A great post supporting best practice in customer service and highlighting my piece on Facebook’s failure to provide customer service by Cynthia Goldbarg.
You’ve probably attended a webinar or two along the way in your career. If you’ve had good experiences, you may have thought: “I can do that!” You’re right, you can! Webinars are great for business of all kinds, but there are some important things to consider before you jump in.
Over the past 10 years or so, webinars have grown increasingly popular and increasingly effective for marketing and training because they work. You can find thousands of articles and webinars about how great webinars are for lead generation. Many of the webinar software vendors offer webinars about various related marketing topics to generate leads for their companies, and include pitches for their software. But, they might not give you the nitty-gritty behind the scenes reality show version of the story. That’s where I come in.
In as much as I am an evangelist for webinars, I’m also a realist. I have presented and produced webinars for the past 10 years. I attend at least one and sometimes up to three webinars per week. However, as a producer and as a consumer, I have to be realistic: There’s good, bad, and ugly news about webinars that you should know before you build them into your marketing plan.
Webinars generate leads, begin a cycle of engagement, and can help you nurture relationships. Presenting on the Internet is a great way to introduce people to your organization, your products, and to your expertise. Webinars are also great for:
- demonstrating products
- technology orientations
- professional development
- building your brand by demonstrating your thought leadership
Online presentations are like a virtual handshake in the beginning of what will hopefully become a deepening authentic relationship with those who attend. Depending on the content you present, they can help you nurture leads into sales, advocates into donors, and constituents into conducting. And, obviously, the convenience and cost effectiveness of attending or presenting a presentation in your jammies or at your desk is hard to beat.
Great. We’ve established that conducing webinars are a strategy worth exploring. So, what’s not-so-great about webinars?
The (Potentially) BAD
Well, there’s nothing inherently bad with webinars, but there are some potential problems that might not make them the ideal tactic to use without some planning, practice and preparation.
- You absolutely MUST HAVE great content that is relevant, meaningful, exciting, and delivered exceedingly well. Developing content that will attract the right kind of audience can be time-consuming.
- Typically, it takes time to build up a critical mass of people who want to consume your webinar content and are willing to invest their time in your webinars. Having just one will not have as much impact as having a series or multiple series. Be prepared to generate a lot of content.
- You must research the webinar software vendors and pick the one that strikes a balance between the technology you need and your budget.
- While you are getting started, researching best practice in webinar production, and practicing your presentation (A LOT) are paramount.
- You will have to make sure the graphics are compelling and exciting and are not cluttered with a lot of text.
- The key to success is filling the seats! You will need to spend time marketing and promoting the webinars.
- You will have to be prepared to follow up with webinar attendees with meaningful practices.
- Initially, you will need someone to help you practice, prepare and monitor the session while it is live. (When you become more experienced, you may not need the help, but you will initially.
Well, so far, the bad isn’t bad. It’s all just a matter of preparation, right? You’d think so…
Even with the best software, great content, lots of practice, preparation, and promotion, things go wrong. There are many variables to being successful with webinars, only a few of which are addressed here. Even though I have a lot of experience producing and presenting webinars, I’ve had a bad experience or two. It happens. Once you’ve made a poor impression on attendees, it’s hard to recover. You might not get a second chance.
I’ve only scratched the surface of the pros and cons of delivering webinars. For more detailed information about webinar software vendors, best practice in webinar production, and presentation tips, you might want to:
Join me for a presentation on
11/9/2012 from 8:00 AM – 9:30 AM
NAEYC Annual Conference & Expo, 2012
in Atlanta, Georgia
Georgia World Congress Center, Room B308
Despite the drawbacks, I strongly encourage the use of webinars for many businesses. As a matter of fact, I offer webinar production services that are designed to help the uninitiated get started, and for the business that don’t want to be troubled with the technical details. If you would like to chat about webinars, give me a call or drop me a line. I’m here to help.
“Blown away.” That’s a pretty intense declaration. But, in fact, when it comes to my perceptions of the advocacy landscape for early childhood, I feel as though I have just put on high-def, 3-D glasses. I can see more clearly than ever. After my experience as a participant at the Partnership for Economic Success National Economic Forum on Early Childhood Investment, I feel as though for the past 25+ years in the field I have been been working with a unidimensional picture. Many of the misconceptions I had about business support for early learning initiatives have evaporated. I’m invigorated by what I’ve learned.
The Forum was replete with complex information, facts, and data presented by some of the most influential business leaders, politicians, and early learning experts in the country. The primary goal of the Forum is to offer the early learning sector the tools and information we need to develop coalitions “of business leaders advocating for increased investments in early childhood.” The sessions provided participants with the stories they need to tell, the data they need to show, and the tactics they need to use to build a movement and collation with the support of local and national businesses.
Of course, at the very foundation of the event was the fundamental message we all know and espouse: The first five years of life are the most crucial years for child development. What happens during these years impacts cognitive, social, emotional, and physical development like no other time in a child’s life. We know this. We live it. We tell the story day after day. But, the Forum shed new light (at least for me) on more compelling ways to tell the story so business leaders will join our movement and become our programmatic partners.
Because I spend most of my time thinking about engagement and communication, I see this as a communication issue. Have we been effectively spinning our stories? Are we bringing the right messages and the right people to the table with us? How can we impart our sense of urgency to legislators and to the public?
Three big takeaways from PAES:
1) There’s significant support in the business community for early learning. This was a huge surprise to me. Business leaders see early learning as a workforce issue. They know the work we do is paramount to developing good workers 15 to 20 years forward. They consider investments in early childhood “front-loading” costs because the investment results in higher returns down the line. Smart business leaders know that paying for high-quality early learning programs results in more well-rounded, prepared workers. They also embrace the research that high-quality programs result in lower rates of incarceration, which saves money “downline.”
There’s nothing to fear from approaching businesses for public and legislative support or programmatic partnerships. The business leaders who presented at PAES were aware of the urgency for support for early learning. Using the powerful detailed and comprehensive communication tools provided by the Partnership, advocates can and should start building support now. In their toolkit, the partnership has put together everything except the moxie you need to start talking with business leaders in your community. You supply the moxie.
2) Strengthen your advocacy position by keeping business leaders by your side. We all know our congressional leaders have heard our stories and our appeals for legislation before. We’re very good at crafting stories about the impact our programs have on the lives of families and children, and we know enough to bring parents and/or children with us to provide personal testimonials about the impact our programs have on their lives. But, congressional leaders must put the budget and the economy at the forefront of every appeal for legislation and funding. If we have any hope of breaking through to connect with legislators, we have to use the “3-D version” of the story and bring reinforcements with us. Armed with great tools like those provided by the Partnership, and a business representative from your community, you can offer a more crystallized and well-rounded story that speaks volumes.
3) We must put aside our differences to come together with a common voice and look for incremental “wins.” Differences? In the early care and learning community? Really? Yes. We’ve heard them all play out when it comes to funding at the local AND national level. We debate: Quality vs. Care for All, Pre-K vs. Child Care vs. Head Start (and on and on.) The patchwork of programs and state implementation has created a natural breeding ground for controversy. It’s natural that we all argue as we clamor for the hard-to-come-by dollars and legislation. It’s time to set those differences aside, and come together with a common voice to show the economic value and impact of high-quality early childhood programs.
There is a narrow window of time in the US right now. The national spotlight is starting to shine on our sector. We need to speak with one voice on a local, state, and national level and set our sights on smaller, more incremental expectations.
Things to do right now:
- Go to the PAES website.
- As per the directions of Rob Dugger, the PAES Advisory Board Chair, “scour the site,” and download the materials in the Communications Toolkit section.
- Integrate them into your advocacy and communications arsenal.
- Share them with your colleagues.
- Join the email list.
- Plan to attend the monthly Invest in Kids Working Group meetings.
- Read the PAES plan and decide where you and your organization fit.
- Read and commit to the Telluride Standards, which are the PAES roadmap for building a national movement for investing in children.
Leave a comment for me! Let me know what you think, especially if you attended the conference.
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If you know me virtually, you know I am obsessed with social media, early childhood education, marketing, and all kinds of other business issues. But, if you know me in person, you also know I am crazy about food. Today, I just have to talk about the pizza at The Corner Slice in Bethesda, MD.
I literally crave the veggie pizza at The Corner Slice. I used to work near the tiny shop, which is located at the corner of Norfolk and St. Elmo. Once a week, I would pop into the New York-like pizzeria for a slice, and a little New York-like customer service. There were times when friends wanted to meet me for lunch in Bethesda, and I would always suggest The Corner Slice. Inevitably, they would look at me like I was crazy, and ask, “Don’t you want to go someplace….uhhh, nicer?” Now, those friends are converts, and I have to go out of my way to get to The Corner Slice. Today I did just that.
First, about the customer service: Well, every woman who comes in is addressed as “Miss,” even by the blue-eyed hunky owner. That’s nice and all, but the hunk can be a little gruff, and less than engaging. Today, I said “Four dollars for a slice?” with a little smile. He said unapologetically, “Yeah. You want that to go?” You know, I think it’s all OK. The $4 price, the Pac Man game in the corner, the metal stools, and the perfunctory customer service, all add up to make you feel like you are in Long Island or Brooklyn. That’s just fine because the pizza stacks up to New York quality standards. And then some.
Now the pizza: This is not gourmet pizza (but I like that, too.) This is street food at its best. The Corner Slice offers the best crust in DC. It’s thin and crunchy NY-style crust complemented with a deliciously thin layer of perfectly seasoned sauce, just the right amount of cheese, and crunchy veggies, including fresh tomatoes on the top. It is never greasy. The veggie is more than worth $4.
I have consumed my slide. It’s a distant memory. Now, I have to go back to dreaming about the next time I will be in Bethesda.
When you think about your early childhood program, do you see it as a business? Do you think about yourself as a business administrator? I know that when I was in the field, I did not. I ran a program! I thought my program was a nonprofit organization, not a business. It was something else, above or in between. Huh?
Let’s break this down… Every day, just like you, I did the same things every business administrator does, like:
- managing the facility and equipment (quality assurance)
- ensuring 100% enrollment (sales)
- communicating with my customers (families)
- managing the budget (financial management)
- making presentations for prospective families (marketing) and staff (training)
- paying payroll and accounts payable
- supervising staff (quality assurance)
- hiring (HR)
- developing the program (product development)
- managing benefits (personnel), and…
- all of the tasks any business administrator needs to complete.
I guess that means ECE programs are businesses! (I better check Wikipedia for a definition, just to be sure….) Some are self-contained and managed internally, and some are managed by larger organizations like schools, agencies, or corporations. But nonetheless, we are in the business of providing developmentally appropriate programs for children. Enough said?
What are the implications? Tell me what you think!
Let me state for the record that I am not an important executive with a corner office and expense account. I’m fairly accomplished and proud of what I do, but I have perspective: I’m doing important work, but in general I have spent my career executing other women’s visions. I’ve executed my own successful programs and products that have become cogs in the grand wheel, and I am proud of my achievements. Still, I’m clear that, even at my age, I still have unrealized dreams of becoming “UberExec” in charge of my own vision. Even though I still have a lot of work to do before I realize my goals, I have one source of deep satisfaction, and that is that throughout my career, I have made it my mission to collaborate and help other women, and to “pay it forward” by helping younger women realize their potential. The best part is that this source of satisfaction is portable. I take it with me wherever I go.
One of the things that excites me about my work is knowing that I have the distinct honor of working with other women with incredible potential, unending passion and enthusiasm, drive, emotional intelligence, and IQs to match. Counterpoint: One of the frustrations I have experienced along the way in my career is how infrequently I see other experienced women extend a hand to those who need support, are less experienced, less confident or less aware of their ability. It’s not that exactly survival of the fittest woman in my field, but then again, I don’t see other women even thinking about how they can help each other grow.
Every job I have had over the past 25 years has been in either female-dominated or women-owned/led organizations. Surprisingly, none of these dynamic, successful organizations has built mentoring or leadership development programs for the female employees. As a matter of fact, the entire field (early education and care) has very few leadership programs for middle and upper management.
So what have you done to help a sister out lately? What are you doing to ensure the trail you have blazed is filled with others who can follow behind you? Whatever field you have chosen, do you think it should continue to be enriched by the next generation of women? Is it your responsibility to look around, find potential, and bring someone else along with you? What small steps can you take to make it happen?