Brown UPS Packages Tied Up With Strings: A Few of a Consultant's Favorite Things

by Nikhil Torsekar
September 7, 2012

Love her or hate her, Oprah Winfrey was definitely on to something with her "My Favorite Things" segment.  We naturally gravitate toward products and services that are preferred by friends, family, and colleagues.  I, for instance, rarely buy products on the basis of an engadget review, or a demo in the Apple Store.  Rather, I play around with it at a friend's place, and get so hooked that I rush out and plunk down any amount of cash just so I can be cool like them.

With that in mind, I wanted to talk about some of the gadgets, doodads, and other personal effects that I have a yen (and greenback) for.

"And We Would Know You From..."
But first, let's put things in context: who am I?  My Twitter and LinkedIn profiles contain the words "seasoned consulting professional," so let's go with that.  I love consulting for many reasons: the learning, the networking, the variety.  But mainly, I like the fact that at parties people usually give me a semi-satisfied nod terminating the conversation once I answer their "what do you do" question with the stock answer, "I'm in consulting."

Not surprisingly, my career as a consultant guides my preferences.  Admittedly, they are of a dorkier bent than those of my SMBMatters colleague who rhapsodizes about watches, fancy cars, and other "finer things in life."  I've written before about Dropbox and Penultimate, two technologies that have made my life easier.  Herein I will discuss a few additional topics that have facilitated my peripatetic vocation, that requires lots of communication, quick analysis, and wrestling with the realities of travel.

1. Logitech R400 Wireless Presenter[ibimage==18902==Small==]
It shouldn't come as a surprise, but consultants tend to present a lot: to clients, prospects, team members, new hires, and (hopefully not too often) grand juries.  As with "win-win" and several other "Dilbertisms," "being on the same page" is a hackneyed term in consulting whose overuse has diluted its true import in giving presentations.  When whisking through a slide deck replete with charts, graphs, and the ubiquitous Chevrons, it is crucial to be able to quickly zero in on the points of interest.  

With the Logitech R400 Wireless Presenter, I'm able to focus like a laser (literally) on the topic being discussed, rather than awkwardly guiding the audience to "look at cell AAA312."  Further, the best presentations are interactive ones in which the speaker "works the crowd," soliciting audience participation and providing clarification.  Rather than scurrying back to their Lenovo ThinkPad to advance or reverse the slide deck, the presenter is able to at once be mobile and manipulate the PowerPoint. 

As an aside, watching consultants battle over "who has the best presenter remote" is comical, and reminiscent of the business card scene in American Psycho.

2. Brookstone Neck Pillow / Eye Mask
There have been dramatic advances in technology such as Google Docs, Skype, and Dropbox that break down the geographic boundaries between organizations and facilitate collaboration.  That said, there is little substitute for face-to-face contact with clients, especially when wrestling with the time differences, language gaps, cultural norms, and other challenges of international collaboration.[ibimage==18903==Small==]

Unfortunately, for the consultant this translates into a lot of miles in the friendly skies, jet lag, and the discomfort of sleeping in less than optimal configurations.  Enter the Brookstone Neck Pillow / Eye Mask travel kit, which I picked up after battling terrible bouts of airplane-induced insomnia.  The sleep-inducing effects of this one-two-punch combination are powerful, and truly Pavlovian: Inconsiderate neighbor lifting the window shade to let the light in?  No problem!  Guy next to you insisting on a ceaseless marathon of Big Momma's House?  You're covered!  Literally!

Flying economy class in a journey replete with delayed / canceled flights and missed bags can really take it out of you: it's good to be able to hit the ground running, with a pre-emptive nap to gird yourself for marathon strategy meetings filled with whiteboard etchings and lengthy slide decks.  With these products, you're good to go.

3. iPod Nano
[ibimage==18904==Small==none==self==ibimage_align-right]Let's face it: consulting and physical fitness have never exactly been synonymous terms.  The endless hours of sitting around on the tarmac at LAX.  The late night noshing on Panda Express for marathon strategy sessions.  The relationship building at fancy joints like Chili's, Applebee's, and Bennigans (kidding).  This trifecta causes us to rack up the pounds as fast as we do the frequent flier miles.

I've generally turned to Apple for the panacea to these and many other problems.  The iPhone is an indispensable life companion; the iPad will continue to revolutionize education, music, movies, and publishing.  However, I can safely say that, aside from sheer motivation (and shame when looking in the mirror), the iPod nano is the must-have in any fitness-conscious consultant's Tumi bag:

  • It is the perfect-size: to pre-empt back pain and shoulder strain (along with pesky baggage fees), the 21-gram Nano helps consultants economize when saddled with laptops, toiletries, and binders of TPS reports.
  • It fits seamlessly into your life routine: as with other Apple products that have spawned a fertile cottage industry of complementary products, the Nano has its HEX vision metal watch band.  It's not just for consultants - apparently Snoop Dogg / Lion was taken with the product as well.
  • It keeps you company: the Nano has a series of Nike-branded interactive fitness features (voice reporting on distance, time, calories burned, personal goals) usually reserved for the best health clubs.  It's helped me whittle down my running time, as I inch closer to my goal of running a marathon.

Raindrops on roses are great and all, but...
Though Oprah Winfrey's show is no more, the spirit of the "Favorite Things" movement lives on.  Nowhere is this more evident than in Pinterest, which continues to rack up daily subscribers, and has spawned a series of complementary services (my favorite would be Pinstagram, the Pinterest / Instagram hybrid developed by Chicago's own Pek Pongpaet).

While I tend to march of the beat of my own drum I do also adhere to the "50,000,000 Elvis fans can't be wrong" credo.  I seek out the opinions of those around me when buying new products or services, keeping in mind how their career, lifestyle, and DISC profile shape their choices.  Hopefully this post gives you some ideas about products to increase your effectiveness and productivity, whether you're a change agent, rainmaker, strategy enabler, or trusted advisor.

That would be the MECE list for what we in the biz refer to as...a consultant.

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