By Peter DeHaan
Conference planners sometimes ask me to sit on a panel. The common format is that each panelist makes an initial presentation, followed by a Q&A. Other times the presentations are longer, with no time for questions.
Most of my panel experiences have not been positive. For my first one, my fellow panel members dismissed my suggestion to coordinate our presentations. I went last and was alarmed when the first panelist covered some of my planned remarks; the third person addressed most of the rest. I needed to come up with new content at the last minute.
Another time, at an early morning panel, one of the panelists had stayed up all night partying. Sitting next to me, he smelled like a brewery. His speech was slurred, his judgment impaired, and his humor – some of which was directed at me – was not so funny. I spent the entire time praying he wouldn’t get sick on me. I doubt he realized he made a fool of himself and demeaned the rest of us in the process.
Another time I thought I was safe. Three of us discussed our remarks in advance, but the fourth person was vague, implying he would ad lib something aligned with our presentations. He went just before me. The first two people gave practical advice, as was my plan, but the third guy delved into high-level theory, giving a well-conceived strategic vision for the future. He outclassed us all – and I had to follow him.
Not surprisingly, I no longer agree to sit on panels. I’m fine with solo presentations, where success or failure sits solely on my shoulders, but keep me away from group presentations.
In business, we often have occasions to collaborate with other companies. Like my panel opportunities, these seem easy to do, require less prep, and share risk. The key word is seem.
Here are three areas to consider:
Affiliate Marketing: Affiliate marketing is performance-based promotion, where one entity (a person or an organization) pays another entity for each lead or sale generated from the first entity’s customer base. Often done via email, there is little cost and a potentially high payoff. Bill stuffers are another example. At a basic level, a company allows an ad aggregator to place relevant promotions on its website. The payoff is pay-per-click revenue.
Recently I bought a tutorial from someone I met at a convention. This person added me to his mailing list and began blasting out affiliate marketing pitches on a weekly basis, with multiple messages for each promotion. I grew weary of the hype and eventually unsubscribed, even though I was open to buy future products from him. Because of his implied endorsement of the people he promoted (some who I deemed questionable) and his unrelenting marketing for them, he lost me as a customer.
Strategic Alliances: Sometimes we seek opportunities to better serve clients by working with other businesses to provide a one-stop solution. Reselling products is one example, as is bundling services provided by other businesses.
When seamlessly integrated, customers don’t realize they are dealing with two companies, and the interaction occurs flawlessly. But when there’s a problem, the caller sees only the initial company, blaming them for the shortcomings of its partner. In these cases, we can succeed and fail based on what our alliance partner does or doesn’t do.
Outsourcing: Sometimes it makes sense to outsource work that other companies can do better or cheaper, yet in each instance, our reputation is placed in the hands of someone else who we have minimal control over. Is it worth the risk?
Whether it’s sitting on panels, affiliate marketing, strategic alliances, or outsourcing, we must proceed with care, not allowing someone else to control our reputation or determine the results.
Peter DeHaan is a magazine publisher by day and a writer by night. Visit www.peterdehaan.com to receive his newsletter, read his blog, or connect on social media. [This article first appeared in Connection Magazine.]