AMPED 10 Logo
blog

We are people people.

We’re excited about what we do
and have passion for our profession

15 things to consider before starting an association podcast

podcast headphones

It seems as though you cannot throw a proverbial rock without hitting a figurative podcast; everybody seems to have one. Everyone from comedians to movie buffs and, yes, associations are trying their hand at podcasting. There are many blogs, videos and podcasts describing why you should, or should not start a podcast. 

Don’t be in a rush to hit record. It is fun and exciting to jump into a new project, but without extensive planning, you will be on the road to a destination with no map or GPS. Hang tight; let’s consider what needs to get done.

An association’s podcast is a communication, marketing, and membership development activity, and as a result, many departments in your organization should have input. 

1. Consider what you want to accomplish by starting a podcast:

  • Shape public perception/policy
  • Member business development
  • Reach new audience
  • Deepen your network
  • Get to know your members and industry leaders

Whatever your motivation, plan your content to align with your business goal.

2. Know your audience. Do not rush this step. A content marketing best-practice is to develop buyer personas. According to HubSpot, “A buyer persona is a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on market research and real data about your existing customers. When creating your buyer persona(s), consider including customer demographics, behavior patterns, motivations, and goals. The more detailed you are, the better”Many podcasters develop their content to an avatar. An avatar is a single representative of the large audience, similar to a buyer persona. The podcast is created for this person. Speak to this person. Will this person enjoy this episode, this guest or topic? If you think about and speak to this person when planning your content, you will create focus and a niche audience. 

Take a lot of care here. If you are doing an interview-style podcast, are there enough people in the guest-pool to fulfill your format and angle? If you begin the podcast without a clear avatar, your focus can drift, and potentially alienate listeners.

Do not be afraid to create niche content vs. for the masses. If the internet has taught us anything, it is that there is something for everyone. Case-in-point: Ever notice that there is an association for every profession or interest?

3. Commit. Weekly, monthly or by “season,” commit to the podcast. Without a plan, you may get the “seven-episode itch” and quit. Starting a podcast is relatively easy. Maintaining one is difficult. iTunes and other podcast directories are littered with podcasts that publish fewer than five or 10 episodes. About 10 episodes into this venture, you will still be figuring out your recording and editing workflow. It will get more difficult before it gets easier. While there are many resources online from expert podcasters, you still learn by doing and by going through your own learning curve. You will also discover this new venture is a lot of work and takes more time than you anticipated. If you commit to posting regularly no matter what, you will learn to streamline your workflow. 

4. How often will you publish? Establishing how often you post an episode correlates to the aforementioned “Commit” consideration.Whether you choose to post an episode weekly or monthly, once you commit, stick to your schedule. The key to building an audience is posting regularly. I expect a new episode every Monday on Bill Burr’s “Monday Morning Podcast.”

Want to take a break? Some successful podcasters produce “seasons” like TV shows. NPR podcasts like Serial and Invisibilia do this. 

If the content is not time-sensitive, you may want to “stock up” on a few episodes so you can take a vacation, or publish over a holiday. It is also common to upload a “rerun” of a previously published episode.

5. Who will host the podcast? While people might listen and subscribe to your podcast because of the title or the subject matter, they will continue to listen because they appreciate the host’s stance, opinion or style. The host or hosts tie(s) the show together. Ensure that whoever hosts the show, they are committed to the process of producing a regular piece of content.

6. What is the format and length of an average episode? You have an idea for a podcast and an idea of personnel involved. How will the information be presented? Will it be a highly produced NPR-style podcast, a single host speaking to the listener, or a host or panel discussing a topic? Perhaps you will consider a Chris Hardwick-style interview where a host has a deep conversation with a subject for an hour. Maybe you will have 5-10 minute episodes like former “Dirty Jobs” host Mike Rowe reading an essay in his show, “The Way I Heard It.”It is OK to experiment with this a little, as your show “finds its way” eventually.

7. Script. One thing I love about the podcasts I listen to is I can always count on certain things happening or being said. As a creature of habit, I enjoy singing along with Kevin Smith’s opening theme on his show, SMODcast, or say, “Enjoy your burrito” on the ID10T (formerly Nerdist) show with Chris Hardwick. I always enjoy when Bill Burr gives uninformed advice at the end of his “Monday Morning Podcast” to listeners who write in. We all like routine and structure.

These shows are successful partially because famous people host them, but I would argue that listeners love their format, executed by their script. Having a script does not mean reading from a page word-for-word. A podcast script can simply organize intro and outro music, promotional reads, advertisements, when one speaks and the general flow of an episode. 

Our script helps layout the order of the episode long before we start recording. It aids in planning and gives the listener an idea of what to expect from your show each episode. Here is my script for our client’s show, Talking Industrial Automation which I based on this guide that the CDC authored.

8. Scheduling guests. If you do have guests on your show, then you will discover that scheduling a time is like scheduling any other meeting: there’s a lot of back and forth to find space on each other’s calendars. 

You want to make it easy on your guest, so use a tool like Calendly or other scheduler-app that will show your availability. Tools like this will integrate with your work calendar and allow the guest to book only on days or dayparts you choose. I record only on Wednesdays and Fridays, typically between 10-3 p.m. Central. My guests cannot see my other appointments and cannot book outside of these parameters. They can choose a time slot that works for them while ensuring I am not double booked.

9. Equipment. I have launched two podcasts in my career, and both were started with borrowed or already-owned equipment and free software. You do not have to go out and buy hundreds of dollars of equipment to start. You can begin recording a podcast with a smartphone. Add headphones which include a mic and record in a quiet space and you are underway. You will want to consider, though, if you will be able to budget for some podcast equipment. 

Once you have a budget to upgrade your equipment, you can start to add items to improve the sound quality and time spent editing. Adding some key things like a digital recorder (like an H4N Pro) and a few decent microphones will improve sound quality and are good first choices.
For under $500 you can own some decent equipment that is mobile and will set you up for success. Here’s a sample equipment list and what we use.

10. Technology. How will you conduct your podcast? Will you record in person or remotely? There is nothing like being face to face, but if your guests are international, it may be necessary to record over the Internet. This consideration goes hand-in-hand with equipment.

I like to use Zoom video conferencing, which is free to use for one-on-one meetings. You can set it to record individual video and audio files in case you need to do some advanced editing. If you also plan on a video podcast for YouTube or Vimeo, Zoom will record your respective webcams. Zoom has a built-in “director.” In other words, the camera shows whoever is speaking. If you plan to have three or more people then you will need to upgrade if your show is over 40 minutes. You can also evaluate Skype along with plugins like “Pamela” or “Evaer.” One other platform is Zencaster, an online podcasting-specific platform.

You can edit your podcast with the free software Audacity or a paid software from Adobe called Audition. Apple’s GarageBand has become podcaster unfriendly in the last few years.

11. Podcast hosting platform. Choosing the platform that works for your association is a big decision. There are free or $5/month platforms, and $15-20/month platforms. Consider how often you will publish episodes. Most podcast hosts have a tiered platform based on how many megabytes you upload or host per month. 

You do not want to move your podcast to another host without careful consideration, so choose wisely. It can be done, but you risk losing all of your hard-earned subscribers if you do not do your research.

12. Preparing the guest. Whether you have a guest host, panel or guest, ensure you are preparing them to hit the ground running.

I created a document I share with my guests that helps them book a time and prepare their surroundings for the best quality recording. Awareness of distractions and noise in their office will increase the audio (and video) quality of your show.

13. Consider slowing your roll. Are you ready to tell everyone yet? Hang on, you are almost there!

Make a list of podcast directories you will want to be found on. iTunes? Check. Google Play? Check. Those two might be obvious. You should research to find if there are niche podcast directories that align with specific formats and subject matter. Did you know that iHeartRadio and Spotify are growing their offering of podcasts?

Keep it all straight with a spreadsheet. Some directories will not accept you until you are one or two months old. Others may list your podcast only if they approve of your content.

Submit to directories and post a few episodes, but do not go “pedal to the metal” just yet. This gives you time to make tweaks and edits before you let the world know you have your own show.

14. Hard launch. Are you now listed in the most popular directories? It might take 1-2 months to be approved. Once you can confidently tell listeners that the show is found wherever they listen to podcasts, you are ready to go.

How will you get the word out? Here are the promotional activities I do for each episode:

  • Post to our online member forum
  • E-blast to all members
  • Post to association’s LinkedIn company page
  • Personal LinkedIn profile
  • Tag interviewee and your LinkedIn page.
  • Post to association’s LinkedIn group

Here is the email template I send to guests and their marketing contact, which asks them to participate in promoting their episode.

15. What about a news release? You should consider holding off on releasing this to the media. Ever see a blog or video series with only ONE entry that says, “This is my blog. Here I will… I’m going to…I look forward to…”

Your podcast isn’t anything yet, so why would a journalist want to cover something that you might do or say? After nearly 20 episodes, I still have not prepared a news release.

I’m reminded of Anthony Bourdain’s advice when cooking a steak: like a steak hot off the grill, let your show be. Just make new episodes. Concentrate on content, good guests and great conversation.

Continue reading
  882 Hits
  0 Comments

Nine questions that can green-light or sideline your next association initiative

decisions

We are evaluating marketing automation software and have listed our desired specifications in a spreadsheet with attributes like “must have” and “nice to have.” This sheet helps us easily compare features and see which platforms are lacking our requirements. Plus, after doing 4-6 demos, it helps organize what could be an overwhelming process.

However, choosing a new software platform or AMS or deciding whether to implement a proposed program initiative on behalf of our clients goes beyond a specified list of features.

Using only a spreadsheet to compare features seems sterile and robotic until we ask ourselves nine questions from our project decision matrix document. The questions demonstrate that we actually think about our clients’ missions and goals when making impactful decisions.

When your leadership is considering a new “toy,” be certain it fits in with your goals, objectives and mission. Ensure that you will be able to sustain the initiative beyond the initial excitement and implementation.

When considering a new initiative, ask your team the following nine questions:
1. What are we trying to accomplish?
2. Does this help reach our goals and further our mission?
3. What does success mean for this initiative?
4. What is the desired timeline for this project?
5. What does our resource pool look like?
6. How will feedback be provided by the client?
7. What is the long-term effect of this project?
8. Is this plan sustainable?
9. What are the major risks of the initiative?

These questions deliberate the process to give your organization and board the time to think about the initiative.

Questions like “What does success look like?” are painfully obvious. Yet, how many projects have you implemented where you have not planned to measure when you have achieved success?

Creating a presence on a trendy social media network where your members may or may not visit might be easy to do. Asking yourself, “Does this help our goals and further our mission?” may at least help you decide if it is worth the resources to maintain.

You might be surprised at how these questions could either green light or sideline a project depending on how well vetted, or thought-through it is.

Continue reading
  656 Hits
  0 Comments

How to use Skype as part of your video strategy

sidebyside

What do TV news outlets and Ellen DeGeneres have in common? They both use Skype to interview guests. So why shouldn’t association professionals?

By now you know that creating video is an excellent strategy for bringing attention to your association. Video is an important communications tool to further your nonprofit's cause, market to prospective members or engage existing ones.

Skype is a relatively easy way to produce content in-house without hiring an expensive video production crew. By installing a free or inexpensive third-party plugin, Skype can record all parties involved (with their permission). Recordings of interviews or panel discussions can be repurposed as on-demand webinars to be viewed later.

Case Study
One of our clients, the Control System Integrators Association (CSIA) has a certification program, attained at the company level. The certification demonstrates proficiency in the best practices of the system integration profession. One of the goals of the organization is to promote CSIA Certification to the degree in which prospective clients require that only CSIA Certified system integrator may submit a bid. The more their clients understand what CSIA Certified means, the more likely they are to do this. 

One way we encourage clients to “spec-in” certification is to conduct video interviews of our Certified members discussing how requiring a certified integrator can reduce risk and increase efficiency for the client’s operation.

This comes with some major challenges.
1. CSIA does not have the budget to send staff to 400 member offices to capture this content.
2. Our members do not have budgets to allocate to video production crews.
3. Nor do not have the time or resources to produce or edit a video themselves.

With a little planning, a solid internet connection, decent lighting, and great audio, we have learned to create, edit and publish these interviews on our YouTube channel and public website.

Techniques
Interviews may be conducted in one of two different styles:

Confessional: In this format, the interviewer is off camera and not heard in the final version of the interview. The viewer only hears and sees the subject of the interview. This requires more editing so that the final video contains the “parroting” of the questions along with the answers. This is a technique used in many reality TV shows; a producer debriefs the “contestant,” but you only hear the interviewee speaking.

Side-by-Side: Show one to four subjects in the interview on one screen with as many as 10 participants. The latter may look a bit like the old game show “Hollywood Squares” but could be interesting if you carefully coordinate who speaks, when.

Audio Podcast
You could also repurpose the audio from the Skype call into an audio-only version and turn it into a podcast. In a slide-less discussion, listeners can enjoy the interview while multitasking or commuting.

Software Solutions
There are many third-party software plugin solutions for recording the call, for both Mac and Windows. Many have free or limited trials, or licensed versions for only $20 or $30. 

Conclusion
Conducting a recorded Skype interview or panel discussion is easy to set up and conduct. The best thing is that the final product can be used by other departments in your association, from marketing, education, and even the board.

Additional Resources
How to Record a Skype Interview
Four key elements to shooting better videos
How to be a reporter’s favorite source: Ten tips, plus bonus tips for recorded interviews

Continue reading
  768 Hits
  0 Comments

Live chat for associations: How to incorporate it into your member engagement strategy

live chat quote

We all want instant answers when we go online, and our members (prospective and existing) are no different. B2B and B2C companies have long known that quick service enhances the customer experience, leaving a positive overall impression. That’s why live chat has become so popular in online commerce. Live chat may not be new in the for-profit world, but for most resource-strapped, small/medium staff associations and AMCs, it is. 

According to Insite Software, live chat on your website can directly lead to “better member engagement, higher conversion and member satisfaction.”

  1. Live chat increases conversions by 20%. Live chat helps answer customer questions, removes buying objections and results in a more confident consumer.
  2. Customers who chat are three times more likely to buy. Live chat provides a method for more direct and personal interaction with customers, resulting in an increased likelihood that they will make the purchase.
  3. Live chat improves customer satisfaction levels. Chat offers customers a more immediate way to get their questions answered. As a result, customers walk away from the interaction feeling more satisfied and positive about your brand. While percentages may vary by industry, it is clear live chat’s instant gratification increases satisfaction and shortens the sales cycle. Data shows that as many as 59% of people who would have otherwise called, were completely satisfied with their online interaction.

Live chat for associations
For associations, live chat can lighten the load of your call center and administrative staff. Plus, because live chat is mobile friendly, association staff can easily monitor activity and answer questions anytime, anywhere. That doesn’t mean live chat requires 24/7 chained-to-a-desk service. Many companies staff their chat during business hours only and offer the option to leave a message in the off hours. This is totally acceptable. 

An added bonus to being instantly accessible is the ability to see where your web visitors come from (a Google search or referring site) or what organization they are with. It’s gratifying when you recognize returning visitors by name.

Most live chat services are relatively inexpensive, starting $5 or $10 per month. Many have a free trial or “freemium” model. Some even integrate seamlessly with Wordpress, Hubspot, Salesforce, and other online tools you’re already using.

Enhancing member satisfaction
Live chat gives our staff the opportunity to engage with our members in real time. Thanks to a small piece of code that I installed on our association website, I’m alerted instantly when (“Ding!) a member is having login problems that cannot be fixed by the “Forgot Password” button, (“Ding!”) a member has a question about completing his online profile, and (“Ding!”) a prospective member has some questions before submitting an application for membership.

With live chat, I enjoy being able to quickly help our members go about their business with usually little impact on my day. In my experience, most of the interactions involve some online technical issue, finding a resource for a member or nurturing a potential sponsor or member relationship. Like any good customer experience, listening and providing decisive help is key.

If you use live chat, you will notice patterns in the questions you get. They may help identify problems with your website, conference registration site or learning management system. Perhaps a web page is confusing or lacks some information. Share what you learn with your marketing or web person to ensure that information or the customer-flow through your website is optimized.

While some days are busier than others and it appears as though I am falling down a rabbit hole of busy work, I know that, with live chat, I am directly affecting the bottom line of the association by enhancing customer satisfaction — for only a bit of labor and little if any monthly fee.

Source: B2B Marketing, American Marketing Association, Pekala, Nancy

Continue reading
  1262 Hits
  0 Comments

How to reach clients who have never heard of you

chasm image Veroeven

 

I've long believed in the power of inbound marketing fueled by content, but nothing solidified my understanding better than when Adrianne Machina uttered the following words below during her presentation at the 2016 Annual Conference of the American Marketing Association-Madison Chapter.

"The chasm between never heard of you and your name sounds familiar is deep and wide."
– Adrianne Machina of Tornado Marketing, speaking about the effectiveness of content marketing and an inbound lead strategy

Mind the gap
If your company’s sales and marketing strategy relies solely on cold-calling and emailing, your staff might end up like the gentleman in the picture — in danger of a fall/fail. He's unlikely to make it safely across to "your name sounds familiar."

A potential client is more likely to accept a phone call or read an email from someone they’ve heard of than from someone they haven’t.

When a potential customer is not ready to listen to a marketing message, he ignores phone calls, emails and voicemails. In these instances, cold calls and emails will rarely initiate a conversation. So what should a company do when the prospective client isn't ready to listen?

Build a bridge with content
Customers do business with people they like and trust. So how does a company cross the chasm from, “never heard of you” to “your name sounds familiar?” Build a bridge with content.

Educate them. Share an informative article with them. Entertain them. Evoke an emotional response. When they are ready, they will answer a call, complete a form or perform the desired action the marketing staff wants them to do, because they trust the company, brand, and, ultimately, the business development staff who have been grooming them.

It is the fundamental concept of an effective inbound marketing strategy: groom prospects to enter the sales and marketing funnel as strangers and exit as customers.

What is inbound marketing?
According to industry expert Hubspot: “Inbound marketing is about using marketing to bring potential customers to you, rather than having your marketing efforts fight for their attention. By creating content specifically designed to appeal to your dream customers, inbound attracts qualified prospects to your business and keeps them coming back for more.”

David Meerman Scott sums it up practically in his book, The New Rules of Marketing and PR: "You can buy attention (advertising.) You can beg for attention from the media (PR). You can bug people one at a time to get attention (sales).  Or you can own attention by creating something interesting and valuable and then publish it online for free: a YouTube video, a blog, a research report, photos, an infographic, a Twitter stream, an eBook, a Facebook page."

inbound marketingHubspot's model of Inbound Marketing Funnel

Inbound marketing in real-life
Companies that receive the most traffic are the ones that have videos and blog articles and other relevant content in the search results. Whether it is business-to-business or business-to-consumer, inbound marketing works for any industry.

Unless a business is in some ultra-niche market, it is difficult for a brand to land on page one of a favorite search engine's results, especially if all they have on a website is an about us or products page. Search engines are fickle; they "like" pages that are dynamic, and have relevant information. If you don't keep your site up with fresh information, the search engines will move on to a website that does.

Proof that content marketing works
In a 2012 study, the Content Marketing Institute (CMI) found that inbound content marketing:
• attracts the most visitors of all marketing efforts
• creates higher engagement with an audience
• is the best tool in your marketing arsenal

An inbound marketing strategy develops your audience. Over time you won't have to find your audience; they will find you.

But…But…But…
There are lots of excuses for not investing in content marketing:
• Don't have time
• Don't know where to start
• Have plenty of repeat and word-of-mouth business

Consider outsourcing. Many marketing consultants already specialize in your industry, or will learn it in order produce resonating content.

Producing content doesn't have to be complicated or expensive. Some companies start with posting a one-minute impromptu video on YouTube.

Have plenty of repeat and word-of-mouth business? Everyone should be in such a position. For the rest: a good inbound marketing strategy will only make it easier for customers to talk about the company, service and quality work.

Conclusion
Reaching today’s modern customer is challenging with unsolicited phone calls and emails often perceived as spam.
The chasm between “I never heard of you” and “your name sounds familiar” is deep and wide.

Will you take a chance at jumping the gap, or building a bridge?

Continue reading
  1440 Hits
  0 Comments

Give your organization an authentic public voice in just 15 minutes

Several years ago it was all the rage for company presidents and executives to write a blog. The idea was to give one’s organization a voice of leadership beyond the motto, mission statement or "about us" page.

In theory, this is excellent. Since the executive is the visionary and chief cheerleader to the organization and its members or customers, she should have a voice both internally and publically to manage morale, politics and issues the company or association faces.

But creating a well thought-out post of 500-750 words can take hours of writing and editing. To establish and maintain a public presence, some CEOs and presidents have taken to having a ghost writer write their weekly post. This could backfire however, as the writer may not capture or channel exactly how the executive speaks or communicates. The constituency or membership may say ghostwriting is inauthentic and is contrary to the spirit of the idea of the president blogging to begin with.

There is another way, with a little time, to capture your president’s thoughts, share them with your customers or members, and perhaps even make a deeper impact.

How? Video. You’ve probably already heard that video is becoming the medium on which we are all learning, searching, communicating. It’s not inconceivable that YouTube will surpass even Google as a search engine.

CSIA 2016 complete the survey

You can create a simple video in less than 15 minutes a week that may, for all intents and purposes, be more powerful than a blog. Check out this video we made with AMPED President Lynda J. Patterson. Here Lynda addresses attendees of an upcoming association partner conference and builds anticipation. And here, in a post-conference video, she asks attendees to complete the conference evaluation.

I shot and edited these videos on my iPhone, and uploaded them to YouTube. Both took me fewer than 10 minutes to complete. Lynda put together a few bullet points, rehearsed briefly, and executed these well.

I like them because they don’t look too polished, but are professional enough to send out to the masses. These didn’t cost us any studio time or any money other than the initial investment in inexpensive equipment, totaling $125, plus a smartphone. You don’t need a studio or expensive equipment, just a smartphone, lapel mic, a tripod and a mount

I recommend that you reference my article, “Four key elements to shooting better videos” for some easy tips and tricks to making videos very easy and accessible.

Good Luck!

Continue reading
  1532 Hits
  0 Comments

A guide to facilitating an "Unconference"

fishbowl conference

Unconferences have become a popular way to encourage engagement and learning at conferences, seminars, and workshops. In fact, entire meetings have adopted the unconference structure. "Un" refers to the opposite of the typical nature of a meeting, where an expert speaker addresses a number of attendees. The main premise of an un-conference, un-session or un-meeting is flipped. In other words, the education, topic, engagement and overall experience are the responsibility of the participants. The assumption is the most knowledgeable person at a meeting might not be the one at the podium; rather he/she might be in the audience.

I have participated in and moderated in a few of these. There is no one way to perform an unconference session. The purpose of is to foster ideas, conversation and most importantly engagement between attendees.

With help from fellow AMPED staff members Brittany Olson and Jeanne Rosen, I wrote an Unconference Facilitators’ Guide. This guide offers best practices and a loose structure, not rigorous rules. Facilitators should have latitude to conduct their session to their style. The point is peer-to-peer conversation.

Here are a few helpful hints:
• Typically each unconference session has a facilitator or moderator.
• An unconference is a participant-driven meeting where the agenda is created on the spot by attendees at the beginning of the meeting to allow for flexibility of topics and discussion-based sessions.
• Unconferences are intended to be highly collaborative and offer a vibrant atmosphere where questions are welcomed and sharing is encouraged.
• Meaningful and useful interaction between attendees is the sole purpose of an unconference.
• The culture is designed to be encouraging, participatory, and not passive.
• Teaching and learning aren’t fixed roles; a teacher at one moment may be a learner the next.
• The experience and expertise of the participants is harnessed, rather than relying on the contributions of a few outside experts.
• Participants have more input into and control over their learning and takeaways from an unconference session.

Four easy rules for unconference sessions
• Rule one: Whoever shows up are the right people.
• Rule two: Whatever happens is the only thing that could have.
• Rule three: Whenever it starts is the right time.
• The fourth and final rule is: It’s over when it’s over.

Getting started
At the beginning of the unconference session, do a crowd sourcing of topics. Typically several colors of Post-its and sharpies are made available.

Each participant writes as many notes as they want and sticks them on the wall. Alternatively the facilitator can write these on a flip chart, but this is a bit of a bottleneck to creativity. After 5-10 minutes the facilitator brings the group together and asks for assistance in categorizing these sub-topics. Be creative and free-flowing here. Anybody can move/assign/offer input as to where they go. Use the wall of Post-its or a flipchart on an easel to help categorize them.

Discussion formats
There are many formats of unconference style sessions. To keep things simple, I’ll focus on two Rotating Tables or Fishbowl. The facilitator has the option to choose either style or modify it to his/her preference.

FISHBOWL
Several chairs (4-7, can vary) are placed in a circle. This is the fishbowl. Other chairs are placed in concentric circles around the fishbowl. This is the audience. Selected participants or volunteers fill all but one chair in an open fishbowl, and all chairs in a closed fishbowl.

The facilitator begins by introducing the first subtopic or category and the participants start discussing. The outer circles (audience) listen and remain quiet. The facilitator can also interject a new topic when one has run its course. Topics can be ones that were crowd sourced at the beginning of the unconference session.

In the open fishbowl format, any member of the audience at any time, can get up and sit in the empty chair, joining the discussion. One of the existing participants of the fishbowl leaves the fishbowl and frees up a chair. The conversation continues with participants entering and leaving the fishbowl. Depending on how large the audience is, many audience members spend some time in the fishbowl and take part in the discussion. When time runs out, the fishbowl is closed and the facilitator summarizes the discussion. Other observers could also interject their takeaways.

In the closed fishbowl format, the first participants speak for a predetermined time. At a specified time, they leave the fishbowl and a new group from the outer circle sits at the fishbowl chairs. The discussion continues. When the time is up, the facilitator closes the fishbowl and summarizes the discussion, inviting others to make any closing remarks and observations.

Watch this video on how a fishbowl discussion works.

Guidelines:

  • One chair should always remain empty (open fishbowl)
  • When in the inner circle
    - Actively listen and participate
    - No monopolizing conversation
  • Always be respectful
  • Support your opinion or argument with an example or data
  • Outer circle should remain quiet and listen
    - Enter inner circle when ready to contribute
  • Say something that moves the conversation along.
    - Reference what others say and use their names
    - “I agree with you, ____, and here’s why; I also think that…”
    - “I heard what you said___, but I disagree…”
  • The facilitator should keep the conversation on-topic
  • Redirect and bring focus to the topic

_________________________________________________________________________________

ROTATING TABLES
In this format, several small round tables that seat three to six people are placed in a room large enough so that the tables are not too close to one another.

Each table has a subtopic/category assigned to it. A stack of Post-its is laid at each table.

At predetermined times, the Facilitator announces that it is time to stand up and move to another table. It’s preferred that the tables seat a different group at each interval. In other words, the members of one table should not uniformly rotate to the same tables.

In another version, one volunteer remains at the table as a moderator and introduces the topic to start the conversation. He/she could also interject thoughts from the previous group to get things started.

Guidelines:

  • When participating at a table:
    - Actively listen and participate
    - No monopolizing conversation
  • Always be respectful
  • Support your opinion or argument with an example or data
  • There typically isn’t an audience as it would be difficult to follow the conversations.
  • Say something that moves the conversation along.
    - Reference what others say and use their names
    - “I agree with you, ____, and here’s why; I also think that…”
    - “I heard what you said___, but I disagree…”
  • The facilitator should keep the conversation on-topic. He/she should float from table to table and listen in briefly.
  • Redirect and bring focus to the topic if necessary


_________________________________________________________________________________

Conclusion
The important rule to realize is there are no rules, as you may have discerned from the “Four Easy Rules…” section above. Have fun with this and make your approach to your unconference session your own. The goal is to foster understanding between two attendees and the so called audience. These people may not have spoken or shared ideas otherwise.

 This article would not have been written without these valuable sources:

Four Unconference Rules : Diane GageLofgren, Public Relations Society of America

Fishbowl Description : Google Apps for Education Certified Trainer Summit

Helpful Hints: Brittany Marsala Olson, Control Systems Integrators Association, CSIA 2016 Executive Conference Program

How to run a great fishbowl discussion : Rachel Marrion

Continue reading
  3965 Hits
  0 Comments

The "Long Game" of content marketing: What your association leaders need to hear

Selling your members or association partners on the value of content marketing can be a challenge, especially when they're stuck in a traditional marketing mindset. I hear from many members of the Control System Integrators Association (CSIA) (an AMPED association partner) that much of their business is word-of-mouth and repeat business. Some even tell me they aren’t currently looking for new business; they have all they can handle at the moment!

Even if you have plenty of new business now in your industry, take heed. Many B2B and B2C clients do research without consulting a salesperson.

This isn’t new or groundbreaking news. This shift has been happening for years, and it’s not relegated to this “new generation,” known as Millennials. In fact, according to a recent study conducted by CFE Media on buyer behavior, it’s generally difficult to pin this responsibility on Millennials, Generation X or Baby Boomers.

Content marketing is playing “the long game.” One won’t see immediate results, business, or leads. So why do it? Why spend time and resources to post content like case studies, social media and buyer’s guides like the CSIA’s Industrial Automation Exchange in addition to managing your website?

Frankly, if you play the long game of content marketing, you will win. You will get noticed. Your site traffic will increase and your brand will be associated with knowledge and expertise in the industry. But, you need to create and post content in different sources other than your corporate website.

You might be thinking, “Why on earth would I want my prospective customers on any place other than my own website?” Read on; I think you might be surprised on how people, (technical minded or not) make buying decisions.

In February 2015 CFE Media conducted a market research/scientific study titled “Identifying Content Needs along the Engineers’ Buyers Journey.”

Following are three of the questions asked in the survey pertaining to the value of content. For each question, I have also stated CFE Media’s interpretation of the data collected. I added an insight and takeaway from the data, plus why it’s important to the future revenue of your business.

Special note: While this survey was geared toward engineers, it should not be discounted as insight into B2C or less technical industries. In general, engineers are more methodical process driven and less emotional about purchasing decisions. In other words, the statistics reported her are generally a smaller “muted” representation of the general population. This is demonstrated in the first question below.


1. What percentage of your buy/specify evaluation process is complete when you typically contact a supplier/vendor?

On average, buyers are nearly 40% through their decision making process before connecting with a vendor directly (CFE Media.) View the data here, Slide 10.

CM 1

According to Google’s Zero Moment of Truth Study, buyers will consult more than 11 sources before they make a purchasing decision.

Did you know when researching new vendors or products for solutions in automation technology, clients build trust with your company without direct input from your staff?

While one could argue that clients aren’t always engineers, (the focus of the study) content marketing is a ubiquitous to every industry. Statistics will vary by industry, but the importance of creating and sharing content is still relevant. For instance, in the consumer market, buyers are as much as 90% through their decision making process before contacting a vendor (Google, 2012.)

Whatever the generation, profession or industry, people use online sources to make key decisions about purchases. Assuming you want your company a part of that decision, it’s imperative that your marketing strategy includes posting content in places where your prospects will find it. And the more places they see your brand, the more they see you are not a fly-by-night organization. One of the principles of successful marketing communications is repetition.

Key Insight: A corporate website should only be one part of the journey for a prospective client. The buying process is no longer linear, therefore a website is not the final destination. (Harvard Business Review, 2014.)

Key Takeaway: Don’t be afraid to show them around your marketing collateral hosted and linked elsewhere. Don’t be reluctant to post your marketing collateral on multiple sites. The marketing and sales funnel no longer look like this, instead the new marketing funnel looks like this.

2. In your opinion, how valuable are the following content sources when seeking information on the latest engineering technologies, industry trends, and products?

In other words, what do clients click on and read? What influences them to narrow down a field of players to three bidders?

“Sixty percent or more of respondents cited supplier/vendor websites, trade publications, trade publication websites, and industry association websites among the most valuable content sources when seeking the latest engineering technologies, industry trends, and products” (CFE Media, 2015.)

CM 2

Note that search engines were reported as the most valuable source, followed by supplier websites, trade publications, industry association websites, and newsletters. Social media appears “valuable” by “only” 20% of respondents.

Use caution in interpreting this data. Much of the aforementioned content is also shared on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. View the data here, Slide 9.

Key Insight: Buyers will use several different sources online and offline, digital and in print to research and learn about automation technology.

Key Takeaway: You must be seen in several different places to get noticed and earn their trust.

3. How valuable are the following types of content when researching the latest engineering technologies, industry trends, and products/services?

According to the study, “Seven in 10 respondents value product information, white papers, trade publication articles (print and online), and case studies when researching the latest engineering technologies, industry trends, and products or services. Additionally, two-thirds of respondents also value webcasts or webinars for the same purpose” (CFE Media.) View the data here, Slide 10.

CM 3

Pay close attention to the entry on the bottom of slide 10, “Value of content types.” Again, use caution in interpreting this data. Even though blogging has a relatively low ranking (21% of respondents found value as a content type) as a valued source of information, consider that most of the aforementioned datasheets, brochures, case studies and white papers are delivered via contextual links in blog articles or social media.

Key Insight: As your clients try to solve their automation issues, they will do Google searches, ask LinkedIn Groups for referrals, and consult industry knowledge in many forms. You won’t be able to pin one source as “the one” that convinced the customer your company is the right fit. That takes time and incremental marketing touches.

Key Takeaway: Your company must adopt a diverse approach to content marketing. While you should put content only where your customers are to avoid spreading your marketing team too thin, it should be found in several places to give credence and validity to your message.

Conclusion
As mentioned previously, marketing through content is a long haul, but it does pay off. You can’t ignore how buyers make important decisions. They will look for you on Google. And if you are diligent and pervasive, you will get noticed.

Your site traffic will increase and your brand will be associated with knowledge and expertise in the industry. You need to create and post content on different sources other than your corporate website.

What do you think? How does the data differ in other industries? Post links and references if you can.

Sources Consulted and Cited
2015 Marketing to Engineers Research Study, CFE Media
Marketing Can No Longer Rely on the Funnel, Harvard Business Review
The New Rules of Marketing and PR, David Meerman Scott
Three Flaws with the Funnel, Forrester Research, Pardot
Trust Agents, Chris Brogan and Julien Smith
Zero Moment of Truth 2012 Study, Google
Why Marketing Has Changed Forever, Digital Tonto

Continue reading
  1753 Hits
  0 Comments

Four key elements to shooting better videos

moviemount6top cropped

In the spring 2015 issue of VantagePoint, the magazine of the Wisconsin Society of Association Executives, Mike Ruzicka laid a great foundation for why and how associations should make video part of their communications strategy.

Ruzicka stated that one can use a smartphone or a tablet to shoot the video. I see this statement a lot and it got me thinking, “Can one make a decent video with a smartphone or tablet, GoPro-type camera or camcorder?”

Absolutely.

Current technology has made it easy for anyone to shoot and edit HD video. This is no slight to professional video companies. If you need to make a corporate/organization image video, spend the money — it’s worth it. However, you don't need to go to a studio every time you want to communicate with your audience.

What do you need to make a decent video? Note that I said “decent.” Professionalism is up to many variables like environment, lighting and ambient noise. Typically the problem isn’t the equipment you are using.

It doesn’t have to cost a lot to make an engaging message for your organization. For a modest purchase of $30 and awareness of the following “Four Key Elements to Better Videos,” you will drastically improve the quality of your videos. I will also share some moderately priced investments that will improve them further.

1. Good audio makes for a good video
2. Environment and lighting
3. Equipment
4. Look at the lens

Good audio makes for a good video
Have you ever watched a video but could barely hear the person speak?
• The video was shot on a busy tradeshow floor or a noisy/windy spot outside
• The speaker was too far away from the camera
• The speaker sounds like he is speaking in an empty warehouse

“Wait, the most important thing for making a good video is ... audio?” Yes. Your audience might forgive dim, harsh or otherwise “bad” lighting, but they won't forgive bad audio. I’ll prove it: Many people multitask while “watching” TV or a webinar.

Avoid using the device’s built-in microphone. These microphones are made to pick up everything around you: wind, a nearby loud-cell-phone-talker; everything. If you must use the built-in microphone, get close to the microphone and camera.

Improve your audio by being aware of the environment in which you are recording. Try to use a small office with “stuff” in it. A furnished room with chairs, couches, paintings, etc. will help your video sound less “echo-y.” Avoid large and sparsely decorated conference rooms.

Lighting
You don’t need expensive lighting to make a decent video. Use natural light when you can. You can even use desk lamps and reflect off of some foamcore or white tag board. Try to avoid harsh lighting and shadows on your face.

If budget allows, you can get a light kit for $150.00 and you look like you are in a studio!

Here’s a video with some great information about “making do” with what you have. The video was made a few years ago so it’s a bit dated on the equipment suggestions, but relevant on environment, lighting and sound. (Skip to 1:50)

Equipment
If you are using a smartphone or tablet, you can buy a plug-in lapel/lavalier microphone for about $30. An external microphone will help overcome echo and environmental noise you can’t control.

If you have the budget, you can get an HD camera with a microphone jack. Here you can use a wireless or plug-in microphone. There are all kinds of YouTube videos and blog articles on what kind of microphone you should use depending on the application. For sit-down or “roving reporter”-style interviews, you could use a shotgun or lapel mike. A good set up for the camera and microphone will set you back $800-$1,000.

If you are on a shoestring budget, you can use your earbuds’ built-in microphone. Hint: run the cord under your shirt to your first or second button. Frame the shot of your head and shoulders. Note that you’ll be limited on how far you can be away from the camera.

Look at the camera
We’ve all seen it. The eyes dart down, or stare just below the camera. The notes of the speaker are taped to the tripod or perhaps on an iPad just below the camera. It doesn’t look professional to read your notes.

If you are well-practiced at extemporaneous speech, or use a teleprompter, looking into the camera will be much easier. Pick three big points to make instead of covering a lot of detail. Practice. Practice. Practice.

Anyone can build an inexpensive teleprompter. A teleprompter will allow you to read (as long as you don’t sound like you are reading) your notes and look directly into the lens.

I made one out of foamcore, free scrap wood from a big box hardware store, a shadow box frame, and some black felt, all for about $10! If budget allows, you can buy one for $100-$200 (and much more) online.

Control what you can and “make do” with what you have
Being aware of the elements of a good video will help you improve your messaging and communications, instead of introducing distractions from it. Using a few tips here will encourage your audience to watch…and listen to your entire video and come away with the message you are trying to impart.

Video is an important part of marketing and communication. I am a bit of a DIY pragmatist. Do a bit more research on YouTube and Google to improve your skills, and use what you have to “make do.” However even a small budget will allow you to actually have an inexpensive “studio” with the elements and components shared here for about $1,000-1,200.

More resources:
10 Tricks to Make Amateur Video Look Professional (Skip to 2:47)
How-to: $35 DIY Teleprompter for LCD or iPad
Microphones & Audio Syncing Tutorial (Skip to 1:47)
Improving Video for Web Presentations (Skip to 1:50)

Continue reading
  3049 Hits
  0 Comments

AMPED-logo-sans-text-small