Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Reasons you Need Webinars in your Content Strategy

Webinars became our business eight years ago. Our concept at the time remains the same today, to help others use webinar technology to improve engagement with their networks and avoid the mistakes almost always made by those not using expert assistance. As business professionals with a background in training, networking and community engagement we know how hard it is to engage with an increasingly time poor and geographically diverse marketplace.

We had used a wide range of online technologies ourselves, many free, most with significant limitations. In 2008 we started using webinars to deliver training related sessions related to social media for business and soon discovered the levels of engagement and feedback were unprecedented given the relatively small cost and time investment. Others started requesting our assistance and we evolved into a webinar facilitation business.

Like all start-ups should we created a business plan. We expected that our model would involve us providing the technology support and up skilling presenters on best practice methodology then they would move on to manage their own webinar systems. Eight years later we celebrate that the majority of our original clients are still with us. This proves two important points, first that webinars continue to be a valuable communication tool for them, especially when done regularly, and second, that our facilitation service is of value to them.

I do regular training presentations myself using the webinar platform. I can certainly testify that having someone else set up the branding, arranging the settings and polling, and ultimately being there in the background managing the technology while I focus solely on my presentation provides not just peace of mind, but security that the session will be seamless. Our facilitators will even offer a second voice to do introductions, introduce polling where applicable and assist with any technology related questions or issues that may arise.

One other thing that continues to surprise me is how many people still have not participated in a webinar, or considered it as part of their business communications or marketing programme. We are not in the business of convincing people of the value of webinars, however if you want to stand out from the crowd and be seen as the best at what you do we would love to talk to you.
Here’s someone else’s considerations on why you need webinars “6 reasons you need webinars in your content strategy”

Monday, September 1, 2014

Presentations that POP Online

Presenting online presents as many opportunities as it does dilemmas for us all. What is the best way to present? How do I best engage my audience? What medium should I use? How do I convert online engagement into offline engagement?

Having managed and presented hundreds of webinars, we are often asked by clients how they can create more compelling and engaging presentations. In response, I share here in a series of blogs some of the findings from our experience using the webinar medium of communication. 

In this blog, we will focus on you as the presenter and share five key findings to support your online delivery.

1.  Keep the main things, the main things.
Start by thinking about what you want your presentation to achieve then build around this a handful (five) of key concepts or points. Keep it simple and don’t try to squeeze in too much information, or your audience will quickly become overwhelmed and mentally (and possibly physically) switch off. 

2.  Tell great stories.
Great stories have a natural flow – beginning – middle – end. Build stories around each of your key concepts or points to reinforce the learning and/or cement the understanding of your audience. Keep the content specific, relevant and timely. Demonstrate how the theory translates into real world experience. Share anecdotes; inject humour and personality as appropriate. Encourage interaction and connect with your audience on a personal level – let them know there is a real person there with them and that you’re not just a recording.

3.  Make your presentations visually stimulating to reinforce your message(s). 
We don’t have the advantage of physically being in the same room as our audience. Unless we are using webcams (another story entirely which we’ll get to in future blog), our audience cannot see us, interpret our facial expressions, or our body language. Because of this use of photos, charts, graphs, cartoons and key words are important factors in helping us to reinforce our verbal presentation and to capture and retain the interest of our audience. We get asked a lot by our clients “how many slides should I have?”. The answer is – it depends. I once had a client that used 58 slides in a one-hour presentation. My first thought was – is this overkill? As it turned out, it was the perfect number for his fast-paced, gritty delivery style. A number of his slides contained only one word – each supporting his verbal delivery – and used by him as a tool to keep him on-track. He had practiced and practiced his delivery before the live broadcast and this was right for him – which takes us nicely onto my next point.

4.  Practice really does make Perfect.
The key learning here is find out what works for you through practice, practice, practice. Put your presentation together, make notes, then take your entire presentation onto your webinar platform and deliver it from start to finish just as you intend to in the live webinar. Record your practice sessions and watch the recording afterwards (as painful as that may be for some!). Check every detail of your delivery – including timing – and make sure you are happy. You could also get someone you trust to critique the delivery and provide you with some considered feedback. Put yourself in the position of your audience – see what they will see – hear what they will hear. The question often arises - should you script your delivery?  Scripting can be effective and we use it ourselves in some situations. The key to script as you speak and not script as you write. When you script as you write, it is clear to the audience you are reading something. When you script as you speak, it comes across like your natural presentation style.

5.  No man (or woman) is an Island.
In an online presentation tone and expression are as important as the words and pictures you use to convey your message. Talking too fast or too slow or boring monotone delivery can kill an audience’s interest very quickly. Distraction, or sounding distracted, can be just as damaging. That is one of the many reasons why the best presenters never webinar alone.  Consider getting support for your live webinar broadcast and free yourself up to focus on your presentation. Your audience can hear in your voice when you are distracted, reading audience questions, and fiddling with your webinar technology. This is distracting and a turn off for listeners. Another ‘voice’ in your presentation team creates higher interest, engagement, and a level of comfort for the audience. They are also great when the unexpected happens – and that is definitely another blog.
Look out for our next blog – Ways to Engage your Audience Online.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Gary Vaynerchuk - The Thank You Economy

Gary Vaynerchuk talks about his book "The Thank You Economy" and what is going on now with Social Media. You've really got to admire his knowledge, energy and enthusiasm for the topic.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

This Little Light of Mine - Developing an Online Strategy

I was moved to hear today about the passing of Stephen Covey (1932-2012) on 16th July 2012. He has been a great inspiration to me for a number of years and his works, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, First Things First, and The 8th Habit from Effectiveness to Greatness, are three very well-read books in my library.

I saw him speak a number of years ago in Melbourne, Australia and the memory of that encounter remains clear in my mind to this day. This prompted me to think about what it was about him, Stephen Covey, the person, that made him so memorable to me - beyond the works he produced and the 'systems' he developed to enhance personal effectiveness.

And here's the thing, he spoke his truth and his light surely did shine.

Often when we attempt to embark on a programme of social media/online media/new media (whatever you want to call it) activity, we ask "how do I/we get people to take notice?" or "how do I/we stand out from the rest?".

The answer lies in understanding the simple fact that engagement - online or off - is personal; it's about people creating connections with people. Stephen Covey did this that day years ago in Melbourne, in an events centre with over 1,000 people present. He made a personal lasting connection with each and every person there, without moving from the stage.

Then what he did was he took that connection to the real world and created a business empire selling ideas, books, workshops, webinars, support groups, and so on. I bought his books. I attended his workshop. I joined his online community. I became a long-term customer and an advocate.

The point I want to make here is, when planning your online media strategy, don't get tied in knots focussing on "B2B", "B2C", etc., and the resulting drone of broadcasting and push marketing messages.

Take inspiration from the Stephen Covey (RIP) school of genuine, authentic engagement by developing real and lasting connections with your online audience - person to person "P2P" - then watch your customer base grow and oh how your light surely will shine!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Pinterest: Believe the Hype, It's THAT Good

Pinterest.com is a new social site that enables members to create, share and comment on online pinboards (organised by their own defined categories of interests) on which they can 'pin' images and videos. Members can upload photos from their computers or mobiles, gather images online using the "Pin It' bookmarklet or 'repin' other people's images to feature them on their own pinboard.

That probably sounds like a whole lot of gobbledegook and at this point you may be thinking, blah blah, another social site, blah blah - but trust me, seeing it is a whole lot better than reading about it. This site is uber cool.

Globally, interest in Pinterest is vast. Statistics I've heard today indicate that membership has grown to 12 million in a matter of months; as much as 97% of users are female; and if you're in business, take notice of this especially - it is said to be driving more traffic to retail sites than YouTube, Google+ and LinkedIn combined. It is rapidly becoming a very big deal and when you check it out you will immediately see why.

It's got lots of applications -virtual recipe book, personal inspiration board, Santa List, planner for special events, house renovations or your new season wardrobe, etc., etc.

For businesses looking to hook into Pinterest, commercial application isn't entirely straight forward. Pinterest is not for 'self promotion' (aka 'advertising') so businesses need to approach their involvement from a "brand" rather than "product" perspective and to be smart and imaginative about how they do it. If you want to find out more about commercial applications for Pinterest, Mashable.com have put together an excellent article. You can read it by following this link:

Pinterest for Brands: 5 Hot Tips

Pinterest is still relatively new and so is still evolving. Membership is currently by 'invitation only'. Go to the website www.pinterest.com to request an invitation or if you know someone that is a member already, ask them to invite you.

A few words of caution:

1. Pinterest is an open network. Privacy may be an issue. Make sure you understand Pinterest's privacy policy before you start uploading your intimate family photos (potentially for the whole world to see).

2. It is cool - very, very cool and potentially very addictive.

Share with us your thoughts and experiences on Pinterest.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Bevelled Edge Hedge and Having a Point of Difference

This morning I walked the children to school. It turned out not to be the most brilliant of my ideas, as I’m consumed by a cold which, having taken hold of my head, is now continuing its assault towards my chest. As I was labouring along on my way home, to lessen my suffering I turned my mind to what was around me and I noticed as I walked along that a number of hedges on this particular street had been trimmed with a bevelled edge finish, and I recognised immediately the “trademark” edging of a particular hedge trimmer in our area.

I knew this was his trademark edge because of a really important thing – he had told me it was.

About three years ago, a man came onto our property and asked if he could trim our hedges. We didn’t know him but he looked like he’d had a really bad day/week/month/year. He offered a heavily discounted rate for cash on the spot. We were on the verge of saying ‘no thanks’ as we had done to other hedge trimmers that had approached us over time, when a curious thing happened.

Mr Hedge Trimmer started to tell us about his work - what an excellent job he would do on our hedges, how ‘his’ hedges carry his trademark bevelled edges and how we would have seen his work in our local area. His whole demeanour changed as he spoke about his work with pride. You could see it in his eyes and hear it in his voice. Even his posture changed.

We changed with him. We said ‘yes’. He did an excellent job – just as he said he would. He trimmed our hedges to perfection, complete with bevelled edges – just as he said he would. Now, as I walk through my local area three years later, I recognise his work – just as he said I would.

Mr Hedge Trimmer did some things really right that all people offering a service or product should be aware of – he took the time to create a point of difference for himself and his business – the bevelled edge hedge –he perfected his craft, producing clearly distinguishable bevelled edge hedges (pretenders beware, I’m not sure how he does it but there are no others quite as good) – and just as important as the act itself, he spoke with pride when telling his customers about his point of difference, with the effect that it wasn’t easily forgotten (not for us anyway).

What sets you apart from others in your business sector? What’s your ‘trademark’ or ‘signature’ piece that is particular to you that others can easily identify? If you haven’t identified a point of difference for your business offering yet – do it – make it real – and tell everyone about it.

Mr Hedge Trimmer reinforced for me another important lesson in business that is too easily and too often overlooked – don’t forget to leave a business card – but that’s another blog entirely.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Jetstar, you should be ashamed of yourself.

It had been a great day Friday. I had spoken at the closing session of the E-Tourism Conference in Wellington; the theme of my presentation was on the importance of communicating to your customer. My experience that evening when attempting to get home via budget airline carrier Jetstar not only defied customer service logic it seemed to challenge the basic fundamentals of human rights.

Disruption of travel is inevitable, aircraft are complicated mechanical things with safety having to take priority, and I get that. As the plane reversed out of the gate, we were confronted with an announcement that there had been a “computer malfunction” that required us to return to the gate.

This was approximately 7:15 in the evening, and to cut a long story short we ended up still standing in the airport at close to midnight attempting to find a solution to accommodation and alternative travel due to our flight being cancelled. The first indication of this cancellation was the sight of our flight crew heading en masse to the exit while we were left standing around in a now empty and closed Wellington terminal. When I asked where they were going one replied “listen for the announcement" without breaking his stride or looking back.

To give Jetstar their due we did eventually get a hotel and a flight out the next evening. What was hard to accept was how this was handled. After standing around for three hours in the hope they could repair the plane we were told that the flight was cancelled. At no point did anyone from Jetstar come and personally address the passengers - all we got was an occasional intercom announcement. We, as passengers, were left to console a girl sobbing her heart out that she was going to miss her connecting flight to Samoa. We foolishly promised her that Jetsar would be sure she was taken care of.

It was about 11pm, while still standing in what seemed to be an endless line of frustrated and tired people, that we saw a real person come along to address us for the first time. He was a representative of the airport apologising for our situation and ensuring we were aware it was Jetstar’s responsibility, not theirs. After numerous complaints about our basic needs he went away and returned with bottled water (at their expense, not Jetstar's as he was quick to point out).

What I can’t understand is why there were not more people to help out. This, so I have since been informed, is a common occurrence with Jetstar. Surely they should have a workable system in place by now? Is being a budget airline also justification for budget resourcing and service?

Why did we have to stand in a line for two hours to get an accommodation chit when someone could have walked the line and done the same thing in 30 minutes? At least visually it would have appeared that they were making an effort? Why did no-one come along and give us reassurance that things would be taken care of? How can any company that deals with people on a daily basis be so blatantly neglectful to the basic needs and comfort of their paying customer?

They left us wondering what was going on while the same crew who had announced on-board at 7pm that they were there to "help" had left to their meals and beds hours earlier.

Maybe I shouldn’t complain, I was informed that people who were booked on the Auckland flight back were simply told the flight was cancelled and to go away with a refund promised.

Now I’ve unloaded can I offer some solutions. Air NZ, so I’m told, on cancellation of a flight will immediately distribute taxi, meal and hotel vouchers before you even get off the plane. This says to the customer “We are looking after you and despite the inconvenience you have options”. If making your valued customers line up for hours and wait to be served by the only two check-in staff available is your thing then communicating to them costs nothing. You could have a team of on-call grumpy old tea ladies that could move up and down the line handing out stale biscuits and cold tea. At the very least customers would have someone to talk to and someone that could tell them that eventually everything will be OK.

It was OK in the end Jetstar, the shuttle driver was very helpful, the hotel staff very understanding – they even held the restaurant open till after midnight so we could eat… but your service sucked! It is embarrassing to think you are allowed to treat humans that way and still call yourself a service provider.

P.S. Jetsar, I did call your helpline to discuss my predicament. I was prompted that you had an unusually large call load and that I could leave my number and my place in the queue would not be lost, you would call me back. I’m still waiting for your call… that was four days ago.