140+: In the Moment


Have you heard? Death to PowerPoint! Aweee…Really?

The endThere’s a lot of buzz that PowerPoint should be abolished. In fact, in Switzerland, the trend has borne an entire political party, the Anti-PowerPoint Party (APPP).  The call to end the use of PowerPoint presentations is not a new phenomenon.  I can understand why people love to hate presentation software… it’s a convenient way to explain why presentations stink. It’s not about their slides or their presentation style!

Does the “death to PowerPoint” movement make you feel inadequate? Uncool? Uninformed, and out of date? Stop feeling like a hack and think logically. It’s not the software!

Repeat after me: PowerPoint and the other presentation software packages like SlideRocket, Keynote, and Prezi  are not really responsible for mind-numbing presentations.  It’s like saying a fork is responsible for a horrible meal.

Come on now,  folks… Let’s be rational. Could it be that presenters often use presentation software poorly? Of course. Often presenters don’t use best practice in adult learning theory . They don’t think about how they would like to be engaged if they were in the audience. And they don’t take the time to seek out any of the easy-to-find tips and tricks that can help them deliver powerful presentations. Oh no… they just slap up bullets and charts and proceed to read from them. BORING.

By the way, webinars would be pretty hard to do with flipcharts, and using webcams for talking heads gets old after a while. Virtual presentations require even more skill to engage participants, so it’s critical to learn more and do more when you present virtually.

Stop blaming the tools and buying the hogwash from people who are trying to sell you another method. Brush up on your technique and learn a little bit about best practice. Think about how to communicate authentically with the people who come to hear you share your expertise. Here are some great resources to help you avoid the pitfalls of heavy dependance on bad slides:

The Virtual Presenter Blog by Roger Courville

Make Better Presentations – The Anatomy of a Good Speech by Chris Brogan

Great Webinars by Cynthia Clay

Presentation Zen, the Blog

Presentation Zen, by Garr Reynolds

17 Examples of Great Presentation Design on Hubspot

Really Bad Powerpoint by Seth Godin

The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs: How to Be Insanely Great in Front of Any Audience, by Carmine Gallo

There are literally thousands of really great resources to help you use PowerPoint (or your favorite presentation software package) well. There’s no reason to feel badly because you use slides. But you should feel terrible if you use slides poorly. Don’t be lazy and blame the tools, get off the stick and learn something new to dazzle and engage your participants.

The “M” Word: Marketing is Not a Dirty Word

January 2The M Word: Marketing Is Not A Dirty Word011 is the time to get over marketing-phobia!

Did you grow up with the notion that it’s not nice to toot your own horn?  Do you feel uncomfortable marketing your products, your organization, or, if you are a consultant, marketing yourself?  How has that played out in your professional life?

Some people think marketing is distasteful. In some industries and communities, marketing has become a whisper-worthy word. Leaders in many non-profit organizations and small businesses think their programs, products, and services are so good and so needed, they just simply sell themselves.

Get over it! Time to face facts: If you don’t tell people about what your organization, products and services are all about, they can’t use them. In fact, if you don’t market, you may not have employees, advocates, volunteers, funders, clients, or customers. Every time you have to tell people about yourself, your products,programs or services, you are marketing.

If you are one of those who just are not comfortable or interested in marketing, it’s OK. What’s most important is that you acknowledge that someone needs to take responsibility for promotion. This is the perfect time to take stock of what you can do to improve your outreach and start attracting people who need what you have to offer. Download our New Year 10 Point Marketing Assessment to evaluate how your organization is doing!

So, take the marketing assessment and leave a comment: tell us about your challenges! Or, tell us about your biggest marketing fears.  I’m sure we all have felt your pain, and some of us may even have a few good ideas that might help you find your way in 2011!

The Top 3 Dirty Little Secrets of Social Media Marketing

Money on social media hype image

You’ve heard it all from passionate presenters and evangelical bloggers…There’s tons of hype about the power of social media.

Let’s get real. Social media  offers a lot of potential for marketing. Companies and nonprofit organizations are experiencing success using social media for marketing, outreach, advocacy and fundraising. Lots of us internet marketers think it’s the best way to engage with and establish relationships with customers and constituents, and perhaps (if we have done a good job) get them to transact with us. BUT…In the heat of the moment when social media passion has taken over, there are (at least) three secrets social media marketing evangelists might fail to mention:

1) Social media marketing is just not right for every business. Face it: If you are marketing niche products or services into a very traditional sector, it just might not make sense.  Using any marketing medium effectively requires putting the message where the target audience is, and where they want to engage with you.

Are farmers really going to make Facebook their first stop for information when they need to buy a tractor? Are they going spend a lot of time engaging in an exchange of ideas information about equipment on social networking sites? (Hold on there, farmers! I know you use social media. Stick with me for a minute!)  I’m just saying social media should not be the primary tool in the marketing mix for some businesses. The fact is, there are better ways to market some products and services. To be effective with any marketing strategy you have to  pick the right mix.   Social media marketing is a powerful tool, but true geeks like me must be strong enough to admit when social doesn’t make sense.

Don’t buy the hype if the person offering the advice  is not thinking specifically about your products or services and your core market.

2) You simply cannot push your message. I know this is not really a secret. Seth Godin, Chris Brogan and Guy Kawasaki and lots of other smart social media marketers constantly tell us social networking is about all the things we learned in Kindergarten about making friends.  But if you follow social media it seems like a lot of marketers are treating the medium like advertising, alienating their audiences, and making it obvious that their brands are not really customer-centric.

Social networkers expect two-way or many-to-many conversation and real engagement. That means you must share interesting conversation, establish value, and give your audience a chance to chat. You have listen to them and you must respond, just as you might if you were in their living rooms at a party. Because, indeed, this is SOCIAL (as in the companionship of others) media.

Would you invite people to a dinner party and start pitching the minute they arrived? Even if it was a business-related event, you would have to at least engage in a conversation or two. And if you feigned interest, the other guests would consider you a phony. HELLO! Social networking is where your company will be tagged as relevant and interesting or doomed to be like a narcissistic outcast because the content is just pitch after pitch. Boring. Useless. Irrelevant. Crass. Just like a bad party host.

3) Social networking is not easy and immediate. I’m sure you’ve seen the books and blogs that Get more followers imagepromise dramatic and immediate results from social media in just a few minutes per day.  Those plans use technology and tactics that can automatically build an audience, but the technology cannot deliver the right audience or build meaningful relationships with them. Onceyou’ve found your core audience, engagement with those people must authentic– a real person must respond authentically.  It takes a lot of time and patience to build followers, friends, and fans.  It requires authentic interest in your audience and commitment to sharing.

If you do not have at least 10 hours a week (that’s a .25 FTE)  to spend on social media and no money to hire someone, you probably should not plan to use social media as a primary tool in your marketing strategy. You can set up a presence on a social media site with less of time investment, but you can’t expect significant results.  And, even with someone devoted to social media for a quarter of their time, you should expect it to take at least 6 months to build up meaningful results. And, ROI? Bonus Dirty Little Secret: It’s not your mother’s ROI any more! ROI in social media is gauged differently now… But that’s a post for another day. Stay tuned!

So, what? I know it seems like I am a social media Scrooge, but I’m one of the social media-crazy evangelists who sometimes gets so carried away that I forget to offer these important footnotes.  But I do think it is important to know how and when to use the tools that fit the job.  You deserve pragmatic advice.

So, what do you think? Am all wrong? Leave a comment and tell me why!

Social Media Newbie Notes: What Does the Internet Reveal About You?

Have you ever “Googled” yourself? Don’t lie, and don’t be embarrassed! Of course you have! Searching for yourself on the internet is not (necessarily) conceited. As a matter of fact, these days it is almost critical that you search for your name online. It is important to follow your digital footprint, and even more important to claim it.  Searching for and claiming your online identity is called Online Identity Management (OIM) or Personal Reputation Management.

In general, it is a good practice to become aware of information about you (or someone else with your name) that is floating around the Internet. You may be surprised to find very obscure information that has been made available about you online. In some cases, you might need to correct inaccuracies (if you can), or be prepared to defend your reputation.

If you don’t find yourself online, you should set up at least one online presence, if for nothing else but to claim your identity. There are hundreds of tools you can use to establish and protect your identity, including these listed by Mashable and CNet. If you decide to take action to protect your identity, be sure to link to them from credible and reliable sources.

Today, my husband asked me why I include my maiden name along with my married name on public documents and online. It had never occurred to him that in the 21st century, because our information is so readily available, middle names and maiden names help people distinguish themselves from others with the same name. Because my name is not very unique. I can easily find hundreds of references to Fran Simon who are clearly not me, and that is only on the first two pages of Google results. That’s why I often use my full name, including my maiden name (Fran Sokol Simon), or my complete initials (FSSimon) online. Think about that when you set up your online presences.

It’s a good idea to monitor your identity as well. Set up a Google Alert to search for your name.  Whenever your name comes up in Google, the system will deliver the results to you by email, so you know what people are saying about you. Here are some examples of Google Alerts I set up about myself:

Google Alert for FSSimon

The following links will provide you with more information about OIM:

Secure A Powerful Online Presence By Claiming Your Online Identity

Claim Your Identity Through Google Profiles

Work Smart: Claiming Your Name on the Web

Twitter for ECE: Let me count the ways!

Anyone who knows me is aware that I can get as worked up when I talk about computers and the Internet as I do when I talk about developmentally appropriate practice. As I have mentioned elsewhere on this blog, I discovered that child care administration and technology literacy go hand in hand early in my career. And, so far, it’s a combination that continues to fascinate me and shape my career. I don’t think I would have ever been able to do my job as an administrator without technology. (Although, I tip my hat to those who have come before me and conquered without computers!) I also don’t think I would have learned as much as I have about technology if it were not for the need for me to do great work in ECE.

My most recent fascination is with web 2.0, and specifically with the use of social media for social networking and how it can power collaboration and communication in the early learning community. I’ve been on LinkedIn and Facebook for many years, but in 2009, I joined Twitter, where I began my odyssey to discover if social media would really pay off with connections in ECE.  But first, I had to watch (or lurk) to learn how to Tweet without making a fool out of myself and find people who posted about and shared my interest in ECE.

Let’s count the ways I love Twitter: #1: It’s a lot more than what you’re doing right now!

Soon I learned the first of many amazing facts about Twitter: Despite the common misconception that you are supposed to post what you are doing, that’s not what effective Tweeting is about. The best tweeters post brief statements that include a link to an online article, event announcement, news, or other online resource along with tags that help readers determine if the link will be of interest to them. People can exchange information with other tweeters publicly or through a Direct Message that is private, as well.

Let’s count the ways I love Twitter: #2: Hashtags help sort tweets!

My second very important discovery was about about hastags, which are like keyword labels that allow people with common interests to find the information in which they are most interested. To use hashtags, “Tweeters” just add # plus the a commonly used keyword to describe the topic and then people who share that interest search for topics with that hashtag.

To illustrate hashtags and “Twiterish” here’s an example of Tweet posted by NAEYC (@naeyc):

The anatomy of a tweet

The anatomy of a tweet

Let’s count the ways I love Twitter: #3: An Army of ECE colleagues!

Armed with this cool new information, I decided to try posting information with the hashtag #ece, not knowing whether anyone else had ever used that tag or not. Soon, I discovered many of my colleagues posting using #ece, and a wealth of new colleagues I had never met before. Even though we all were using the same hashtag, I learned more about different topics than I had ever learned before because, of course, there are many concepts related to early childhood. For example, my tweets are about public policy that impacts early learning, parenting and parent engagement, research, assessment, and program administration. My esteemed colleague, Cate Heroman, (@cateheroman)author of The Creative Curriculum and other great resources from Teaching Strategies (@TeachStrategies ) posts about curriculum, assessment, child development, curriculum studies, and other tweets that are teacher-centric.  Karen Nemeth, (@KarenNemethEdM) the author of Many Languages, One Classroom tweets about ELL, DLL, child development, program management, and language development. There are hundreds of other ECE Tweeters out there, many of whom offer great insight on best practice in the classroom as well as program administration.

Let’s count the ways I love Twitter: #4: “Cross-Interest pollination!”

I also follow and tweet other hashtags like #parenting, leadership, #management, #nonprofit, #fundraising, #HR, #OD (organizational development) and more. This is where it becomes interesting! I think of it like cross-pollination, because the ECE people who follow me learn more about topics in related fields and I learn more about topics I would otherwise never explore. Best of all, I feel as though I am educating people in other fields about early childhood and learning from their expertise.

Let’s count the ways I love Twitter: #5: Twitter brings our community together!

I could talk about Twitter all day (and sometimes, I do!) The point of this post is that my experiment with Twitter proved to me that there is value in social media for early childhood education. Our community has come together through Twitter. It’s like going to a conference to network every day. It is energizing, enlightening, and exciting. The potential is amazing.

Now, let’s count together:

What are your experiences on Twitter? Tell me how you exploit the potential and use it to benefit your program?

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