Archive for the ‘teaching’ Category

LISTEN to me, I’m IMPORTANT

I did something last weekend that I’d never done before. I played music in a bar as part of a fundraising event. I’ve played music around campfires, I’ve played music in houses, I’ve performed solo at Bytown Ukulele Group meetings, I’ve jammed with people, I’ve participated in songwriters’ circles, even on an open-mic on a boat as part of a conference. But never in front of a crowd of strangers.

Thankfully, my performance went pretty well, I think. I was pleased. But one thing that I wasn’t prepared for, even though I’ve seen it a million times from the other side of the stage, was not being listened to.

I’ve done a lot of teaching. I’ve done lots of presentations. And I’ve had these musical performance experiences. The commonality among all of those things? I as the “performer” have the expectation of being listened to. When I stand in front of a classroom, or conduct a webinar, I assume that people are gong to be listening to me, watching the slides, etc.

So to have a bar full of people happily chatting while a PA system blared my voice and instrument out into the room was disconcerting. It was a painful reminder of what professional musicians face all the time — they’re being paid to perform, but there’s no obligation for the spectators to attend to them.

My set wasn’t long enough, and my courage (confidence? arrogance?) not strong enough for me to DEMAND their attention. So I played through my songs, took the applause, and left the stage. The good news was that no matter whether a person listened to me or not, they paid to come to the show, which meant the cause benefited from them. Further good news (for me, at least) was that I wasn’t so beset by stage fright caused by their inattention that I froze up (something that’s happened before, to my chagrin — but at least it gave Chris Brogan something to write about!)

But since Saturday, I’ve been thinking about it. My conclusions?

  1. There are circumstances and ways you can bring people back to you. But there are also circumstances when you can’t. I once saw Josh Ritter silence a noisy bar by playing his first song unplugged and wandering through the audience. People were intrigued enough by this unusual behaviour that they fell silent, and by the end of that song, the room was silent. I wasn’t going to try that one.
  2. There are times when you ought to accept the circumstances as they are. Sometimes people just aren’t interested in hearing from you, and it doesn’t matter how loudly you’re singing, or even if you’re singing (or teaching) incredibly well. I once taught a class where one of the students fell asleep every time she came to class. There would have been a time in my life where I focused on that as a sign I was failing the student. But I now believe that the process of “performing” requires both the performer and the audience to be present. Whatever the reason, sometimes your “audience” can’t be there for you.
  3. You still have to bring your best. Even if your audience is not listening, you owe it to yourself to deliver just as passionately and as well as if you had people in the palm of your hand. Yes, it’s harder (just as doing webinars is often harder than presenting to live audiences because you lack any feedback); but you still have to.

The final thing that I’ve thought in the wake of my experience? I want to try it again. I want to figure out some of those musician’s techniques of getting an audience’s attention for myself. Who knows: maybe becoming a more accomplished musical performer will make me a better communicator.

And if you want to see the performance? A quick trip to my Tumblr will let you get a sense of what the show was like.

Social media mind, beginner’s mind

This is the kanji for Shoshin, the state of "beginner's mind" discussed in Zen Buddhism.

This is the kanji for Shoshin, the state of “beginner’s mind” discussed in Zen Buddhism.

Because I’ve spent a lot of time over the last few years teaching at Algonquin College and at Eliquo Training and Development, and because I’ve done a fair amount of speaking on social media and communications topics, I’ve found myself doing lots of “social media 101″ talks. And I’ve written dozens of posts here under the “how-to” or “SMB101″ categories, which are posts particularly useful for people trying to get started in social media.

Do I find that repetitious or tiring? I suppose that would be possible. But as I’ve been doing this, I’ve become more and more convinced that even though “going deep” is appealing, business as a whole is still at the beginning stages of exploiting social media.

Given that social media has been a “thing” for a number of years, the following stats may surprise you:

These stats, and the feedback I get from students, tell me that while those of us who think about social media all the time are busy talking about some of the minutiae, trying to figure out the latest changes to the Facebook algorithm, and pushing the discipline forward, a large portion of the people who are actually working with customers are still trying madly to figure out if and how to do a blog, start a Facebook page, or get on Twitter. And another large group of businesses have started using some or all of those tools, but are floundering.

While it’s a joy to be on the cutting edge, it’s important to realize there are a lot of people out there running businesses who are just struggling to get by. It’s easy to say “Well, they just need to buckle down and get going,” but it’s nowhere near that easy to DO. Let’s not leave them behind.

 

Eight simple steps to powerful measurement tools

If you’re here regularly, you’ll know I love me some measurement. So when I saw a recommendation to read a paper from Katie Paine, I was pretty much immediately going to the site to download it.

“Social Media Measurement: A Step-by -Step Approach” by Angela Jeffrey, a Texas-based communications consultant with Measurement Match, is exactly what the title implies — a no-BS guide to doing solid measurement of social media initiatives for organizations, published by the excellent Institute for Public Relations. When  I saw a thanks to Kami Huyse, a communicator who I like and respect a great deal, that made me even more positively disposed to the paper.

“Measurement is hard!” is what Flickr user Tom Schenkenberg titled this photo of his daughter. But it doesn’t have to be, as Jeffrey’s paper shows. Start with… baby steps.

And the content does not disappoint.

She starts with the depressing information that measurement is NOT being embedded in organization’s social media campaigns and points to three different surveys with disturbing numbers. Perhaps the worst? An eConsultancy  survey that reported only 22% of communicators had a strategy that linked data and analysis to business objectives.

So perhaps you’re in the three-quarters of that sample. Drop the shame, and read the rest of the paper. In under 20 pages (before the appendices), she lays out an eight-step process for a solid — and achievable — social media evaluation process.

Here’s my paraphrase of her steps. And if any of this is shocking, you need to really brush up.

  1. Identify goals 
  2. Research and prioritize your stakeholders for each goal
  3. Set objectives
  4. Set key performance indicators
  5. Choose your tools and benchmark
  6. Analyze your results and compare them to your costs
  7. Present to your management
  8. Lather, rinse, repeat.

If you’re holding back, or you haven’t done a measurement component to your social media activities, read this paper and then tell me why you can’t.

Hell, you don’t even have to pay for her paper. So .. get to it. And if you want some more support, feel free to contact me for a consultation, or to take the next social media measurement course I’m teaching later this month.

Gobbling up social media research? Caveat lector.

Not so long ago, my friend Dennis posted an infographic about the misuse (accidential or wilful) of data in infographics. In a handy infographic format. I’m going to take the opportunity to embed it below. It’s worth keeping.

But Dennis’s nifty graphic only tells us about one place where we can be led into temptation — the infographic.

I happened upon a newsletter today that made me think of how easy it is to make marketing and communication decisions or take action based on information that should be questioned.

Mobile Commerce Daily reported on May 29 that “44pc of shoppers will never return to sites that are not mobile friendly: report.” The story is based entirely on a survey carried out by US software company Kentico, which makes content management systems. Kentico issued a news release about the survey on May 28, but it could be that the newsletter had an embargoed copy of the release.

The information is interesting. For example, it says that nearly 9 in 10 people with smartphones use them to compare products to competitors. And 45% do it right in the store, underlining the practice of “showrooming.”

But… in the newsletter story, there’s no information at all about the survey data. Even more frustrating is the lack of a link to the source data. I tracked down Kentico, then hit their press centre, where the news release about the survey sits. If you go to the Kentico site, you discover that the data-gathering part of this survey consisted of “More than 300 US residents 18 years old and over participated in the Kentico Mobile Experience Survey, conducted online during the month of April, 2013.”

Now, a survey sample is neither good nor bad. The point is to understand that sample. Was it a random sample? Did the participants selfselect? I couldn’t tell anything more than what I just said, because Kentico didn’t link to the survey itself or a more detailed report of its findings.

I contacted Kentico’s PR company, and Chris Blake of MSR Communications was prompt, open and detailed in his responses to my questions. He gave me demographic information that SurveyMonkey, the tool they used to do the research, provided, and a copy of the questionnaire. After a brief perusal of some USA census data, I learned that their sample of 300 people skewed only slightly more male, somewhat older, and way more educated than the US general population, for one thing. And the data provided on their sample gives me a sense of the potential sampling error rate (while Chris Blake suggests a ±5% margin of error, I’m thinking more like ±10%).

I don’t think there’s ANYTHING bogus about the survey results here. But I needed to take a fair amount of time to convince myself of that. And there are many occasions on which I find the data or survey results so problematic that I forget about using them.

There’s a flood of survey results and other materials that get published by the originators of the information, by newsletters, and by people like me every minute of every day. It’s easy to take everything at face value. But think twice. As a teacher of social media, I’m constantly looking for good data to share with students. As a consultant, I’m looking for information that I can use to help clients make sound decisions. But it is dangerous to see a newsletter article and use it to tell students or clients to base their actions on the data it contains.

Back in the days when ink and paper cost money, I understand the need for brevity and concision. But these newsletters are electronic. Pixels don’t cost anything but the time to write. And if you’re not going to disclose proprietary or competitive information, why not make as much information as you can readily available?

The more easily people like me can peruse your research, the more likely we’ll be to accept its conclusions. The more difficulty we have understanding the process behind the numbers, the more skeptical we become (or at least the more skeptical we SHOULD become).

And if you’re in business and trying to grapple with the challenges of communicating using social media, either desktop-style or mobile, make sure to ask questions EVERY time you see statistics and survey results. You don’t want to have to explain to your boss why you made a bad marketing or sales decision based on data you found in a press release and didn’t vet.

It’s too generous to assume that just because someone writes a newsletter, they’re doing your due diligence for you.

Here’s Dennis’s great graphic:

What do we bring to our “performances?”

We all perform in our daily lives. We “play the part” of manager, or leader, or creator, or educator. But what do we bring to the performance? Something that happened on Saturday night got me pondering the nature of performance.

One of my hobbies is putting on house concerts. The short version of what this is: a musician comes to my house, then people come to hear him, her or them and pay them for the pleasure of listening. It’s a well known way for folk and roots musicians to play. On Saturday night, we hosted David Newland, a friend and musician from Cobourg, Ontario. And as is fairly common, I played a couple of songs to open the evening.

Now, I am not a professional musician. I am an amateur. In as many senses of the word as you would like to apply. But be that as it may, I sing sometimes.

On Saturday, I was thinking about next weekend’s Remembrance Day. My father was a veteran, and for the last several years sold poppies in Cape Breton on behalf of the local Legion branch. And for about 12 years, I was a member of a marching band that played many Remembrance Day ceremonies. The music of the wars, from marches to Vera Lynn, is still in my head. And my dad died in August, so he is very much on my mind.

So I decided to play a song that I heard on many Remembrance Days on CBC Radio shows, hosted by the legendary Max Ferguson. “The band played Waltzing Matilda” is the story of a young rambler in Australia who goes to Gallipoli in the First World War and suffers a terrible injury. It’s a beautiful, but a sad song, written by a great Australian named Eric Bogle.


Something happened during the performance. I wasn’t quite aware of it, because for most of it, my eyes were closed. But when I finished, I saw that one person was crying, and afterward, someone told me that it had been the highlight of the evening.

So what did I learn from this? A few things:

  • Emotion and passion are good things, not bad. I think the reason that song affected people as it did was because of the emotion I was feeling when I sang it. If you can’t bring emotion to your performance — whether it’s a song on a stage, a speech, or a presentation at a meeting, you can’t affect people. Don’t be afraid to bring the personal out.
  • There was a time in my life when I kept a lot of important things submerged deep. But one thing I’ve learned through things like this, or through speaking at TedX Ottawa a few years ago, is that people want to learn what makes people tick. They don’t want glib. They don’t want superficial. If you give them more, they’ll take it.
  • “Performing” with these things in mind is hard, it’s draining, and it’s uncomfortable. I don’t yet know how to deliver at will a musical — or even a spoken — performance that is grounded in emotion. More often, the balance tips to the head and away from the heart.
  • And I learned, one more time, that I miss my dad.

The next time you have a public performance to do — musical, spoken, or otherwise — don’t just do it from your head. Do it from your heart. Don’t abandon logic, but find the emotional core of what you have to say and say it with passion. You’ll thank yourself. And your audience will too.

Partial PAB presentation

It gave me great pleasure — and more than a little nervousness — to have my presentation idea accepted by Mark and Bob for the final PAB conference in Ottawa.

I wrote a bit about the conference earlier. But here’s an edited version of my presentation from PAB, which was an attempt to argue that bloggers and content creators could steal a technique and a principle or two from more traditional forms of content creation (like… journalism). Hope you like it. And feel free to argue with me.

SMB 101 Post #7: Thinking about shelf-life

There are as many different social media tools out there as you can imagine. If you don’t believe me, check out the “conversation prism” that Brian Solis created:

The Conversation prism (Brian Solis)

Confused yet? Good. That’s what keeps people like me in business!

When you’re engaging with your audiences using one or more of these tools, one thing to keep in mind is the timeframe for your message. I was reminded of this recently when I was listening to a podcast (WTF with Marc Maron, if you must know). The podcast was great, but there was a sponsor who was pushing a  Christmas special. (I’m writing this in June).

Different social media have different shelf lives. Twitter is (arguably) ephemeral. It’s here, then it’s gone. Facebook pages, less so. Blogs, semi-permanent. Things like podcasts live on forever; despite the fact that my Stephen King podcast is currently on hiatus, I still see thousands of downloads each month.

So when you’re working out strategies for social media, keep in mind that each tool will have its own sense of time. Why advertise for Mother’s Day when people will still be hitting that note in November? Key your messages to take into account the shelf life of the medium.

Dick's country store, Churubusco, NY

Dick's country store, Churubusco, NY. I would have taken some pictures inside, but I was afraid someone would shoot me.

(This is post number seven in an ongoing series of posts aimed at providing practical advice for small businesspeople in the areas of public relations, communications and social media. If you ever need help with your small business… why not get in touch?)

(PS: Sorry for the late post; I should have pre-written for the Friday, but I didn’t, and I was driving to Boston yesterday. With a quick stop here.)

Teacher, teacher — can you teach me?

Blackboard Jungle book cover

Algonquin College social media class (may not be exactly as shown)

Well, if Joe Boughner’s doing it… I guess I have to as well.

After some time working on the staff side of Algonquin, I’m returning there as a part-time prof in the Social Media Certificate program. The program offers people an elementary education in social media. And I get to do the introduction to social media course.

While Joe will be teaching online, I’ll be sweating it out in the classroom. I suppose it’s fitting that the younger of us will be teaching online, while the … not so younger… of us will be doing it old-school.

Some might think an introductory course is not the most exciting. But I disagree — I think that the introductory course is the place where people should be coming in with questions and perceptions that challenge the status quo. I’m looking forward to providing a basis for the rest of their courses and to maybe even having some of my sacred cows given a bit of a going over too!

It’s been a while since I’ve taught on a regular basis, but doing training and guest lectures has kept me fairly sharp. If you want to subject yourself to me blathering on… Do so at your own risk. Hope to see you in class.

Blogging 101 motivates students

I never imagined I’d be competing for Technorati authority rankings with first-graders. But thanks to an article with the title Blogging 101 motivates students from the Regina Leader-Post, I learned that I am.

Not only is there a group blog and wikis created by and for a Grade one class in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, there are individual blogs for the students, and a Flickr stream.

Here’s a drawing that Cody V made demonstrating that he — quite responsibly — isn’t ready to get on his bike without a helmet on his head.

Charming, amazing, and a bit intimidating, I plan on thoroughly surfing through a lot of these sites.
And Mrs. Cassidy should be cloned.
Ciao,
Bob.