Creating Sustainable Marketing Practices

In late October we started looking at how we create content for social media. Making a list of all the places we were posting was a wake up call. It was taking a huge amount of effort, and the conversation was scattered all over the place.

As our product offers have grown we thought it would be easier to break off our newest work and put it on a separate website. I post my artwork on my own blog.

The only way I can keep up with it is if nothing happens. No unexpected things that need attention. Those weeks are rare. So I end up working way too many hours trying to keep up.

What sucks up the time?

I need to redesign the way I relate to social media. While it might be ‘better’ to have separate parts of the business with it’s own special messages and branding, I am clear I can’t keep that up. We are too small a company to sustain it.

I enjoy searching out resources and pointing them out to my networks. It can be a slippery slope. I can justify aimless internet wandering as searching for content.

I think of myself as an artist, but in reality I spend most of my time writing. Is there a way I can get more balance between the visual and verbal?

Consolidating and Restructuring

I’m restructuring how our social media and communication happens. I’ve merged newsletter lists, so I am sending out one every two weeks to everybody. We are redesigning our webpages and consolidating our blogs.

We’re deep in the design cave, so you won’t see as many posts as usual.

I’ve found myself trying to follow advice of social media and marketing experts. Only thing is when I do there is no time to do all the other things I need to do to keep the whole business operating. I’m rethinking what sustainable practices look like for MY business. Looking at the metrics. What actually drives revenue? And what are things that might feel good, but don’t help move the business forward?

Hope we’ll uncover answers in the coming weeks……

Creating content for social media

Social media is like a nest of hungry birds that need to be fed constantly

It’s been a while since I posted on this blog. I was feeling badly about it, so I started to look deeper at why it was happening. It’s certainly not for lack of things to talk about. We have new products, improvements, and stories to tell.

I started to make a list of all the places I was producing or finding content for.

  1. The VisualsSpeak biweekly newsletter
  2. The Exploring New Options newsletter
  3. The VizPeeps Community newsletter
  4. The VisualsSpeak blog
  5. The Exploring New Options blog
  6. My Christine Martell blog
  7. The VizPeeps community blog
  8. my Facebook page
  9. The VisualsSpeak Facebook page
  10. my twitter 
  11. VisualsSpeak twitter
  12. Our print gallery
  13. Our Zazzle gallery
  14. Google Plus
  15. my Linked in page
  16. iPad for Art page
  17. Creative Facilitation and Coaching page
  18. Unstick your Stories Using Visuals page

This does not include the work I create for our products, classes, workshops, and presentations.

What am I thinking?

I like social media. I enjoy connecting with people all over the world. I love to spread the word about what my fabulous customers and colleagues are doing. I know it’s a way to reach out and market my products and services.

It’s also incredibly time consuming. While I can produce images pretty quickly, words come much slower. I can almost keep up if nothing out of the ordinary happens and I work seven days a week. Of course things out of the ordinary happen all the time, and I get really grumpy when I try to work that much.

I am not superwoman

Now I have to stop trying to be. I’ve got to find a way to consolidate and simplify. While it’s nice to have topics on separate blogs and in different newsletters, I’m looking for a way to integrate them. I don’t know how yet. I just know I need to find a new way.

How do you manage all your social media channels?

I’m using tools to help me like Hootsuite, Diigo, and Timely. It feels like I need to rethink the whole system, to look at a system where I can be consistent that is sustainable without spending so much time.

Have any suggestions? How do you think about managing social media on top of running your business?

Learning Styles- Fact or Fiction?

NPR had a segment recently, Think You’re An Auditory Or Visual Learner? Scientists Say It’s Unlikely

The point is that the idea of learning styles does not hold up in scientific studies. In so far as individual learners having a style that serves them best, or that they need in order to learn. What does hold up, is delivering learning in a variety of ways.

I’m torn when I read things like this. Yes, I can learn from traditional lectures. In order to do so, I have to write things down. I may never look at it again, but it greatly increases my ability to remember it. That sure feels like I have a need to make things visual. So I’d need to see more about what they were looking at in the studies before I completely abandon the idea of learning styles.

As a learning designer, I absolutely think all learning should include as much delivery and engagement variety as possible. Even though I create visually based tools, the engagement also uses verbal and kinesthetic elements. The strength does not merely rest in the visual, but in the flexing between the various modalities.

Swimming with Great White Sharks

Mmmm, good

I just got back from a trip to the East Coast to visit with some friends. I spent a few days on Cape Cod and on one of these days I went to Lighthouse Beach in Chatham. This area is getting a reputation for having a group of Great White Sharks returning each year. They have gotten so numerous that town officials have closed down a number of beaches to swimmers.

The reason the sharks have been hanging out here is that about 10-15 years ago a colony of Gray seals established themselves on Monomoy Island, which is adjacent to Chatham. The number of seals has grown and is now in the hundreds. In the last 10 years, juvenile Great Whites started showing up to enjoy the, err, menu. By the way, a juvenile white is in the range of 8-10 feet. Now, sharks are being spotted that are around 14 feet. Duh, duh…Duh, duh…Duh duh… Duh duh Duh duh Duh duh Duh duh…Duh Duh DUH!

From a shark’s perspective with all these seals swimming around, can you say yummy?

Stupid is as stupid does

Stories about the Great Whites are being reported in the papers, on TV, YouTube and are the talk of the town. There are signs on the beaches as well as lifeguards flying do not swim flags. At Lighthouse Beach, there is also a patrol boat cruising up and down the beach trying to spot any sharks entering Pleasant Bay, so that the setting for Jaws 5 doesn’t grace these pristine and money-spending touristy waters.

Having said this, I can’t understand what a young couple were thinking when they decided to go for a dip. There were a few other people in the water just past their ankles, but these two decided being in the water over their heads and about 30 feet off the beach was a prudent thing to do. And if you are 30 feet from shore when a big shark shows up, you might as well be a mile from the beach for all the good it will do you. Did I mention that there were seals continually swimming by heading into the bay forming a moving buffet line?

I know what you’re thinking

You’re thinking this is a story about a shark attack. Maybe it is, but you’ll have to keep reading to find out. You also might be thinking that if it is about a shark attack, you’ll be too horrified to read further, but you’ll do it anyway. Like when there is a car accident on the highway and everyone slows down not wanting to see but hoping they do. And you say to yourself that when you get to the scene you won’t look but drive faster to help get traffic moving again; but you still drive slowly anyhow.

Help me!

Culling the herd

To be honest, there was a part of me that hoped a shark would show up and entertain the thought of having these two for an afternoon snack. I mean what kind of idiots go swimming in an area where sharks are known to be? And not just any sharks but Great Whites, the most terrifying predators in the sea. Duh, duh…Duh, duh…

I hung out watching the two swimmers for a while waiting to see if they would be on the menu. I mean wouldn’t it be better if they never had a chance to reproduce? It’s not like we need more stupid in the human gene pool. And don’t pretend like these thoughts would never have gone through your head. Remember the traffic accident? :>)

Stupid is as I do, done, did

I have to admit that I was feeling a bit irritated with these two knuckleheads. I also knew that there was a story in the experience, but I couldn’t figure out what it had to do with my business or myself. But then it dawned on me that I’ve had more than just a few getting in the water with White Shark experiences in my life.

There was that time in Bangkok when I interrupted the nice organized crime fellow as he was trying to con the young European couple. The reason I knew it was a con was because I had almost fallen for it a few weeks before.

The ‘salesman’ warned me several times to mind my own business. I persisted. He then made slashing movements across his throat and told me I was dead. I still persisted. Even when he got right in my face and I pushed him so he landed on his derriere and his three, un-before noticed, ‘colleagues’ jumped off the bench and headed my way, I still didn’t run for my life. OK, so I made my way back to the hotel in a roundabout fashion and hid in my room until it was time to catch my flight.

Let’s not even talk about all the dumb things I did in my teenage years. How much time do you have? I suppose in all the hard earned wisdom I have gained over the years, the probability is still quite high that I’ll do some more knucklehead things. Oh, the humanity.

Sorry I couldn’t report on anyone getting chewed on. But then again, I left before the two swimmers got out of the water…
Duh, duh…Duh, duh…Duh duh… Duh duh Duh duh Duh duh Duh duh …Duh Duh DUH!

When have you gone swimming with the sharks?

So, fess up. What are those stories from your life when you have suffered from knucklehead-itis?


Instructional Design Guru for iphone

Connie Malamed has released a new reference and performance support app for instructional designers. It defines 450 terms all related to developing learning. Here’s what Instructional Design Guru looks like:

I don’t know about you, but I’m always rustling through my bookshelves trying to remember which book explained a term or theory. Now it’s at my fingertips. At $4.99, it costs quite a bit less than one of those books.

Instructional Design Guru is available on the ITunes app store.

Marketing Intentions versus Customer Realities


I ‘ve had great plans of all the inspiring blog posts I would write. Interviews with people who are using visual tools to gain insight. Posts where I would share what I know about using visuals so you can do it too. I would plant flowers for all of you. They would bloom profusely and be weed free.


One set of stories: I now have four sites that need content. I have an old computer which does not run some of the software I need for video and editing. Editing is way more time consuming that I anticipated. I just can’t write as fast as I need to for all of this. We are working with technology. It fails. On a regular basis beyond my control.

Another set of stories: Customers need a lot of support when they are learning a new set of tools and processes. This is one of the most important things to me. It takes time.  I’ve been invited to a couple of weddings. Being present for those I love is extremely important to me.


I can set an ideal. Then life happens.

The choices I make in those moments make all the difference. It’s never my intention to not communicate regularly. When it comes to writing regular blog posts or keeping social media updated, those are the things that I often choose to let slide. Because my customers, friends, colleagues are really important to me, and I don’t want to let them slide.

Sometimes I forget. I get consumed with trying to share the idea that visuals can change how you see the world.

How do you do it?

There are way too many things to do, life is so delicious.  What do you let slide? What do you protect?

How do you decide where to put your focus?


Meeting online contacts face to face

I attended a conference last weekend where there were a number of people who I know online. I’ve been on various private forums with them. We are connected on Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin. I get updates about slices of their lives on a regular basis. I feel like I know them.

What I learned from being face to face

There is another level of connection that only comes from being together. At least for me. It’s not that I don’t feel connection to those I only know online, I do, but there is nothing like standing together in the same space.

I think it’s about warmth. And the little details you pick up about who they are that they’d never think of mentioning online. I also realized these people are not just smart, they are brilliant in what they do.

Yolanda Facio

This is the Sugar Queen. You can totally transform her tough girl exterior by feeding her sugar. It’s like a super softening agent.

After eating this giant piece of cake, she wanted to go to Voodoo Doughnut. It was the one place she HAD to go in Portland. But really, she had a mission. She wanted a picture of  a Voodoo Doughnut to illustrate a point about something on her blog.

She’s been operating bricks and mortar small business for years. She sees all the small details in everything, and reorganizes them almost instantly. Then she leaps over to how it can become a marketing lesson that can be applied widely. Check out her Red.Hot.Momentum site

No kidding. Watching her do this while just walking through life was pretty amazing. She embodies her brand.

Cate Brubaker

I know Cate from several places, and she has been a VisualsSpeak customer for years. We even taught an online class together. I met her briefly at a coffee shop a couple of months ago. So it was great to see her for a couple of days.

First she’s adorable. She has a pixie like energy about her. But don’t let that fool you, this is one smart woman. After you know her for a while she might causally mention something about her dissertation. So, yes, she is Dr. Cate.

She really knows her stuff about helping people navigate cross-cultural transitions. Get her talking about it, and she opens the door onto a world that deals in story and identity, and how travel changes us. But only if we have a way to make sense of it, and to integrate it in a constructive manner. Otherwise, it can just reinforce stereotypes, and shift blame to the other.

She runs online classes, does consulting, and coaching from her online home, Small Planet Studio.

Jenn Waak

Jenn is another long time VisualsSpeak customer, who I had not met face to face. She has an awesome newsletter where she finds interesting articles related to heath. Sometimes it’s fitness, sometimes food, but it’s always helpful and not what you see everywhere else.

Jenn has a bouncy kind of fun energy, which is a good thing since her thing is to get us up and moving. She especially wants to inspire those of us she calls Keyboard Athletes. As one who spends way too much time in front of the computer, I have found her simple exercises to be very helpful.

Tzaddi Gordon

I’ve met Tzaddi before, and I always enjoy the snatches of time I grab with her when she comes to Portland. She’s a fabulous web designer, but one who does the design and the development. One of the things I’ve come to really appreciate about her is she sees good design and interesting details all around her. I love walking around with her, not so much shopping, but discovering things to see.

Tzaddi develops WordPress sites for people who are ready for a custom design at Thrivewire. She has a passion for working with entrepreneurs, but recognizes that people who are just starting out need good design too, so she developed Startup Superhero to provide a simpler more affordable option.

Although not enough, I loved spending time with each of you

This just reminded me once again, that even when it feels like I am connected through social media and the web, it doesn’t replace face to face. Each time I have the opportunity to see someone, I learn new things about them, see them more fully, and appreciate them ever more.




Sharing your gift

I joined five hundred enthusiastic world changing types at the World Domination Summitt this weekend. It was a fabulous conference and you’ll be seeing pieces of what I learned in the coming months as it seeps into my being. There was so much it will take a while to digest.

Mondo Beyondo

Andrea Scher and Jen Lemen

On the morning of the second day there was a session led by Andrea Scher and Jen Lemen. They have created a thing, Mondo Beyondo, that encourages people to share dreams and move them into action. It started as a blog and moved into an online course, now its becoming a movement of sorts.

One of the exercises they did was to ask us to share a peak moment with another person in the room. That person reflected back the values they heard in our story. It was simple and quick, we each had 2 minutes to do this.

Write it on your body

We were invited to find a word to describe, What makes You Feel Alive? and  write it somewhere on our bodies with a Sharpie marker. Quickly. To declare to the world or to put a reminder somewhere for ourselves. Continue reading “Sharing your gift”

Review of Living the Good Life

I find Charlie Gilkey to be a fascinating person. In a Barbara Walters kind of fascinating. Why? Because he’s really different than many people who I have met in the creative realm. He brings another approach, another beingness that offers me another angle on the world. He’s a multicultural, former military, academic, philosopher, business coach, creative. And that only begins to categorize him, and not very well.

The first thing that got my attention was his suggestion that I consider my peak creative time and guard it for my own self. At the time, I was agreeing to meetings during my peak times and wondering why I wasn’t getting as much as I wanted done.

Email Triage

When I was struggling with managing my email, I found Charlie’s email triage product to be very helpful. Simple, yet effective. So I began to pay more attention. Reading his blog and newsletter, watching videos. Noticed the changes in my colleagues who hired him as a coach.

Living the Good Life

Charlie has a new product, Living the Good Life. It’s a compilation of some of the posts from his blog, Productive Flourishing. It comes with a set of audio that alternates between Charlie talking about why he wrote each piece and then reading each post. So you have a camera like perspective, zooming in and out between a thought piece and the behind the piece look. It’s deeply reflective, analyzing the world and his perspective on it. Yet, it never becomes preachy or prescriptive.

Instead there are all sorts of productivity ideas sprinkled through out. Not tips so much, but examples of how these things are put into practice. Questions, to help you think through how to apply the ideas to your life. Sometimes it’s something I can apply right away, other times, the concepts  sink in slowly.

Designed for the format

Something I particularity appreciate is even though this is a product that emerged from blog content, it’s not just a quick copy and paste into a Word document. The e-book is well designed with professional illustration and layout (and it isn’t portrait so it fits well on screen.) It has been edited. So have the audios. No asking people to mute their lines or background noise that you hear in so much repurposed content. Everything is pleasant and well done.

Who might like this?

Anyone who is fascinated by how other people tick. Anyone interested in productivity, especially in the intersection with creativity. Fans of Charlie and Productive Flourishing blog. People who are thinking about creating repurposed content from their blog. People who are thinking about making a digital product and want to see a well done example. People who learn from having people show them how they put things into practice. Anyone looking to hire Charlie or attend one of his programs and want to get to know the type of person he is.

It’s affordable at $28 and will have bonus extras thrown in. Just because that’s the way he is.

I like it. The team at Productive Flourishing did a great job putting this together.

(Yes I am an affiliate, but only because I get value from his products.)

Gary Woodill on The Mobile Learning Edge

Christine recently had the opportunity to sit down and talk with Gary Woodill about his new book, The Mobile Learning Edge: Tools and Technologies for Developing Your Teams.

[mejsaudio src=”″]

Some of the topics discussed:

  • Mobile is about being nomads
  • It’s not about devices, it’s the ability to move around and learn at the same time
  • Classroom learning was designed in the 1700’s
  • Mobile learning as a liberation technology
  • Embodied learning
  • Role of metaphors in learning
  • Disturbing ways of thinking
  • If mobile is about using devices to solve problems then there are options
  • Things will be changing quickly over the next five years
  • Hide and seek for adults
  • Technology is ever changing and has a life cycle
  • Why a book?
  • Keeping resources current
  • Creating an introduction to the field of mobile learning
  • Teaching and learning is bi-directional

You can learn more about Gary, the book and resources on The Mobile Learning Edge. There is also a review of the book from earlier this month.

Shop Your Wardrobe

Jill Chivers

Jill Chivers is a woman with a mission. A self confessed shopaholic, she just completed a year without clothes shopping. Now she’s determined to help others whose shopping has gotten out of hand through her Shop Your Wardrobe Program.

I’ve been in her program for the past three months, and learning all sorts of unexpected things.

She who hates shopping?

What am I doing in a program for shopaholics when I can’t stand shopping? It’s been one of those things I started for one reason, only to discover a whole other side to the process.

Jill is a former corporate trainer. I met her online and we had some email exchanges about visual tools that are available in Australia. I liked her, and after hearing some of her audio, fell in love with her Aussie accent. Honestly I signed up for her course so I could see how she structured the course. It was curious about the instructional design and delivery models.

Stories sucked me in

Jill is a wonderful storyteller. The course emails are always entertaining, and contain direct and indirect lessons. She explores all sides of the issue she is focusing on. I started noticing I would think a lot about them. She gives suggestions for simple action steps, with worksheets and other things to help.

A simple practice built into the course is spending 10 minutes a week sorting something in your wardrobe. I noticed I was avoiding it. But I kept reading and noticing how often I could relate, even if my action was the opposite. She was talking about the compulsion to shop, I had the repulsion to shop. But opposite sides of the same coin share a lot of things.

Food, clothes, books, e-courses– it’s all compulsion

I started noticing how I shop for food. There is always some great new recipe to try. One new special ingredient or spice. Why was I always going to the store when I have cabinets and a freezer full of food?

Why was I buying more books when I have a huge pile unread? Same with more courses, downloading e-books, looking for new iphone apps, or buying fonts.

Reading Jill’s stories, I started to recognize more and more ways I could relate. I didn’t have one bulging closet full of clothes. I just spread the behavior over all sorts of different things. So I could justify it. I wasn’t that bad. Ha!

Starting to see opportunities for improvement

Slowly, I actually started to tackle small areas for ten minute sorting. I started with spices. Then another kitchen shelf. I’m avoiding books, but know I need to get there. I even did a drawer of clothes.

I’m starting to see how my attachment to things is based on associated emotions. I have clothes that no doubt look awful on me, but I keep them and wear them because of how they feel or what they remind me of.

Jill’s course is teaching me there are other ways—  like what works as a wardrobe. What looks good on my current body type. What fits properly. How to think strategically about building a wardrobe that works for me. I’m starting to feel hopeful that I won’t have to dread every clothes shopping trip.

Looking forward to learning more

The course doesn’t take a lot of time. It’s always interesting to read the lessons. And you might be surprised as I have been to find all sorts of ways it helps. Check Shop Your Wardrobe out if it peaks your interest, it’s affordable and very well designed. Yes, I am also seeing some great instructional design and delivery models!

Great job Jill.

Gathering the core tribe

painting of group of people gathering around core

A few months ago one of my core customers/supporters/coaches/friends asked what might seem to be a simple question:

Who are the people who care if your business (VisualsSpeak) lives or dies?

It was in the context of brainstorming ways to gather a brain trust of people to help me get beyond my own limitations and blind spots. I’m at a point where the business needs to move beyond my personal network.

This question evoked thinking about who cares not just about me, but who cares about the concepts and ideas of using visual tools to move beyond where you are now? Who can connect the ideas to the larger world?

Layers of connection

I had a developer group when I was designing the original visual tools. They were instrumental in helping me see what I was creating from their content specialties perspectives. As the business has developed,  layers of people have connected to it. I have the core team at the center working on the operations of the business. There is a group writing content, customers using the tools, people who read the newsletter, followers on Facebook and Twitter, connections on Linkedin.

Looking for the wise ones to gather

I feel blessed to have amazing people in my network. When they gather there is an energy and excitement that naturally erupts, almost an instant synergy. This painting is an affirmation for assembling a core group to bring their visions and connections together to help me see how to reach out to help more people. Or perhaps to find a new form to carry my gifts into the world?

Love Note to Sun Gold Farm

Last CSA share of season

Today was the final pickup of my 2010 CSA share from Sun Gold Farm. I’m sad. I enjoyed getting my bag of veggies each week. It inspired me to eat healthier, cook more creatively, and eat a wider range of vegetables. So here are some of the reasons I love Sun Gold.

Things I love about Sun Gold Farm

  • Family owned and operated for several generations
  • Commitment to not using pesticides
  • The vegetables are pretty clean when we pick them up
  • Our shares are in reusable bags, durable enough to last
  • When some veggies are in plastic bags, they are the degradable kind
  • We get enough but not too much of any one thing (Ok, it was a lot of cabbage, but luckily it keeps)
  • A range of varieties of things like tomatoes, beans, and squash
  • Really yummy candy sweet onion most weeks
  • Edible flowers and plants in the share occasionally
  • The weekly newsletter
  • The stories about the history of the farm in the newsletter
  • The stories about what is going on at the farm in the newsletter and on Facebook
  • An idea of what might be in the share by email, but it’s still a surprise to see what we actually get
  • Lots of pickup locations
  • Friendly volunteers to help at pickup
  • Option to donate share if you can’t pick it up
  • Feeling a part of local farming without having to do the really hard physical work
  • Invite to visit the farm, even though I couldn’t make it this year
  • Option to order a late share for Thanksgiving
  • Being introduced to other farmers and ranchers products who are philosophically aligned
  • Getting to keep a Sun Gold bag at the end of the season

Each individual thing seems small, but it’s the attention to all the little details that make me feel good about being a part of what Sun Gold is doing. I know someone cares. Actually a whole family of people care, and work really hard to provide wonderful quality food for my family. It’s all the little touch points that add up to my feeling happy to support the farm lifestyle and be a little tiny contributor to the success.

I’m sure there are things I have forgotten, but I just wanted to say thank you and say how much I have loved supporting the farm. Can’t wait until next year!

Feeding a picky cat

Do your pets reflect you?

In my house, the girl cats are chunky and the boy is not. Very much like me and my husband. Several months ago, we decided the cats were going on a diet, so we switched to grain-free food. We talked to the vet about it, it wasn’t random. We read and talked with other cat owners, and tried to do the responsible thing. The girls are still chunky. Our boy got sick.

Cats have to eat

It’s hard to tell who is eating or doing anything else when you have three. Apparently our male didn’t like the new food and stopped eating regularly. When we brought him to the vet for upchucking, we discovered he lost weight too fast. In cats, their bodies respond by dumping fat into their blood. Too much fat clogs their liver, and they get fatty liver disease. Pretty serious.

Sick cats get really picky

It’s been months of trying to entice the cat to eat. We’ve tried a huge range of wet and dry food. We’ve tried varying temperatures. Varying depth dishes. Different material dishes. Guarding the cat from the others while he eats. Just when we think we found something he likes, he changes his mind.

The girls are loving it. They get all the foods he rejects. Any weight they had lost is all gained back.

I feel like a bad cat Mom.

Even though I know I’m not. My cats are quite spoiled and rule the roost. I feel bad for this sweet little cat who is now so thin. He’s also become even more skiddish than he was before.

New cat feeding resource

Lisa Hoberg DVM from Holistic Housecall Vetinary Service posted a great resource from one her friends on her Facebook page. It a webpage or 18 page pdf, Feeding Your Cat: Know the Basics of Feline Nutrition by Lisa Pierson DVM. I thought I knew a lot, but I learned a lot more reading this. It includes a lot of tips for feeding picky eaters.

We shall see. Anyone discovered any other resources, tips or tricks for feeding felines?

I like to hear your comments and stay in touch.

I’m working on a new series of tools for personal and professional development. To be the first to know about them and introductory specials, sign up to be on the Early Explorer list.

Name * | Email *

How Conferences Alienate Presenters

Presentation in progressIn both my current work and in several previous lives, attending conferences is a required activity. And the conferences themselves, usually, are not too bad. You can network with other attendees, hear from some interesting speakers, and check out exhibitors. Sure, they’re often overpriced, and the travel can sometimes be challenging (the Orlando convention center? Again? Really?), but generally worth it.

The relationship between conference organizers and the attendees is nothing, though, compared to what happens between organizers and the presenters. And that’s where the wheels can sometimes come off the wagon.

(As a brief aside, I’ll note that I’ve spent much of the last decade doing dozens of such presentations a year, and that several of my community commitments involved putting on conferences. So I can speak with some expertise, being aggravated by the other group on several occasions!)

So, as a guide for the evil conference organizer, here are six ways to annoy presenters most easily:

Make the application long and tedious. Be sure to ask on the form for at least a half-dozen references, especially if I’ve presented at this conference in the past (where you ostensibly have evaluation data on file). Also, whatever the clever theme your group came up with, be sure to require me to make it the center of my presentation. So if your theme is “It’s Magic!”, I definitely want to be required to call my session “The Magic of Team-Building” or “Pulling a Leadership Development Rabbit Out of the Hat!” Genius.

Don’t make the schedule and logistic information available prior to application submission. I enjoy just guessing about whether sessions will be 45 minutes or 90 minutes each, and whether the rooms will have people at rounds (where they can interact easily) or in rows (where they can’t). Also, because my schedule is wide open for the next year, I don’t need any detail about when presenters will be notified of acceptance, or when I’d need to have handouts prepared.

Don’t communicate throughout the process until things are due. Really, why would I need to hear from you until you need something from me? I’m not really your partner in putting on a great event–really, just a cog in the conference machine. I find that my simmering resentment at my shoddy treatment helps my session be that much more evocative.

Charge me full registration fees for the event. One of my favorites. I’m going to be providing content that you are getting revenue for. So by all means, extract that full-fare from me, too. You mean I get to PAY $995 for the privilege of speaking? Sign me up.

Ask for my A/V needs without a way to provide for them. Okay, you asked for my A/V needs, and I admit, I was irresponsible. I requested both an LCD projector/screen AND a flipchart. What can I say? I’m crazy. Certifiable. How could I expect you’d be able to provide these things after getting the information several months in advance?

Leave me adrift at the event. At some conferences, this is a mixed blessing. But nothing says “care and feeding of presenters” like walking in and getting nothing but blank stares from staff/volunteers when you ask about speaker check-in, or where your room is. Of course, I have occasionally “checked in” and gotten WRONG information about those things. So it’s hard to know which is preferable.

*deep breaths*. Okay, that was cathartic. And yet maddening at the same time. Because just as that was spewing out, the other side of me was protesting. “Wait!” I said to myself. “What about how presenters alienate conferences!?”

That, self, is a topic for another post. First, some yoga or meditation. I need to calm down…

What’s our role in preventing bullying?

Ellen DeGeneres made a video about the most recent rash of bullying that has resulted in the death of gay teens. It’s certainly not the first time I’ve thought about it, since I have a nephew I worry about regularly.

I don’t have kids. I don’t have much contact with kids.  I don’t think that gets me off the hook, but I wonder what I can do. If I had teens, I imagine I would talk with them to them about diversity, acceptance, and standing up to intolerance. But I’m not sure that would be enough. Group think and peer pressure can create frightening dynamics that are difficult enough for adults to counteract, and can be particularly hard to stop as a teen.

Supporting kids at risk

There are some things I know I can do. When I see a kid that is different, I can make an effort to talk with them, and counter some of the messages they are hearing. I absolutely talk about the realities of being different with the kids in my life, and proactively ask them about teasing, bullying and hate crimes they might be exposed to.  I want them to know they can talk to me about anything they are experiencing, and that I am willing to be an advocate. Of course, that doesn’t mean they can get to me when they need help, as I live across the country from the majority of my family.

The VisualsSpeak tools I’ve designed are used with teens by some of our customers. Is that enough? I’ve never felt competent working with kids, I’m certainly not naturally good at it. But I bet there is someone who is good at working with preventing bullying. Perhaps someone who could help us develop a specialized tool?

What else can be done?

Like so many other important aspects in life, all of this feels like a tiny drop in an ocean of problem. Part of me knows that each of us has an opportunity to make a difference, but it’s most effective when aligned with our individual skills and strengths. I wake up every day and work to create tools to help people connect deeper, reach across differences, and understand each other better. It just doesn’t feel like enough in the face of the giant problems in the world.

Here are some suggestions from around the web:

The Human Rights Campaign is asking people to send messages to Ask Secretary of Education Arne Duncan: Include gender identity and sexual orientation in anti-bullying programs.

As always, Patti Digh is speaking out, and has a list of 12 action steps we can all take to move beyond just clicking a like button and doing something more.

Teens Health has resources and information on bullying.

What do you do?