Posts Tagged ‘content’

Friends don’t let friends give away their content

Monday, January 9th, 2017 by Adrian Segar


Friends don’t let friends give away their original content to third-party platforms
I’ve been saying this for years, but do people listen? No they don’t.

Let me be clear, by all means share your content for free on any of the gazillion social media platforms available. And if you can get paid appropriately for creating content for others, good for you. Otherwise, make sure that your content remains under your control.

Why? Well, here are a few reminders:

  • Geocities was once the third most visited site on the internet. 38 million user-built pages! Nothing but a distant memory now, unless you live in Japan.
  • Remember when your friends saw everything you posted on Facebook? Not any more, unless you pay up.
  • Ah, those glorious days when you posted something in a LinkedIn group and a significant number of people would read it! Long gone.

Now the blog host site Medium announces a layoff of a third of its staff. There are millions of posts on the site. Will Evan Williams pull the plug some day?  Will social journalism survive? Who knows?

Get the picture? Posting your original content exclusively on someone else’s platform puts you at their mercy. Don’t do it!

Instead, invest in your own website
There are plenty of great platforms available, and lots of fine web hosting services to run them on. For example, this site uses WordPress on a Dreamhost VPS (Virtual Private Server).

Though this route involves more work and/or money than posting on a third-party platform, you:

  • Control your own content. You can add, edit, delete, and control comments on it at any time.
  • Determine how your content is presented. Want to insert an offer for your services or products in the middle of a blog post? No problem.
  • Retain full rights to your content. (One example: the rights to anything you post to Huffington Post belongs to them. And they don’t even pay you for the privilege of writing for them!)
  • Build your own brand, authority, and SEO, not that of a third-party site.
  • Maintain access to your content. If your web hosting service goes bankrupt or is unsatisfactory, you can transfer your content to a new host. As long as the internet is up and you pay your hosting service, your content will be available.

Seven years ago I started the website you’re reading. As expected, hardly anyone visited initially. As I steadily added content (at least once per week) viewership grew. According to my weblogs, this site is now one of the most popular websites on meeting design and related issues, with 31 million page views to date, 25 million of which were made in the last three years.

As a result, this website is now the largest source of client inquiries for my consulting and facilitating services — something I would never have predicted when it went live in 2009. And the ever-growing body of articles on this blog and the inbound links to them continue to build my brand, authority, and SEO.

This has been a PSA from Adrian Segar.

What’s the best learning model for conference sessions?

Monday, October 3rd, 2016 by Adrian Segar

digging_4025946850_211dc931b9_b
We don’t usually think about the learning models we employ during conference sessions, and I believe our events would be better if we did. Conventional conferences assume a ready supply of experts to whom we listen while they cover the learning that has been advertised at their sessions. Here’s how Jeff Hurt describes this approach, which he calls surface learning, contrasting it with deep learning where attendees discover through exploratory activity:

Content Covered Or Discovered
“In surface learning, the session reflects the knowledge and skills of the speaker. Knowledge is considered a thing that can be deposited into the minds of the listener. The attendee consumes as much as the speaker says as possible and tries to store it in the mind. The speaker covers as much as they can as fast as they can.

In deep learning, attendees explore challenging questions, dilemmas and problems using new and past knowledge. A focus is put on the attendee testing ideas, correcting them as needed and opening up to new perspectives. Attendees spend time discovering and investigating.”
—Jeff Hurt, We Must Stop Promoting Conference Fast-Track, Artificial, Butt-In-Seat, Surface Learning

As explained in my books, we know that the active learning that occurs through attendee discovery is indeed more effective than the learning that may result from sharing information with passive listeners. More is learned, more is retained, and overall retention is more accurate. So I agree with Jeff that discovered learning trumps covered learning. But from whom do we discover this learning?

Even when we incorporate active learning into a conference session, invariably the assumption remains that we are learning about content provided exclusively by a speaker or presenter. What we are discovering is limited to the content he or she can provide.

While this approach is far better than the pour-information-into-their-minds model, I think it can almost always be improved. Unless the room is full of novices — attendees who know nothing about a session topic — using process during the session that uncovers knowledge and resources in the room opens up the quantity and quality of learning that’s possible.

I know this to be true from my own experience. When I’ve led a conference session using process that supports and encourages participants to contribute their own expertise and experience, I’ve always learnt something new! Extending our resources for active learning to the entire room uncovers relevant and useful knowledge from everyone present. Active learning then becomes social learning, reflecting today’s reality that knowledge is a social construct, no longer something residing in an individual head. When we incorporate social learning into our events we all benefit because, as David Weinberger says: “The smartest person in the room is the room.

Let’s summarize the three learning models I’ve described.

  • Covered learning is an outdated, inferior learning model.
  • Discovered learning is an improvement, because we are actively involving attendees in the learning process, though the focus is just one person’s content.
  • Uncovered learning further improves discovered learning by increasing the resources for active learning to include the expertise and experience available in the entire room. If a presenter or facilitator knows how to effectively uncover learning, they will be using the best learning model available.

To successfully implement uncovered learning, we need to use process that, as Weinberger puts it: “improves expertise by exposing weaknesses, introducing new viewpoints, and pushing ideas into accessible form.” Such process is the focus of the peer conference designs and associated participation techniques that I’ve been developing and writing about here and in my books. Studying how to facilitate this process and then adopting it is perhaps the most effective way you can improve the learning at your events.

Quotes from David Weinberger, Everything Is Miscellaneous, Times Books, 2007

Image attribution: Flickr user chiotsrun

How to make your workshop/meeting/conference middle-aged friendly

Thursday, October 1st, 2015 by Adrian Segar

not Doug 4419898058_07da3f4587_b
At the wonderous Applied Improvisational Network 2015 World Conference (more posts coming soon!) I bumped into Doug Shaw, Professor of Mathematics at the University of Northern Iowa [not shown above; he is far better-looking] and he told me of an unpublished article he’d written on how to make conferences better for middle-aged people like him and me. Doug sent me a copy, I liked it, and he has given me permission to guest post it here…

Hello, my name is Doug. I went to my first conference in 1989. I was young then, and I believed in accessibility — everyone should be able to benefit from a conference. I never thought that one day I would be the one who was having problems benefiting. But yes, I became middle aged, and, well, I’m writing this article…

1) Memory

a. If there is a smallish group, quickly go around and say names. I’ve forgotten yours and I’m embarrassed.

b. Name tags are a boon. Actually I’ve forgotten lots of names.

2) Vision

a. Think about your font size on handouts. Less than 12 pt is cruel. 16 point? You are a mensch. My eyes are in constant flux — I’m not used to wearing reading glasses, sometimes I don’t have them, sometimes the prescription is out of date.

b. Dark text, light background. Blue on blue means you are a rotten human being.

c. I see better if there is strong light.

3) Hearing

a. If you aren’t able to speak so I can hear you, get a microphone. I hear better if there is no background noise, it is hard if there is. Hearing aids help if I can’t hear — but the problem is as you get old you still can hear, but you can’t filter out background noise as well.

4) Physicality

a. If part of your group participation involves standing up and sitting down… I can do that, but it hurts a bit. If you make me do it multiple times, I’m no longer going to be focusing on your points, I’m going to be anticipating/dreading having to stand up again.

b. I am fighting to change my diet, having lived 40 years eating badly. Go ahead and put out the cookies, but give me something else I can shove in my mouth, too.

5) Content

a. I’m not asking you to change a word of what you were going to say — but you should know that I’ve been to hundreds of these things, and I am a lot more cynical than I used to be. Clichés make me turn off to you. I know that people’s number one fear is not death, but public speaking. I know that the “jobs of tomorrow” are going to be different than the jobs of today. I know we need to go beyond our comfort zones, think out of the box, adapt to an increasingly global society, etc. Did you know that the phrase “comfort zone” is lazy and comfortable, the phrase “think out of the box” is totally in the box, and that the 21st century is 1/7 over?

b. Motivational speeches don’t motivate me. Not because I’m a curmudgeon, but because I’m already motivated. I come to these things because I want to, not because I feel I have to. It takes more effort now — it means leaving people behind. So I’m motivated. If you spend a half hour with speakers trying to motivate me, that’s a half hour I’m getting impatient waiting for what I actually came for to start. Oh — and I’ve probably seen better motivational speakers than you are supplying. My favorite motivation is, “Hi. Welcome. Now here is content you came to receive.”

6) Memory

a. If there is a smallish group, quickly go around and say names. I’ve forgotten yours and I’m embarrassed.

b. Name tags are a boon. Wait…did I cover this point already? Let me look at what I’ve written so far…where the hell did I put my glasses?

Photo attribution: Flickr user philippeleroyer

Discover what attendees want to talk about with Post It!

Monday, September 17th, 2012 by Adrian Segar

Ever wanted a way to find out what people at a meeting would actually like to learn, discuss, or ask questions about? Post It! is what you need. It’s a simple technique that can be used at various levels for:

  • All the attendees at an event.
  • Breakout groups discussing a specialty set of topics.
  • A single conference session.

If you’re a conference presenter with an audience of less than 50 people, you can use Post It! to rapidly discover audience interests and to help decide what those present would like to hear about.

Alternatively, Post It! provides an effective and efficient way for a group to learn and reflect on its members’ interests. If you need to process in more detail the topics uncovered, consider using the affinity grouping technique described in Conferences That Work: Creating Events That People Love (and my upcoming book too).

When
Run Post It! at the opening of an event, breakout group, or a single session.

Resources
It is surely no surprise that you’ll need one or more sticky notes (e.g. Post-it® brand) for each participant. If you’re using Post It! for a presenter tool at a single session, supply a single 2” x 3” note to each attendee. For a group display of topics, supply one to four 6” x 8” (preferred size) notes, or 3” x 5” notes if posting space is limited.

Make sure that you have sufficient pens available. Fine tip marker pens are best.

Finally, you’ll need clear, accessible wall or notice board space where notes can be posted. Walls should be smooth and clean, as sticky notes don’t adhere well to rough or dirty surfaces. If you’re using Post It! as a presenter tool, the posting area should be close to where you are standing in the room so you can easily refer to it.

How a presenter can use Post It! to shape the content of a session
Before the session begins, give each participant a single sticky note and a pen. Ask the audience to write down the one topic they would like explored or question they would like answered during the session. Give everyone a couple of minutes to write their response and collect the notes as they are completed. As you collect the notes, browse their contents and mentally categorize their contents into broad themes. For example, some attendees ask specific questions, some may want an overview of your topic, and some may want you to cover one particular aspect. Once all the notes have been collected, briefly read each note out loud and add it to a cluster of similar notes on the wall next to you. You may find a note that is unique and needs to be placed by itself.

Once all the notes have been stuck on the wall, it should be clear to both you and your audience what the group is interested in. Don’t feel obliged to cover everything mentioned. Instead, use the notes to make a plan of how you will spend your time with the group. Describe your plan briefly, and apologize for topics that you’re not able to cover in the time available. Even if you don’t cover everything requested, your audience will have the information to understand why you made the choices you did. If you’re going to be available after the session is over, you can invite attendees to meet with you to talk more.

As you continue with your audience-customized session, you can refer to the note clusters to confirm that you’re covering your plan.

How you can use Post It! to make public the interests and questions of a group
Before the session begins, decide on the number of sticky notes to give to each participant. The number will depend on the size of the group and the length of time available for any resulting sessions. Suggestions for the number of notes to be provided are shown in the table below.

Size of group  Suggested number of notes for each attendee
20 − 30  2 − 4
30 − 50  2 − 3
50 − 100  1 − 2
100+  1

Hand out this number of sticky notes and a pen to each attendee. Ask the audience to write down one or more topics they would like explored or questions they would like answered during the session, one per note. Tell them they do not need to use all their notes. Indicate the wall area where notes can be posted, and ask them, once they have finished, to post their notes on the wall. Give participants a few minutes to write their responses. As the notes are posted it is natural for people to hang around the wall and read what others have written. Let them do this, but ask people to allow late posters to get to the wall.

Once all the notes have been posted, provide some time for everyone to take in the topics and questions displayed. This group sharing can then be used as a starting point for Open Space, Fishbowls, Plus/Delta, and other group discussion techniques discussed in my upcoming book.

Photo attribution: Flickr user edmittance

Are you serving up canned or live content at your Olympics?

Monday, July 30th, 2012 by Adrian Segar

While talking to Judy Kucharuk on the weekly #eventprofs happy hour hangout this week, she mentioned that she was watching the Olympic opening ceremonies live in her home in British Columbia. Our U.S. chatters were having no such luck. NBC made it hard to watch the Olympics online in the U.S.—you have to subscribe to cable-huh?-and have MSNBC and CNBC—and refused to show the opening ceremonies live, deciding to delay broadcast until “prime time” (whatever that means these days).

Doing stuff like this annoys lots of people. Indeed, many technologically savvy US citizens simply found live Olympic web streams in other countries or watched other country’s live coverage on their Roku boxes. Net result – loss of eyeballs on NBC.

Of course, we know why NBC is doing this. The company’s business model is to wrap what it decides are highlights of the Olympic Games in lucrative advertisements. The same old TV model we’ve had for years: serve up canned content, carefully packaged to maximize revenue. (Though, come to think of it, cutting out the tribute to the London terrorism victims during the opening ceremonies isn’t my idea of careful packaging.)

NBC isn’t doing what its viewers want. It’s doing what it wants, to satisfy its legacy business model. A model that is becoming more and more out of touch with what the consumers of its content—the folks who supply the eyeballs for advertisers—want.

When NBC broadcast the 2000 Olympic games, online internet streaming didn’t exist and the company had a U.S. monopoly on placing its expensive cameras around the Olympic venues. Today, every spectator can bring an inexpensive decent quality videocam, stream what they can see, and tweet commentary. (A special law was passed to make this a criminal offense; yeah, with hundreds of thousands of spectators, that’s gonna work really well.) Twelve years ago, NBC could decide how to package its coverage and get away with it because there was no alternative. Today, using the same model leads to widespread complaints and increasing defection from their content.

When spectators at an Olympic event can provide better live coverage than a $30 billion company, that company had better watch out.

What’s happening at your Olympics?
Today, the old model of providing canned content at a conference has become archaic. People no longer want to be passive spectators; they want live opportunities to connect with and be part of what’s going on. There are plenty of alternatives for broadcast content now; they don’t need to attend a face-to-face event any more to access this style of content whenever and wherever they want it.

When your conference competition can provide a real time, interactive, and relevant conference experience to attendees, a large majority will choose them over a traditional, broadcast-heavy event, no matter how slick the production values. If you’re still serving up the latter, you’d better watch out.

Content Is Marketing; Profits Come From Somewhere Else

Thursday, February 23rd, 2012 by Adrian Segar
Installed in 1982, the original solar collectors (built into the roof and snow covered in this picture) still heat the Segar homestead.

Here’s an important lesson I learned about marketing while running a solar business thirty years ago, forgot, and learned again after publishing my first book in 2009. With the rise of online, this lesson has never been more important than it is today.

Succeeding in business in a commodity market
In 1979 I was an owner of Solar Alternative, a Vermont solar manufacturing company. It was the height of the first “energy crisis”, and solar was, forgive me, hot. We manufactured solar hot water systems, which we retailed, wholesaled and installed all over New England. Solar hot water was a fairly easy business to enter in those days, and our small company, which employed about a dozen people, had plenty of competition, some of it providing equipment of questionable quality.

Apart from the solar collectors, which we manufactured using a few hand tools and our big investment, a ten foot sheet metal brake, all the other solar hot water system components could be purchased from any well-stocked plumbing wholesaler. We developed a reputation for supplying reliable systems that could stand the severe New England winters, but so did many of our competitors.

Our company needed a way to successfully differentiate itself from significant competition.

We noticed that our customers were unwilling to pay for information about how to correctly select and install solar hot water systems. There are many ways that these systems can fail or provide sub-optimum energy output, and we had learned how to avoid them. Our potential customers were willing to shell out big bucks for the systems themselves, but they did not want to pay separately for our hard-won knowledge.

So we gave away our expertise.

The one differentiator between Solar Alternative and our abundant competitors became our unique willingness to provide free, unlimited advice to the wholesalers and end-users who investigated and/or purchased our products.

We were happy to freely share our valuable content—how to build and install high quality, reliable solar hot water systems—to anyone who asked. We gave away our content for free. We made money from the mark-up on our products when our prospects trusted our expertise and decided to purchase.

The brutal economics of writing a book
There’s no question that writing my first book, which I began in 2005, cannot be described as a carefully thought out business decision. I was mission-driven to share what I had learned about participant-driven events since I began organizing them in 1992. It took four years of part-time work before Conferences That Work: Creating Events That People Love was published. Despite brisk sales over the last couple of years for what has to be described as a niche book, my hourly recompense for writing it currently stands at a few cents per hour.

This isn’t news, of course. Very few of the million book titles published globally each year ever make an author much money directly. So, was my decision to write a book one of the poorer financial choices of my life?

Well, no. (The worst was shorting Google’s IPO; it seemed like a good idea at the time.) Though the book provides a tiny income, the fact that I wrote it has led to numerous speaking, consulting, and conference design engagements, any one of which pays far more handsomely than selling a hundred books. Though the book isn’t free, its content sells for about one cent for every hundred words; a pretty minuscule amount. I make money from the apparent expertise and exposure that the book implies/conveys (your choice).

Content is Marketing; Profits Come From Somewhere Else
Get the connection between these two stories? For whatever reason, people are generally reluctant to pay much or anything for commodity or packaged information. But that doesn’t mean they don’t value good content. Often, they use the existence of high-quality information to cement their trust in the person or organization that provides it. From this perspective, content—whether it be advice on solar hot water systems, a fresh way of thinking about conferences, or accurate, timely, and useful information on any topic—can be seen as effective marketing for whatever you sell that makes money for you. I think this has never been truer than in today’s online world, where it’s never been easier to find pertinent content.

In 1985, my mentor, Jerry Weinberg, said it well: “Give away your best ideas“. It has worked for me; I believe it can work for you too.

Do you give away your best ideas? If so, how has doing so worked for you? If not, why not?

Post inspired by Publishing 2.0: Content Is Marketing, Profits Come From The Packaging

 

How the rise of online is changing your events

Friday, February 11th, 2011 by Adrian Segar

Encyclopaedia Britannica

How I used to find information
When I was living in England in the 1960’s, finding a telephone number was cumbersome. Five huge telephone books, each requiring both hands to lift, sat in a cupboard in our hallway, with millions of alphabetized names and associated numbers in microscopic print. The books quickly became out of date and were updated sporadically. And, if you didn’t know the exact spelling, or had only an address, you were out of luck.

Books were a key way to obtain information. Wealthy families (not mine) purchased the Encyclopedia Britannica and proudly displayed the 24+ volumes on sturdy bookshelves. The local free library was a key resource. For current information, I could watch three TV channels and read several rather good print newspapers. For specialized information, I subscribed to, or read in the library, a bewildering variety of magazines and journals.

And, of course, I talked to people. My parents, my teachers, my friends, and, later, my professional colleagues were all valuable resources. I found my friends from face-to-face social events or through my work. Finally, if I needed to know more about a subject of interest, I would attend a conference and listen to papers delivered by experts in the field.

How I find information today
I don’t remember the last time I consulted a paper telephone directory. Ten years ago I checked eBay to see if an Encyclopedia Britannica that I never consulted any more was worth anything. Reluctantly, I ended up recycling the set, because no one wanted to buy it. Today, apart from a local paper and a few paper magazine subscriptions, online is where I find telephone numbers, email or physical addresses, and information on just about any subject that, in quantity and mostly quality, dwarfs the contents of the Encyclopedia Britannica.

People are still a major resource for me, but the primary way that I first meet new people professionally these days is online, via a variety of social media, rather than an initial face-to-face encounter.

And, of course, these days I am a creator of conferences rather than a passive consumer of them. For me, a good conference is one where I can interact, connect, share, and learn with others, and can influence what happens at the event in a way that is useful and meaningful to me.

How the bountiful availability of online content changes events
Today there is amazing one-way content on the web. The internet is where we go for information about people, places, facts, processes, techniques, and solutions to problems. Our resources have migrated from cumbersome books and broadcast media to browsable indexed data servers in the internet cloud.

For face-to-face attendees, this makes vanilla delivery of content at events far less compelling.

In the future, people are not going to travel to your event to listen to a speaker they could watch streamed live, or as a recording at a time and place of their choosing. Providing a ten-minute opportunity for questions at the end of a presentation isn’t going to cut it either. Viewing one-way content over the internet is cheaper and more convenient for attendees, and if straight content is mostly what you have to offer people will gravitate to obtaining it online; either from you or a competitor.

As a result, traditional events concentrating on the transfer of predetermined content from experts to a local audience are dying. I don’t know how long it will be before rigor mortis sets in. Perhaps some events will remain viable as training opportunities for novices, or as vehicles for CEUs to be awarded or certifications to be maintained. Over time, however, the majority of professionals who care about their profession and best use of their time will stop going to face-to-face events that don’t incorporate significant opportunities for connection, peer-to-peer sharing, and participant-driven sessions. And, no, a lunch and an evening social or two aren’t going to be enough any more. Instead you need to put opportunities for connection front and center of your events, because connection around content is becoming the most important reason that people attend face-to-face events.

Why you should care
In the fifteen months since my book on participant-driven conferences was published I have been amazed and delighted by the flood of interest from meeting professionals, peer communities, and business & association leaders. And I’ve also been disturbed. A common story I hear is of long-running conferences in trouble: conferences where attendance, evaluations, and consequent income are falling. The organizers who are contacting me have realized that the traditional conferences-as-usual models are not working like they used to—attendees are starting to defect, or ask for something different. I’ve heard this story from professionals in many different fields.

In my opinion, it’s only a matter of time before the importance of the shift in emphasis away from content towards connection at face-to-face events becomes apparent and generally accepted by the events community. As usual with industry trends, the people who recognize and respond well to them early will be the beneficiaries, while those who continue doing things the old way will lose out. If you’re not currently investigating ways to restructure your events to significantly increase attendee connections and participation, I recommend you start.

Do you see a trend of increased attendee dissatisfaction at traditional events? If so, why do you think it’s happening, and what are you doing about it?

Content versus conversation

Tuesday, March 9th, 2010 by Adrian Segar

Content vs conversation 515731969_9df2505684A few days ago during an #eventprofs chat I tweeted Cory Doctorow’s remark (made in 2006 in a boing-boing post): Conversation is king. Content is just something to talk about. This inspired a variety of comments from such #eventprofs luminaries as @JeffHurt @MichaelMcCurry @lyksumlikrish @JaredGoldberg @camerontoth and @samuelsmith.

Here’s the point I was trying to make.

Sure, we need to have content at our events – something to talk about. But content is everywhere—I don’t need to go to an event to get content! If I never left my office again (now there’s a thought), as long as I paid my internet provider’s bill each month, I could choose, receive, and absorb content for the rest of my life.

And what a miserable life that would be.

I need connection, engagement, conversation to make my life meaningful. And, in my experience, so does most of the human race.

Content these days is ubiquitous. Face-to-face events are the places for powerful, life-changing connection and engagement. That’s why we need to make them the best possible environments for conversation we can. And when we do, our conversations will naturally encompass the content that is meaningful for us.

That’s why, for me, conversation is king.

Image attribution: http://www.flickr.com/photos/tonz/ / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

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