Thursday, March 11, 2010

Layoffs 2.0: the States Turn

The last 18 months or so have been hell on the jobs market. We all know that. However, due to the 'Stimulus', a few sectors have really not felt the effects. They are of course your Federal jobs and a good deal of State employees (teachers, cops, etc). Why and what's next?

Remember that term 'saved' job, yeah I laughed at it too when I first heard the phrase. As time passed, it has become evident that the term is really fairly accurate. Jobs that were most certainly on the chopping block and HAD TO be eliminated in order for individual States to possibly balance their budgets, were 'saved'. But perhaps a much more accurate term would have been 'stayed' jobs, as in 'stay of execution'.

If you work for a State, be prepared, because Layoffs 2.0 are about to start, and this time, it's your jobs and benefits. Why? Because the money the Fed. printed and handed to the states is running out. We borrowed about 1 trillion dollars to 'save' jobs that had to be cut. Why do they have to be cut? The States are broke, States can't print money (actually they can issue local currency, but no one does) ... now 18 months later extraordinarily tough choices are being made by those who set budgets. They have NO choice but to cut jobs and programs that they don't want to cut.

What does this mean for the whole of the U.S.? A recovery that should have begun months ago, an employment recovery is grossly flat-lined or worse yet, about to 'double-dip', because the policies set forth only sedated the patient, and did nothing to treat the patient. Now a wave of layoffs are about to hit our States. Important jobs and crucial programs will be eliminated and it will be hard. I know it's not easy to accept, but these jobs and programs should have been cut 18 months ago (or prior), not subsidized and given a 'stay of execution' running our Federal Debt to over $12.5 Trillion, and now we face the consequences of these poor economic decisions.

What should have been a sharp 'V' recovery (a steep decline, followed by unabashed growth), has of course turned into an elongated 'U' recovery, delaying the inevitable layoffs, fattening our debt, and making the pain last quite a bit longer than just taking the proper medicine from day one. Now economists far smarter than I are very concerned about a 'W' shaped recovery, aka the double-dip recession and those who believe our Government intervention has done far more damage than good, see a 'L' shaped "recovery" in our future. This is what is commonly used to describe Japan's 'Lost Decade' and many feel we are at the beginning stages of ours, repeating much of the same mistakes Japan made, all glossed over and based on how policy makes us 'feel', rather than what it actually accomplishes.

I don't want teachers to lose jobs, I don't want to see State pensions compromised ... but States are broke and raising taxes locally to 'cover the shortfall' will only take more money out of the average household and business and drive productive citizens to other States where they can provide a better life for their family.

States need to take their medicine, unfortunately it's about 18 months too late. As the private sector shows legitimate signs of real recovery, States are just entering their moments of true pain. They should have been with 'us' from the beginning. It might have made the 'down' a bit harder, but we'd be on our way to a very robust recovery, and unfortunately we are not.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The New Hyper-Focus - How Event Communities Reduce Noise and Harvest the Goods

Thanks for asking! But no, sadly my blog is NOT sponsored by BOSE (or anyone) .... yet. I'm using this imagery and analogy to compare this noise reduction tool with what an event community delivers to the attendees/speakers/exhibitors/sponsors regarding their event AND community experience.

Social Media tools are too noisy for most and many don't know the proper filters they can individually put in place to better syphon quality content and conversations from the 'noise'. Twitter can be intimidating, Facebook too personal, and even the newest addition to social, Google Buzz seems interesting, but early reviews lean towards 'buzz' adding to the noise level, not reducing it. (Though I see some interesting paths Buzz can take).

Enter the era of the Hyper-Focused and if you are an association manager or an event organizer, I hope you can realize that NO better platform to harness this focus exists than setting up and maintaining your own niche community. Full disclosure, I work for the Social Collective, we do exactly this, niche event and association communities and a synced mobile app. to tie the experiences from web to mobile, but this post is NOT about my company, it is about the shift to hyper-focus that your event participants (on all sides) want and desire.

There is a palpable shift happening as we speak. The shift from Nicety to Necessity is underway. The NEED to have your own community, to seed, curate, and harvest an event community for all the benefit it can deliver to all involved. You want proof? It is SO evident that I am about to chat AND compliment a direct competitor in our very competitive space.

What happened this past week? Oh yeah, the Mid-Atlantic got CRUSHED by another storm, Snowmegeddon Part Deux!!! And the ASAE Tech Conference was forced to cancel. OK, that's the end of the sto... woah, wait ... it's actually the birth of this story.

Literally in the wake of ASAE Tech, a few leaders saw an opportunity and sprung into action to create the UNTECH '10. With now more than 34o members of this overnight community, I encourage you to check it out, join in one of the many discussions and experience the Hyper-Focus that only an event/association community can deliver. Discussions that are NOT billboards for services, but rather engaging conversations opening true doorways for new professional relationships, networking opportunities galore, even the ability to view live video content if you aren't physically in D.C.

If you organize events, do you feel it's time you delivered this to your attendee? Whether they are speaking and enjoy the virtual feedback, attending and are loving the networking opportunities and social media extensions, or exhibiting/sponsoring and are SO excited to have the EXACT demographic they need to be chatting with all gathered in one social space. Do you think it's time you delivered this to them all? The era of the Hyper-Focused has begun. Event communities are the vessel to deliver this focus in a way that YOU own, you brand, you seed, and you benefit from.

Remember I just wrote a blog post about a DIRECT competitor in what is a bit of a crowded field. Am I stupid? Perhaps, but I don't feel stupid. Though we are competitors there are significant differences in our approach. However at our core, all the 'players' in this space believe in the power of community, the power of hyper-focus and how the apps. and modules we provide to all physically and virtually attending help to transcend a traditional 'attendee' into an event or association evangelist. An interactive member who cares, participates, comments, blogs, votes, creates, and enhances experiences for everyone. All within a community that delivers a hyper-focus they are NOT receiving anywhere else.

The shift is evident and a rising tide lifts all boats. So, I applaud greatly what I see happening at UNTECH and in the same breath, encourage anyone who wants more details on the tangible differences that do separate event/association community platform providers from one another to reach out to me so we can begin a new conversation.

Thanks everyone, I look forward to your comments and questions.

Monday, February 8, 2010

What #EventProfs Can Learn from rockers 'No Doubt'

During our 'Creating an Online Community' panel discussion at this past Saturday's Event Camp '10, an interesting question was brought to the table by Paul Salinger of Oracle. He had asked how much content should be free? Is there a line, a limit, some way to know what is a purposeful amount of free content and what is giving away the store? Paul, great question and it couldn't be more timely.

I answered and I hold to it that the maximum amount of content that you can provide for free will net the greatest year over year returns for your physical event, association, or company. Webinars, Live Streaming of the event to virtual attendees, niche community platforms that deliver quality and hyper-focused content throughout the event life-cycle and meaningful efforts to engage the attendee and help transform them into engaged advocates, will all lead to year over year 'wins' in my opinion.

Content IS still king, but the content itself is now part of the marketing of the physical F2F experience (where of course you have to deliver even GREATER content live!). When Jason Falls described how Chris Brogan literally spent years building his influential position in the world of SM, he detailed how Brogan routinely and freely shared incredible libraries of techniques, experiences, blunders, and successes. Because of his consistency, humility, and accessibility, Chris Brogan is a trusted thought leader. The events he is directly involved in such as the Inbound Marketing Summit thrive as impassioned attendees brazenly advocate for this show series, while sponsors jockey to be a part of what he has helped build. People will say, "Not everyone can be Chris Brogan." and that is true because most don't have the internal fortitude to consistently excel. He's not dunking a basketball over Lebron or performing never before attempted spinal surgery to allow someone to walk again. He's more akin to the Social Media Tortoise who just so happens to run in a space that moves at the pace of the Hare. His meteoric rise seems to the observer as fast paced as a bullet train striking by, but inside that train he sits, lap top open, working, creating, sharing at all hours. Day in, day out and no, not everyone can do that, because they choose to watch Jersey Shore instead.

This blog was about No Doubt right? ... Yes, in fact it is. What did this creative rock act do to support their comeback tour in 2009 and why was it such a win? They gave it all away. Their entire recorded digital library up until the moment of the 2009 Tour was literally given away with the purchase of a ticket of $42.50 or more. Not the 'cheap seats' mind you, but the 'good to great' seats received every single track they ever recorded for free. Why? Because they knew in 2009 people had A) More choice than ever to stream and receive music B) Significantly tightened their personal budgets and choosing to go to a live concert was a decision that had to be seriously weighed and C) They realized (or at least their marketing department did) that the music, THE CONTENT, had shifted from being the final destination for most fans into a powerful marketing piece that nudged No Doubt fans to fork over the premiere dollars and go experience this killer act live and up close.

I do want to emphasize the "after the equation sign" side of things here as I think my call for 'Free' might be misinterpreted as some social utopian solution. Quite the contrary, the marketing moves by Brogan and No Doubt persuade, and rather effectively, multiple layers of individuals who will attend the physical event. Those who were already going feel appreciated and reciprocate socially and those who were on the fence are now highly more likely to open their wallets and experience the networking, education, and thrill the live event will deliver to them. While that next layer who can't go this year, but experiences the event virtually will share what they learned and be more inclined to take that leap next time and help grow your attendance base. Of this, I have 'No Doubt'.

I see some parallels here to discuss. Would love your opinions on the matter.

The continued conversation from Event Camp '10 is running in several places. A CrowdCampaign has been set up to discuss the #1 Take Aways from #EC10, so please participate here.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Why #EventProfs Should Think Like Writers

It is ALL about the story ... Trust me. As a screenwriter that has been editing and re-editing a comedy since early 2004, (Go Hemp Go!), there are never enough edits and always bright new ways you can tie the story back together in a more seamless fashion. As part of a fluid and forward thinking group of #Eventprofs, I'd like to toss the idea out there that the physical event and the event life-cycle itself should be treated as a story. What does this entail? Well, first and foremost it requires you to think like a writer. What does that mean?
  • Have a vision. Understand where your story begins, where it develops, where it peaks, and where the natural conclusion occurs. Also curate ways to continue the story. Think the hints we receive about sequels and how great stories leave us wanting more. Understand fully the major developments that deserve the most time, yet do not underestimate the smaller stories within the over-arching tale. If you spin a side story make sure it connects and adds to the overall vision. You are not writing 'skits', you are crafting a singular being, don't forget that.
  • Waste NOTHING - I'm not talking physical (but 'go Green' until your heart is content), but I am talking content. If a piece of content is created, edited, and deemed worthy, then be sure it is in congruence with your overall message. The smallest tidbits of info you offer to the 'viewer' must be re-used and re-introduced later. Why? Because this justifies the existence of that content. No info should live in a Silo, be introduced once and never brought back into the fold ... that's poor writing, and it's a waste.
  • Strive to create an emotional response and actionable item. Often I am at an event and the education portion might be well enough, but it stirs nothing. I leave not motivated by the content and certainly not driven to act on it. Get creative, think of ways that imports the attendees emotion directly into your story. I'm not talking about tugging on heart strings and getting people to fork over money for Haiti either. I am referring to being hyper-focused to your attendee pool aka your audience. Make the content and story VERY real for them and if you can, create an actionable item they can take WHILE IN THE MOMENT (Live) that drives your story home and makes it real for them.
I know this might be a funny thing to suggest to #eventprofs, but if you believe crafting a story is a MUST for your event and event life-cycle ... then educate yourself on how to do this best and read 'Story' by Robert McKee. It is a stellar book. Yes, it is written for screenwriters, but I am suggesting that if you run an event, you are a story teller, or at least you ought to be.

We've been blessed lately with the emergence of amazingly well written comedies in the form of TV sitcoms over the last few years. The Office, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Community, Modern Family and a few others have shown the world that sitcoms are NOT dead. (BTW if you haven't watched Modern Family yet, please dive in here) Story crafting is alive and well and actually better than ever. Don't let your event be the next 'Jersey Shore' when it has the potential to be the next 'Seinfeld' instead.

What's your story?