Storming the CASL: What About In-Person Spam?


Today, Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL – playfully pronounced “castle”) took effect, primarily focused on Commercial Electronic Messages. It is regarded by many as the world’s toughest stance on spam by any government body. Interesting that it’s launching on Canada Day, perhaps sending some subliminal message of strength and patriotism.

In this post, I will make no judgements, commentary, or declare my opinion about CASL itself – there are plenty of people already doing that. In the end, I am against spam and unwanted communications, and the effect they have on those of us who are trying to communicate properly, meaningfully and respectfully. It desensitizes and jades people to communications and creates a population of annoyed cynics – and who can blame them for becoming that way.

My question is, what about in-person spam? Here are some examples of what I mean:

  • You just meet someone and they are trying to sell you and close you from the first sentence
  • At an event, you see someone who is rapid-firing out their business card at anyone who will take it, and doesn’t bother getting to actually know anyone
  • Someone is not listening to you at all in a conversation and just keeps talking over you, through you and around you
  • People who express views from a place of hatred and exclusion, such as racists and bigots
  • An acquaintance who is always asking for something and never offers anything in return

  • What we really need is a shared understanding of what is appropriate, and to respect each other enough abide by that understanding. Rather than trying to get louder and noisier to make your voice heard, maybe what you really need to do is listen.

    To stop yourself before from becoming an in-person spammer:

  • Listen well and really get to know people
  • Ask questions and practice curiosity to increase your understanding
  • Heighten your self-awareness and the impact you have on others
  • Make sure you understand how people want to be treated and then do that
  • Ensure all of your communications are meaningful and respectful, and not just about you all the time.

  • This brief conversation of tweets from two respected friends says it all – and applies no matter what channel you’re using. This is in response to the flurry of emails Canadians have been receiving to obtain “opt-in” explicit consent for ongoing communications, many of which have been less than stellar.

    Spam is spam, wherever it’s coming from.

    Constant Questions: Have you ever experienced in-person spam? What is the worst story you have? How do you think we can avoid it? Have you ever actually eaten Spam or its lesser known cousin Klik?

    The ultimate SPAM video!

    Paying attention at a cocktail party


    “You’re not listening to me.”

    If you have said this to someone (or if they have said this to you.. eep!), it probably means they were not being an active participant in the discussion. The person may have been hearing you, with the sound waves going into their eardrums, but not actively listening. Listening is paying attention, absorbing information, reflecting back what was said, building on and responding to what the other person is saying.

    The “cocktail party effect” in social psychology says we do have the ability to focus on one thing at a time and drown out everything else – provided it holds our attention.

    We are at a very large cocktail party in the Information Age, with noise coming at us from all directions, and many channels competing for our attention. We have to be selective with our focus – is it the person in front of us, the music, the dance floor, our own thoughts, or that person walking around with those teeny bacon-wrapped things on toothpicks?

    In these conditions, I’m sure that hearing vs. listening happens a lot. At the same time, we have an unprecedented opportunity to gather information from our customers and supporters and really listen to them.

    This leads to two critical questions.

    Are you listening to your customers and supporters or just hearing them?

    If you have a customer service phone line, email support desk or, more recently, social media feedback team, and collect information but don’t do anything with it, you’re hearing, not listening.

    In the noise of profits, revenues, budgets and strategy, it is easy to forget about the voice of your fans and supporters, whether they are giving you positive or negative feedback. This is a shame, because they are offering you plenty of clues as to how to keep them engaged, and ultimately, keep their business. So listen, and then (and this is key)… do something about it!

    If someone at your party likes their martinis shaken, not stirred, then shake them! Especially if it’s this guy.


    The end result of strong listening should be taking necessary action.

    Are your customers really listening to you?

    The cocktail party effect also says that something will grab our attention if it is meaningful for us (like our own name or someone screaming “FIRE!”), even if we are focused on something else.

    So while infovores run rampant these days, it is possible to grab their attention for an important few moments.

    To move from hearing to listening, the message must be extremely relevant. Rather than just getting louder and more frequent (read: SPAM), make the messages better. This is the key for a strong elevator pitch – you must be able to answer the question that all of your audience will be asking – “Why is this important to me?”

    If a partygoer shouts “The spring rolls have gone bad!”, then I think anyone who cares about their own wellbeing will be raising an eyebrow because it impacts them.

    Don’t compete with the noise, cut through it with extreme relevance. They are sure to listen.

    Party on.

    Constant Questions: How can you ensure you are really listening? How do you ensure your message is relevant? How can you successfully get through with all of the random stimuli out there? Do you hear what I hear? Did you hear it through the grapevine? Whatever happened to the California Raisins?

    PS – Speaking of cocktail parties, this holiday season, or ever really, don’t drink and drive!

    PPS – If you’re looking for some great cocktail party tips for that upcoming work or personal event, check out Paul Nazareth’s awesome post about holiday networking.

    Ditch the pitch.. sort of

    Where did the elevator pitch lose its way? There is nothing wrong with the term as it started – you need to be able to explain simply, briefly and meaningfully what you or your organization stands for, what you do and what value you bring. However, over time, in many circles the concept has mutated and absorbed a lot of bad connotations.

    To fuel the urgency to master the pitch, there is a commonly presented hypothetical situation. You will unexpectedly encounter a prominent businessperson/philanthropist/venture capitalist and you will have 30 seconds to close a million dollar deal/donation/investment – your ability to deliver your elevator pitch will be the deciding factor, so be ready. Sure, this is possible – just not likely. Adopting this shortsighted approach devolves the elevator pitch from a conversation starter designed to generate interest into a quick sale approach. I wager you will turn off most of your audience if walking away with a commitment in a minute was your intention.

    When you hear Erica Mills from Claxon Marketing talk about the elevator pitch, in this enlightening video clip by 501 Videos, she has it right. Start a discussion on something you care about and believe is of genuine value to someone else – that lens really changes the resulting approach and content, doesn’t it?

    Using the AIDA marketing/sales framework (Attention, Interest, Desire, Action), if you try to move your audience through all four steps in a couple of minutes, none will get done well. Instead, focus your efforts on doing the first two steps really well – get your audience excited about you or your organization and start the dialogue, then build from there. Starting a dialogue first will help you get a better understanding of how you can generate desire without assuming you know the other party’s motivations. If you do this right, action is sure to follow in due time.

    So join me in ditching the pitch as a quick deal-closer – and start conversations with it instead.

    Constant Questions: What are your thoughts on the elevator pitch concept? How have you crafted your message to make it effective in getting attention and generating interest? What’s the longest elevator ride you’ve been on? Do you get motion sickness on elevators? Is there an escalator pitch?