The ultimate multitasker and ‘parallel’ entrepreneur, Bobbie Carlton is an award-winning marketing and PR professional and founder of Innovation women. Often called ‘Boston’s Innovation Den Mother’ and ‘the Startup Fairy Godmother,’ Bobbie’s on a mission to introduce women speakers to more audiences and change the dynamic of the ‘manel,’ the all male speakers panel. We spoke last week on my Embark podcast. She graciously answered a few more questions here.
LS: We just came out of a – shall I say? – an unusual time. What’s the state of innovation? Is there a willingness to invest in something new?
BC: I started my first company when the Great Recession put an end to my regular job in 2008. The startup I was working with at the time ran out of money and we weren’t alone. So many other companies started then too. And this bump in the road was also boon for entrepreneurs. So many people found their “regular” jobs ending and they suddenly had time to devote to their dream or crazy idea. Meanwhile, the unusualness of the period directly led to so many different ideas. All kinds of things changed.
I think there is always the willingness to invest in the new things. People are naturally curious and optimistic. They want to believe that the new idea before them will change the world. And some of them just might.
LS: You speak with a diversity of professionals. When are we going back to the office? What’s the breakout of in-person, virtual and hybrid?
BC: Some people are already there. Others might never go back. (I’m still deciding myself although I fully expect to cry like a baby when I get to see my team in person again.) I feel like there is suddenly a willingness to be open to all kinds of options…for most companies. Yes, we’ve all heard the stories about managers who are insisting on in-person, but I feel like people are ready to vote with their feet and companies that insist on one particular thing may find it hard to hire and keep people in the future. Flexibility is the key.
LS: We agree it’s great to have a sense of humor. One particular study suggests while humor may help men shine in presentations, it may backfire on women. How can this be so?
BC: Ah, the HBR article* from a few years ago about how women are thought less of if they use jokes and humor while they are presenting. Grrr. It irks me at a personal level.
I never really thought of myself as a comedian, but I do like to employ the quip and off-handed remark, sometimes to good result…not always. (Brings an element of danger to my presentations…then again, failure is always an option.) My kids say that I am funny because I am not funny. It’s not expected so I’m funny. Which falls right into my assertion that the unexpected and counter-intuitive is what people really want. What they remember. What makes an impact. I’m working with serious topics, so the levity helps me…or does it? Does it make me less credible? Great. One more thing to worry about…like I need anything else. If it does hurt my credibility, I guess I must weigh that against being authentic and memorable.
LS: Storytelling in business is ubiquitous, as is ‘being your authentic self’. Do you see a tipping point of sharing too much personal information?
BC: There IS such a thing as TMI. I think speakers need to curate their stories and what part of their lives they share. I first heard Tricia Brouk say, “Speak from the scar, not the wound” to avoid traumatizing your audience. (I’ve since heard others use variations on the phrase.) The idea is to tell stories to illustrate your point. To let others learn from your experiences, not heal yourself by sharing whatever terror or pain you have experienced with the audience. No one wants to leave a presentation feeling bad. We want to feel uplifted, inspired and educated. Good speakers know this.
LS: You often work with speakers and have done your own share of speaking. What speaker qualities most appeal to you? Can you share a standout?
BC: I love humor. I love great language and phrasing.
I love the speakers who share knowledge that I can’t get anywhere else. I love the speakers who have noticed something that we could all have seen, and we didn’t. I love when they share their own twist or insight. Give me a way to solve a problem and share it in a way that I will remember it when I get home.
I also like succinctness. (I’m impatience personified. Drone on too long and I either fall asleep or I’m seeking the exit.)
- the Harvard Business Review article referenced can be found here.