Firehoses and Drip lines: Why I Can’t Go to Conferences Anymore

Firehoses and Drip lines: Why I Can’t Go to Conferences Anymore

I was standing with my husband and about 2,000 other crazed conference attendees, chanting and pumping our fists to the loud music as one of the room coaches stood on a chair with a megaphone yelling out “Who’s ready to WIN?” “WE ARE” the crowd roared. Just then the doors opened, and we all rushed in, running down the aisle to get the coveted front seats. I was 6 months pregnant and slid across the seat at the very moment another man was about to sit down. I bumped him right onto the floor! “IM GOING TO WIN” I thought.

That was my second Tony Robbins conference and probably my 10th sales-type conferences over a four-year period. I attended sales conferences, negotiation conferences, women’s leadership conferences, and lots of motivational conferences. I always came back ready to change the world, filled with so much new information and enough motivation to carry me through until the next conference.

Lately, I have become disillusioned and even a little frustrated when I attend a conference. I walk out of each session feeling cheated that I paid money to come and hear the same things I’ve heard over and over.  Is there no new information? I wonder if it’s just my age and the number of years I have been in my industry or is it the fact that the conference organizers don’t provide advanced learning for those of us who have been around the block a few years.

I sounded like a cynical old woman this week at a big social marketing conference. There were hundreds of sessions, and yet I walked out of each and told my 23-year-old daughter, “There was nothing new” and “I didn’t hear anything I didn’t already know.” This was her first big business conference and she was excited, overwhelmed, and inspired, after each session. What was my problem?

Later that evening it dawned on me. We live in the dripline age of internet learning. We have constant information flooding through social media channels, podcasts, YouTube videos, webinars, audiobooks, and more. I’ve just changed how I learn. I’m no longer that sponge that soaks up information all at once, the way I did at those early conferences. My sponge is just constantly wet (eww, that image makes me think I may have germs and mold in there… hmmm). By the time an annual conference comes around, I’ve heard most of what will be covered and sometimes by the very people I have learned from during the year.

social media learning

I listen to about 15 podcasts each week on topics ranging from Facebook advertising and social media marketing, to personal finance and investing. I listen to a morning Alexa briefing that runs through 5 different topics on current news and I read blog posts and watch educational videos regularly. If I hear of an app or informative newsletter, I immediately go and download or subscribe to it.

The big social media conference ended Friday and as I was driving home from the airport Saturday night I realized I just sat in 3 learning sessions—one podcast on investing (Profit Boss with Hilary Hendershott), one on Marketing (Marketing Companion with Mark Schaefer), and one on Coworking (Coworking Insights). I felt great. I felt fulfilled.

The great news is, regardless of where you are in your career or business, you can learn everything you need, and then some, at any time. You can consume content each and every day or you can stand in line, eager, with fists pumping, to get into a conference and soak it all in. The key is to make sure you are making time regularly for learning.

So, which are you? A firehose or a dripline learner? I’d love to hear from you.

LEFT BEHIND: The Painful Price of Not Keeping Up With Technology

My 75-year-old in-laws came to visit for Thanksgiving and by the end of the weekend, I was feeling, both guilty for not helping them immigrate into the foreign land of technology earlier, and inspired to learn even more about technology trends and new tech tools as I…. get older.

Technology Social Media Expert, Gina Schreck, Technology Trends

Seniors and Technology

My mother-in-law was complaining about the fact her bank was starting to charge her $8 a month for not using their online banking features.  Online banking was both scary for her to consider doing and sad for her to think of not being able to go in and visit Kim and Diane, her favorite tellers.  She doesn’t like talking to the tellers through the drive through window and would never consider trusting the ATM to deposit checks or withdraw money.  How would she be sure it posted to her account correctly?  Who would answer her questions she might have on her statement?

She said the other day the clerk at the department store where she regularly shops, asked her if she downloaded the coupon that was offered on their Facebook Page.  I can just imagine the blank stare my mother-in-law gave that 16-year-old, who probably could not fathom anyone NOT being on Facebook.  My father-in-law chimed in with his disdain for the word “apps.”  “I’m tired of hearing about this app and that app.  Everyone acts like we understand what that means!”

Imagine waking up one morning in a foreign country.  You do not speak the language and cannot read the signs posted around town.  You have currency that no one accepts and you own tools that don’t seem to work any longer.  This is the feeling many seniors have today.  They are digital immigrants.  They may have immigrated voluntarily or perhaps they were sent over kicking and screaming, but they are foreigners in a foreign land.  Although a Nielson study showed that those 65 years and older pick Facebook as one of their top internet destinations, I believe it is because they are trying desperately to access their family that left them in this foreign land so they can slap them!

With one boomer turning 65 every 8 seconds starting this January 2011, there are some things we can do to ensure we are not leaving anyone behind feeling isolated and lost.  As a business owner, I also want to make sure I am not throwing around lingo and techno-jargon that makes digital-immigrants more confused and isolated.

Here are 4 steps we can all take to help others and stay relevant ourselves so we are not LEFT BEHIND:

1. Commit to learning one new technology tool this month.  Whether it is sending text messages to your family or taking a class (even via YouTube) on a new video editing software or starting your own blog.

2. Commit to teaching someone one new technology tool this month.  Show your parents how to download a photo from an email or better yet how to sign onto FLICKR and browse your family albums.  Download a sudoku or crossword puzzle app on their phone or iPad (you might not want to call it an app!)

3. Browse through the TECHNOLOGY category in the iTunes library or on YouTube to find a podcast you enjoy that discusses technology trends, and subscribe to it.  Commit to listening to one podcast per week to stay up on the latest lingo and tech terms…like APP or CLOUD COMPUTING!  (Some of my favorites are from the TWIT Network-This Week In Technology- just search for TWIT in iTunes Podcasts)

4. Find and subscribe to one technology blog.  Go to Technorati and browse a category that interests you and then send that particular blog to your eReader or receive it as an email (if you wouldn’t get overwhelmed by one more email).  I like getting them sent to my Google Reader which ends up being a customized newspaper for me.  If you own an iPad, download the free and OH-SO-AMAZING app, FLIPBOARD and “flip” through the pages of your favorite blog posts and magazine sources each day.

Share some of your tips to stay relevant and keep that GREY MATTER  from getting too GRAY!

If you are working with seniors or want more resources, info, and products with senior-friendly features, check out this great site: ElderGadget

If your organization needs help bringing folks across that digital divide, give me a hollar, I am your Digital Immigration Officer! @GinaSchreck

36 1/2 Ideas for QR Codes and MicroSoft Tags in YOUR Business

QR Codes for business, QR Codes for learning, Social media for business, Gina Schreck, Technology Expert

QR Code

According to Wikipedia: A QR Code is a matrix barcode (or two-dimensional code), readable by QR scannersmobile phones with a camera, and smartphones. The code consists of black modules arranged in a square pattern on white background. The information encoded can be text, URL or other data.

Common in Japan, where it was created by Toyota subsidiary Denso-Wave in 1994, the QR code is one of the most popular types of two-dimensional barcodes. QR is the acronym for Quick Response, as the creator intended the code to allow its contents to be decoded at high speed.[1]

I like to think of QR Codes as Hyperlinks on our physical world!  They are no longer just black and white and Microsoft Tag has come along and added a few more features that make the little codes even more flexible.

QR codes, Gina Schreck, TechnologyI have been seeing more of the colorful Microsoft tags on the backs of cereal boxes and around town.  These require a separate scanner app from Microsoft (free download on any smart phone-look for Microsoft Tag Reader) and can be customized into pictures that are very cool.

Microsoft Tag can provide data on how often and where the tag was scanned.  You are also able to change the data source without having to change the tag.

Here are a few scanner apps that people have voted as their favorites for QR Codes (be sure and share yours in the comments):

Android Platform: BarCode Scanner (I use this and find it to be the fastest); QuickMark for Android (Both FREE); Google Goggles works for QR codes as well (FREE)

iPhone: Optiscan for iPhone (known as fastest for iPhone -$1.99);  NeoReader (Free); QR Reader (Free); Google Goggles work for scanning as well.

Blackberry: ScanLife Barcode Reader (Free); QR Code Scanner Pro (vibrates when code connects AND Free); NeoReader (Free)

QR Code, Gina Schreck,

QR Code Made From Lego (by LarryStraining)

Here are my favorite QR Code Generators:

ZXing: I like this one because you can embed content (memo), a URL, Contact info, and even a calendar event!

Kaywa: Like above you can choose to embed a URL, text content or contact information, but UNLIKE ZXing, you have to choose one.

TIPS: The more information you put into your QR code, the more complex it will be. The geometric pattern will be denser, and could be more difficult to accurately scan and interpret.  Shorten your URL using a tool like bit.ly to add some analytic features and see how many people are going to the site you sent them to.

36 1/2 Creative Uses for QR Codes or MS Tags:

QR codes for business, unique uses for QR codes, Gina Schreck, Technology expert, social learning, mobile

Sweet Code

1. QR Code on food products to take you to nutritional information.

2. QR Code on produce to tell you where the product was grown.

3. QR Code on items that need assembling taking you to a website with detailed instructions and a video!

4. QR Code inside a book taking you to a website where updates are available.

5. QR Code at zoo or museum to bring up videos or additional information on subject.

6. QR Code at conferences for handouts, exhibitor information and more.

7. QR Code on T-shirt taking prospective clients to your website, Twitter page or a video link for a fun surprise.

8. QR Code on business cards instead of cramming more info on there!

9. QR Code on health club door taking you to a site with great healthy recipes or trainer tips

10. QR Code on paper products with quick and easy recipes for families obviously on the go!

11. QR Code on sticker for laptops, phones, & other important gadgets that get left behind with your contact info.

12. QR Code on a rubber stamp for envelopes, stationary or even your forehead taking people to special promo pages on your site.

13. QR Code at the end of an article taking people to a bonus video.

14. QR Codes providing clues for a treasure hunt.

15. QR Codes around a school yard taking students to learning content (while they play!  SNEAKY)

16. QR Code on art piece taking you to artists portfolio.

17. QR Code at the end of a video on YouTube taking viewers to more fun content.

18. QR Code on wedding invitations or favors taking guests to online photos of the couple.

19. QR Code hidden in product or on raffle tickets – most go to fun content site and one goes to YOU’VE WON page!

20. QR Code on a bus stop bench with links going to car dealers website or eco-friendly sites.

21. QR Code on a grave site to take you to a page telling about the deceased.

22. QR Code on clothing tags taking you to designer websites or sites to provide styling tips.

23. QR Codes around an organization that take you to videos revealing the history or story of a company.

24. QR Code hidden in posters or marketing material that takes you to a special discount code.

25. QR Code on fingernail art taking you to a Facebook page or a nail salon website.

26. QR Code on dog tag taking you to a video sharing dog’s contact info or dog’s Facebook page :))

27. QR Codes on plant stakes to provide growing tips, plant origins, and coupons to fertilizers or gardening supplies.

28. QR Code on belt buckle taking you to your contact info or website.

29. QR Code on cupcakes or cake taking people to a special page with photos or videos featuring the guest of honor.

30. QR Code on car windows at dealer lot to allow shoppers to see video of car features when dealer is closed, or if they want to browse on their own.

31. QR Codes on menus taking people to a video of chef explaining the unique ingredients used.

32.  QR Codes on mailers that are sent out to take prospective customers to a video of you telling them why they should work with you.

33. QR Codes at the end of proposals that take people to a video of you addressing the potential client by name and giving the benefits of working with you.

34. QR Codes at the end of each book chapter with bonus audio or video content.

35. QR Code on business cards taking people to a white paper or free product to download.

36. QR Code on accountant’s business cards taking people to forms they need.

36 1/2. QR Code tattooed on your child…If lost, please return to… OK maybe not!

Now that I have your brain engaged here, what other ideas can you add?  What are creative places and uses you have seen?

Virtual Events for Business: What are they and how are they different?

When you hear the words “Virtual Events” or “Immersive Environments,” what comes to mind?  Geordi from Star Trek? Perhaps a giant question mark since they sound so foreign?

Gina Schreck, Social Media for Business, Virtual events, technology speaker

I’m Attending a Virtual Event

Many of us participate in virtual events regularly via webinars and streaming video events, and if you want to get technical, even a conference call is a virtual event.  Now what comes to mind are probably visions of sleepy office scenes with participants multi-tasking while a speaker drones on and on in a monotone voice (no, I wasn’t on that call with you yesterday!).

Virtual events have become a necessity in business today, for meetings, learning and more. There are different virtual platforms for different uses and we tend to get stuck with one or two because it’s easier than learning how to use new technology.  I have used many webinar platforms such as GoToWebinar, WebEx, AdobeConnect and ReadyTalk.  While webinars do allow for participant chat, the platform is typically flat (few if any can run video clips without the possibility of hiccups) and we have all learned how to multitask during the webinar, only tuning in if we are called by name or asked to complete a poll or other activity.  I have found the platforms that allow for participants to use annotation tools and actually write or use draw tools on the slides can be more fun and engaging.  When I tell participants to “draw on the tech tool you use most” they go crazy, marking all over the slide.  It is fun to watch!  People will try to write with the freehand draw tool instead of chatting, which is GREAT because they are actually engaged.

I’ve also been involved using hybrid virtual event systems such as Unisfair, On24, and InXpo, where they combine video streaming with slides, audience chat, a few social engagement pieces, and some cool 3D conference entry points where you can see the different breakout sessions being offered.

Gina Schreck, virtual events, technology speaker, social media for business

Virtual Hybrids

These are extremely engaging for larger conference events where you have keynote speakers and breakout sessions.  Attendees can be both live and remote or you can host the event completely for remote attendees.  They allow participants to pop into the sessions they want to attend and skip the sessions that are not relevant to them.  These platforms are for one-to-many communication.  The speakers deliver the content and the attendees can interact via chat.

The most engaging, in my not-so-humble opinion, is the 3D immersive environments.  I say this for several reasons, one being the environments are so different from anything you have probably used, that your brain is trying to grasp what is going on.  You are hearing each person speak with 3D sound, which means the people on your right are heard on your right (if you are wearing a headset or have good computer speakers), and the person on your left is coming through in your left ear.  The person’s avatar who is standing further away sounds quieter than the avatars right next to you.  The avatars are gesturing when they speak and their little cartoon lips are even moving.   These avatars gather in conference rooms, open-air amphitheaters or possibly a build that resembles the inside of a computer as someone points out the changes that will take place in the new product roll out. Another reason 3D immersive is more engaging is the simple fact that there is so much going on visually.  Participants are not just looking at slides on a computer screen (although sadly many people load up boring slide decks in virtual environments just as often as they do at face-to-face events).  Participants are IN the environment.  They are moving their avatars around and taking in all the amazing visual surroundings.  All the other participants are avatars in the same shared environment and they are looking at the same documents, slides, or even white board.

Gina Schreck, Virtual Events, Social Media for Business, Technology speaker

Second Life for CREATIVE LEARNING

There are many different 3D immersive platforms and not every 3D environment is created equal.  I have found Second Life, Teleplace and VirtualU to be some of the best for business and learning events (many will have other opinions and by no means is this list comprehensive so please chime in with more that we should check out in the comments).  Without going into too much detail, here is why:

SECOND LIFE– Most people have at least heard of this platform, but many have only heard the strange social networking or personal gaming side of the platform. I love the flexibility of Second Life; the ability to change and create your environment to enhance your outcomes.  Avatars are more realistic looking and can be customized until your heart’s content.  This picture here shows an education conference that was built around a desert theme and the creativity was MIND-BLOWING!

Some of the downsides to Second Life are the intense graphic nature of the program (gaming computers are ideal, but most of today’s PCs have great graphics to run the program) and the fact that this “world” is most like our real world, in that anything that you can think of, you can probably find in Second Life somewhere.  I tell people that virtual environments are event and destination driven.  You log on and attend an event or go to a specific location and when you are finished you log off.  If you start wandering around and looking to see what else is in this environment, you will find some strange places and people, just like you would in our real world. (Trust me, I’ve been lost in New York before!)

TELEPLACE– This is a great platform for people new to the 3D immersive idea.  It is great for business meetings and is most like a webinar than any other that I have seen.  You do have simple business avatars (or you can choose a lego-man body with your photo in the square head-see photo of green lego-man here) and you enter the business office or conference center.

Gina Schreck, Virtual Events, Technology speaker, social media for business

TELEPLACE

The choices and customization of avatars is very limited and your environment is less flexible as well, which can be a good thing for some businesses, who are a little tech-skiddish.  With Teleplace, you download a small program (much like GoToMeeting) and within 10 minutes you are ready for your meeting to begin.  You can share video, websites, documents and slides, which makes it great for small group meetings and corporate training classes.

The downside to this tool is they are not set up for event pricing (one event this month, two next month and perhaps none the third month). They require annual licenses and it is a bit pricier than other platforms.

I believe we will continue to see greater adoption of virtual events as travel becomes tougher and budgets become tighter, but also as technology becomes more and more engaging to use.  Dive in, learn about these virtual options, but then attend one for yourself in each environment to see how you could use them.

We host regular webinars and meet weekly in our Second Life campus for business discussions, classes and professional networking.  You can join us for FREE on Thursday nights 6pm (PT)/9pm (ET) by clicking on this link to begin setting up your account-it will place you in our campus when you are finished with the set up. http://bit.ly/6aINpd

Gina Schreck, Virtual Worlds, Technology Speaker, Social Media Second Life, VirtualU

Gina Schreck

 

Gina Schreck

Let me know how we can help you and your organization use today’s technology to build your business or manage your brand.  Contact me on Twitter @GinaSchreck or email me Gina@socialknx.com

The Controversy Around the Digital Divide

Technology Speaker, Social Media Expert, Digital Natives, Digital ImmigrantsI grew up with 3 TV channels (not including the mysterious UHF channels which never had anything of value to a kid), I was the remote control.  I played records not MP3 files, on my Fisher Price record player.  The only phone we had was one with a very long cord that could be pulled into our bedrooms for privacy.  I am a digital immigrant.

I hear many people complain about the labels, “Digital Natives” and “Digital Immigrants.”  I’m assuming what they really don’t agree with is some of the stereotypes that tend to go along with those labels.  Some will say ALL digital natives LOVE technology and ALL digital immigrants RESIST it.  Obviously that is not true, but it doesn’t change the fact that there are those born into a landscape of digital technology and those of us who have had to make that mental shift and MOVE.

I am a native to the United States, but that doesn’t mean that I know everything about our great country.  There are those who have immigrated over from other countries and I am amazed at those who know more about our history and landmarks than I.

Regardless of which side of the digital divide you were born on, it doesn’t change the fact that we must find ways to continue learning to use the tools of today.  My old record player won’t allow me to do all that my iPad will, I watch more videos on YouTube than shows on my television (unless it is in 3D -then our 3D TV delivers the goods!) and my Google Nexus One phone can do just about everything from helping me review restaurants online, making dinner reservations without having to call and be placed on hold. My phone can hail a taxi  or talk me through directions to get there all without having to drag my phone into a room for privacy…wait…PRIVACY…what’s PRIVACY?  Perhaps that’s yet another thing digital immigrants are struggling with understanding!

@GinaSchreck

Why Your Learning Event Needs Twitter

Twitter training, Technology Speaker, Social Media Expert, Gina SchreckMost consider Twitter a marketing tool, or probably more accurate is that most consider Twitter a tool for blathering about what you are watching on television or eating for lunch, but I believe it is one of the best learning and post conference accountability tools I have seen.

I recently spoke at a marketing conference that did not set up a hashtag for the conference.  As soon as the conference was over… it was over.  I did get messages from individuals with questions and some just wanting to share their excitement for implementing new techniques learned at the conference, but what was sad, was the fact that these messages were just between the two of us.  There was not a system set up to allow everyone to share their new knowledge and continue learning from each other.

By contrast there are conferences that create a knowledge sharing community before the event even begins and it helps to connect people, allow them to share information with other attendees during the conference (both physical and remote attendees) and once connected, the community continues to share and learn well beyond the event.

So what is the best way to set up your conference community?

1. Create a short tag (# Hashtag) that you and attendees will use to group all tweets. The shorter the tag, the better since it has to fit within the 140 character tweet.  To check availability of a certain tag go to http://Search.Twitter.com and type in your desired tag to see if anyone is already using it.  Many use initials combined with the year (example #NSA10  or #Devlearn10) but keep it short.

2. Register your hashtag. By registering your tag, people can learn more about your event, the producers of the event and how they can participate. Go to Twubs (https://twubs.com/p/register-hashtag) and fill in as much info as possible.

3. Inform your group of the hashtag and encourage them to use it in every tweet that relates to the event or that they want to share with people from the event.  You may want to create a short video explaining this. You may also want to share tips on using sites like TweetChat to pull only your tagged tweets, or how to set up TweetDeck or Hootsuite with a column for your event tweets.

4. Facilitate the discussion but don’t take over. You can start with some great questions to initiate conversation or post helpful information that attendees will find useful and then let the community continue.

Remember, you are creating a learning and sharing community that should go beyond the one day event.  Here’s to BIG ON-GOING learning!

@GinaSchreck