Parker Geiger of ‘Personal Branding Center’: “Be creative and choose one that is relevant to the topic at hand”

Be creative and choose one that is relevant to the topic at hand. For example, when conducting a virtual meeting about how to enhance your presentation skills, an “opening statement” may be rhetorical. For example, you might say, “If a person’s fear over death is public speaking, then why would anyone want to do it?” […]

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Be creative and choose one that is relevant to the topic at hand. For example, when conducting a virtual meeting about how to enhance your presentation skills, an “opening statement” may be rhetorical. For example, you might say, “If a person’s fear over death is public speaking, then why would anyone want to do it?” Immediately, one might think, “Yeah, why did my boss ask me to take this course? Why do I need to learn this stuff?” It may not be this exact question, but they will ask themselves something to that effect.

As a part of our series about “5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Run a Live Virtual Event”, I had the pleasure of interviewing, Parker Geiger.

Parker Geiger is the founder and CEO of the Personal Branding Center, an image and brand development company. After receiving his Bachelor of Arts in Education from the University of Florida, Parker began his career in the arena of professional development.

He began as an independent consultant for one of the world’s most recognized image consulting firms, Color Me Beautiful, becoming their National Trainer for its retail sales division. Since then Parker and his teams have developed and implemented Image Training and Professional Development programs for organizations such as DELTA, ESPN, COX Communications, American Express, UCB, MERCK, CNN, and GM to mention a few.

Parker’s innate sense of people, as well as his personal approach to oftentimes sensitive issues, makes him uniquely effective in helping his clients develop and maintain a personal brand that is unique to them.

Parker created the first series of e-learning image-solution programs, featured in Kiplinger’s Financial Magazine. Along with featured articles, radio and television appearances, he also represented North America on an International Communications Panel at FAAP University, a prestigious institution in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Parker has been a contributing expert to many articles featured in publications such as The Huffington Post, Yahoo! Finance, U.S. News & World Report, BBC News, Monster, and FOX Business, just to mention a few. Also, Parker has published 5 books on Amazon covering an array of topics on Personal Branding.

Parker is most proud of his popular Personal Branding program: Perception IDentity™. It is the only program of its kind in the marketplace. It helps professionals understand how others perceive them in a split-second. One’s Perception IDentity™ is one of being more authoritative or approachable and teaches one how to position themselves in the many business opportunities they encounter, using the Parker Factor™ to enhance one’s Personal Branding efforts.

Parker and his team developed and manufactured wardrobes for General Motors’ corporate campaign, “The GM Experience”, as well as for CNN’s tour guides for both Manhattan and Atlanta locations.

Parker has been a volunteer for President Carter, an active board member for the Atlanta Children’s Shelter, and worked with four Miss Universes, in Brazil and the US to raise money and awareness for children with AIDS and cancer.

Industry professionals recognize Parker as the most innovative and experienced Image and Brand Development leader in the country.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a bit about your “childhood backstory”?

I grew up as a child marching to the beat of my own drum. I never liked being told I couldn’t do or be something. My nature was to always help others. In time, I learned how to curtail that desire to help others so that I still had food on my plate so that I could continue to help others. Music was my passion. I played the piano and in the marching band, I played the trumpet, cornet, and baritone. During the concert season, I played the French horn.

Can you tell us the story of what led you to this particular career path?

Initially, I majored in music and communications for a while at the University of Florida. Eventually, I received a Bachelor of Arts in Education. I never did teach, instead, I moved to Atlanta worked in retail management. After turning down a request to join Macy’s management team, I met an image consultant while working in a high-end men’s and women’s clothing store.

Long story short, I became certified by the world’s leading image firm, Color Me Beautiful. As a consultant, within a few years, I became their national retail trainer for its cosmetics line; however, I wanted to direct my work toward professionals. It is then I started working with corporate clients. My first big account was with AT&T.

As the years passed, I grew with the markets, which put me in line with image development and personal branding.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

As I mentioned, my first job was with a department within AT&T in Atlanta. I met my contact for lunch to discuss the opportunity. Pre-Interview, if you will. At one point I noticed my guest staring at me funny. I asked why. She said I was using my tie as my napkin. I was just out of college and nervous!

I got the final interview but was requested not to wear the pink tie. I was instructed to wear red. That’s when I realized image and fashion were VERY two different animals. I had to take my knowledge as an image consultant and make it relevant to the business world! A lesson that paid many dividends along the way.

Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

The book Color Me Beautiful. It revolutionized the makeup and clothing industry worldwide. But more than that, it changed people’s lives. I owe my whole career to Carole Jackson, the author of the book, and to two women, Ann Stone and Viki Johnson, that taught me everything I know. They too were consultants, but managers within the retail organization. So l learned a lot about color, art, selling, and business in general. What a perfect combination. I walk in gratitude every day for these three women.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

If you don’t define your destiny, someone else will. I don’t recall if that was a quote from someone or one I created with all my studies and experience. It is what I tell all of my clients that this is the basis of personal branding. If you don’t define your brand someone else. Are you willing to let someone else have that much power over you?

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. For the benefit of our readers, can you tell us a bit about your experience organizing events in general?

Our company has been organizing events for years. We launched our new company name at a 500 person dinner at the FOX Theater in Atlanta, where we also created the Image Of The Year Awards and gave them to actors, writers, a Miss Universe, an Ambassador, and professionals who have made a difference in their world of business when it came to professional development.

Can you tell us a bit about your experience organizing live virtual events? Can you share any interesting stories about them?

In the beginning, the formats were always presented as a live classroom situation and that just didn’t work. The technology and tools were not what we have today. You have to take the classroom format and translate it into people attending from their homes, globally, 24/7. That’s not an easy task.

One of the most effective ways to conduct a virtual meeting is to have at least one co-host. He or she will help manage and navigate the session. Depending upon the situation and group, I might have different “leaders” ask a question before a new segment of the program. It keeps the dialogue going and keeps the interest of the attendees. I also have the co-hosts interject questions during the session, just as someone would raise his or her hand in a classroom setting.

You have to get engagement and keep the audiences’ attention!

In your opinion, what is an example of a company that has done a fantastic job of creating live virtual events? What specifically impresses you? What can one do to replicate that?

The women of ibex did a professional development program that required teams to work together during a virtual event. The way they divided the participants into rooms, the participants remained active this was a great example of audience engagement!

What are the common mistakes you have seen people make when they try to run a live virtual event? What can be done to avoid those errors?

Taking an in-person approach into a virtual meeting, this process does not work! One has to create a “new space” for virtual events. This starts with ensuring that the event is not a monologue event, it must be a dialogue event. Meaning everyone needs to participate in some form or fashion. Just having a facilitator reading his or her notes from a PowerPoint and waiting for the questions at the end, is not effective, at all.

One should have questions coming in and asked during the event. This creates engagement.

One more thing, as it is happening to me right now as I write. I am attending a virtual webinar, and the speaker does not have a hi-def webcam. Big mistake. It looks old and dated, so the perception is that his work is old and outdated. This creates a negative roadblock for the attendees, and the presenter as well.

Which virtual platform have you found to be most effective to be able to bring everyone together virtually?

I use Meetvio, it is extremely cost-effective. At the time of this writing, it is a one-time fee with a lot of services, so it is definitely worth checking out. It is an easy platform.

I do find ZOOM to be very effective and easy; however, I question the security of their content. Do I own it or do they? I have not read the fine print. If I were conducting private meetings with content, I would opt for a very secure platform. And one where the attendees do not have to download anything to attend. These type of platforms just creates a space for more problems. The more seamless you can make it for all the attendees, the better.

Are there any essential tools or software that you think an event organizer needs to know about?

Before deciding what to use, one should ask themselves what do they hope to accomplish or need to accomplish with the information. If the tool fits the purpose, that’s a good reason to select that tool. There are two excellent tools that I use that is changing the way I conduct virtual meetings. Like any other new tool, there is a learning curve; however, these tools were easy to get started with right away!

One that I like to use is called miro. It is an online tool for Virtual Brainstorming. It has 20 different types of Brainstorming Techniques. It can be used before, during, and after the virtual meeting. It’s a very powerful tool and cost-effective as well. It takes whiteboards and mind-mapping to a whole new level!

Another excellent tool I use is a tool called Thrive Quiz, which is from Thrive Theme. It is so easy to set up. You can make the quiz output in the form of a Number, Percentage, Category, Right or Wrong, or Survey. There are several ways to provide the results and answers when you set up the quiz. When doing the quiz before the meeting, I send the participants their results instantly; however, I tell them I will review the answers in the meeting. I also like to create quizzes during the virtual meeting, to keep the interaction going!

I also use Thrive Apprentice. It is everything you need to build professional online courses, right out of the box. You can use text, videos, and images. It creates a learning environment that is intuitive to use and visually engaging. As an educator, I know how important it is for learning objectives to be achieved. Thrive Theme knows its business! They also have different pricing and a lot of training videos. Not just on the tool itself, but educates you, as a professional how to conduct better online experiences.

Knowing what outcome you desire and how you wish to you have the attendees interact, depends on the tool you would choose. There are many tools on the market and I have tried many of them and spent tireless time as well. If you just start with these three first, you will have a good foundation for what you probably need or don’t need. At least you will know what exactly you are looking for in an online engagement tool to save you time and money in a selective process.

Ok. Thank you for all that. Here is the main question of our discussion. An in-person event can have a certain electric energy. How do you create an engaging and memorable event when everyone is separated and in their own homes? What are the “Five Things You Need To Know To Successfully Run a Live Virtual Event” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)

1.) Audio and Headsets. It’s critical to have your audio correct. If the audio is bad the whole event is ruined. Even if the lighting and the camera is great, if you have good audio, the attendees can at least hear it clearly, taking something away, as opposed to nothing.

The best audio is to have it directly connected to your computer. Wireless devices can have interruptions which can be annoying. I recommend a lapel mic. Word of caution, most laptops have an input for earbuds, so be sure to buy a headphone mic splitter, 3.5 headset adapter. This connector goes into your headset jack on your laptop. You can find them on Amazon as inexpensive as 6.00 dollars.

Be careful that your clothing does not rub on the mic. That’s more annoying than if it cuts in and out.

Another option is a USB microphone kit. They are easy to install. I recommend the USB Microphone Kit 192KHZ/24BIT Plug & Play MAONO AU-A04 USB Computer Cardioid Mic Podcast Condenser Microphone with Professional Sound Chipset.

It’s under 75.00 dollars on amazon. It’s great because it has a PROFESSIONAL SOUND CHIPSET 92kHz/24bit, which lets the USB microphone hold a high-resolution sampling rate, which is excellent for recording voices on the internet. Its plug and play and easy to use. Check out all the stats. In short, it makes you sound great!

For headsets, I don’t recommend those that stick directly into your ear. Most, not all, you can hear yourself talk and it’s very annoying. There are many types of headsets. I recommend wireless headsets that are called AfterShokz headphones. They have Bone-conduction technology that delivers sound through your cheekbones so your ears remain open to hearing what’s around you! This is great when you have a co-host that is in the same room.

They have many different styles so research and find the one that works for you. I use the AfterShokz Air Headphone. Great for exercising too!

2.) The Opening. To get your audience’s attention and keep it, you need a good opening and good closing. I call these your “opening statement and closing argument”.

Think about a lawyer at the opening of a trial. They give an overview of the case and provide key evidence that will support that overview. You; however, as the host need to provide a “statement” that is relevant to the topic (case) being discussed that will “draw them in” wanting to know, learn more. Your “key evidence” can be from the following options:

  1. statistics
  2. rhetorical
  3. story
  4. personal story
  5. authoritative quote
  6. declarative statement
  7. humor

Be creative and choose one that is relevant to the topic at hand. For example, when conducting a virtual meeting about how to enhance your presentation skills, an “opening statement” may be rhetorical. For example, you might say, “If a person’s fear over death is public speaking, then why would anyone want to do it?” Immediately, one might think, “Yeah, why did my boss ask me to take this course? Why do I need to learn this stuff?” It may not be this exact question, but they will ask themselves something to that effect.

Then you can follow the statement by saying, “Because, today’s employees must be multi-faceted to support the nature of the business. As an engineer, it is no longer enough just to design a bridge. You may be asked to be part of a presentation to the city council to gain budgeting dollars for the company. So, today I am going to show you how to do a presentation, that is natural to you, and make you look like a pro!”

3.) The Closing. Closings are just as critical as the opening because you want to keep the content of the virtual meeting alive! Think of your closing as the “closing argument” that an attorney makes to the jury (your participants) before he or she rests their case. You can choose from the options in the closing I mentioned in the openings; however, the only difference is that your closing must have “homework” attached to it.

As in my example above, I might close with a quote from Franklin D. Roosevelt who said, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself”. If that’s the case, I want you to think about over the next several days what is that you fear the most about giving a presentation, and then take what you have learned today to work on that fear to reduce its presence.

4.) ASK! Campaign and Instant Questions. Virtual events must keep the audience engaged. Again, it is all about creating a dialogue with the audience and moderators, as opposed to a monologue where you are sure to lose the audience.

I recommend inserting the questions throughout the virtual meeting where the topic is relevant. AsktAsk the co-host to interrupt you to ask the question when appropriate. This creates a natural flow. Have them staged, if you will. Or, you can have the questions inserted into your PowerPoint, or whatever tool you use during the virtual meeting. I call this staging your questions.

An easy way to accomplish this is to create a form on a website that asks for their name and email. Below that, have a list of topic options with a radio button so they can easily select that topic. Ask the attendees to submit as many questions as they desire; however, ask them to submit one question at a time. This helps you catalog all the questions more easily.

On the form, be sure to let them know you will not share their name, email, or attach their name to the question. In other words, let them know that it is all about being anonymous.

To make asking more questions easier after they submit the question, have the form redirected to a thank you page, thanking them for submitting the question and that it was received, as well as a place with a “click here” option to submit more questions. The more you receive the better.

Another GREAT reason to do an ASK! Campaign before the virtual meeting is so that you can determine if there is a common question that needs to be answered that you did not make part of the original presentation. It’s about giving the attendees what they need, not just what you think they need.

Instant Questions

It is best not to have the attendees ask questions at the end of the meeting because you lose the flow of the meeting. Instead, take them as they come through during the virtual meeting. This is another reason why a co-host is important. He or she can help manage relevant questions, allowing them to be interjected as they deem fit.

This is important because it is relevant to what is being talked about and can create more conversation with the attendees and the hosts. Keeps it all relevant.

5.) PreWork: watch this video, take this quiz, give us your opinion.

Create a pre-recorded video that is relevant to the meeting or a quiz of some sort. This gets the audience engaged before and motivates them to be involved in the actual program. You can provide them with instant results, but hold the answers until the program.

Let’s imagine that someone reading this interview has an idea for a live virtual event that they would like to develop. What are the first few steps that you would recommend that they take?

  1. Ensure that the meeting is not presented in the same manner as an in-person event. Ensure the content is delivered, but be sure that the delivery is different than classroom styles.
  2. Ensure the online tools you select to use, supports your purpose of what you are trying to achieve. Such as creating break-out rooms, or the usage of whiteboards.
  3. Be sure to practice the program with colleagues to ensure that everything is working properly and that you get as familiar with the platform as you can. Knowing every aspect of your platform is key to delivering and creating a great learning experience.
  4. Be sure audio and video are working perfectly.

Super. We are nearly done. Here are our final questions. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

To learn how to define your destiny by controlling your thoughts. Every thought creates things. Learn how to get a hold of those negative thoughts and not plant them into one’s subconscious, only to create an existence of negativity.

Instead, learn how to take control of those negative thoughts and learn how to replace them with statements that create a more positive atmosphere. If we could learn not to feed the negative thoughts, we could all live much happier lives.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or the US, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.

Tyler Perry. I would like to speak with him about how he went from rags to riches. His thought process and desire and determination.

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.

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