The professional development day of the Association of Professional Futurists (APF) was held on Saturday, 7 July at the Vancouver Public Library, which makes an architectural statement in its own right. . The Day opened with a welcome from Mary-Jane Naquin and Jennifer Jarratt, followed by introductions - we each answered the question "we had a good day today because..." Nice question, and it reminded me of the value of being in a room with like minded souls and to have the opportunity to just think. Peter Bishop from the University of Houston provided an overview of the futures field, highlighting some characteristics:

  • long term 5+years
  • all domains, all influences
  • predominantly qualitative, assumption driven
  • alternative futures (scenarios)
  • all clients, consulting, public speaking, writing

During discussion, a couple more were added:

  • there are different emphasis in foresight work in different global regions (eg North America, Australasia and Europe), and
  • there is a strong diversity of backgrounds across the people in the room who are working in the futures field.

Next followed by a panel session on the similarities and differences between competitive intelligence and foresight and exploring the value of longer term futures versus more immediate intelligence gathering. Judy Leavitt and Helen Ho led this panel session and provided a very succinct comparison between the two field.

NegotiatingMarcus Barber then led a session on negotiating as a skill all futures practitioners need to master. He talked about the differences between acceptance and agreement and ensuring that the final outcome ensures that both parties are happy with the outcome, even though it might not be ideal. And yes, we did have to do a couple of role plays, not one of my favourite techniques :(  A couple of other key points:

  • what you think you have on offer is not necessarily what they need; you need to ensure that what you offer will help the potential client to meet their needs, their boss's needs, and their organisation's needs, and
  • do your homework on the client to understand their positioning and what is important for them,
  • use tactics/tricks like 'the flinch', 'the squeeze', 'the little bit extra',  'the walk-away', 'the high engagement', 'the time drain', 'the higher authority' and 'the take away',
  • you need to understand tactics that might be used against you in the negotiating process,
  • you need to practise these skills to be comfortable with them,
  • focus on a daily rate as your minimum rate; don't use hourly rates or be 'a bit' worker,
  • make sure that the reason you are discounting fees is clear on documentation and invoices.

Marcus left us with these messages about negotiating.

  • Selling and negotiating are different parts of the process.
  • Value of selling comes after the sale, and the value of negotiation accrues before.
  • Bigger firms have bigger overheads to carry - sell access to the expertise NOT ownership of the expertise.
  • Concede by don't discount
  • Be willing to walk away from unreasonable offers and clients - lose/win is bad karma as is win/lose.

Marcus referred us to books by Alan Weiss: Million Dollar Consulting, 29 Closing Tactics by Roger Dawson, and Negotiating in the Age of Integrity by Wayne Berry.

His final point was that we are negotiating with the future, a salient reminder for us all.

Marcus' website is at http://www.lufg.com.au

Lunch at Cafe Medina followed (thanks to Chris Fair for the recommendation), and we reconvened to hear from Maria Anderson on how to engage and use digital tools and networks to enhance our professional lives and work.

Throughout the day, one message kept being repeated - that the value of these APF days comes from the opportunity to re-connect, meet new people, and learn from each other.

Maria's first great point - when you plan a presentation, plan it as though you are going to present to the whole world. Make what you do able to be shared, because it generates other possibilities.

First point: manage your digital profile, don't let the internet do it for you - keep an eye on what is being said about you, and develop content you want to reflect you.

Third, find ways of collaborate, so that you are in a room of like minded people. Cultivate the connections. Use twitter to develop a social network.

Inbox zero:  acting  on your email when you get it rather than let it build up and get overwhelming: options are: delete, delegate (and then decide whether to delete/archive from your own system), defer.  Consolidate email accounts, learn how to search. We talked about Dropbox and Gmail, ways of keeping track of todos. Check out  http://tedchris.posterous.com/help-create-an-email charter.

We talked about so much stuff in the next hour or so, it is hard to summarise it - we covered bookmarking, RSS feeds, mind mapping software, tripit, time management, jing screen capture and sharing, and using a.nnotate to make notes on PDF and manage large numbers of research papers, readability to make it easier to read online...and on and on it went.

One good quote: Treat the internet as an extension of your brain.

The final session was focused around participants sharing and idea, a book or anything else that they are thinking about or doing at the moment , but I was so interested in listening to others, I didn't write them all down!  You had to be there...

This was a great day for me - many minds connected - so many thanks to Jennifer Jarratt and Mary-Jane Naquin who organised and facilitated the day.