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Feb
18
2011
Five Tips for a Happier Home Worker Maranda Gibson

A few weeks ago, we had an ice storm and record breaking cold weather that trapped most people in their homes for four days. I personally went a little crazy after two days and was ready to return to the office. I couldn’t imagine how people do that kind of thing every day – then I realized they probably weren’t thrown in to the middle of it like I was, nor are they sitting in front of their lap top in their living room because they don’t own a desk.

That week taught me a lot about what it takes to work from home and the things that would have made my four days in my living room a little more productive and a little less crazy. Here are five tips to being a little more productive at home and a little less distracted.

  1. Make a written schedule and include breaks. Plan out your day on paper and stick to it, but schedule yourself to have breaks away from your desk. I know you want to go change out a load of laundry – so put it on your schedule so it gets done and you can get back to work.
  2. Have a daily conference call to check in with your employees or co-workers. When you’re away from your desk and away from everyone, it can be hard to keep track of those that you work with. Check in with them daily and remind yourself of the people you work with.
  3. If you have an office to go to, schedule a day in the middle of the week to spend the day there. If not, grab your laptop or iPad so you can get out of the house for a little while.
  4. Shut the door when “work time” is over. Keep a separation between your work and home life by creating a work space that you can close the door to, that way, you won’t see the stack of papers on your desk that need to be finished. Out of sight and out of mind – enjoy time at home!
  5. Work with background noise that makes you comfortable. Some people work better with complete silence. Personally, I need some background tunes. In the office, you’ll rarely find me without my headphones on, and at home, I love the sound of the TV in the background. Take advantage of being at home and watch a violent slasher flick, if that’s what motivates you – just turn it off before you take a call or have a video conference.

I know a lot of you work from home – it’s a trend that we’ve seen on the increase over the last few years, and as someone who probably wouldn’t like it very much, I’m wondering if any of you ever felt the same. What did you do to make your day more productive at home? Did you hate it at first and now you love it? What happened to make you change your mind?

Feb
16
2011
Webinars Can Promote Your Business…If Done Correctly Accuconference

Here's another in our guest post series, coming from Gini Dietrich. Thank you for taking the time Gini!

When I speak to business owners and leaders, I always have at least one person say to me, “I get that everyone is moving online to communicate, and I want to get on the bandwagon, but my customers don’t use the Internet.”

I call baloney.

American adults spend four hours every day online — which means your customers are on the Internet, and it’s your job to figure out how to reach them there.

Webinars are a great way to do just that. You can do paid webinars or free webinars, depending on your budget and what you’re trying to achieve, but it’s an easy way to market to new audiences without leaving the comfort of your home or your office.

But do webinars make sense for you? Maybe you run a kid’s fitness company. You’re probably thinking, “I don’t have time to also do webinars.” I always say that making time to do just one more thing is pretty difficult, but when you see the return you get on your investment, it’s pretty easy to make the time.

There are a lot of opportunities to use webinars in your own sales and marketing efforts. Think about it this way–how do you sell your product or services now? Is it one-on-one in an office setting? Wouldn’t it be easier to sell one-to-many in that same office setting? Or maybe you attract customers through promotions and coupons. Webinars offer another way to extend that message to more than just the people in your surrounding ZIP codes.

Let’s talk about what types of things you could include in the presentation.

  • Demonstrate how your product or service works.
  • Showcase your culture or what it’s like to work at your company.
  • Do you have a passion around something business-focused, such as leadership, finances, or human resources? Create a webinar around your passion.
  • Host a webinar that showcases your technical expertise.

Keep in mind, though, that webinars are about the customer, not about you or your business. So showcase what you’re about by making it valuable to the customer. Tips, tools, how-tos, and demonstrations work really well.

Now that you’ve decided what your webinar topic is, following are the top 10 things to consider when promoting to your customers and prospects.

  1. Define what attendees will get from attending the webinar. What’s in it for them? What kind of value are you giving them that they can’t get on their own?
  2. Create a line in your e-mail signature to allow people to click on, and sign up, from there.
  3. Promote via your newsletter/e-mail database by letting people know what’s in it for them and making it easy for them to register.
  4. Promote via social networks — post it to your LinkedIn profile, add it to your Facebook fan page, tweet about it, or blog about it.
  5. Include a line about your webinars on your invoices.
  6. If you have a retail location, post flyers at points of sale.
  7. Post to the home page of your Web site.
  8. Include a one-click Outlook reminder that people can add to their calendars as they register.
  9. Ask for questions in advance of the webinar in order to engage people early.
  10. Send a reminder e-mail one week, one day, and one hour prior to the webinar.

Once you’ve decided on your topic and you’ve promoted the heck out of it (don’t be shy about repeating yourself over and over again – people need to see/hear a message seven to 12 times before they act), following are some tips for having a great webinar the first time out.

  • Use guest speakers—not only to add a certain amount of credibility, but also so you can use their network in addition to yours
  • Hold rehearsals
  • Promote at least a month in advance
  • Consider having a moderator to engage the audience and field the questions
  • Limit to one hour — we recommend 40 minutes of presentation and 20 minutes of question-and-answer session
  • Ask for feedback after the webinar via a survey (SurveyMonkey is the easiest and most cost-efficient tool)
  • Don’t be afraid to follow-up after the webinar, even with those who registered, but didn’t attend
  • I’m not going to pretend that hosting a webinar is a walk in the park. They’re hard work and they take some serious project management skills, but if you use the tips included here, you’ll be halfway there and you’ll be able to drive some serious leads from your efforts.

    Once you’ve decided on your topic and you’ve promoted the heck out of it (don’t be shy about repeating yourself over and over again – people need to see/hear a message seven to 12 times before they act), following are some tips for having a great webinar the first time out.

    About the Author: Gini Dietrich is the founder and chief executive officer of Arment Dietrich, Inc. and the author of Spin Sucks, the 2010 Readers Choice Blog of the Year, a Top 42 Content Marketing Blog from Junta42, a top 10 social media blog from Social Media Examiner, and an AdAge Power 150 blog.  You can connect with Gini on Twitter or on Facebook.

    Feb
    15
    2011
    The Bing and Google Battle Maranda Gibson

    Computerworld released an article last week that alleges that search engine Bing! is more accurate than rival (and unofficial giant) Google. With Experian Hitwise reporting that Bing boasted a higher market share of search, as well as snagging 1% from Google in January, and with a popular marketing campaign that suggests those who use “other” sites suffer from search engine overload, data suggests Bing is making moves in a positive direction.

    Even though the allegations are out there that Bing copies Google’s algorithms, the response by Microsoft that denies the allegations, and a number of other denials and finger pointing – the truth, as they say, is in the search – or is that pudding?

    There is a lot of wiggle room in these numbers though and it is slightly irresponsible to see higher percentages and simply state that Bing is hanging it to Google in the accurate search department. Among many other things that stand out and being possibly fallacies, I see three big problems with just looking at the numbers of Bing .VS. Google.

    1. The numbers don’t address the browser that is being used. If you open Internet Explorer, the default search engine is going to be Bing! and for someone who doesn’t use search that often, it’s easiest to just go with what is given.
    2. There is no accounting for who is searching – the difference between someone who is “experienced” at web surfing and someone who will go to whatever engine is provided and click on the first link that comes up.
    3. How many of the Bing! users have to go back and search again? Are the percentages reported from Experian Hitwise taking into account that those users might have to come back and search again because they didn’t get what they want?

    Google has long carried the mission statement that they are dedicated to providing the most accurate search results in in your first query. Look at this study from last year that shows that most Google users are experts, while most Bing! users aren’t. Doesn’t that speak to the quality of results that a Google user will generate versus a Bing! user? Saying that a higher number of clicks means the results are more accurate is kind of like saying I have more money in the bank, so I make more than you, to someone like Donald Trump.

    What do you think? Is Google losing ground – or is the whole thing just a bunch of baloney without any real meat?

    Feb
    10
    2011
    Planning for Unforeseen Circumstances Maranda Gibson

    One of the biggest stories of last week was a massive winter storm that left drivers stranded on highways in Oklahoma and made travel to Dallas/Fort Worth locations nearly impossible. Usually, getting around town wouldn’t be a big deal, but it just so happened that the Superbowl and a myriad of events were in town. Last week was a once in a lifetime experience that brought with it a once in a lifetime winter storm.

    We get snow and ice in this area, but it usually only sticks around for a day, with the sun coming out and temps rebounding quickly. Four days of below freezing and not a peek of sunshine weather is not what we expect. The city froze – along with the roads and various events. Charity events were cancelled, celebrity appearances were cancelled, and when Saturday brought a sunny day, unexpected crowds left a lot of people waiting in line – myself included. Now, we can never anticipate something like the ice and snow that fell across our area last week, but we can try to plan for the unforeseen circumstances. Here are some things we can learn from living in the middle of the unexpected winter blast.

    Plan for more attendees than you need. On Saturday, more people showed up than there was space for, and the fire marshal had to close the doors. Get with your conference call provider and find out how many people you can have, what you need to make a reservation, and plan over what you expect so that if you do have additional people coming in, they won’t get turned away.

    Advertise One Start Time. The event I tried to attend was advertised on the bands site as beginning at 2:30. Those of us that showed up at 1:30 were an hour early for that event, but were still turned away due to the first event being full. If you’re going to have multiple presenters or speakers, send out one start time for the event as a whole, and then send out a detailed agenda about the events going on throughout the day.

    Communicate earliest start times. Even though your event starts at 10AM, can participants log in before that time? Are they able to call in five or fifteen minutes early? If so, communicate that message so that those who are anxious to join the conference are guaranteed a spot.

    In the end, I listened to the concert on TV later that night and realized that even though some things are seen as “once in a lifetime” events – like the biggest football game of the year or a monumental winter storm,  we can’t see the future to know everything that might be coming. We can only plan for the unexpected and give everyone a lot of information upfront so that there are no surprises.

    What are you doing to plan for the unexpected that might come across on your conference calls or events? What is your contingency plan in the event of a last minute change?

    Feb
    07
    2011
    Useful Debate and an Open Mind Maranda Gibson

    Have you ever fallen into a conversation you didn’t really want to have? I have a friend who is incredibly smart, open, and kind, but we disagree on 99.99% of everything socially and politically. There isn’t anything wrong with that since she and I obey the rules for civil debate. Sorry to tell you, but not everyone is going to be able to have these kinds of open conversations. There is a fine line between openly sharing ideas and wanting to bang your head against the wall.

    Enter Gini Dietrich over on the Spin Sucks blog and echoes the sentiments I have felt since my years participating in intercollegiate debate – your mom tells you what you want to hear. (Doesn’t she though? Moms are the best people to talk to when you need a little confidence boost.) In her post, Gini challenged us all to reach out to a blogger or co-worker that we find ourselves disagreeing with and talk to them.

    Like Gini says, we tend to surround ourselves with like-minded people, so how do we step out of that comfort zone to gain a greater perspective on the opinions of others around us. How do we introduce ourselves to new ideas and new opinions?

    1. Attend an event outside of your comfort zone. Sign up to go to a networking event or conference that you wouldn’t usually see yourself attending. If you’re into social media marketing sign up to attend a conference that focuses on more traditional marketing ventures.
    2. Befriend someone who is interested in something you are not. The old adage of opposites attract can be very helpful when it comes to expanding your horizons. Making a new friend who loves comic books might show you that you don’t have to be surrounded with the people who love and think the way you do.
    3. Educate yourself on new things. Set a goal to learn about one new opinion each month. Think about the things you are passionate about; educate yourself on the origins of the “opposing sides” opinion. Why do they feel the way they do? How were their thoughts and opinions shaped by the changes in the world? Just remember to read with an open mind instead of a defensive one.

    Learning another’s opinion is an important part of success and just because you may not agree, it doesn’t mean their opinions should be discounted. How will you be reaching out to a new thought or idea? What can we do to be more open minded when it comes to all parts of life – not just in business?

    Feb
    03
    2011
    Twitter Emergency Management Maranda Gibson

    A huge winter storm moved across the Midwest this week, leaving areas from Dallas/Fort Worth to Chicago and over to the Northeast covered with ice and snow. With blizzard conditions reported in areas of Missouri, Oklahoma, and Illinois, driving conditions got worse and drivers found themselves stranded along major thoroughfares. Conditions were so bad that a number of interstates were closed from Oklahoma to Missouri to Kansas.

    Tuesday night, the Department of Emergency Management in Oklahoma issued to Civil Emergency Message to stranded drivers along Oklahoma highways, advising motorists to stay warm, conserve fuel, and to dial 911 if they are stranded. I’ve seen these messages before but the message issued last night contained something new.

    If you are on Twitter, you can tweet your information to @OKEM.

    Twitter has increasingly become a form of media to express weather conditions or traffic. Follow any media personality from a local news station, emergency management location, or even a school district account and you’ll find that more of these are embracing Twitter as a means to get information out to the public. School closings, road conditions, and even National Weather Service warnings are becoming something that is seen often on various Twitter accounts.

    This means that Twitter is being seen more and more as a legitimate means of communication and not just a way to update the world on what you’re reading or having for lunch. If the OKEM is accepting Twitter as a preferred means of communication – and I’m sure other agencies will follow. I thought of some ways we may see agencies using Twitter in the future.

    Police & fire departments can send out Twitter updates for extreme situations – like hostage events or even terrorist threats or DM the police department with tips about unsolved crimes.

    School districts can use twitter to update on a number of different issues. Since a lot of students are on Twitter, you can send @ replies to students or even DMs to notify students and parents about impending weather service warnings or any dangerous situations in the area that could affect your children.

    National Weather Service could take advantage of Twitter’s growing popularity by actively finding users in locations that have imminent warnings. Imagine being at a movie with friends and getting a text notification that there is a tornado warning – instead of being completely unaware.

    Twitter, long seen as just a marketing or “friending” trend, does have the potential to keep us up to date. While Twitter will never replace traditional 911 services how do you see other types of emergency management or alert systems being used to update citizens on potential problems?

    Jan
    26
    2011
    Speech Writing Tips Maranda Gibson

    When the State of the Union address opened, I was reminded that the President of the United States is a powerful and engaging public speaker, and he opened his address the way that I have advised public speakers to do for a long time.

    He opened with an engaging and thought provoking story about the birth of the United States, and how our country was built on the backs of pilgrims and critical thinkers.

    “That's why centuries of pioneers and immigrants have risked everything to come here. It's why our students don't just memorize equations, but answer questions like "What do you think of that idea? What would you change about the world? What do you want to be when you grow up?"”

    Now, say whatever about his political platform and his political beliefs, but the above mentioned are powerful words. Considering he spent a good amount of time on the subject of education, it was a great way to tie in the whole speech and express a common theme.

    When dealing with a powerful public speaker, we are sometimes so enamored by their presence; we forget that the words have to come from somewhere. In the White House, the President is surrounded by talented speech writers. We give tips on speaking in front of a crowd but how do we make sure to express the right message with our words? Here are some tips for speechwriting.

    1. Select a main idea and define the purpose of your speech. When your audience walks out once your speech is complete – what is the central thought that you want rolling around in their head?
    2. Keep it conversational – this is a speech, not a graded paper. You only have an opportunity to make your speech once, and there is no ability for your participants to go back and reread the way you said something, so write the speech the way you talk.
    3. Rewrite, rewrite, rewrite. Cut out all the fat, read it out loud to someone, let them tell you what doesn’t make sense, then reword or cut it all together. A speech is just like any other thing you’ve written – it’s not going to be right the first time out.

    Preparing a speech is long, hard work, no matter if you’re making a speech like the State of the Union or if you’re going to talk about something more specific to your industry or focus. You still need to be prepared and be sure you have a clear, concise message for your audience.

    Jan
    25
    2011
    The Perfect Online Meeting Solution for Direct Sellers Accuconference

    Guest Post from Jennifer Fong, jenfongspeaks.com 

    I’ve been involved with webinar technology from close to its very inception. Back in my instructional design days, I remember working with trainers employed by the corporation I was working with, trying to create an instructional script format that would make it easy for them to deliver training using this new technology.

    Since then, I’ve watched the providers of this technology move in and out of prominence, and watched the pricing structure largely favor corporations with big budgets. This has troubled me a bit, because I’ve lately had the opportunity to work with a lot of direct sellers (think Tupperware or Mary Kay ladies) and see the online meeting tool provider market largely ignore this key demographic (which is a mistake, since at last count there were 15.1 million people involved in direct selling in the US alone, and more than 59 million worldwide.)

    You see, direct sellers make a lot of presentations, but often they are moms (or dads) living on a family budget, and 50 bucks a month or more can often be a big hit. Add to that the fact that, until recently, all you could really do was PowerPoint, and these providers really didn’t do what we needed them to.

    There are a few reasons why direct sellers need a good online meeting tool:

    1. Online group sales events (“online parties”)
    2. Online events to present the business opportunity
    3. Sales force training
    4. New product roll-outs

    As part of these meetings, we typically need to share information, possibly a live demo or two, and often do some group browsing of websites.

    In order to really effectively do these things, here are some of the features that direct sellers have said they would find incredibly useful in an online meeting tool.

    1. Reasonable pricing.
    2. Video. In the direct selling business, face to face communication is a must. It would also be great to enable web cams of anyone participating.
    3. Embedded chat. Chat can be a great way to share websites, as well as facilitate discussion with participants.
    4. PowerPoint/Presentation capabilities. This is a no-brainer for any kind of presentation.
    5. Live browsing that enables each viewer to independently interact with the website being shared. Especially when doing group sales presentations, we need to be able to take people to a specific website and then allow them to shop independently.
    6. Easy recording, with the ability to download that recording (not tied to a specific provider to keep/reuse the recording.) Our training libraries are a huge asset for our businesses, and it’s useful for folks who couldn’t make, for example, a live product rollout to still be able to see it.
    7. Polls to keep participants engaged.
    8. Viewable attendee list that captures contact info and makes it available to the moderator after the event.

    Direct sales provide such an incredible opportunity for online meeting tool providers. We’re typically a loyal bunch, we are the poster child of word of mouth (we’re constantly sharing great resources with one another), and our use of certain technologies can put those tools in front of millions. It’s time for the online meeting industry to take a closer look at this demographic. There’s a world of opportunity just waiting for them.

    Do you do online sales that involve live presentations? How do you use online meeting technology to facilitate those presentations? Would love to read your thoughts in the comments below.


    About the author:

    Jennifer Fong is a social media speaker and consultant who helps direct selling companies and individual direct sellers use social media effectively as a business building tool. A former direct sales company CEO, Jennifer built her company from the ground up, and understands what it takes to build, lead, and train a team, as well as the underlying principles of any direct selling business: network, sell, and recruit. She combines her expertise in direct sales with her passion for social media marketing to provide direct sellers with the knowledge they need to put social media to work for their businesses in a strategic and profitable way.

    Jennifer offers free information about social media and how to use it for direct sales on her blog at http://jenfongspeaks.com. Find her on Facebook at http://facebook.com/jenfongspeaks, and on Twitter at http://twitter.com/jenfongspeaks.

    Jan
    18
    2011
    Tips From A King Maranda Gibson

    I have written about the great communicators in the past, Presidents and world leaders who have made their mark on society through economic or political changes. People have taken note of their speeches and dissected them at length to see what made these speeches so powerful.

    The thing that is so interesting about being a public speaker is that there are a million different reasons why you can end up in the position to make a speech and different barriers you can come up against when you get there. It’s why I’ve been intrigued by the story of The King’s Speech staring Colin Firth. A brief history about the film – Colin Firth stars as King George VI, a man who was never supposed to be king. When Edward VIII abdicated the throne to marry an American woman, George was unexpectedly thrust at the throne.

    George suffered from a terrible stutter and as a monarch, who is often in front of the English public, it simply wouldn’t do. The King’s Speech is the story of George’s speech therapist, named Lionel, and the King himself as they work on improving his speech skills.

    I stumbled across this great set of presentation tips from @JesseDee through Lifehacker yesterday, all about what you can learn from the movie and apply to your own presentations. It’s a great set of tips and I really recommend you check out the full slideshow, but here were two of my favorite tips.

    Admit You Need Help.

    Bottom line – we all have flaws. Let go of your ego and find an expert in the field you might be struggling with. It could be something as simple as reaching out to a scientist to help you word a phrase or getting a speech therapist to help you over a stammer.

    Put the Hours In.

    You want to be a great public speaker? It’s a lofty goal but you have to be willing to focus and hone your craft. As @JesseDee put it, there is no substitute for hard work. You want to be great at something you’re going to have to break your back in order to get it. That’s the bottom line.

    I highly recommend that you check out the full set of tips here and that you give The King’s Speech a fighting chance when it comes to your next film. It’s on my list of things to watch. What orators do you know that have struggled with their speech and what have they done to change things?

    Jan
    13
    2011
    Curiosity Can Be a Good Thing Maranda Gibson

    Picture credit to Milo Gasagrande.

    Growing up, my dad was a gadget fan – he used to want to have all the latest computer chips and software, he wanted the latest video cards, and he wanted to be a part of this thing called the “world wide web”. My brother and I were one of the first kids in our elementary school to know how to “log on” to the Internet, how to send an email, and how to add RAM to a computer tower. In the late 80’s and early 90s, the quality of electronic devices didn’t stand the test of time – or the test of two children. Things would break and would need to be replaced – personally, I admit to helping keep VCR’s off the shelf. When a VCR would break, my dad, instead of throwing it away, would announce the electronics killer had struck again, and then let me have it.

    What did I do with it? I tore it apart – every screw, every chip, every piece of metal. I broke apart the machine and I examined the parts that made it. What made the tape in the VCR turn? How did it project from the thin film through a wire, and onto my TV. Was there a tiny Ariel and Sebastian hiding in front of a teeny tiny lens and acting out The Little Mermaid five and six times a week? No, there wasn’t, but I liked pulling things apart and looking at them.

    As an adult, I have the same inclinations – when I see something I don’t understand, or something that is new, I want to learn everything I can about how it works, what makes it tick, how to pull it apart and put it back together. I’ve performed very careful surgeries on laptops that have saved me a lot of money and fixed wires and sound systems, helped remove viruses from computers on the other side of the United States, and saved myself lots of money on tech assistance because I can do a lot of things on my own.

    I stumbled upon an old study from the University of Buffalo that found that curiosity is very good for people. The study found that people who are curious tend to experience more positive interpersonal outcomes than the less curious. Basically, those who are curious want to learn more about people, ask more questions, and are personally satisfied when they find out new or surprising information.

    Did you ever think that your curiosity as a child could start setting up your interests and strengths as an adult? We used to get scolded when we were children about getting into things that we weren’t supposed to get into, but we were just reacting to our natural curiosities. We weren’t supposed to put our fingers into light sockets, but there was a hole in the wall and wanted to see where it went.

    Curiosity opens the door for people to learn more information and things about others and the way that things work. There is nothing that seems to work better than trying to learn how something works, instead of just accepting that it works. When you tear apart something, break it down to its pieces, maybe you’ll get a hint on how you can do it better, or what you can change to make it more efficient.

    This weekend, I recommend everyone find an old VCR, or a DVD player – something that’s broken and has been sitting in your spare room or your attic for months, and tear it apart. Rediscover the natural curiosity you had as a child and think about what you can do the next time you’re in a position where you can learn more about someone with a couple of simple, curious questions.

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