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 Uninformed, and out of date?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.

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7 Reality Tips: The Care and Feeding of Websites

“We just launched this website 16 months ago! What do you mean you have to do more development?” says the CFO/CEO/President/Business owner to the marketing geek.  I hear it all the time.  It’s a common misconception that investing a lot into a website means you will only have to add new content in the future. You may think once you develop the site you won’t ever have to think about the website again. Wrong. Read on!

It’s true that if the design of your pages is robust and flexible, and you have an awesome content management system, you will have to make fewer major revisions to your site. And, the more you money and time you invest in designing a flexible design up front, the fewer changes you will need to make over the lifespan of your site. However, the bottom line is that websites are a bit like homes…They need regular maintenance.  After all, your lifestyle changes, appliances and fixtures break, and advances in household products come out every day. Your home has to accommodate those inevitable changes. Your website also needs to adjust to reflect the changes in your business, rapid technology changes, and minor hiccups along the way. For example, the introduction of social plugins from Facebook have sent businesses back to their website developers to adjust their websites to accommodate feeds and like buttons. Adjusting pages to accommodate those changes required rethinking many websites.  Regardless of external technology changes, business goals and priorities often change, and your website has to reflect those changes.

The fact is the average lifespan of a website is only three to (and this is pushing it) five years. If your website is more than 3 years old, and you’ve done nothing to it over those three years, chances are you need to start thinking about a major overhaul.

7 key recommendations about website development and maintenance:

  1. Invest as much as you can into your website design on the front end so you can:
    • Build in a great content management system.
    • Automate as many related marketing processes as possible.
    • Build in a very flexible design that allows you to adjust along the way.
  2. Pick developers who you like, trust, and can work with over the course of the lifespan of your site. (Your developers will be your new BFFs, so you better respect them.)
  3. You will need to budget for website maintenance, enhancements, and tweaks every year over the lifespan of your site.
  4. You will need to revise or overhaul your site in 3-5 years.
  5. Think through your goals, target audience(s), and aesthetics.  Be prepared to tell your developers as much about your needs as possible.
  6. It takes a small village to build a boffo site:
    • Print designers and web designers are not interchangeable.
    • Developers are not the same as web designers.
    • These folks may know a bit about  SEO, but are not search engine optimization experts.
    • None of these aforementioned peeps are marketing experts.

    A good development firm will be able to bring these skills to the table, but if your budget is limited and you can’t work with a firm with all the expertise you need, make sure the people you hire consider these factors in your website. Be sure to assign one person from your company or organization the role of project manager of the site development and someone (perhaps the same person) as the content manager who regularly updates the site. If you have a small company, or you are a one person shop, that person might be you. Plan to either carve out a significant amount of time to oversee the development, and a bit of  time every week or two to maintain the site, unless you plan to outsource those activities.

7. Don’t forget that you will have to keep the content fresh and up to date, so if you don’t have a big team, you may have to either pay someone, or find time in your schedule. Websites that are not maintained are a poor reflection on your company.

Conducting Webinars to Engage: The Good, The Bad, and The UGLY!

good webinars, bad webinars, and just plain ugly webinarsYou’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.

The GOOD

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:woman celebrating a great webinar

  • 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.

Producing and delivering online presentations can be time-consuming because:Thumbs down: webinar problems image

  • 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…

The UGLY  

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.

ECE Advocacy- Blown Away by 3-D Vision: Three Lessons from PAES, 2010

“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:

Leave a comment for me! Let me know what you think, especially if you attended the conference.

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Social Media? Give it to the Intern! (NOT!)

Today, just for fun, I searched the job listings in online for “social media.” 9 out of 10 of the results were for Interns. I was pretty surprised, and a little bit ticked off.  Do managers think social media is something to relegate to Interns?

WAIT: I am pro-Intern!  As a matter of fact, I routinely hire Interns and have found incredibly talented, insightful, and productive young people who are capable of producing amazing work . But…

There’s a common misconception that just because young people are often use social media to connect with their peers and organize their social lives, they are perfectly suited to take on social media for companies. That’s like asking a 16-year-old licensed driver to drive an 18 wheel tractor-trailer on a highway at rush hour.

The skills needed to devise a well constructed social media plan and execute it every day are more complex than just putting out a few tweets and posts on Facebook. It is true that some Interns do understand how to use social media tools with great depth, but they probably are not:

  • subject matter experts on your organization’s mission, products, and services;
  • aware of the competitive landscape in your field;
  • familiar with the buzzwords and language that are specific to your field;
  • capable of writing well-constructed posts that will cause readers to take action;
  • marketing experts  with understanding of engagement;
  • able to craft the goals for your social media plan and implement them without supervision.

These are critical skills needed for any social media program. You should seek those skills in the professionals you hire to manage your social media.

Don’t get me wrong, Interns are often very talented and are capable of executing the day-to-day basic tactics. But you should not expect to turn over the keys to social media to Interns without careful direction and supervision by a professional with more in-depth understanding of marketing basics and your products and services.

So, rock on, Interns! Direction is the key!

UPDATE: For more information about how to select the right candidate for your organization’s social media program, read:Is the Right Person Doing Your Nonprofit’s Social Media?” on the Wild Apricot Blog

Are ECE programs businesses?

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!

Women Leaders: What have you done to help other women lately?

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?