092: Optimized Tools for Planning Anything with Stacey Dyer

By December 5, 2016Podcasts

 

Stacey Dyer shares how she applied best thinking practices to planning a kick ass wedding, and how we can use the same techniques to plan anything.

You’ll Learn:

  1. How to avoid future mishaps with the time machine methodology
  2. A 5-card hand that you should have in your back pocket to spark great ideas and solutions
  3. Best practices for self-motivation

About Stacey
Stacey Dyer is currently a corporate Director of Customer Experience Design. Stacey is grateful for the mentors she’s had in her career, and thus strives to provide guidance and insight that reflects professional care and expertise. Outside of work, Stacey can be found in vocal sessions within the down tempo, jazz, and EDM space (in addition to running and practicing yoga) or writing blog posts (staceysdiylife.com) and books (Astro-Wed.com).
Prior to her current role, Stacey’s previous experience runs the gamut of in-house to agency side, working with a diverse array of clients from liquor and cigars to healthcare and youth non-profits.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Stacey Dyer Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Stacey, thanks so much for being here on the How To Be Awesome At Your Job podcast.

Stacey Dyer
Thank you so much for having me, Pete.  I’m really excited to be here with you.

Pete Mockaitis
Me too.  I’m so glad that Mandy introduced us, and that was a fun introductory email.  She referred to you as a multi-potentiality.

Stacey Dyer
This does not surprise me.

Pete Mockaitis
I think that’s a really good thing, but I don’t hear the word enough to be positive.

Stacey Dyer
Yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
Cool.  Well, I’ve been enjoying your book, The Universe’s Most Kickass Wedding Planning Workbook, as I am doing some wedding playing myself.  It’s a couple weeks away; it may have already happened by the time this airs actually.  But it’s been pretty handy for me and I really appreciate what must have taken you a long time to make all the graphical cool things that are up in there.

Stacey Dyer
It was an incredibly fun process to work on the illustration side of that book, for sure.

Pete Mockaitis
Excellent.  And so, tell me, how did you find the inspiration that this is something that needs to exist in the world?  Because there’s really nothing like it.  What’s the backstory there?

Stacey Dyer
I totally appreciate you saying that as well.  That’s always what you hope when you create something, right?  Like, “Oh, maybe it will be the first thing or the only one of its kind.”  So how did this thing all start?  So, I’ve been writing the same memoir for the last 5 or 6 years, and I got to this point where I realized I needed to trick myself into writing every week.  So, my husband’s a full-time DJ and has a residency out on Block Island off the coast of Rhode Island, and so I would have every Monday night to myself.  And I was like, “Okay, this is writing night.”  And I just said, “As long as I’m writing something every week, I’m doing my job.  I’m doing what I need to do in order to get into this habit.”  A sort of a Pavlovian mental trick.
And so we were in the process of getting married, we had gone through the process of getting married, and most of the time I ended up writing about my experiences from planning it, from designing some DIY stuff, the trials, the tribulations, the stress of all of it, the surprising awfulness that is industry pressure, you name it.  So, through that process I ended up building my own blog and submitting a bunch of posts to a wonderful organization called OffbeatBride.com.
And Offbeat shows a post called “How to shop for your wedding dress like a software engineer.”  And when that post went up, the most surprising piece was not just the software people but the non-software people.  I had one woman write in into the comments that said, “I saw this post, I thought it was going to be boring as hell and then I read this.  I’m totally going shopping in this way tomorrow.”
So, there was clearly a tipping point between planning, organizational forethought and really being able to be prepared enough to go into this thing that’s supposed to be very important, the most important outfit of your entire life.  “Oh my God, how do I even start?”  So that was really the tipping point where I said, “I feel like I’m on to something here, but I can’t be as dry and sciency as what Agile as Linux or just the scientific method is, because wedding industry stuff, as you know, is very “foo-foo shi-shi” or it’s cheeky and cute and sweet.  And I needed to find that middle ground, so that’s really where it all started.

Pete Mockaitis
Interesting.  What I really think is so cool is how you’ve applied one method of thinking to a task, something in front of you, to great result, and it reminds me of how management consultants work their weddings.  And I’d say every one of them had this elaborate Excel model, which you looked into the probability of each guest saying “Yes” and the incremental process associated with each guest.  I did the same thing myself.  But it’s cool because, sure enough, it just helps you get that result in a positive way.  So I’d love to hear maybe… Just to get the appetite going for some of your wisdom.  Could you share a story of how folks, whether it’s with that blog post or other folks that you’ve taught with your keynote workshops and such, how they’ve applied some of your thought process to fantastic results?

Stacey Dyer
Sure.  From a day job perspective, I’ve worked with lots of different design teams – software design teams, development teams, design thinking teams, you name it; all across the board.  And I’d say one of the most successful pieces that’s inside AstroWed is the time machine methodology.  The time machine is really a re-branding of pre-mortem.  I’ve felt like post-mortem, pre-mortem, mortem, death.  Death plus wedding equals bad, so we needed to change that in a more positive way.
But the point of it is to say, “Get in your time machine and imagine you’ve built this thing, it has failed.  List out as many reasons as possible and then try and figure out how to mitigate your risk at the end of the day.”  Telling a bunch of couples-to-be to mitigate their risk is probably not the best idea.  It’s not really a catchy tagline that people are getting really jazzed about.
So in doing this time machine methodology, I still use it to this day.  Pre-mortems are the cause and effect for me a lot around structured ideation.  Sometimes we use those pre-mortems in order to design a moderator guide for customer interviews and say, “We don’t know what to ask them.  How do we even begin?”  “Let’s start by actually guessing where their pain points are”, or, “This thing, this idea that we have is totally going to flop.”
List all those reasons and then ask them if that would be true.  And then on the flip side, even if you’re designing anything – if you’re not in software, if you’re just designing a spreadsheet, a worksheet, you’re making your to-do list, your packing list for travel, for your honeymoon even, Pete – you can do that same pre-mortem methodology and say, “I’ve packed all of my things in my suitcase, but I’ve failed.  What things have you forgotten?”  And it should be a really quick way to be, “Oh, the thing that would kill the most is if I forgot my sunglasses, or my contact lenses, or…”  Anything of that effect.

Pete Mockaitis
I like that so much, because it really does spark a different set of ideas as opposed to just the prompt, “What do I need to bring?”

Stacey Dyer
Right.  Because thinking when you get there is a different set of brain actions than thinking, “I am there and it’s gone badly.”  And I did live demos at the Boston LGBT wedding expo that we were just at on November 6th and I walked people through, I gave them a live demo of a trimmed down version of the worksheets, and when I got to the time machine I always start with the bad one and I say, “Okay,  you got to your wedding day, your photographer is there.  It has totally failed – the photos look terrible.  Why?”  And the grimaces on these couple’s faces is amazing!  And I point to them and I say, “That’s it!  That’s it right there – you don’t want to have that face on your actual wedding day.  Flip it around.  What are you going to do to make sure that it doesn’t happen?  What conversation, what thing can you bring up to this vendor and say, ‘I really don’t want my pictures to look like they’re from Instagram.’  Say that.”

Pete Mockaitis
Great.  In that example – sticking with it for a second – what are some other things that bubble up?

Stacey Dyer
Oh, one that came to mind for one couple was, one partner looked at the other and she was like, “You’re always late.  You better be on time.”

Pete Mockaitis
Certainly.

Stacey Dyer
Yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s good, that’s good.  And I guess I’m just thinking about doing the thorough due diligence associated with seeing how a photographer’s natural style is before you even select it, but depending on you are in the timeline, if you have that luxury.

Stacey Dyer
Exactly.

Pete Mockaitis
So that’s great.  Then on the flip side, you think what would be sort of the fantastic, wild, delightful success and imagine what sparks come to mind there?  Actually you’re helping me in real time, as I’m thinking about my wedding photographs.  What are some of those things that pop up?

Stacey Dyer
So for us, I don’t know about you guys, but when my husband takes a photo of me, I freeze.  I have that, “I’m in second grade, I have to take this photo, please get me out of this outfit” look on my face.
But usually when strangers are taking photos of me, if they can get the candid shots, then they are fantastic.  So in my mind, I’ve gotten to my wedding day, I’m looking at my photos after the fact.  They’re amazing because they’ve been able to capture me at my best moments and my most natural smile, which always happens to be a candid moment.  So I need them to be sneaky and run around and hide behind things and catch me right in that split second.  And it was just a huge help to have that conversation with our photographer at that point and say, “This is my biggest challenge and it would be really great if you could make me not look like an awkward second-grader.”

Pete Mockaitis
That sparks a clear vision too, thank you.  So, time machine – that was my favorite tactics or tools from your book, so thank you for highlighting that.  One of the others I really liked was the… Well, I always say it like a parrot because you have an icon of a parrot in the book.  MACAW!

Stacey Dyer
Exactly!

Pete Mockaitis
That’s M-A-C-A-W for Must, Could, Won’t.  Can you talk just a little bit about that tool?

Stacey Dyer
Absolutely.  So this was another one that came from software design over the years and really making that list.  It stemmed from MOSCOW.  MOSCOW is Must, Should, Could, Won’t.  But the “Should” never worked out for me.  It was always this awkward bucket of, “Well, it should do this.”  Well, if it should do that, then put it in the must.  Do you know what I mean?

Pete Mockaitis
I hear you, yeah.

Stacey Dyer
Yeah.  So by dropping the “Should”, now we’ve got to focus… My lucky number is 3, so 3 buckets of things are super important, but when it comes to planning a wedding, it’s the most complicated event you’re probably ever going to plan for in your life.  And at every stage of the planning process for us, it was almost like… I didn’t spend 20 years of my life, including part of my childhood, planning my wedding.  I was never going to get married; this was not a thing that was on the top of my mind.  I didn’t have a Pinterest board that I’ve been saving for 10 years, none of that was a thing.
So I was very lost once I got to this process, and often the only way that I could get started was by creating a list of “Won’ts”.  Well, I know it won’t be an indoor wedding in a gaudy hotel with low ceilings and bad lighting.  I know that I don’t want a cake.  So whatever their desserts are, they better have chocolate and fruity things.  I know that I don’t want my dress to be some crazy Cinderella ball gown.  I know that I don’t want to overheat.  I know I don’t wear heels that are too high, things like that.  So that it would inform decisions in a different way.  But I tell my couples when I’m coaching them, “Start with what you do know, and sometimes what you do know is the negative side of things.”  And that’s okay ’cause our brain is 3 times as sticky to the negative things as we are to the positive.  So sometimes it’s a great scapegoat in terms of a thought experiment.

Pete Mockaitis
That is solid, yes.  So those are two great tools right there – we’ve got the time machine and the MACAW, which I agree – I think sometimes people want to make their acronym the way they want to make it.  So I agree, the “Should” isn’t all that helpful in determining those things.  So I’d love to hear, while we’re on the roll, are there any other tools that show up in terms of your design thinking or software toolkit that have broad applicability for professionals working through all kinds of questions?

Stacey Dyer
Absolutely.  I’ve got a shortlist for you.  So, one of the most common ways… I do a lot of structured ideation.  A lot of people hear the word brainstorm, there’s been all kinds of articles.  I’m sure you’ve been seeing this lately, Pete, about how brainstorming is broken, brainstorming is dead, it really doesn’t work, people spend way too much time writing things on sticky notes.  A lot of the times brainstorming goes bad because it’s unstructured.
So I like to have a shortlist of almost like cards in my back pocket – what’s the best 5-card hand I can make for this ideation session?  And often the way that I start is through the Stereotype Game or the Assumptions Game.  We’re moving through a process right now where we’re looking at a targeted market segment and we’re saying, “We think we know who these people are.  Alright, let’s line up all the things that we think we know about them.”  We are assuming that they do X, Y and Z, and from that, then you can stare at those and you do your divergent thinking and then converge those into themes, into questions.  And again, they often help you create features or they’ll help you create questions that you want to ask customers in real time.  Another one that I love to use is  Made to Stick success framework.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.  The Chip Heath book stuff?

Stacey Dyer
Yes, exactly.  So simple, unexpected, concrete, credible, emotional stories.  The whole point of it is to be able to create the best, pithiest elevator pitch you could possibly make, and make it super impactful and make it memorable at the end of the day.  I’ve used this in mentoring sessions.  I had the pleasure of working with a non-profit called Real Industry and we used this as a way to get PhD students to create their elevator pitch that they had to share with us as a panel of 10 judges like we were on American Idol.  It was fantastic.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool, that’s cool.  Go ahead.

Stacey Dyer
I was just going to say, if you go into Google Images and you Google “Made to Stick success framework”, there are tons of versions of the list of what each of those things mean.  So for folks that are looking for, “Great, but what does each part actually translate to?”, there’s a lot on the web that can help you decipher that.

Pete Mockaitis
And so I want to make sure I’ve collected what you had to say there associated with the 5-card hand.  So are each of those cards prompts to structure the ideation?  Or what are those five?

Stacey Dyer
So, we’ve got pre-mortems, MACAW, the Success Framework, the Assumptions Game, and then I’ve also got two others – WWXD and also the Upworthy 25.  For me these cards are really things that I pull out in the event that… Usually there’s a goal that people go through like, “Oh, we need to come up with a solution.  We need to come up with a way to brainstorm new ideas about this other thing.”  Or, “This is a big problem.  How do we solve it?”  And I’ve always got sort of a short list in my back pocket, like a toolkit, as you had said, ready to go and help that team make their ideas come to life.

On the WWXD front, this is like an idea firestarter.  It stands for “What Would X Do?”  I just ran an ideation workshop a couple of weeks ago where a data strategy group had 4 topics that they needed to tackle, and they were massive, massive things and it was really important to the group’s leader that they break out of their shells and think in a different way.  So, all the teams worked on the same idea but they each started with an X, like SpongeBob, Wonder Woman, Winston Churchill.  And they had to ideate and come up with as many ideas as possible on those sticky notes for 5 minutes in the mindset of, “What would Winston Churchill do for this topic?”, “What would SpongeBob do for this data need?”, “How would Wonder Woman help define data queries in a different light?”

Pete Mockaitis
Wow, that’s interesting.  Could I hear one example of a SpongeBob or a Winston Churchill or a Wonder Woman inspiration?

Stacey Dyer
One person wrote, “Make Patrick do it.”  Another person wrote, “Find a way to get a Gary.”  So if they could find a way to create a side-kick, that equaled a meowing snail.  It would’ve helped solve the problem.

Pete Mockaitis
And that in turn could then sort of spark some workable ideas associated with, they have resources they can call upon to assist them, like live human beings.

Stacey Dyer
Exactly.  And really what it was, it was a method to help them break out of their shell.  So there was another one that was around Roger Federer.  So the whole team had written their hypothesis and all of their ideas around tennis metaphors.  But it worked beautifully.  It was all about creating a new court, having a practice area, where was the locker room in which they could store certain things.  It all translated beautifully; it was really, really impressive and the team had a lot more fun and took it less seriously.  Some of the feedback I got after that workshop was, “We’ve almost been threatened to come up with really good ideas, but you really made it fun and more lighthearted because we had to become these really silly things, these really silly personas.”

Pete Mockaitis
That’s so great.  And as I think about one of my favorite books about creativity, A Whack on the Side of the Head, that’s kind of a recurring theme, our seriousness, “We need to find the right answer, we need find it now, it needs to be in our area of expertise.” That kind of attitude really kind of puts a lot of pressure which is not helpful for the brain to just kind of play and go to new places.

Stacey Dyer
Right.  And often times you hear the term “the curse of knowledge”.  Sometimes it’s when you’re trying to explain something to someone else.  Pete’s an expert in podcasting.  You’re going to talk about it in a way that some folks might get really lost because they’re not experts.  So you have to take into account, even when you’re doing ideation sessions, what your own curse of knowledge is and when it barricades you from actually seeing the real possibilities.

Pete Mockaitis
You know, I was just chatting with someone about this recently – that notion that if you’re very advanced in an area and you talk to someone who’s less advanced, you might be skipping a couple of layers in the middle and just sort of be whoosh, right over their heads.  Do you have any kind of perspectives or pro tips on how you engage with folks who are on a different level than you are with your expertise, ’cause indeed it is kind of like a curse?  You can’t unknow what you know,  but nonetheless you’ve got to make a connection and a bridge for somebody.  Any thoughts on how that can work well?

Stacey Dyer
Yeah, absolutely.  The biggest pro tip is to be empathetic.  If you can truly put yourself in their shoes, it’s all about understanding your audience.  It’s not about coming down to their level; it’s not that at all.  It’s, “How can I share my insight and knowledge with this person in a way that they’re going to take something away from it?  What’s my goal here in telling this story?”  If your goal is to make yourself feel smart, then you know what you need to do.  But if your goal is to help them, to give them a piece of knowledge that they can take back and use in their life, in their work – whatever the case may be – put yourselves in their shoes, understand who they are as an audience member, as an audience, and say, “Okay, so they’re not a mathematician.  We’re talking about data.  How do I make it approachable and use an analog?”  Oh my God!  Analogies for days – that’s my number one best pro tip for anyone.  If you can use an analogy to help people understand and visualize or relate to what you’re talking about, they’ll remember it so, so easily, because then it’ll seem so simple.  It’ll seem less scary, it’ll seem less overwhelming.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s great.  And do you have an example of an analogy that recently made a world of difference in terms of bringing clarity and insight to a matter?

Stacey Dyer
I did a customer interview on the topic of insurance and one of the questions I asked was, “How would you explain insurance to my 6-year-old nephew?”  And I had one person say it’s a safety net in case you lose your pet toy and you can easily be able to buy and replace that one.  “We’re always here protecting your toys.”  I thought that was incredible.  Absolutely incredible.

Pete Mockaitis
Very cool, thank you.  And just to make sure we cover our bases, did we hear the Upworthy?  Was that  the last card in the 5 cards?

Stacey Dyer
Yes, so the Upworthy 25.  So Upworthy is a fantastic website – lots and lots of great news items coming through there every day.  Their team has a rule of thumb that for every headline that goes up on the web, 25 has to get written before they pick one or two if they’re AB testing.  And I’m trying to remember where I read this.  It may have been in Made to Stick, where they review sort of what the brain goes through in terms of its creative process, and that by making it through a full 25 you will have gone from start to finish of 100% creative process ’cause you’ll get to your breaking point.  You have your first 5 ideas really really fast, and then you’ll see something that’s sticky and you’re like, “Okay, that’s good.  Let’s go down that path.  Okay.”
And then it begins to get hard.  You get to 12 and you kind of run out of steam.  You might go walk away, get a cup of coffee, but by stepping away you’ve got more ideas and you sit back down and you crank it out again.  You have the opportunity now to see how many things you’ve written and say, “I like that one and that one.  What if I were to… Oh, here’s another one, here’s another one, here’s another one.”
By creating that 25, you’ve allowed your brain all of the space and time, and at the same time generated your best work.  And now you’ve got a selection to pick from, and especially if you’re in the world of analytical testing, AB testing, to try and see which one would resonate the most with your audience.  You’ve got plenty to work with.

Pete Mockaitis
Fantastic.  And that reminds me, way back in episode 8 we talked to Esteban Gast about creativity, and that was a key message, is that it’s very predictable and that some things come easily and then there’s a dip and you’ve just got to push past it.  So maybe it’s taking a break and returning, but the wisdom from Upworthy is that by the time you land on 25 things, you could feel pretty good that you’ve kind of covered your bases and successfully pushed past the dip.

Stacey Dyer
Definitely.  You’ve exhausted a good batch of different themes, different concepts.  And usually by the end of that 25, there’s probably 3 to 5 that are sticking out like sore thumbs that are saying, “Pick me!  Pick me!”

Pete Mockaitis
That’s good, that’s good.  So now I’m wondering… So you’ve got some great tools, once you’ve sort of sat down and begun doing the thinking and structured ideation.  I guess I’d like to hear, just from your own self-management, what are some best practices associated with getting in the groove so that things are sparking off the top of your head in the first place?

Stacey Dyer
First thing is self-awareness.  By the time you’re 30, you’re kind of who you are.  You’re either a morning person, you’re an afternoon person, you’re an evening person, you’re an 11:30 to 4:00 a.m. person.  Really embrace who you are and when you’ve noticed your own patterns.  I’m most productive first thing in the morning, so if I need to actually get a bunch of stuff done I like as much sunlight as possible, I like to have a good cup of coffee in my hand, I like to scratch my itch of checking some emails, and then the headphones go on, the music comes on and we’re in the zone.
And I’ve gotten to a point where I recognized my rhythm – that it’s very important for me to step away.  It’s almost more important that I get distracted about an hour, hour and a half in, because I know I’m going to get restless ’cause I don’t like to sit for very long.  And I also know that some of my best ideas come to me as pure epiphanies just because I went to go check on a load of laundry.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.

Stacey Dyer
So if you can sort of be your own science experiment and notice, even if you’ve just got a spare post-it notepad, when are you most productive during the day?  When do your best ideas come to you?  And what makes you happiest when you’re having those idea moments?  Nobody likes being tortured, nobody likes being in the place that they feel like makes them feel like they’re in a dungeon.  So whatever you can do to create those environments, those are the most important things because if you can create that environment anywhere you go, even if it’s only 2 or 3 of those 5 things, you’ll find solace and comfort and be able to push through the need to get something done or the want to create purely.

Pete Mockaitis
Yes, I like that a lot.  And I’ve been noticing that more and more, and there’s real legit science associated with people’s individual differing times of the day in which they’re operating, and just like your hormones and neurotransmitters and waxing and waning.  We had Dr. Michael Bruce talking about chronotypes back in episode 63.  And it’s wild if you really pay attention, it makes a world of difference.  Doing something at 10:00 a.m is very different than doing something at 4:00 p.m. just based on how you’re wired.

Stacey Dyer
Right, right, 100%.  There’s a great book called Upward Spiral that’s all about defeating depression, but there are so many incredible insights just about how the mind works and how you can sort of meet it in the middle when you are having trouble trying to get started or you’re procrastinating.  There’s been also a ton or research lately coming out about procrastination.  Have you read the book Originals yet?

Pete Mockaitis
No, but it keeps showing up, so I’m going to.

Stacey Dyer
I’m in the middle of it right now, and the Originals is probably the best book I’ve read all year.  There are so many incredible insights.  I understand myself so much more as a person who is multi-faceted and has her hands dipped in all kinds of different pots.  But one of the thing that it speaks to is there is incredible scientific evidence about procrastinators.  And Martin Luther King was one of them, that his incredibly famous “I Have a Dream” speech, he didn’t write until the night before.  And he talked to experts, leaders, community people all the way along.  He was doing early design thinking long before it was ever a branded framework.  And then he sat down and said, “Okay, I guess I should get started.”  And he improvised when he got onto the podium and he trusted himself.
So there’s a ton of great stuff in that book about procrastination and embracing what happens to you, and again, be your own science experiment.  If you’re a trainwreck when you procrastinate, maybe that’s not for you. But one of the best designers I ever had the pleasure of working with, she’s a design director in Connecticut now.  She always needed to light a fire under her own ass by putting herself in a time box or only giving herself like an hour to get something done before submitting it for review, because she knew she would come up with her best ideas in the “fight or flight” sort of sense.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah.  That’s great, thank you.  I’d also like to get a sense for… I’m thinking about the listeners who already have tons of great ideas, like, “That’s not the problem, having them.  I’ve got them by the bushel.”  But often organizations or teams or individual decision makers may not have the appetite for risk or innovation or exploration.  Do you have any perspective on how ideas really get sort of approval, traction, interest, and how we can be a bit more persuasive in improving the odds that they can come to life?

Stacey Dyer
Certainly, that’s such a great question.  There’s a couple of different methods.  It depends on the type of organization or even how disruptive your idea is.  So, large organizations you need to get lots and lots of early on the ground, almost what you would expect Washington is like, to get early buy-in just by including people and talking to them and saying, “You know, I’ve been thinking about this.  Tell me your thoughts.”  And really actively listening but also by sharing that, you’re starting to include people, and people like to be included in the new hotness.  ‘Cause new stuff is hard.
So on one hand you have the balancing challenge of managing those around you that can either support or thwart the success of the idea or the execution of that idea, and then on the other hand you have the fact that new stuff is hard for people.  New is change; change is hard.  Some of us embrace it and love it, like myself, and other people have a really difficult time.  So you have to be empathetic to that and think, “What would those folks appreciate when I’m trying to make this huge organizational shift, or I’m just trying to introduce a new worksheet?”
It can be small; you’d be surprised how people react to those changes.  So I say one is consensus-driven discussions.  They may not feel like that; you don’t have to get everybody into a room and say, “Do we agree that this is a good idea?”  You don’t need to do that, but having small one-on-one conversations so that you’ve got almost like a coalition by the time you get to the place of presenting that idea, because then you’ve got people talking, there’s some buzz, people are getting used to that idea.  “Oh, 4 weeks ago you talked to them.”  It’s been rolling around in their brain and you might receive an email from somebody, “Hey, I was thinking about that idea we were talking about over coffee the other day.  I really like it because of this, that and that, and it affects me in this way, and that’s really exciting.”
So give people some time and space also.  On the flip side, when you’ve got a really disruptive idea, a large part is just making sure you keep talking to people.  Customer interviews of any kind are so, so important; and really acknowledging the landscape that you’re in.  I’ve got a great story that actually happened the other night.  A pair of friends are in the process of looking to buy a restaurant that’s pre-existing.  And while they’re working on bank loans and figuring out finances, they really got excited about doing a GoFundMe campaign.  Now, I didn’t do any research.  We’ve been working together on business plans and just making sure that they’re doing their checks and balances from that business standpoint.  But I sent over an email last night to one of the potential owners and said, “Do your due diligence in terms of competitive landscape inside of GoFundMe.”  Because they put it up and they’re like, “Why isn’t it working?  We’re not getting any donations.  What’s happening?”
Don’t jump to conclusions too soon.  Check what’s happening around you – are there other restaurants on GoFundMe?  If there are, are they doing well or are they doing poorly?  What are you doing that is going well?  What are you doing that’s not going well?  How do those two things match up?  Is there a lot that’s on there, or are there only two restaurants and their campaigns are kind of “Meh” and they’re not sticking?  Maybe that’s a result of GoFundMe not being the right avenue for this type of service.  Because at the end of the day you have to also embrace your idea will sit in a certain category but certain categories might not sit well in certain avenues.
Services, as I’m sure you know, Pete, are hard because they’re abstract; there’s not tangible product at the end.  So really trying to translate what that means for people, how do you get somebody to donate to a thing that’s really just this business idea?  So one of the things we talked about was translating it to, “As a customer I want to know, will you have enough tables for me?  Will you have enough tables for me and my friends?  How many coffee mugs do you have?  How many potential cups of coffee could I have at your place?”  Things like that that will get people excited, again, that they can relate to.

Pete Mockaitis
Understood.  And it’s interesting I think, within that notion about there’s not always a great fit there, is fantastic, because I think there’s often a knee-jerk reaction to “GoFundMe is cool, Instagram is cool.”  There’s something that’s new and hot and fresh and great and we all need to be up on it.  But at the same time I think truly some things don’t quite fit that well.  I don’t know for instance who needs to be a fan of Tide on Facebook and stay up-to-date with the latest laundry detergent news.

Stacey Dyer
Right.  I know moms are on Facebook, but do they really care that much about their laundry detergent brand being on Facebook?  Maybe if they’re doing giveaways.  So again, it’s like drilling down into the, “Why do you need to be here?  What is the advantage or the benefit to your customer?”  And speaking to that disruptor side of things, I’m constantly dealing with this as an experiment today with AstroWed, because like you said at the top, there’s nothing like that out there.
I’ve also just launched a set of coaching services, so instead of being a traditional wedding planner, I’ve seen more and more and I was one of those couples as well, that I really just needed to get kick-started or I needed some advice around a particular area.  A lot of couples now just need day-of coordination, they need somebody to come in, set up the stuff, break it down and make sure that people get from point A to point B.
So I’m trying to spin up a new set of offerings, a new set of services that completely break down the norm of multi-thousand dollar wedding planning prices and offer an inexpensive, approachable option that feels like something you would get from a business aspect.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, sure thing.  And what I find really interesting to that point in terms of getting the event kind of up and going is, I’m a big fan of Time Etc. is the company.  You can have sort of part-time assistants helping you with stuff, so you just get a package.  And so I’ve had my assistant Marti – doing a great job, thank you, Marti! – to do just a lot of the legwork associated with, “Hey, we’ve got to find an apartment where we’re moving into.”  “Okay, got to find the venue, got to find the rehearsal dinner spot.”  And so, it’s just a matter of, “There are dozens or hundreds of options.  I need you to just kind of chug through them and see who meets our basic criteria in terms of the prices within this range, they have availability on this date for this many people.  Go.”  And so often that can take a good 6+ hours on the phone, going from place to place to place.  And it’s been fantastic.  So I hear you in terms of the real pain points.  There are many ways to alleviate them, probably outside the traditional milieu of “I am the wedding planner.”

Stacey Dyer
Right.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s fun, that’s fun.  So I also want to make sure we cover… You have a cool workshop associated with using $50 to do a whole lot of good, I guess, learning, testing, validation of an idea, and I thought that sounds like a heck of a bargain.  What is the secret magic within that?

Stacey Dyer
Sure.  So that workshop really spawned from me doing a bunch of targeted Facebook ad tests for $50 a pop to learn what is the stickiest persona for AstroWed.  So I had honed down from doing one of those assumption exercises and said, “Okay, we’ve got comic book people, we’ve got regional people like in the Boston area, we’ve got techie people, and then we’ve got LGBT.”  And I wanted to see who of that group was the stickiest.  Who is engaging the most and what could I learn for the smallest amount of money possible. [laugh]
So that test was great because even though the numbers of hits were fairly small, at least you got a signal.  In terms of being in a hubspot sort of culture, where content marketing is king, how do you know who to really write for or who to create content for?  And that was really a large impetus of running this test.  And the comic book people actually won, and LGBT was second.
So it was really, really interesting, but it helped inform the next set of marketing initiatives and business steps, and was one of the reasons why we moved towards doing Boston’s LGBT Wedding Expo a few weekends ago.  It was smaller, it allowed us to test a bunch of other things as well, and if you haven’t learned  yet, basically one of my mantras is, “Everything is an experiment.”  The more you can learn, the more you can refine, the more you can constantly move with your customer as well as you can move within the landscape.

Pete Mockaitis
Can you just give us a very rough sense for… Okay, $50, you’re getting some kind of a signal.  I guess that equates to so many thousand impressions and so many clicks.  It’s probably not statistically significant to the 96% confidence interval, whatever, but it’s something.  Can you give us a sense for… Did you see, “Wow, this group was clicking at 6 times the rate as the other group.”  Or how does that unfold?

Stacey Dyer
Yeah, it was essentially that.  It was the comic book folks were clicking at, I think it was 5 times the rate of… The regional group was least performing; nobody cared, they were like, “Whatever.  You’re from Boston, we know.  Go away.” And what was really interesting was that the male demographic engaged more than the female from the comic book standpoint.  It was super exciting to me because again, I’m disrupting a wedding market, where it is bride only all the time.  And being really curious about those demographics, I was just thrilled to see that kind of multiplier.
And then on the other side what you end up learning, especially from targeted Facebook ads – Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday were definitely the best days by far.  I had run these week after week, and just seeing the trends of when people were online was also hugely helpful, to just be able to schedule all of your social media, to hit people when they want to be hit.

Pete Mockaitis
That is fascinating.  And so, you don’t have to share this, you may not remember this, but can you give me a sense for… It sounds like such a great deal – $50, give me some real knowledge.  So could you give us a sense for, “Hey, number of impressions and clicks bad, roughly, and number of impressions/clicks good, roughly?

Stacey Dyer
I don’t remember it off the top of my head; I have to pull it up.  But I will tell you one of the other things that we talked about during that workshop was other things you could do with $50 that will actually make a difference, to tell you whether or not your idea is good or bad.  We talked about gas money being spent to drive and talk to people. Two, lunches – take a couple of people out to lunch.  It’s worth paying for that conversation because any insight you can gather that’s not your own is worth its weight in gold.

And then also I had one person comment $50 in beer or wine goes a long way when it comes to getting favors in return for things that you may not have the ability to do.  I’m a graphic designer in addition to being a framework-obsessed junkie.  So, I often trade dinner for doing design favors for a lot of friends and colleagues because I’m like, “Don’t bother paying me; I’m just happy to do this to help you.”  So remember, folks – it’s not necessarily the dollar; it’s what you can do to barter that means something to your friends.  I love to see people and have those conversations, so let’s go out to dinner – if you pick up the tab, this one’s on me.

Pete Mockaitis
Beautiful, very cool.  Well, is there anything else you want to make sure that we cover off before we shift gears and hear some of your favorite things here?

Stacey Dyer
I think the last thing I’ll say is that… I know you’re probably going to circle around on this at the end, but we are offering a free webinar this Thursday to talk about how to design your own wedding budget, and it’s based on you, not just industry trends.  So the Q3 2016 results for the wedding industry just came out this week, so we’re going to be reviewing that, and I’m going to be recording that so I hope to post it on YouTube.  So perhaps by the time this episode goes live you’ll be able to find that on YouTube.  And then we’ve got a number of other webinars and workshops coming up as well, so just head to Astro-wed.com and go to Events, and you’ll be able to see what’s coming up.

Pete Mockaitis
Alright, good deal.  So with that said, could you start us off by sharing a favorite quote, something you find helpful?

Stacey Dyer
Favorite quote.  One of my favorites, James Altucher, is a fantastic writer.  He’s a medium, he’s out in the market talking about all kinds of things, from quitting your job to talking with Stephen Dubner.  He once said in one of his articles, “Just take the truth and wrap it in art.”

Pete Mockaitis
Thank you.

Stacey Dyer
I love that.

Pete Mockaitis
And how about a favorite study or experimental piece of research?

Stacey Dyer
Blue Mind is a fantastic book on why we’re drawn to water, to the color blue, to stillness, to solitude of that variety.  The amount of research and insights into why we crave being around those things, even down to a photograph that’s mounted on the ceiling of your dentist’s office, all have scientific evidence that helps our mind come at ease, get through decision making, really break the boundaries and be able to think clearly.

Pete Mockaitis
Cool, thank you.  And how about a favorite book?
Stacey Dyer
Favorite book, I’d say Zag is one of my absolute favorites.  I think it’s by Marty Neumeier. I found it on Amazon.  It’s a tiny little book, it’s all printed in black and white and it’s got chunky graphics inside.  But the point of it is, when everybody zigs, you should zag.  And that’s been an incredibly helpful mantra as somebody that likes to disrupt trends and norms and really break up the boundaries.  You want to stick out like a sore thumb so that people remember you, so that they pay attention, so that they can find solace or excitement in what it is that you’re offering to them.

Pete Mockaitis
Cool.  And how about a favorite tool?

Stacey Dyer
Favorite tool.  Gigantic sticky pad lists.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh yes.  Talk about photography, I think your image on your website is just perfect in terms of the emotions it evokes, like “Oh my gosh!  This feels creative and open and free and interesting and intriguing.”  That’s with you and your sticky notes.

Stacey Dyer
Recently we moved into a new apartment and I was searching for the next perfect white board.  And I was looking at the static cling versions of it, and I read reviews and people were just like, “Oh, sometimes it works; sometimes it doesn’t.”  And I was like, “Screw it, we’re getting the paper version.  I can tear it off, write all over it, take it away, throw it out, feel good about that.”  So, man, I love those gigantic sticky pads. [laugh]

Pete Mockaitis
Totally.  And how about a favorite habit or personal practice of yours?

Stacey Dyer
Stepping away, going for a walk.  I have what I call a “daily quota of fresh air”, where I notice that I start to get itchy or uncomfortable or just restless if I haven’t been outside yet.  I don’t care how cold it is, I don’t care if it’s raining, I have to break up the day by getting some fresh air somehow, some way.  And as I said earlier, a lot of the times by stepping away I find all the clarity, I find great ideas and I can come back and sit down and be even more focused.

Pete Mockaitis
Cool.  And could you share perhaps a particularly resonant nugget or tidbit that when you share it, folks really seem to connect, re-tweet or nod their heads emphatically?  A Stacey Dyer quotable original?

Stacey Dyer
Limitations breed creativity.  I remember I interviewed for a job where somebody asked me why that was my quote on the website, and was very intrigued outside of anybody that’s ever attended one of my workshops or even has been a part of AstroWed.  It’s all about finding your constraints, because pure creative rhythm is really scary.  You can start from scratch and sometimes scratch is really overwhelming as a blank white canvas.  So finding those constraints, finding your limitations – it will absolutely fuel your creativity.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s absolutely Mike Spears when it comes to stress.  It’s like, “Okay, don’t have enough resources to get this thing done.  Okay, what are we going to do?”  So, there’s just that bit of pressure or necessity.  And then you come up with a discovery and it’s like, “Shucks, how come I don’t just do this all the time?”

Stacey Dyer
Exactly, yeah.  I often tell people, “Set a timer.  Make yourself panic a little, and then see what actually comes of it.”

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool.  And again, what would you say is the best place to find you?

Stacey Dyer
StaceyDyer.com, and then Astro-wed.com.

Pete Mockaitis
Alright.  And you do have a favorite, I guess, challenge or a parting call to action you’d like to sound forth to those seeking to be more awesome at their jobs?

Stacey Dyer
Get out there and talk to people.  Don’t worry about failing.  Listen to what they say, fail fast, you’re going to learn from it.  Life is an experiment.  Learn from it.

Pete Mockaitis
Perfect.  Well, Stacy, this has been a lot of fun.  I wish you tons more success and traction with your ideas and creative inspirations along the way.

Stacey Dyer
Thank you so much.  This was such a pleasure to chat with you today.

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