Plan Your Next Event With Inspiration from Philly WordCamp

Back in May, I wrote a blog post for Philly Marketing Labs giving you 5 Reasons to Boost Your Marketing with In-Person Events.

Now, after attending WordCamp Philly, I have some more information for you on how to run a great event. Instead of trying to force my recollections of the event into a list of tips for you, I’ll tell you the three basic things they did right and then give you a host of specifics from the event that will hopefully give you fantastic ideas for your own event.

First, who is “they”? The organizers were Brad Williams and Anthony Bubel, with the help of a group of volunteers who were all excited to be there. Brad attended in a Green Bay Packers jersey and a pink tutu. (I encourage you to read Technically Philly’s recap of WordCamp and see a photo of Brad and learn the reason why he was dressed that way.)

3 Basic Things Philly WordCamp Did Very Well

  1. They had fun and made sure their audience did too.
  2. They thought of their audience every step of the way.
  3. They offered great content.

The Details: What Made This a Terrific Event

Philly WordCamp website

Before the Event

Website – WordCamp is an event about WordPress, so, obviously, there was a website set up for the event. Check it out for yourself. Notice how nice and easy it is to find the “Register” button. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen that not be the case.

Emails – The day before WordCamp began, we attendees received two emails—a “Packing for WordCamp” list and parking information. Plus, the organizers listed ways we could contact them with questions—through Twitter or email. Perfect! Just as I was thinking, “Hmm, what should I bring tomorrow,” the answer arrived in my inbox. If only life ran that well.

Price – The price of this event could not be beat. I paid $20 for an all-day event jammed full of useful information. And, guess what? I received a fun t-shirt with that as well.

During the Event

I walked in Alter Hall at Temple University having never been there before. As soon as I walked in, it was obvious where to go. I was greeted by a table full of volunteers who gave me my badge and directions for the day in a snap. And then, I was off to a delicious breakfast bar, which alone was worth at least half of the $20 admission price.

WordCamp badge

Because we were issued a name badge that doubled as a nice little booklet containing a wifi password, a map to all the rooms and a list of all the sessions, I felt very comfortable that I had all I needed.

The day kicked off with official open remarks, which included a damn good WordPress rap. That’s right, I said rap. We hadn’t even hit session one and everybody was already engaged.

There were four different tracks you could follow through the day:

  • User
  • Power User
  • Developer
  • Designer

No restrictions though. You could go to any session you wanted, no matter what track you chose. We were told before the sessions that if we weren’t thrilled with the content or had thought the session would be a bit different, we could get up and go into any other session. Because we had a badge full of details on what sessions were going on when, this was easy to do.

Cat in the Hat presenting at WordCamp, photo from Technically Philly

Presenters – In the sessions, the presenters were dressed in Halloween costumes (and had a chance to win an iPad for coming in costume). Lisa Sabin-Wilson, whom you might know as the author of WordPress for Dummies, dressed as the Cat in the Hat (photo and caption above borrowed from Technically Philly), and…wait for it…gave her presentation, “Oh, the Themes You’ll Do,” in a Seuss-like rhyme! Oh, how I wish that session I didn’t miss!

My friend, Liam Dempsey, dressed as Dr. Watson (of Sherlock Holmes fame) and printed up business cards from his character. You can see how committed he was to his character—even at lunch in a local pub—from this photo I stole from his website:

Liam Dempsey raising a pint of beer while dressed as Dr. Watson

Swing by his website and check out his 10 People I Met or Got to Know Better at WordCamp Philly.

On top of all this goodness so far, there was even a Happiness Bar (no, don’t let your mind drift to the gutter), where anyone could go to ask questions of any presenter on any WordPress topic and get help that fit their own personal needs—WordPress-related needs, of course.

After the Event

Saturday night, all attendees were invited to celebrate at a local bar. I hear it was a great night. Unfortunately, I could only stay through lunch. But I can say that even as a newbie to the whole WordPress scene, I really wish I could’ve stayed. The group was so welcoming and so much fun, I enjoyed myself and can’t wait for next year’s.

Sunday, for “Dev Day,” Matt Mullenweg, the founder of WordPress showed up. That shows the quality of Philly WordCamp right there—that the founder of WordPress took time to pop in and talk with everyone. Totally unadvertised and, it seemed, at least mostly unplanned. If you were on Twitter that day, you may have seen the excitement around his surprise appearance. Classy, for sure.

Also, one last fantastic thing about this event was that later that week, most of the presentations were posted on the Philly WordCamp website. Now I (and you) can check out the presentations I didn’t get to see.

Hopefully, by now, you see how great of an event this was and how fabulous your own next event can be. Learn from the best and the worst of what you see around you. Put on an event you would want to pay to attend.

I hope you are already brimming with ideas that spring off of the creativity shown by Philly WordCamp. Good luck!

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Book Review: The Impact Equation—by Chris Brogan and Julien Smith

Impact Equation book review photo of bookDisclaimer: I was not paid to give this review. I did receive the book for free and had a chance to be chosen to go to the book launch in New York (but wasn’t chosen). None of this influenced my opinion. I also happen to love reviewing books.

The Impact Equation is the second book written together by Chris Brogan and Julien Smith. Though I follow Chris on social media channels (and now Julien too), I had not read any of their books.

Chris’ instruction to us reviewers was “…no three star reviews. Either love it or hate it.”

I have to admit I almost gave the book three stars. And I’ll explain why in a second. But first, let me tell you this (which I learned from reading some other reviews): Your opinion of this book will depend on your level and type of experience.

Most important, I do believe that everyone who needs an online presence can learn from this book. Maybe a chapter or two might not make much difference to you, but the whole book will.

Three Stars to Four

The first few chapters didn’t speak to me. I felt like the authors were talking too much, over-explaining without saying anything concrete. But this may have been because of my own thoughts and experiences. I read Shannon Clark’s review in which he said he loved the first few chapters and thought the last few were the weakest—exactly the opposite of my opinion. I thought the final chapters were the strongest.

This difference is why I say that different chapters will speak to different people. And, you will still find little nuggets of wisdom and inspiration throughout the book, like:

Ideas without reach are like plants without sunlight.

and

Information alone rarely sways people. Only feelings do.

The authors aren’t telling you anything you don’t know with these statements, but they’re worded so that they really sink in.

Good Examples

Real-life examples that demonstrate the points Chris and Julien discuss strengthen the book quite a bit. They’re easy to find—outlined in boxes throughout the book—and they’re kind of the gift that keeps on giving. I can’t wait to go back and look up all the websites, books and people they mentioned.

I do wish, however, that Chris and Julien would’ve given more details about their own struggles and journey to making an impact. (Was this something I missed by not reading their other books?)

The Four-Star Clincher

I did think this was a three-star book overall, except for one thing—the emotional connection it made with me. Call it what you want—resonance, inspiration, even impact. I left the book thinking “Yes, I understood many of their points and strategies before, but I need to put more effort into actualizing them…I WANT to put more effort into actualizing them.” (I expanded on this in: Shifting Perspective & Finding Purpose to Make an Impact.)

That’s why I give it four stars—for the energy and inspiration I, and I think all readers, leave with.

The book consists of an actual equation that may seem to some a bit contrived, but it works. The content is real, the connection is personal, and we know from experience that the authors are credible. They do know how to make an impact. Learn from them.

I recommend you buy The Impact Equation. Read it and underline it, even, so you can refer back if you go off track on your own path. Be inspired and start increasing your impact on the world.

Shifting Perspective & Finding Purpose to Make an Impact

Me hanging upside down with the words "Practice shifting your perspective"

Don’t you love when a book wakes you up and inspires you to improve? The Impact Equation by Chris Brogan and Julien Smith did that for me.

So I’m changing things up.

I admit, I have not been doing things the way I should online. I’m not half-assing it, but I haven’t been purposeful with my interactions online, like blogging and social media.

I’m very good at advising clients on social media and content marketing strategy and execution, but I haven’t been following my own advice as closely as I should. And for that I am sorry.

Blogging

My blog has probably been the better part of my online efforts, mostly because I truly want you to enjoy what I write. But I started blogging for rather selfish reasons: (1) I was starting to plan my exit from my job and wanted to be sure to have writing samples online. (2) I needed experience blogging to help me find the type of job that would be a next step for me. I wanted to educate, inform and entertain, but I never really refined the strategy for my blog–other than what I expressed in my original About page.

From now on, my efforts will have more purpose. I’ll still talk about marketing, advertising and social media. But I will also refine my strategy to focus more on giving to you, making sure there are points to learn from in my posts. It’s not an accident that my Allstate Mayhem blog post is my most popular. I structured it well, I examined why the commercials work, and offered information you could potentially apply to your own work.

LinkedIn and Google+

I give seminars on LinkedIn, yet I just finally improved my summary a few months ago. I still need to update my newest position, but I’m waiting to clarify a few things first. I definitely do not devote enough time there to joining in discussion and giving advice where needed. That is changing.

I have an idea to start a Copywriter mentoring group on LinkedIn, but I see there’s already something close called The Confident Copywriter so I joined that instead. (Let me know if you think I should go forward with my idea anyway.)

My Google+ presence needs more attention too. I think the problem there was that it was so new, I had trouble deciding on a direction. I wanted to be more personal, talk about more things there, but that resulted in a lack of focus. I will fix that too.

Everything I want to do will take a little time, especially because I want to be thoughtful in my approach. So please be patient and feel free to give me feedback along the way.

In the meantime, later this week (on October 25, The Impact Equation’s launch date) stay tuned for my official book review of the book that inspired my change. Hopefully, it will inspire you too.

Sign on front yard saying Vote 2012

Misinformation Age: Marketing’s Great…Just Not in Our Elections

Sign on front yard saying Vote 2012

We’re doing it all wrong. Getting elected has become all about marketing. And each season, there is less and less truth in this sort of advertising. It’s time to take the “campaign” out of politics.

Being President—being any elected official in government—is serious business. In this Internet age, there’s no excuse for why we continue to dump billions of dollars into the election campaign waste can.

To decide who should hold the most important office in our nation, we need substantive information, not marketing slogans, pretty posters and propaganda. We could absolutely get rid of money in politics and draw more genuine public servants to offices of all sorts—national, state and local.

Marketing has its place in business, where companies of all sizes want to sell us something. But I don’t want someone to “sell” me on who should be president. Do you?

I want substance. I want facts. I want an easy way to find the truth about whom I’m voting for, and political advertising surely won’t give me that.

An Online Solution

Imagine instead that we have a website for presidential candidates that’s filled with bios, voting records, tax records, issue statements and, heck, even birth certificates, if you insist.

We could have debates, town halls and Q&As, on TV, online and in person—with smart moderators who ask important and relevant questions to both candidates, not always in debate format, with no questions reviewed beforehand. Heck, let’s give them pop quizzes and put them on Quora.

Think of the substance and wealth of useful information and insights we’d have to make our decisions.

The amount of BS we’d have to wade through would require mere tiptoes instead of full-fledged wading boots, because we’d eliminate the propaganda and the pundits and the propagandizing pundits!

Not So Friendly Skies

A coworker of mine recently likened being president to being a pilot—the person we elect should see the office as a responsibility to deliver us all safely to where we want to go.

We, the voting public, have a responsibility in return—to push aside the marketing BS and seek out untainted information that tells the truth on each candidate’s character, views and intended policies. But with all the marketing crap out there, it can be hard to discern what’s really true.

Too often, in our current system, we jump on a plane just because it’s red or blue and the pretty pamphlets told us exactly what we wanted to hear. Then we find out the pilot we’ve chosen doesn’t really care that our lives are in their hands, and he’s going where he wants to go whether we like it or not. And if the plane encounters turbulence and goes down, he and his copilot are the only ones with parachutes.

Aren’t you sick of this?

The Solution Is Staring Us in the Face

National, state and local websites can house the facts we need each election season—for all candidates. We can make voting easier for everyone—even those who are not online. It’s time. It’s past time.

With technology where it is today, we can bring elections into this so-called Information Age and say good riddance to the political misinformation age.

Marketing’s great—it can be creative, inspiring, and fun. And some political ads are very well done…but that’s how they get you. Because once you buy the marketing, you don’t even realize you don’t have the truth.

Many people suffered and died to give us all the right to vote. We owe them a system based on truth.

***************

This year, you can go to FactCheck.org to find out what messages are true and which are not.

Inspiration on a Wrapper? Great Idea…or Not

Inspiration…everyone could use some. Advertising can be quite good and powerful when tapping into something inspiring. Lately, we see more and more inspiring messages on product packaging.

But is there a line we should draw somewhere?

A bowl of Dove chocolates surrounded by their wrappers

Dove chocolate is known for their inspiring messages inside their wrappers on Dove Promises.

Take time to notice the color of the leaves changing.

Those who bring sunshine to the lives of others cannot keep it from themselves.

Ignite your sense of adventure.

Take good care of yourself.

Stir your sense of pleasure.

The other day I noticed little messages on the wrapper of my Halls Breezers throat drops (Halls, by the way, has the tagline A Pep Talk in Every DropTM.)

Elicit a few “wows” today.

Be resilient.

Get back in there champ!

Nothing you can’t handle.

Go for it.

A little silly, I thought. But then, maybe if the person using the Halls is sick, peppy little messages could give a person a lift. Of course, maybe they should’ve come up with some better messages.

And then, I found the line.

Wrapped tampons on the floor spelling out "Go Girl"

Tampons. Yes, Playtex Sport tampons have messages on their wrappers.

Go for the goal.

Focus on the goal.

Keep a clear head.

Refuse to lose.

Strong bodies, strong minds.

Celebrate your efforts.

I’m sure Playtex is trying to appeal to younger women and teen girls who are participating in sports, but please. There’s a time and a place for a pep talk, and the wrapper of the tampon just isn’t it.

Not only is it the wrong place for a pep talk, it’s the wrong time too. Any woman in the room when the discussion about these tampon wrappers took place should’ve known that.

Despite what you see on most idiotic feminine care commercials, women are not full of spirit and joy every time they get their period. And when we’re doubled over in cramps is not the time to approach us with some inane, supposedly self-esteem boosting message.

For men, let me put it in words you’ll understand. Imagine if someone just kicked you in the balls, and then said, “Strong bodies, strong minds” or “Refuse to lose.” What would you do?

I think I’ve made my point.

Consider your audience, people. If you want to try and inspire your audience, great. Just make sure it’s at the right place and the right time.

Personalization is Not About Data—It’s About People

Personalization, for e-commerce websites especially, is easy—at least, it should be. So why are so many sites so creepy in their tactics?

An online store is still a store. Too many business owners forget this.

Think about the way you’d treat a customer who walks into your store. Are you going to follow them and lurk around trying to overhear intimate details of their lives? Are you going to approach them in a loud and disingenuous way with a hard sell, sell, sell?

I hope not.

As a customer, don’t you love going into a store where the salespeople know your name? Where they can help you pick out things you like, with little effort because they’ve gotten to know your tastes and shopping habits so well?

This is the way online shopping should be. The technology is there now. The problem is owners are so focused on getting the right data, they forget there’s a human at the other end and that the goal is to build a relationship of sorts.

Am I simplifying this too much? I don’t think so, and Adobe’s 2012 Digital Marketing Optimization Survey results suggest I’m right. Lets take a look at some of their findings:

Most websites are designed to be relevant for a majority audience, but they are largely irrelevant to the individual visitor. Personalization technology enables marketers to understand the motivations and different interests of their audiences so that they can serve up the most relevant content and offers.

Most brick-and-mortar stores, especially big-box ones, are not relevant to the individual visitor—like websites. But the good ones make themselves relevant. The salespeople get to know the customers and are able to make their shopping experience more efficient and enjoyable so customers want to return.

Websites can do the same thing. Consider this next point from Adobe’s report:

Returning customers convert at higher rates when presented with targeted content that takes into account past purchases or browsing history. However, if the personalization is gimmicky or forced, then it can also disconnect those same consumers from the process.

Uh, duh. In person we’d react this way immediately, but online we somehow forget that we’re still dealing with the same customers—only the location has changed.

A customer walks back into a store after being there a few times, and the salesperson who has been paying attention during these previous visits says, “I have just the things for you. You’re going to love them.” And the salesperson gets the items and the customer likes them and gets out of there quicker. Plus, she refers her friends later.

Bloomingdales, Nordstrom’s, Amazon and Zappos. These are examples of stores that get it right. Emulate them.

Nordstrom Personal Shopper ad

You don’t want to be that cheesy stereotype of a salesperson and push your customer away with insincere sales-y slobber. And that’s often what happens on the web when you rely on data from another source.

Be patient. Gather organic data at your site and get to know your customer. If you’d like to hurry the process a bit, think about offering your customers a “serve you better” survey, in which you ask relevant questions about what types of decisions they make regarding products or services similar to yours. If you frame the survey as for their benefit rather than yours (which it is), more people will be willing to take it. (Just remember…be short and relevant.)

As Adobe says, “You can create the most relevant experience by leveraging expressed and implied information about an individual’s intent and interest that continues to evolve throughout a customer’s journey.”

What were the most important words in that quote?

If you didn’t say “relevant, evolve and journey,” go back and read this blog post again.