A Tale of Two Webinars

In the past few days, I sat through two photo related webinars. They were very different.

The first was an hour long advertisement. None of the information gained can be used without their products. According to the online info, about 8 people (including me) were listening to the webinar. I’d guess few bought the product that was being sold.

The second was an hour long collection of immediately useful information. If I were a young photographer I would have learned a lot about photography in a very short time. It provided practical information that could be used immediately. At the end of the hour, they did suggest taking their online course that seemed to be equally useful for a young photographer. I would have signed up for it immediately. Incidentally, according to the online info, more than 600 people were listening to the webinar. I’m sure that many signed on for the course.

The moral…sell less and provide more free…useful…information.

How many things can go wrong on one day…as a speaker?

Several years ago, when I was working for the New York City Department of Education, I was invited to do a workshop for a gathering of middle school principals. The topic was how to integrate technology into the classroom…a topic I had spoken about often. Previous audience members always rated it as an excellent presentation.

I got to the venue early and immediately went to the room I was to speak in. Although there was a breakfast spread I passed it up. The room was not set up for a PowerPoint presentation. I had to move furniture, adjust the shades, and find an outlet that worked. I took out the 50 sets of handout materials, each containing about 25 pages of information detailing the use of technology in middle school classrooms.

At the appointed time I opened the door ready to great the 50 or so principals I expected were going to attend the workshop. Seven showed up!

I smiled and started with a creative example of how technology was being integrated into classrooms in Brooklyn. Two of the people were listening to me. The others were conducting a conversation on a different technology related subject…one that they wanted to discuss. I tried to move the conversation over to what I was supposed to speak about, but they weren’t interested!

Over the course of the next half hour I offered some suggestions on how they could do what they were talking about more effectively. As an expert, I thought they would be interested in what I had to say. They hardly listened to me.

When the time was up, they left.

As I was on my way home I was both shocked and disappointed. Over time I realized that although they were rude, I was unprepared.

Here are the 5 mistakes I made (and never made again)…

  1. I didn’t contact anyone from the principals organization to see if the topic I was to speak on was of interest to the members. It wasn’t (at that time).
  2. I didn’t speak to anyone on the day of the event to get a sense of what they were interested in.
  3. I printed 50 sets of handouts that no one was interested in. It was a waste of money and it was heavy. It was also meant for teachers…not principals. For principals I should have had a one page summary with contact info if they wanted me to come to speak to their teachers.
  4. I (the techie) assumed that a PowerPoint presentation was what they expected (in 2002). It wasn’t. They wanted to brainstorm amongst themselves.
  5. The worst mistake I made was that I accepted the invitation to speak. They wanted to hear from a peer…I was a mere teacher trainer.

There’s a lot more to speaking than speaking. Plan ahead!

Is there another way?

If you look in you aren’t getting in. Looking in is like procrastination and complaining. All you accomplish is wasting time. In order to get in you might try one or more of these paths. Sometimes creativity is the most important skill you can have. Creativity is all around us if you know how to look.

  1. Make a plan. A realistic plan…not something that you’ll ignore tomorrow.
  2. Seek out advice. You may be smart, but others may have the information that you need to succeed.
  3. Look for another path. You may be looking for the wrong entrance.
  4. Maybe you are trying to get into the wrong place. Sometimes, starting something new is better than continuing to do the wrong thing. Being wrong could be a good thing, if it points you toward being right.

How many ways have you tried?


Meeting Creativity

Creativity and meetings usually don’t go together. However, there is a way to make your next meeting a bit different…and more interesting. Here’s how…

Before the meeting ask everyone who will be attending to email a photo to you that they have taken at your office, sometime before the meeting. Ask them to send the  picture in an email or text…with no descriptive text.

You can use the photos in three ways:

  1. They will provide an intriguing reason to attend the meeting. Everyone likes a little mystery.
  2. The photos will give you an idea of what your colleagues are thinking about when they’re in the office.
  3. They will be an interesting topic of conversation at the beginning of the meeting.

For your next meeting, ask them to send a picture that they took the previous weekend.

Photos are great for creativity…even at meetings.

Marketing Advice from Lucy, Ralph, and George

The Web’s evolution as a medium of communications reminds me of how another communications medium started out too…television. Some of the evolution that took place almost 60 years ago may be applicable to the Web today. Three of the legends of early television may have relevant help for us. Here are some Web tips from Lucy, Ralph and George.

Early television experimented with formats. In the beginning, only one camera was used. Later on two, and finally three became the standard. If you look at early episodes of I Love Lucy, The Honeymooners and Burns and Allen, you’ll see how much could be done with simple camera setups. Perhaps Web designers, who think that using the latest plug-ins is effective, might learn a little from those old techniques.

Lucy, Ralph and George (Lucille Ball, Jackie Gleason, and George Burns, respectively) also might serve as models for what they said. They all used comedy. Perhaps more Web sites should include some humor. Another aspect of their comedy was that they didn’t use, or apparently need, profanity. Good clean fun was what they were able to achieve.

The story lines on each show were also simple. There were usually only the regulars who appeared…only four per show. They kept the story short (half-hour segments) and simple. Folks could understand the plot, and it would be over within the attention span of most viewers.

Another good point for Web creators…simple and short makes sense.

Another aspect of the old time television shows was that they were in black and white. As photographers like Ansel Adams would prove, black and white works. Colors often divert attention away from the content that you are trying to achieve on the Web. Dazzling sites may only be remembered for the glitz, not the message.

When creating a Web site it may be a good idea to remember these communications pioneers. Their programs are still being viewed.

Although it may appear that I’m a bit old fashioned in my taste (which I usually am), it’s also good to remember that some old-fashioned concepts are equally valid today. Learning from the past can save a lot of time, effort and even money.

Unlikely Ways to Enhance Your Social Media

Enhancing your social media is an ongoing task. Adaptation is the key word for using any help you may come upon. The trick is to look at something that has nothing to do with your own situation and apply some useful quality to yourself.

Here are five suggestions…

1. Watch television…with the sound turned off.

After watching television without the sound you will really “see” how television is made. You will notice that each camera shot only stays on the screen for three to eight seconds. Images shift very frequently. That’s why websites, Facebook pages, Tweets, etc., to be competitive, need the ability to catch and hold the attention of the viewer.

2. Watch professional wrestling.

I know it’s fake. I also know that it appeals to the raunchy side of life. However, it isn’t what you think it is…at least not anymore.

When I was younger (a hundred years ago) my father and I would watch wrestling and actually see wrestling. Two men (usually) would go into combat and one would win. Now, the wrestling part actually takes up a relatively small segment of the time. It’s more like a soap opera. There are intertwining stories of conflict between
factions and individuals. In other words…they are able to get viewers back to see the “next” episode.

Does your Web site have elements built into it that will get viewers
back to your site? Do your Twitter followers actually look for your next tweet? Do your Instagram followers comment on your posts?

3. Listen to Edward Bear.

It’s not often we hear someone suggest that you follow a “bear with a very little brain” but, that’s exactly what I’m suggesting that you do. Edward Bear, the “real” name of Winnie the Pooh, came to life almost 100 years ago. Disney is still making a lot of money from him today.

Sometimes it pays to look back at the old ways and come up with new products or services. Originally, Pooh came to life in a series of books. Now, he’s the subject of cartoons, books (I love the one called “The Pooh Book of Quotations”), and much more.

4. Fighting May Help.

Would you believe that there’s a married couple who actually gets paid to fight…with swords? Yep, there’s a site that you can turn to at http://www.crossedswords.biz to find out about Mike Sakuta and his wife Nicole Harsch, who are professional sword fighters.

They have choreographed theatrical fighting scenes and appear at festivals. What does this have to do with social media…everything! Sometimes your unusual interest may spill over to a real business opportunity. In addition to the sword fighting, they also offer swords for sale. Interesting niche!

5. Visit a Dog Show.

My wife and I have been interested in show dogs for many years. One of the qualities I like best about the sport is the way dogs are judged. Several dogs go into the ring at once and the judge is supposed to evaluate them with the ideal dog (for a given breed) in mind. That’s very difficult to do. Some judges look for faults.
Others look at good qualities. Some days you win and some days you go home very unhappy.

You should, however, learn from each experience. If you know what qualities a certain judge (or your best customer) is looking for, you know next time whether it pays to enter under a particular judge. In social media, it’s fine to experiment and then alter what you have done. What you think is the best thing to do may not be. Let the market…your viewers…have some input. They may teach you a little about making a better site.

That’s five different places to look at the world…a little bit differently. There are a zillion of them out there. Look!


The Jack and Jill Speaking Method

Once you get past the fear of public speaking, the problem is even worse. How will you say what you want to say…in public? Consider my Jack and Jill Speaking Method. Let’s say Jack and Jill, two longtime friends who are home from college, meet in the local mall. Here is their conversation.

Jack: Hi Jill, great to see you. How’s it going?
Jill: Hi Jack, I may have failed math and science this semester, I’ve got to go to the dentist soon because at least one tooth is killing me, my brother just got out of jail again, his girlfriend had twins, my mother is still drinking, but at least she isn’t on drugs for now, her boyfriend is serving time, my sister, the tramp, has more boy friends than there are animals in the zoo, did I tell you about my bum leg, the one that I broke in high school, my father sent two alimony checks in the last three years, the bum, I have no idea what I am going to major in if they even let me stay in school, I’m really hungry, cya!

Although I’ve never heard anything quite that bad, I have heard some speakers who must have learned from Jill. How could we make her into a speaker worth listening to?

First, she would have to pay attention to what she was asked to speak about. Jack asked a simple question. The simple answer should have been something like, “Not so good.” Jack could have responded with, “Sorry to hear that but it’s good to see you,” and walked on. Or he could have asked for more information. If he did, Jill should have said something like, “This year has been challenging for me and my family.” She could have then spoken of her problems, her mother’s problems, her sister and brother. Or should could have limited her story to just her. Jack probably didn’t need ever detail. When he walked away he probably only remembered meeting Jill and that she and her family had problems.

Speakers need to list the points they want to make using an outline or mind map. Sift through the details and decide what is really important for their audience to hear. Weed out the extraneous details…and concisely tell their story.

Never speak like Jill. If you do your audience will think of you as you thought of Jill when you read her answer.

You are NOT creative if…

“Some people are creative. Some people are not creative.”

I disagree. 

You are not creative only under one condition. You are not creative if … you don’t think you are creative. That’s it.

And if you don’t think that you are creative, you’re wrong. And I can prove it.

Consider a problem that you or your company faces. Take out a piece of paper and pencil. Write down the problem. Start a list of ways to solve the problem. When you finish your list think about ways to add to it. That’s where the creativity comes in. Here are some creative ways of finding a solution that you may not have considered.

  • How would Benjamin Franklin, Steve Jobs, or Albert Einstein go about solving it?
  • How do your competitors approach the problem?
  • How would kindergarteners approach your problem?
  • How would your mother approach the problem?
  • At dinner, ask members of the family how they would look at the problem.

To be creative all you have to do is look at your problem from a different angle.

Everybody is creative…if you know where to look.

Try it. Please.

Sometimes, your best presentation can be your worst…

It was a very hot day.

The room was not air conditioned.

The audience was made up of very important people.

My team consisted of four speakers. Each of us was given about 20 minutes to speak. I deliberately went last. As the other speakers were speaking I was looking at the audience. Some were on the verge of failing off their chairs because they were dozing off. Some were looking at their watches. None were paying much attention to the speakers. And then it was my turn to speak.

A colleague was switching PowerPoint files when I told him to shut the projector off.

I started by telling them that I was going to summarize what I was going to say in two minutes or less and provide a handout with the details. Everyone perked up. I spoke. I stopped. I gave out the handout.

Several people told me that mine was the best presentation of the day.

Sometimes, you have to adjust your presentation to the day. Sometimes, your worst presentation (according to the speaking gods) can turn out to be your best presentation.

Shock ’em in a month…

Screen Shot 2016-08-12 at 12.31.43 PMWhen you make a presentation and have email addresses of those in your audience shock your audience by sending out an email, in a month, with a summary of what you told them. As Jack Friday would say, “Just the facts.” Avoid the temptation of try to sell anything. Just use the email as a gentle remember of what you said. Use it like a second handout.

They will appreciate it. Really, they will.