and Nationally Award Winning educational training company founded by Dr James Lott.

The events Working Knowledge run have been shown to have a profound impact on the students and tutors in colleges throughout UK, bridging the gap between education and the workplace.  As a business expert volunteer I played an integral role in the success of the event and thereby raise the aspirations of young people in my region.

Here's my testimonial MindMap and Video, which was the best way for me to articulate what I thought of the whole day.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VcQmefmSKCc

And why does Working Knowledge exist?

They believe that for the UK economy to grow and for communities to thrive, young people need to be inspired by, and better prepared for, the world of work. We need young people that are more confident, purposeful and responsible and can therefore provide a sustained flow of talent and energy into the local economy. Their vision cannot be achieved by educators alone, the business community HAS to be involved in the education process.

What a great vision!

There is a website http://www.workingknowledge.org.uk/business-experts/overview/ where you can find out more about the expert role.  If you are interested in becoming involved then please register here http://events.workingknowledge.org.uk/profile/new?type=expert and Working Knowledge will contact you when a suitable event comes up in your area.

If you have any questions then contact Ollie Collard on 0117 304 8000 or email ollie.collard@workingknowledge.org.uk

I hope you do take up the opportunity.  It really is one worth doing.

Success!

#wfsota Wyre Forest Question Time - Kidderminster Town Hall - 7th March 2012

Do you really make assumptions all the time?

I read a fascinating article in Wired magazine by Jonathan Lehrer, where he discusses the phenomena of our brains making assumptions on how things work, based on a set of data that we have collected.  In fact we collect data in our brains all the time.  And when we analyse data we start making all sorts of assumptions and conclusions based on that data.

And of course we can never have enough data to make our decisions on and at some stage we have to decide that we have enough of it to base our decisions on.

And this happens all the time in the most dangerous industry in the world, pharmaceuticals.  This article highlights some lessons for us all on how we make assumptions all the time in our private, business and social lives.

I have extracted what I believe to be the important constituents from his article:

On November 30, 2006 executives at Pfizer - the largest pharmaceutical company in the world held a meeting with investors at the firm's research centre in Groton, Connecticut.  Jeff Kindler, the then CEO began the presentation with an upbeat assessment of the company's efforts to bring new drugs to market.   He cited "exciting approaches" to the treatment of Alzheimer's disease, fibromyalgia and arthritis.  But Kindler was most excited about a new drug called torcetrapib, which had recently entered Phase III clinical trials, the last step before filing for approval.  He confidently declared that it would be "one of the most important compounds of our generation".  Kindler told investors that, by the second half of 2008, Pfizer would begin applying for approval from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).  The success of the drug seemed a sure thing.  And then, just two days later, on December 2, 2006, Pfizer issued a stunning announcement: the torcetrapib Phase III clinical trial was being terminated.  Although the compound was supposed to prevent heart disease, it was actually triggering higher rates of chest pain and heart failure and a 60% increase in overall mortality.  The drug appeared to be killing people.  That week, Pfizer's value plummeted by $21 billion (£14 billion).

The story of torcetrapib is one of mistaken causation.  Pfizer was operating on the assumption that raising levels of HDL cholesterol and lowering LDL would lead to predictable outcome: improved cardiovascular health.  Less arterial plaque.  Cleaner pipes.  But that didn't happen. (According to a recent analysis, more that 40% of drugs fail Phase III clinical trials).

The problem was, it's this assumption that causes a strange kind of knowledge.  This was first pointed out by David Hume, a Scottish 18th-century philosopher.  

He realised that, although people talk about causes as if they are real facts - tangible things that can be discovered - they're actually not at all factual.  Instead, Hume said, every cause is just a slippery story, a catchy conjecture, a "lively conception produced by habit".  When an apple falls from a tree, the cause is obvious: gravity.  Hume's sceptical insight was that we don't see gravity - we see only an object tugged towards earth.  We look at X and then at Y, and invent a story about what happened in between.  We can measure facts, but a cause is not a fact - it's fiction that helps us make sense of facts.

The truth is, our stories about causation are shadowed by all sorts of mental short cuts.  Most of the time, these work well enough.  They allow us to discover the law of gravity, and design wondrous technologies.  However when it comes to reasoning about highly complex systems - say the human body - these short cuts go from being slickly efficient to outright misleading.

Consider a set of classic experiments designed by Belgian psychologist Albert Michotte, first conducted in the 40's.

His research featured a series of short films about a blue ball and a red ball.  In the first  film, the red ball races across the screen, touches the blue ball and then stops.  The blue ball, meanwhile, begins moving in the shame basic direction as the red ball.  When Michotte asked people to describe the film, they automatically lapsed in the language of causation.  The red ball hit the blue ball, which caused it to move.  This is known as the launching effect, and it's a universal property of visual perception.  Although there was nothing in the two-second film - it was just a montage of animated images - people couldn't help but tell a story about what had happened.  They had translated their perceptions into causal beliefs.  Michotte would go on to conduct more than 100 of these studies manipulating the films.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e_jKNlC2YKo

There are two lessons learned from these experiments.  The first is that our theories about a particular cause and effect are inherently perceptual, infected by all the sensory cheats of vision.  Hume was right that causes are never seen, only inferred, but the truth is we can't tell the difference.  And so we look at moving balls and see causes, melodrama of taps and collisions, chasing and fleeing.  The second lesson is that causal explanations are oversimplifications.  This is what makes them useful - they help us grasp the world at a glance.  

The article is far too long for me to include everything in it and I have not been able to find it online either.  However I think I have got the main message from it.

And the question I pose to you, is:  What assumptions are you making today, that are based on incorrect date or not enough data or just that you have perceived the information  in a certain way?  Is the red ball chasing the blue ball instead of them just moving independently of each other?

And then there is the other old saying: "Perception is Reality"

Success!

Is your speed reading working?

I am finding the volume of tweets, links, posts, articles a touch overwhelming at times, so this short article explains how I manage this in today's super digital age. Ideally the following tools are needed:

  1. iPad or iPhone
  2. iBooks
  3. Safari or equivalent browser that allows you to save a web page as a PDF
  4. Or a PDF converter
  5. Dropbox

Basically I leverage my iBooks app as much as I can, by saving PDF documents to it for reading later.

Articles and the like come at you like a formula 1 car at top speed sometimes and this is how you can stop it in its tracks.

Apple's Safari web browser is a major plus but not essential.  Whenever you find a link that provides you with an interesting article, but you don't have time to read it, immediately convert or save it as a PDF into Dropbox.

Then retrieve it from your Dropbox on your iPad or iPhone and open it into iBooks.

Now you can decide to read them when convenient to you and not when the article catches your eye via a tweet, email or something else.  Plus you've got the article for future reference in a meeting, discussion with your colleagues or clients.  I've found it very handy.

And if you have found other ways of capturing your links, please do share.

The other way where I can interact with them is on Flipboard, the best iPad and iPhone app in my opinion.

Let me know how you get on.

Success!