James Kearney

02/06/2014

The value in values: Explaining the Vodori Way

James Kearney // in Strategy

When our leadership team first started to talk about the values that we held as a company, we had been exposed to so much industry hype about “mission”, “purpose” and “values” that we really questioned whether values were worth discussing at all. After all, we'd been accomplishing great experiences and services for our clients and employees without stating or explaining our values, so why spend the time? Would this values discussion just be a few bulletpoints that we published in our wiki, framed on our office walls, and then never mentioned again?

Last year, we decided to poll our employees and ask them to anonymously share their own values. Across all of Vodorians, the results were so similar that we immediately realized that these individual values were, in fact, the unstated values of our company. So we distilled the essence of these personal values into something that we could use to define who we are as a company -- something that we could build into everything we do and every interaction we have with our clients and with each other.

Building connections

It turns out, there’s a lot of value in values. And the best way to see Vodori’s values in action is to see how we’d been living them on a daily basis. We make it our mission to help our clients build connections with the world around them. But building connections takes time, and requires more than just an understanding of our clients’ industries -- it also requires a deep understanding of how our clients think, how they approach their markets, and how they view their customers. This level of understanding is the product of a long-term partnership, and we’ve found that the best ways to develop and grow these successful partnerships stem right from our core values.

The Vodori Way

At Vodori, our core values provide the basis on which we build and grow these relationships, and the most fundamental of these values is providing extraordinary service. This is our way of describing all the ways we go the extra mile to make sure our clients are absolutely delighted with our work. Whether we’re providing the thought leadership that gets them another step ahead of their competition, tucking in one last feature that their customers will love, or tweaking a new web site in the final minutes before launch, our team is always focused on adding more value.

But to provide extraordinary service requires great teamwork. For us, teamwork is about putting the needs of the team ahead of our own, celebrating victories with our clients, and helping each other navigate the challenges of the ever-changing world of digital marketing. The needs of our clients are constantly evolving, so we try to build teams that can respond to a wide variety of requests, pull in experts as needed, and still provide the continuity that helps create enduring relationships. Our self-organizing agile teams take this to the extreme, and our clients and their customers reap the benefits.

Even the best teams still have room to grow, so we put a lot of importance on staying humble. Vodorians listen carefully to our clients, learn from each other, and remain focused on our long-term goals when celebrating our latest successes. To stay at the top of our game, we focus heavily on continuous improvement. Our project post-mortem discussions, sprint retrospectives, and employee-led internal committees are part of our day-to-day work because we always looking for ways to take what we do to the next level.

At the end of the day, words have no meaning unless you have action behind them. And with Vodori, our values are simply that — actions that show our clients that we’re with them for the long haul.

 

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Steve Pals

12/04/2013

An Introduction To Agile Methodology

Steve Pals // in Strategy

A few weekends ago I was out with some friends and I used the term “Scrum Master” in a story I was telling. Not surprisingly, I was met with blank stares. “What is a Scrum Master?” isn’t a question that you hear at Vodori very often these days. After working on multiple Agile projects at Vodori, it is easy to forget that the general population is not as plugged into the sometimes quirky Agile lingo. So here’s my attempt to explain more about what Agile means and how it works for our company.

What Is Agile?

Agile is a software development methodology that rethinks the typical project approach. Rather than long “waterfall” projects, Agile teams deliver deployable code and other deliverables on a frequent basis – typically over two to four week “sprints.” Agile also shuns excessive documentation in favor of frequent, in-person communications that seek to maximize business value. The scope for the sprints is predefined and fixed. Essentially, Agile provides short durations of focused work that deliver usable functionality to the clients on a frequent basis.

So back to that Scrum Master question. The Scrum Master is the person on the Agile team who ensures that the team adheres to the proper Agile rules, keeps the team solely focused on the sprint goals, and adds any new requests to a backlog that will be revisited after the sprint.

Vodori ‘s Adoption of Agile

Vodori has been very proactive at educating interested Vodorians in all things Agile. One of the best experiences I have had in my professional career was an intensive, three-day Agile training session, in which we learned the core fundamentals of Agile and performed project simulations. Attendees varied by discipline, level, and knowledge of Agile, which led to some enlightening conversations about Vodori's future use of this methodology. The entire training experience is a reflection of Vodori's commitment to continuous improvement of its processes.

Vodori has seen some major successes with the Agile process and I would wager that there are many more to come. The success is largely due to the interactive client-project team relationship that Agile demands. The incremental delivery of new functionality allows for frequent client check-ins to ensure that the end deliverable best meets the client’s business needs. It is a great methodology to ensure that the client and project team always have their finger on the pulse of the project.

Taking our Agile learning one step further, Vodori is hosting weekly “Agile In Action” meetings. During these meetings, one of our Agile project teams take a deeper dive on a specific topic relating to the methodology, answering questions and listening to feedback from other Vodorians. Despite being held late on Friday afternoons, the great turnout for these standing-room only talks shows Vodorians’ enthusiasm for Agile projects.

What I’ve Learned from Agile

I have really enjoyed learning about the Agile process and strongly suggest that future project teams consider it (or some variation) for future engagements. That being said, I will be the first to admit that Agile isn’t for everyone and that Agile isn’t absolute. While it can be beneficial to follow the Scrum rules to a T, I would use the first few sprints of a project to test the waters and find what works for the team.

Another key takeaway to think about when implementing Agile is group dynamics. The Tuckman’s Group Development Model discusses the four primary team dynamics to deliver results: Forming, Storming, Norming, and Performing. It is important that a team get to the Performing phase to maximize productivity. This is very hard to do with an ever-changing project team, and my experience has shown that consistent teams are far more effective, particularly on an Agile project.

If you are interested in learning more about Agile, I strongly suggest checking out Agile Alliance or poking around the many Agile-related blogs.

 

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Beth Litchfield

11/13/2013

Requirements for Requirements

Beth Litchfield // in Strategy

Test your requirements knowledge with a quick pop quiz.

What percentage of technology projects have a high probability of failure because they don’t deliver what the client expected?

  1. 23%
  2. 68%
  3. 89%
  4. 42%

If you chose B, you’re right1—and quite possibly quivering under your desk. But crawl back on up here—there’s hope! Requirements are a critical success factor to turn that high percentage around. When requirements are too vague, we are left to guess at what the client wants, which leads to inefficient and costly work and possible delivery of the wrong solution to the client. Requirements are so key because they ensure that the client is getting what they want in the solution that we are offering.

The qualities of a good requirement

Here at Vodori, we’ve recognized the importance of requirements and have been working toward improving our own process for capturing requirements—in other words, defining requirements for requirements. We define a good requirement as:

  • Necessary (the requirement is not optional)
  • Focused (the requirement is not addressing more than one thing)
  • Consistent (requirement is not at odds with another requirement)
  • Unambiguous (the requirement is not subject to interpretation)
  • Verifiable (the requirement can be tested, demonstrated, inspected, and analyzed)
  • Feasible (the requirement can be implemented within existing constraints)
  • Traceable (the requirement is documented and appropriately linked)

The role of requirements in the project plan

Requirements come into play throughout all phases of a project. During the define or strategy phase of a project, we meet with the client and determine the scope of the solution and the business requirements. Capturing functional and non-functional requirements comes next, with functional requirements defining specific behaviors or functions of a system (what it will do) and non-functional requirements specifying the criteria that can be used to judge the operation of a system (how it will be). Technical and design specifications then draw on these requirements, defining how they will be met.

Wait, you’re not done yet! Part of defining requirements also includes documenting them in written form. This provides both a clear guide for work to be done and a shared reference for the team, further reducing the chance of an unsuccessful solution. Requirements and even requirements for requirements are never quite complete, but defining and documenting them are key to setting a project up for success. If you’re still not convinced of the importance of requirements, think about it this way: Where would Frodo and the other Hobbits, nay where would Middle Earth be if Gandalf had not put forth this requirement to the demon chasing them, "You shall not pass!"?

1. Keith Ellis, Business Analysis Benchmark: The Impact of Business Requirements on the Success of Technology Projects. accessed November 12, 2013.

 

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Vodori Recruiting Team

08/13/2013

5 Tips for a Successful Virtual Interview

Vodori Recruiting Team // in Strategy

At Vodori, we’re constantly searching across the country for great candidates to fill the ranks at our Chicago and San Francisco offices. As a result, it’s not uncommon to have at least one virtual interview during the Vodori interview process.

These types of interviews present unique challenges that in-person interviews do not. Whether you are using Google Hangout, Skype or another videoconferencing application, keep the following tips in mind when preparing for and participating in a virtual interview.

Tip 1: Make technology your friend.

Understanding the software you’ll be interviewing on is essential. If you’ve never used the requested interface before, do a trial run with a friend or family member to familiarize yourself with the technology. Nothing will fluster you more than trying to set up new software five minutes before an interview. If you are having technical issues before the interview, don’t be afraid to ask the interviewer for help. It’s better to ask ahead of time than to be trying to troubleshoot during an interview.

Tip 2: Stage your setting.

Unlike interviewing on site, a virtual interview requires that you pay particular attention to your chosen location. Look for an uncluttered area with good lighting, as a messy or poorly lit background is distracting and can reflect badly on you. It’s also essential to consider the noise level of your setting. Coffee shops may be an ideal place to work with headphones, but not for interviews. Make sure your area is quiet and turn your phone on silent.

Tip 3: Lose the bunny slippers.

Being dressed to impress will help you mentally prepare for the interview and show your potential co-workers that you care about the opportunity. You may be tempted to keep the pajama bottoms on for video interviews, but do yourself a favor and put on some real pants. A good rule of thumb when dressing for any interview is to dress one level above the dress code of where you are interviewing. For example, Vodori has a casual dress code, so the appropriate interview dress would be business casual.

Tip 4: Let yourself shine.

We want our job candidates to feel comfortable being themselves. We try to line up passionate people with the things they are passionate about, so keep in mind that it can be more difficult to showcase personality over the phone or video. Practice projecting your voice and being expressive prior to the interview. We find that smiling helps, whether we can see it or not. It can calm your nerves and make your voice sound positive.  

Tip 5: Be professional.

It’s important to be on time and ready to answer your phone or video call. Be prepared to answer questions in a confident and professional manner. For video interviews, make eye contact by keeping your eyes on the web camera. When you look directly at the screen, the interviewer may see you from a strange angle, which can distract from the actual interview. Also, by keeping your eyes on the camera, you’ll appear more confident. And finally, whether this is your first interview in the process or your last, make sure that you have questions prepared and make them questions that matter to you. We want to see that you’ve done your research and are passionate about the position.

Good luck with the job search! If you’d like to learn more about interviewing at Vodori, check out our posts on How to Be Successful at Career Fairs and 12 Tips for Nailing that Job Interview.

 

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Megan Mahowald

06/21/2013

Three Pinterest Ideas for the Non-Visual Business

Megan Mahowald // in Strategy

Pinterest has been gaining popularity since its start in 2010 and now has become one of the go-to social media networks with more than 48.7 million users1. Subsequently, many businesses have started using Pinterest as a surefire way to drive referral traffic to their websites.

However, for those businesses whose products or services don’t have an obvious visual appeal, finding a way to engage on this image-based platform can be tricky. Many non-visual businesses try to pin content that they would post on Facebook or Twitter, such as product information or news. But this type of content won’t attract many Pinterest users to your company page.

Pinterest users seek compelling visuals. They want to collect beautiful images on their boards that will serve as inspiration or link to useful websites. Your company’s pins shouldn’t stray too far from a Pinterest user’s goals but that doesn’t mean you should start pinning pictures of desserts and wedding dresses (which make up a huge portion of the site’s pins).

Here are three ways to resolve your “what do I pin?” problem:

1. Promote your services indirectly. An insurance company could focus on the assets they could help protect, like dream cars and dream houses. These images get at the inspirational nature of popular pins, while still promoting the company’s services.

2. Pin the problem you solve. For example, a pharmaceutical company could pin images of a problem they help correct, such as allergies. Pictures of flowers, trees, and animals are Pinterest-friendly and on point with the company’s solution of allergy medicine.

3. Show off company culture. Display your company’s culture by choosing board themes that align with the interests of your employees. Vodorians love biking and enjoying company lunches, so our Pinterest boards reflect those fun aspects of our culture. 

We hope that you find these tips helpful. Happy pinning!


 

Reuters

 

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Strategy Team

01/23/2013

The battle of the social media tools: Hootsuite vs. Sprout Social

Strategy Team // in Strategy

Hootsuite and Sprout Social are two popular—some might argue market leading—tools for managing a social media presence. With a wide range of features and functionality, both tools can be used to facilitate the execution of a marketing team’s social strategy, including scheduling messages, assigning tasks, tracking statistics and integrating other social platforms.

We spent a month cozying up with Hootsuite and Sprout Social, using them to manage our own social media presences. We put the tools through their paces in the hopes of making an apples-to-apples comparison. Although many of the features across both tools are similar, they each have their own strengths and weaknesses. Here’s some of the highlights of what we found.

Publishing

Hootsuite: 
Hootsuite uses multi-column informational streams that make it easy for users to scan their accounts quickly on a single page. You can customize your streams to really understand your audience, such as tracking a trending Twitter hashtag or a particular keyword. We also like that Hootsuite provides you with an option to save drafts for review at a later date. Hootsuite also has an extensive app directory enabling you to add content from platforms like Evernote, Instagram or Tumblr to your dashboard.   


Sprout Social:
Sprout’s ViralPost technology recommends optimal publish times to get the best engagement out of your tweets or status updates based on audience analysis. And Sprout helps you find and connect to your audience with its Discovery feature. Discovery uses keywords and locations to suggest profiles that would interact with your company.

 

Team Collaboration

Hootsuite: 
In September, Hootsuite launched Conversations, an internal communication tool for their system. We liked that anybody in your company could join Conversations and post comments to the thread without having to set up their own social media account. 

Sprout Social: 
We were quite impressed with Sprout’s contact management system, which allows social media teams to store comments and information about their followers. It’s a great collaboration tool so any team member can see all past interactions with a particular contact and respond appropriately, which helps if you’re trying to foster a lead through social media interaction. 

Sprout also integrates with several customer service operating systems, including UserVoice and Zendesk. This two-way integration feature turns Sprout into a customer service ninja by enabling seamless communication between social media and customer service teams. For instance, when a customer tweets that they can’t login to their account, the social media team can immediately create a helpdesk ticket for the customer service team. From there, both teams can track that ticket through the system and make sure the problem is resolved. Notes can also be attached to the tickets to help resolve the situation more quickly. 

Reporting

Hootsuite: 
We like that Hootsuite reports are fairly customized and detailed.  The basic design of the data makes it intuitive and easy to understand at a glance. Additionally, their “Quick Analytics” reports give us a concise snapshot of our most popular tweets for the Vodori Twitter accounts.  

Sprout Social:
The beautiful interface of Sprout comes into play here. The home dashboard is a quick snapshot of your analytics across all your social networks, including an in-depth of analysis of your followers, reporting the percentage of male and female followers and their age demographic. We also liked that you can see how individual tweets performed in the sent messages tab. By seeing an individual message’s reach and click-throughs, you can instantaneously see what messages resonate well with your audience. In addition, we applaud Sprout’s access to unlimited reports for all plans, which is so helpful if you consistently report analytics to clients or internal teams. 

For both tools, the ability to dive deeper into the reports is currently lacking a bit. With Hootsuite you cannot click into a point on the “clicks” chart to easily see which tweets garnered the most response. The same can be said of Sprout Social reporting. Good data, but not great. 

Mobile

Hootsuite: 
Hootsuite’s mobile site is a nice reflection of its browser site, allowing you to swipe through all of your streams quickly. The only major drawback here is that you cannot access pre-scheduled tweets, a feature we happen to love in the web-based version. 

Sprout Social: 
We like that Sprout Mobile has full access to its contact management system and you can easily keep tabs on current activity such as mentions, replies and retweets across all accounts.

Cost

Hootsuite: 
$9.99 per month for two users for Pro Plan, managing unlimited social profiles. 

Sprout Social: 
$39 per month per user for Standard Plan, managing up to 10 profiles.

Both companies offer 30-day trials with full access to features of any plan. 

Bottom Line

Both tools have all the key essentials for managing a company’s social media presence. We favor Hootsuite’s low costs, publishing tools and monitoring features for our needs. However, we’d recommend Sprout for companies with large social media teams and/or have lots of customer service interaction on social channels. We were impressed with Sprout Social’s clean interface, unlimited reports and customer service systems integration. We’ll be keeping our eye closely on this Chicago-based company.

Editor’s Note: A special thanks to our future West Loop neighbors, Sprout Social and Angus Gorberg, who gave us a personal tour of the platform’s features at Sprout HQ. 



 

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Strategy Team

12/14/2012

Holiday gift guide for Strategists

Strategy Team // in Strategy

Our Strategy Team put their heads together to create Vodori’s Gift Guide for Strategists. This collection of gifts is sure to please every digital marketer on your shopping list.

1. Stratego

Cliche? Maybe. But we really love to strategize. Give your favorite strategist Stratego, the game where each player must always think 5 steps ahead.

2. North Face E-Tip Gloves

Winters in Chicago are a smartphone user’s nightmare. Not anymore with these E-Tip Gloves! These gloves will allow any smartphone user to surf the web all winter long with toasty warm fingers. 

3. Amazon Kindle

Don't get us wrong; we are definitely iPad people. When it comes to reading a book, however, there is no substitute for our Kindles, especially on the morning commute. 

4. Nest Thermostat 2.0

This smart thermostat has been all the rage these days. We love it too! It learns your living habits and automatically adjusts to save you money. 

5. Lytro Camera

Ever take a picture and review it later, wishing that you could have re-focused on something else? This pocket-sized camera allows you to do just that. Now you can refocus to your heart's content!

 

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Rob DeMento

10/31/2012

#ScuffGate, #MapGate, and the iPad Mini: Lessons learned from Apple

Rob DeMento // in Strategy

When I unboxed my new iPhone 5 a few weeks ago, it was scratched right out of the box. There are forums aplenty with other customers documenting this same problem. I walked over to the Apple Store near Vodori HQ for a Genius Bar appointment. Apple agreed to replace it – no problem. But then I watched in amazement as the Genius unboxed not one, not two, but three replacement phones, all of which were unfit for replacement due to similar scratches. Having depleted the store's entire inventory of replacements, I walked out empty-handed.

I had read about #scuffgate as I typically follow technology news. But now I was personally embroiled in the controversy, causing me to pay closer attention to Apple as a business and not just the manufacturer of some of my favorite products. 

This post is not about predictions or complaints. I won’t tell you where I think Apple is headed, whether the company has peaked, or guess about what Steve Jobs would do. Apple products have served and delighted me over the years, and while I’m not a “fanboy,” I'll openly admit that there's the joy of a six-year-old child opening gifts on Christmas day that accompanies the unboxing of the latest Apple gadget. And let’s face it –Apple isn’t exactly a corporate ship that’s adrift. I would argue, however, that its sails seem to be luffing and there are lessons to be learned. 

Apple’s Value Proposition & Slippages

For me, Apple’s value proposition is born out of three important and closely intertwined components: product innovation with products that "just work" (strategy), customer experience (strategy & operations), and flawless execution (operations). As I’ve parenthetically noted, these three areas directly relate to the company’s core strategy and operations. And as strategy expert and Harvard professor Michael Porter will tell you,1 strategic positioning and operational effectiveness are the two critical components to a company’s success. Apple is slipping across these areas in both painfully obvious and also less noticeable ways.

Apple’s Most Recent Product Launches

On the product hardware front, while Apple’s just-released iPad Mini is already sold out, it's not the most exciting or interesting product. Most of its important components are identical to those of the iPad 2, a product that is now a year and a half old. At best, it’s on parity with other tablets and eReaders. Apple isn’t accustomed to playing defense with its products, yet this product seems to be defensive. Some may even argue that the Mini is reminiscent of the product dispersion that plagued Apple before Steve Jobs' triumphant second act. 

On the software front, Apple has also made a misstep in a core strategic principle of closely-knit hardware and software integration. Setting aside any opinion of the quality of Apple’s Maps application, it was at least bad enough for current CEO Tim Cook to apologize to Apple customers. Not only that, his recommendation to customers is that they look outside the Apple ecosystem for a solution. And close on the heels of some major management shakeups that took place this week,  new reports suggests that a recent cultural shift in the way Apple creates products may have been at play. With respect to company longevity, the cultural shift is far more concerning than the fallout from the Maps App itself.   

The Apple Customer Experience

Apple hasn’t yet had a catastrophic failure on the customer experience front, but a few recent stories point to at least some erosion here as well. For example, over the summer Apple uncharacteristically apologized for staffing changes that were impacting the in-store experience. And there is a small but growing contingent of Apple's most loyal fans that are pretty mad at Apple for wiping the iPad “3” off the map. Apple is in business to make money, so I realize the complaints are misplaced. But from a revenue perspective, Apple’s customer base seems to be comprised of an uncharacteristically high proportion of early adopters/upgraders. With a shorter release cycle, these people may now wait longer to upgrade in anticipation of the next version. Only time will tell, though. 

Apple’s Operations

Perhaps the most disconcerting of all the things I’ve personally observed is a falling off in Apple's historically flawless execution, which is an unheralded component of the company's success to date. The average consumer would never know it, but Apple's supply chain is something to marvel at and is key to tremendous profitability. With my n=1 #scuffgate experience (which accounted for four phones, mind you), I’d say company operations are slipping. And never mind the striking and rioting employees that are responsible for assembling Apple's flagship product. 

What does this all point to? A Saturday Night Live skit with a traditional sarcastic dance, of course. 

What We Can Learn From Apple

In all seriousness, we can learn from Apple's current situation. When evaluated through Porter’s glasses, the lesson seems straightforward and simple. Apple needs to stay true to its core strategy and refocus its operational efficacy. 

On the strategic front, up until now Apple had clearly established a difference between itself and its competitors with its products and overall experience. The old Apple didn’t release “me too” products like the iPad Mini, and instead delighted customers with products that they didn’t even know they “needed.” I’ll admit that Apple’s product direction for the Mini is murky for me. But in general, the company needs to remember that there are tradeoffs and difficult decisions it must make in order to maintain its strategic position. Being all things to all people is impossible for any company, let alone Apple.

The missteps and issues on the operations front are much clearer to me and easier to fix. In Porter’s view of the world, strategy and operations are clearly separable. But in Apple’s case, one could argue that extreme operational effectiveness is actually core to the company’s strategic positioning. Tim Cook built Apple’s operational masterpiece, and since he’s not a “product guy” (as Steve Jobs admitted in his biography), he needs to be playing to his strengths in operations. Flawless execution has made Apple successful. Simply put, the company needs to stay focused on this core competency that led it to success in the first place. 

The Apple is Not Falling from the Sky

Realistically Apple is going to be here for a long time to come. And as I already mentioned, the company made some drastic management changes that will empower design icon Jony Ive to refocus the organization on its core strategy of hardware and software integration.

As for me, I’ll still buy Apple products – and I did eventually wind up with an iPhone (although it was white instead of my original black). I just hope the company can turn me back into the delighted six-year-old kid as opposed to the disgruntled teenager that I’ve become.  

Do you have thoughts on this? Send them to rob.demento@vodori.com and we’ll share the best points in a follow-up post.

 



1. Michael Porter, “What is Strategy,” Harvard Business Review, November 1, 1996.

 
 

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Nicole Zukerman

09/11/2012

How to host a successful webinar

Nicole Zukerman // in Strategy

Webinars are a popular way to engage with employees and clients and generate sales leads across the globe. They are a cost-effective marketing tactic for businesses to have a “face-to-face” conversation with a large audience. But they aren’t just about televising a live event. You need to come up with fun and innovative ways to keep the audience tuned in and interested in your topic in a situation where you can’t gauge their reaction, boredom, or participation through the web. 

Before heading down the webinar path, first things first. Is a webinar really the right method for connecting with your audience?  Do you have enough information to span an entire webinar? Do you have the time and resources to commit to creating a compelling presentation? Is the information engaging enough to hold your audience’s attention? These are all questions you should ask yourself before embarking on hosting a webinar. Although it is an effective way to hold a worldwide presentation, you want to be sure it is the best business move for your company. 

Once you have established why you want to run a webinar, the next hurdle to tackle is how. During our yearlong journey of hosting a series of Pre_scribed webinars, we learned a thing or two about managing an effective virtual event. Here are our top 10 webinar tips and tricks. 

1. Timing is key.

Schedule the webinar around lunchtime between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Listeners are more likely to tune in when they don’t have to sacrifice another meeting and can multi-task while eating lunch. 

2. Capture lead information.

Whether the goal of your event is to boost awareness, educate the audience, or improve sales, you need to know who your audience members are. Use a sign-up form to get contact information, and follow-up with attendees the day before and an hour before the event to remind them to attend. Reengage with attendees after the webinar to further the relationship. (Of course make sure you’re complying with all SPAM regulations, too.)

3. Test your equipment.

We cannot stress this one enough. Test the webinar system ahead of time to ensure all plug-ins and screen-sharing software functions as expected. Sound quality and volume should also be tested. If attendees need to download plug-ins or take additional steps before the webinar, be sure to inform them ahead of time. 

In addition, you’ll want to make sure you’re recording your webinar for later content syndication. Recording is an out-of-box feature in many webcast software suites.  Make sure the recording system captures all visuals and sound during the testing phase.

4. Keep it moving.

It just takes one click for a webinar audience member to leave (a lot easier than walking out of a live event!). So be clear and concise and use visually compelling slides. While it may not always be possible to do depending on the topic of the day, try to switch speakers every 10-15 minutes in order to keep the audience engaged.  

5. Cap it at 45 minutes.

Nobody wants to sit still for longer than an hour. Try to keep the presentation between 30-45 minutes with a few minutes for questions.

6. Silence is okay.

In fact, it’s more than okay; it’s the norm. (We’re not talking minute upon awkward minute, but a few seconds here and there are fine). Practice growing accustomed to the dead air during the dry run in order to increase your comfort level with the silence.

7. Interact with listeners.

When possible, engage the audience by asking questions or conducting polls. Many webcast software suites come equipped with this type of functionality (e.g., chat, polling, etc.) to encourage such dialogue. Try to encourage audience interaction every 15 minutes.

8. Integrate social media.

Provide a Twitter hashtag for visitors to tweet during and after the webinar. Include this hashtag on all of the presentation slides so that it is prominent for the audience. Tweeting with your audience gives them the feeling of individualized attention and allows you to easily respond to questions or comments before, during, and after the webinar.

9. Prepare for the worst.

Have a back-up plan so that you remain cool, calm, and collected in in the event of a computer freeze or slide share malfunction. Make sure you have a person on your team who is watching the webinar as an audience member and can alert you to any problems during the event, such as loss of sound, so you can promptly get the event back on track. Speaking of your team, you can’t pull this off alone. Make sure you have team members in place to assist with various components of the webinar. For example, there’s no way you’re going to be able to tweet and talk at the same time. Have colleagues assist with the various content streams you’re creating.

10. Practice, practice, practice.

This one needs no explanation. Practicing for silence, interaction, and emergency situations will allow for the best webinar possible.

Got some more webinar tips and tricks? Comment and share them with us!

These best practices were assembled based on Vodori’s own experience as well as some additional sources:

Webinar Best Practices (The Learning Coach)
Web Seminar White Paper (Communique Conferencing)
Top Ten Webinar Best Practices (Osterman Research)
Best Practices for Interactive Webinars (Americorps VISTA)
9 Management Practices for Exceptional Webinars (MarketingProfs)

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Andrew Daglas

04/13/2012

9 articles you need to read about tablets

Andrew Daglas // in Strategy

Because we at Vodori pride ourselves on our immersion in digital culture, we tend to notice even the subtlest technological trends. Here's one that's taken hold lately, which you may have noticed: tablets are pretty popular.

It's true. These handy devices—not just the iPad, but also the Kindle Fire, various Android-based models, and more—are everywhere. One may even be right in front of your face as you read this. Tablets

In fact, if there's one thing spreading throughout digital culture faster than tablets, its media coverage of tablets. Here's a roundup of a few stories which have caught our eyes recently.  

  1. Seeing a Future in Tablets, Magazines Unveil the Digital Newsstand - New York Times

    Periodicals are well-positioned to capitalize on the tablet revolution. The format plays to the traditional strengths of the magazine; a reader can enjoy in-depth pieces or just "flip" through, while enjoying an eye catching layout.  

  2. 'Couch Surfing' Takes On New Meaning as Smart Devices Proliferate - Wired

    Television is a uniquely communal medium, and the combination of social media and handheld Internet access now lets viewers engage with those communities across the country.  

  3. Tablet Computing Is Here To Stay, And Will Force Changes In Laptops And Phones - Co.Design (Fast Company)

    The biggest proof of tablets' influence? They're shaping the future of all other personal computing hardware.  

  4. Seven Tablet and Mobile Trends to Expect in 2012 - MarketingProfs

    An overview of developments to come, and how they'll impact the ways marketers reach consumers.  

  5. Microsoft's Windows tablet future: Businesses yes, consumers no - ComputerWorld

    Facing an uphill climb against more established Apple and Google Android, can Microsoft find a competitive foothold in the enterprise market?  

  6. Tablet boom waiting for corporate wave - Chicago Tribune

    And Microsoft's gamble may pay off, if the enterprise market, slow to develop to this point, is ready to take off.  

  7. Tablets are at cutting edge of multitasking - Marketing Week 

    Many consumers are using tablets as time management tools, to help keep track of the multiple-simultaneously-open-tabs known as life. (/deepthought.)  

  8. Apple's 'iPad' is the only tablet people know - San Antonio Express-News

    Admit it, every time you've read "tablet" in this post, you've thought "iPad." The hottest item on the market is on the verge of achieving the same kind of permanent notoriety as Band-Aid and Kleenex.  

  9. Dear Android Tablets: Stay Crazy - Gizmodo

    Because nobody ever made a creative breakthrough by following the same old rules. Even if tablets are becoming ubiquitous, they still represent a young technology that deserves plenty of experimentation to keep thriving. 

We've been keeping close "tabs" on these devices (get it?), and we'll continue to do so. After creating a few apps of our own for clients, we continue to explore how these devices affect the way we engage and interact with users, and with content itself. Tablets are here to stay, and their relevance will only grow. 

What do you think? Share your thoughts on these articles, or pass along a story we may have missed, in the comments below.

 

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