We’re all doing webinars now
Two months is a long time to not be working. Well, to only do a little work. I’ll be back at work on Monday, and it’s hard to know what it’ll be exactly. This is an age of webinars (I’m sorry “online conferences”) which I have, I don’t know, 13 years of experience doing.
As we discussed in this week’s Software Defined Talk, webinars get a bad rap. I think that’s because most of the content is, well, crap. Good speakers don’t often want to do webinars and they don’t bring their best, they also recycle existing content. They save up their good work for in-person conferences. If these speakers do more webinars, the quality will increase.
Shockingly, I don’t think we ever did a “how to enterprise webinar” episode in our enterprise marketing lecture series.
I’ll have to dig up one of my write ups for next time, but here is a quick one tapped out:
- Use BrightTalk. They’re the only provider I’ve seen that makes sense. Maybe not as good as a big Zoom-a-poalooza if you’re going big, but in general, it’s good. There’s even RSS feeds!
- Slides matter a lot: for pacing and structure, for people watching it afterwards, for people who want to email the content around to share the ideas.
- Have guests, often. One of the advantages of webinars is that you don’t have to go somewhere. This means you can draw in a lot of “end users” (customers, most likely) to talk first hand. You can make their time short, a major component, or the whole thing.
- I think panels work a lot better in webinar format because of the above: you can get a whole set of different people on the panel than at a conference.
- Industry analysts are another good thing to throw in that you normally wouldn’t get. This is also a way to get around their dumb content restrictions: once you get their charts, data, and commentary on your webinar recording, it’s easier to refer to them instead of PDFs locked behind a paywall.
- Don’t rely on the speakers to administer the webinar. Too many marketing people just dump all the mechanics onto the speaker, including abstract writing (the marketing people need to direct the purpose of the webinar - they need to tell the speakers why they’re doing this talk, the audience they’re reaching, and the outcome they want). Also, someone needs to run the webinar. Speakers won’t be able to worry about all of that.
- Recordings are generally better. I’ve heard services like BrightTalk charge like $500 extra to use a recorded y’all (which, you know, is dumb, but, sure, I understand the desire to make more money!). I edited a talk I gave for an online conference recently: it made it a lot better.
- Don’t worry about the length. We’re trained to think that talks should be 5, 15, 30, or 45 minutes. This is because an in-person conference has a time grid to fill. A webinar doesn’t need a time-grid: you can make the length whatever works, short, long, Goldy-Locks. (There’s something to consufer for online conferences that have tracks where you want people to “attend” for many hours. I don’t know. That seems like more a misplaced tactics that just leads to vanity metrics during the marketing read-out. I suspect the value of recorded talks is much more long-tail - and take!)
There’s a lot more. Perhaps the thing people forget a lot is that you, as a speaker, should know what it’s like to be in the audience. Fine five to ten webinars (on topics you know and on topics you don’t know) and attend them. The first thing you’ll find is that you’ll sign up for ones weeks in the future and forget to attend them or decide, at the time, that you don’t have time that day and will “watch it later.”
Don’t battle that. That whole, uh, acquisition cycle is something to think about in the medium. I’m not too sure what to do about it: a lot of the work you do, the slides you make, the promotions you send before and after, are built around people watching the webinar not when it’s scheduled, but on their own time. You know, the whole TV in demand thing of our times.
OK. Now, let’s go back to normal: don’t ever say what you’re doing is a webinar. Just a schedule an online presentation, put a sign-up landing page on it, have marketing marketing it, and then call it an online conference.
Marketing 60 seconds at a time
These tiny-form videos are an interesting study in attention getting. They get shit views in YouTube, but when you upload them natively to Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn (you get a lot), Facebook (love views, but lots of feedback on likes and even comments), and (yes) TikTok (big views the first day, then nothing) - the cumulative views get near a thousand (might be 700 or 900, I haven’t done that close of an analysis).
There are also “stories” in many of these platforms. They’re weird and I think they’re only good (get a lot of attention) if you have a lot of followers. I don’t think the age of my audience does stories. Even in Facebook, where you can get a lot of reactions to baby pictures, you get a lot more feedback on baby pictures with a normal post. (I’m pretty sure baby pictures are the benchmark metric for Facebook.)
I’m sure I need to do some hashtag hacking and all that. I wish I had some marketing ops people to do that for me. I find doing that work repulsive, tedious at best: but I want it done and would appreciate the benefits.
On that topic: does this content make money? Does it “work”? My computer focused videos are intended to make people want to spend money with my employer, VMware. I’m way at the beginning of the sales process, just informing people and getting them to see that VMware might know what they’re talking about, understand their problems, and maybe helpful. Their intention to get a meeting, to get more interest, to get their email addresses to start tracking them. (You can dress it up in different words if you like the softer approach to describing how selling people things works).
There’s a landing page I direct people to, and I’ll have to get my marketing buddies to interpret it for me when I get back to work.
Whatever the case is, making these videos and seeing the interest in them is one of the most rewarding types of content I’ve made in a long time. Hopefully I can figure out doing more of them.
This too is a requirement of art today. We need to give the spectator more room to penetrate into the work itself, and works which allow this are called ‘open’. It is a form of art that adapts itself to the artistic sense of the beholder. In times past people wanted the artist to explain in very clear terms exactly how he saw the world in every detail. The beholder was content to react to the personality of the artist, who in everyone’s eyes became a genius, the greatest, the one whom nobody could imitate. Today the person who looks at a work of art is more sensitive, more accustomed to simultaneous and intense stimuli, to brand new technical and scientific concepts, so he is no longer so interested in a ‘closed’ work of art. Art that is too defined, conclusive, and limited to one aspect of a thing, leaves a man of today standing isolated and apart: either he accepts the fait accompli or he gets nothing from it. There is very little actual participation involved. Everything that does not coincide with the particular vision of the artist has to be excluded. But in an open work of art a person participates much more, to the extent of being able to change the work of art according to his state of mind.
— Design as Art by Bruno Munari
‘Here are some things that highly creative people gravitate towards:
- lots of coffee!
- working hard but, surprisingly often for only a short burst of time. Many writers only work for 3 or 4 hours each morning. (Architects and painters on the other hand tend to work all day.)
- long walks. lots and lots of very long walks.
- eating the exact same meal every breakfast, and lunch etc. So you don’t have to waste time thinking about it. (It’s weird how often this one shows up— Ingmar Bergman, Glen Gould, Patricia Highsmith, Oliver Sacks, David Lynch.)
- alcohol to unwind . . . or some kind of daily “vigorous exercise” to unwind.
- avoiding social obligations.
- habitual reading. often artists will re-read a handful of their favorite authors again and again.
- indulging in eccentricities. (Beethoven would pour giant pitchers of water over his hands each morning while he bellowed scales.)
- either being a very early bird or a night owl. It’s easier to concentrate when there is no one around to distract you.
- avoiding TV.
“in her old age Isak Dinesen only ate oysters and drank champagne”
Sometimes I could work two, three days and not sleep and I didn’t pay any attention to food, because… a can of sardines and a cup of tea and a piece of stale bread seemed awfully good to me. You know, I don’t care about food and my diet has very little variety. I read once that in her old age Isak Dinesen only ate oysters and drank champagne, and I thought what an intelligent solution to ridding oneself of meaningless decision-making.
— Daily Rituals: Women at Work by Mason Currey
Relative to your interests
- Just doing something is enough innovation for most organizations - ‘“Most companies are not really struggling with the ability to innovate,” Hightower said. “A lot of the stuff that they’re going to use are tools and there was innovation that went into producing those tools. The innovative thing that we’re asking companies to do is just pick a tool, literally pick one of the 10 and as soon as you pick one then that will be the most innovative thing that some companies do in a long time. Literally picking something. Not building the thing. Not actually knowing how to actually leverage it 100%. Sometimes the biggest hurdle for most companies is just the picking part.”’
- He prefers Google Cloud - ‘It’s not that AWS is harder to use than GCP, it’s that it is needlessly hard; a disjointed, sprawl of infrastructure primitives with poor cohesion between them. A challenge is nice, a confusing mess is not, and the problem with AWS is that a large part of your working hours will be spent untangling their documentation and weeding through features and products to find what you want, rather than focusing on cool interesting challenges.’
- Blogging as organizing, a commonplace book - ‘It’s the writerly act of organizing and assembling inchoate thought that seems to helps me. That’s what I did with this blog; if I blogged something for “Beyond the Beyond,” then I had tightened it, I had brightened it. I had summarized it in some medium outside my own head. Posting on the blog was a form of psychic relief, a stream of consciousness that had moved from my eyes to my fingertips; by blogging, I removed things from the fog of vague interest and I oriented them toward possible creative use.’
- RSS for mental health - ‘Long live RSS.’
- The mechanics of black and white photography - ‘The vast majority of her work is created in black and white or sepia tones. Her photographs strip her subjects back to their barest essence, often capturing a moment of raw honesty. The black and white image is fairly unique to photography, a medium which offers to capture the world exactly as it is for a fleeting moment of time. By creating the images in black and white, Arbus at once captures a fleeting moment of reality and also reminds us that she is the author of that image, stripping it of its colour and dictating the way we look at that moment.’
- Goals for your software project business case - ‘Set your cornerstone by understanding how you’ll impact revenue, cost, or risk. These are the things that keep CEOs up at night, so that’s where you need to focus your efforts. Will the improvement help you acquire new customers (increasing revenue), deflect unnecessary support cases (lowering costs), or improve employee retention (reducing risk)? These aren’t the only examples for business case anchors, but they give a flavor of how to frame the thinking around the blueprint for your structure.’
- Lack of agency can lead to lack of self-control - ‘If we want to raise healthy, high-agency children, we should give them the freedom to make decisions without removing them from the consequences of those decisions. Giving children agency now will help them avoid a dark cycle of work, pain, and reckless release in the future. Even if a life of indulgent hedonism is fun in the short-term, it ultimately leaves a void in the heart.’