How NOT to Give a Webinar

I signed up for a music-related webinar a few weeks ago, and after sitting through it — or, trying to … twice — I’ve been stewing about it ever since. It was that poor an experience.

In fact, I have very little nice to say about it, so this is probably not the best way to follow up the post in which I admitted my tendency to be more critical than discerning. I can say that in my ongoing struggle to be less overtly critical I tried to follow the “praise in public, criticize in private” principle; if that had worked, I probably would not have written this post. Still, I will not link to the product or the responsible person, nor will I call them by name.

Part of the reason the whole experience annoyed me so much is that I am — or was — a fan of the person giving the webinar: I appreciated their music, and found their songs to be insightful, profound, and even brilliant. The lesson here is that it takes a lot to turn a fan completely and totally against you, but you, too, can alienate and drive away some of your fans if you follow these aggravating steps:

  1. E-mail your fans and invite them to your webinar — emphasize the interactive nature by calling it a “workshop” — and be sure to offer multiple sessions, and also to employ neat tools like countdown clocks and e-mail reminders about tuning in;
  2. Set it up and make it appear to be a live event — have “live” be part of the web address, start with some banter directed toward people listed in the sidebar, allow attendees to post their own comments, and even answer questions from a few of the listed people;
  3. Have the event freeze partway through;
  4. Don’t respond to e-mails about the event freezing;
  5. When people tune into the next available session, replay the exact same thing even though the URL again says “live” — sit there wearing the same T-shirt, repeat the exact same banter and questions from the exact same people … make it blindingly obvious that not only this session but also the first session they saw was actually a recording;
  6. Have the event freeze at almost the exact same spot; and
  7. Don’t respond to additional e-mails about the event freezing, and especially don’t respond when called out about deceitfully presenting the session as if it was live.

Yes, if you follow those steps, you’re almost guaranteed to alienate someone who was coming to you for useful information and who expected a different experience. (Most importantly, be sure to bill it as a webinar –a web-based seminar — and sometimes as a workshop: don’t you dare bill it as simply a video tutorial, and especially don’t bill it as the long-form advertisement it really is.)

the world wide web
Web-based seminars can be great, but they can also leave people wanting more — especially when they don’t deliver what they promise. (Image: “the world wide web,” by frankieleon, on Flickr under Creative Commons.)

Note that twice I followed the “critique in private” principle by sending e-mails directly to the party involved, to no avail. The silence was stunning.

The sad part is that I’m not sure I can bring myself to listen to that artist’s music again. As much as I appreciated their music, I’m certainly not a fan of the person as an Internet marketer. I found them to be deceitful, uncommunicative, and manipulative.

But, in the “silver lining” department: obviously I did learn from them some things not to do if I ever decide to produce a webinar.

So that’s something, I guess.

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Two Warring Spirits

We have two warring spirits inside us, of criticism and of discernment, and of late I have become acutely aware of their battle within me. Even in posting this, and admitting my own failures, I’m tempted toward criticism rather than discernment — tempted to point out the motes in others’ eyes (maybe even yours) rather than acknowledging the beam in my own.

What is this critical spirit I struggle against?

The critical spirit bites and devours. The critical spirit tears down and does not rebuild. The critical spirit speaks without thinking or reflecting. The critical spirit does not have equal weights and measures; it does not apply the same level of scrutiny to itself as it does to the other.

In contrast, what is the discerning spirit that I try — and all too often fail — to employ?

The discerning spirit wants to protect, not destroy. The discerning spirit warns; it does not push. The discerning spirit can speak hard words, and often does, but it is the scalpel of the surgeon, not the cudgel of the mugger.

Do you struggle with this, at all? Or am I the only one?

Lord, help us — help me — discern more than criticize, build more than demolish, and support more than undermine.

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The ‘Spinach in Their Teeth’ Test

I’m trying to be a better person, but it ain’t easy.

A couple of years ago, I decided that I would try — with all deference to Yoda and his “Do or do not, there is no try” advice, which is patently ridiculous — to implement a leadership principle I learned in the Air Force to my social media and other interactions. Specifically, that I would try to praise in public but correct in private.

In other words, I decided that I would try to avoid coming down hard on people in public — to not flame them in comments on their posts or hold them up personally to ridicule, and instead to try to find good things to say in public (or to say nothing at all, following the advice of Thumper’s mom). That is, if I thought someone needed to be corrected, I would try to do so privately: in person, perhaps, or at least in a private exchange of messages.

Which leads me to what I’ve come to call the “spinach in their teeth” test. When I hear people say things or see them post things on social media that I think warrant some form of correction, I’m trying to treat those people the same way I would if they had spinach in their teeth. I might be tempted to say nothing at all, but if I thought they needed to know I certainly wouldn’t stand up and announce to the world, “Hey, so-and-so has spinach in their teeth!” No, instead I would lean in and say softly, “Hey, looks as if you have some spinach in your teeth.” Correcting in private.

Because being corrected in public can make us pretty uncomfortable:


Being corrected in public can feel rather like being pulled on a scamnum. (Image: “G. Guidi, The correction of dislocations,” from Wellcome Images [UK] on Wikimedia Commons.)

I admit that I fail from time to time — probably more times than not. As I said, this self-improvement thing ain’t easy.

Does it work? Sometimes. I’ve had a few good conversations with people about various issues, though from what I can tell some of them still have bits of metaphorical spinach in their teeth. And that’s life: we can’t expect everyone to heed what we have to say, especially when it’s a corrective. (Lord knows I don’t heed all the corrections that come my way. [Please don’t look too closely at my teeth.])

At the very least, I hope that having these conversations privately, one-on-one, at least comes across better than broadcasting to the world. But maybe I’m just deluding myself.

What do you think? Is that leadership principle even valid anymore, in our social-media-saturated world? Because sometimes it’s hard to bite my tongue, or stop my fingers from typing out responses….

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P.S. In case you’re interested, you can find more of my views on leadership in my novel, Walking on the Sea of Clouds, and in Quality Education. I’d be much obliged if you’d check them out! GR

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I Would Be a Peacemaker

I would be a peacemaker, if I were more at peace with myself.

I would be a peacemaker, if I were not so quick to anger.

I would be a peacemaker, if I were not so slow to listen.

I would be a peacemaker, if I saw you with the eyes of God, loved you with the heart of God, reached out to you with the hands of God.

I would be a peacemaker, if … if … if.

Easter - iPhone Background
(Image by Patrick Hoesly, on Flickr under Creative Commons.)

___
P.S. A possibly related post: Peace on Earth Starts with Good Will Toward Men

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Seeing the Good Before Pronouncing Judgment on the Bad

(Another in the series of quotes to start the week.)

In an essay on Goethe, Scottish philosopher and writer Thomas Carlyle (4 December 1795 – 5 February 1881) wrote,

We are firm believers in the maxim that for all right judgment of any man or thing it is useful, nay, essential, to see his good qualities before pronouncing on his bad.

I like that. Very few people are so reprehensible as to have no good qualities, and when we concentrate so fully on the bad that we ignore the good, it is a very short step indeed to denying the good altogether.

Many of us diehard partisans who snipe incessantly at Presidents or public figures of any kind would do well to take that to heart. That is, if what we are seeking is “right judgment” as opposed to, simply, judgment.

Mahatma Gandhi I look only to the good qualities of men. Not being faultless myself, I won't presume to probe into the faults of others
(Mahatma Gandhi quote image by BK, on Flickr under Creative Commons.)

Something to think about. Have a great week!

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I Tried to Write a Poem to Express My Gratitude

I tried to write a poem to express my gratitude
But I got lost in lines and beats and rhymes and a dismal attitude
So I threw it out and started over, plunged headlong into the verses,
And turned my gaze on all the ways my blessings far outweigh my curses

That’s the secret, that’s the mystery, that’s the never-ending story
Not to pretend that in the end we find misfortune less than glory
But to count the good more thoroughly and embrace the coming days
With confidence and a constant sense of thankfulness and praise

A thankful heart is not only the greatest virtue, but the parent of all other virtues
(Image: “A thankful heart…,” by BK, on Flickr under Creative Commons.)

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours, to one and all.

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Let the Light in You Shine (New Video)

(Another in the series of quotes to start the week.)

Today is Dabo Swinney’s birthday, so I took a look at one of his many inspirational quotes. Coach Swinney is the second-winningest head football coach in Clemson history, trailing only the legendary Frank Howard, but along with success on the field Coach Swinney has emphasized preparing his players for life beyond football.

Today’s video is a little different from others in the Between the Black and the White series, in that I broadcast it live on Facebook in the morning and only later transferred it over to YouTube. As such, it’s a little poorer quality than my previous videos and doesn’t have the title card and credits and whatnot. Anyway, here it is:

Here’s the quote from Coach Swinney, in case you don’t want to watch the video:

Let the light that shines in you be brighter than the light that shines on you.

I think that’s good advice, even for the vast majority of us who don’t have many opportunities to stand in the spotlight — actual or metaphorical. I’m sorry to say that when I’ve had such opportunities I haven’t thought too much about the light I could bring with me, the light I could let shine though me (or out from me). I hope to do better at that, this week and into the future.

And I trust that you will let your light shine bright as well! Have a great week!

___
(Possibly) Related Videos:
Brave Knights and Heroic Courage
We Are All Leaders
Stand Tall in Troubled Times

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I’ve Only Been Saying This for a Freaking Quarter CENTURY

What’s this? Labeling certain students as “gifted” might have a downside?

Through personal conversations with her students, [Stanford education professor Jo] Boaler began to see how being labeled “gifted” or “smart” as children stunted even these bright and successful young people….

It’s hard to feel sorry for Stanford students, many of whom have had amazing opportunities not offered to peers precisely because someone recognized them as smart, but their experiences do call into question the practice of labeling in the first place.

Wow, if only someone had pointed out potential problems with sequestering certain students and labeling them as “gifted” — oh, wait, I did that, in the first edition of Quality Education. Granted, I put the topic in an appendix entitled “The Gifted and Talented Myth,” which in retrospect wasn’t the best place to highlight it, but it was there.

In the new edition, the subject of “gifted and talented” programs takes a more prominent position in four short chapters instead of one lengthy appendix.

Gifted and talented education usually is not limited to letting students with special aptitudes learn at a faster rate. These programs often remove some few students from their original classrooms, place them together with other “gifted” students, and focus more attention on their efforts. The students are told explicitly that they are part of the “gifted and talented” program, and become increasingly aware of differences between themselves and other students. But at what level does a student simply have a better grasp of a subject as opposed to being “gifted”? The differentiation is not always clear.

There’s more, of course, but that’s enough to prove today’s point.

I admit, it’s gratifying to find someone agreeing with something I said a quarter century ago. But it’s also incredibly frustrating, and rather makes me feel like:

Picard facepalm

What a way to start the week.

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P.S. If you want a FREE copy of the introduction to Quality Education, you can get one by signing up for my newsletter (you get two other free gifts, too). I’d also be pleased if you would pick up a copy from Amazon.

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Tech in Schools: Not a Cure-All

This morning the Mind/Shift website said, “It’s Time For A Deeper Conversation About How Schools Use Technology.”

… recent studies about the effect of technology on achievement have shown uninspiring results, reinvigorating the conversation about how technology is used in classrooms. Educators who have been active in this space for many years have long known that technology can be used to connect students to the broader world, give them tools to create new and interesting learning artifacts, and open up a world of digital resources. But, technology can also be used to replicate the activities and tests that have always been used in the classroom. The tension between what technology could do and what it is often used for in classrooms is at the heart of a debate over whether all the money pumped into technology is worth it.

It’s too bad no one has ever urged caution when it comes to the proliferation of technology in schools, and that it might not be as effective as people think. Oh, wait, someone did:

Education should not make the same mistake a number of industries made in the late 1980s: they turned to expensive and complex machinery to save them, only to find that the devices were not the saviors they thought.

Who said that? I did, back in the early 1990s.

Technology versus Humanity
(Image: “Technology versus Humanity,” by Gerd Leonhard, on Flickr under Creative Commons.)

Technology is useful, and important because it’s so ubiquitous in our modern world, but no matter how fancy it gets it’s still just an expensive tool. And far more important than the technical tools are the people — i.e., the teachers — who use them.

In case anyone is interested, I cover this in a bit more depth — as well as many other topics — in Quality Education.

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Death Will Kill Millions (But You Already Knew That)

A cheery thought for All Hallows Eve, eh?

Actually, the headline was my reaction to seeing the title of this New Scientist article, “Climate change will kill millions but you knew that already”

“This is the major health threat in the 21st century around the world, and there’s an urgent need for us to address it,” says Hugh Montgomery of University College London, co-chair of the consortium that produced the report, called The Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change.

But if we work harder to switch to clean energy sources, we’ll likely see huge health improvements, the report says.


(Image: “Death,” by Robert, from Flickr on Wikimedia Commons.)

The whole thing sounds like idealistic wishful thinking that imagines the status quo as something that has always been in place and that should continue to operate indefinitely, when the historical truth is that change — beneficial as well as detrimental — is the way of things. The natural systems in which we live are dynamic, not static, and the pressure we apply to keep one part steady is likely to produce other changes we have not anticipated. And Death waits for us all.

So the greater question, it seems to me is: what are we doing with our lives?

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