My new favorite acronym

Hello! And welcome to Friday.

What. A. Week.

Sizzler was awesome. Our clients are smart and funny and innovative and hardworking and a great bunch of folks to spend time with.  Great presentations. Delicious food. Friendly sea creatures. Good times all around. I even learned a new acronym from John Hill at LinkedIn: COPE (create once, publish everywhere).

Here’s a cute little fella that I met at the Kansas City Aquarium on Tuesday night.

By far one of the best things about Sizzler is hearing about all the nifty little tricks that you can do with the iModules tools. It was like Good Idea Day on steroids. Erin Walsh from the iModules design team did a standing room only presentation about re-purposing the news module as an image rotator. Clients were raving about it afterwards. I highly recommend that you check out her news module presentation. You can also view a demo of some innovative ways to use the news module. This will help you COPE in a big way — and look good doing it too!

What about you? What little tidbits and tricks did you learn about at Sizzler? Post your favorite COPE trick in the comments section below.

I’m heading up to the high peaks in the Adirondack mountains tomorrow for a week of tree hugging and mountain hiking.

I’m going to attempt a media vacation (no internet, no e-mail, no television) this week. I’ll be back for Good Idea Day in two weeks.

Peace out. Stay out of trouble while I’m gone.

Strategy! It’s awesome!

Two more days until the Sizzler conference! I’m really looking forward to experiencing the conference as an iModules staffer. And yes, I’ll admit that checking to the new SEA LIFE Kansas City Aquarium on Tuesday night sounds pretty darn awesome too. Fish are great, aren’t they? So Zen.

I’m working on the final touches for my Strategic Planning 101 presentation and have been thinking about it almost non-stop for the past 5 days. The word STRATEGY is permanently burned into my brain.

So can you guess the theme Good Idea Day today? Hmmm….

STRATEGY!

I love strategic planning. I really do. It’s empowering to develop an action plan for your web site.  And yes, you did read that right. A PLAN FOR YOUR WEB SITE. It can be done. Not only can you craft a really useful plan for your site, you can follow it through successfully. Having a 12 month plan for your site gives you a road map with very specific goals and priorities to focus on. A year from now you can look back and track what worked, what didn’t, and what you want to build on. It’s the difference between building a house with a blueprint, or just piling a bunch of bricks and lumber on the ground and hoping you’ll figure it out along the way.

And it can also be a lot of fun to do, especially when you get the right team of people working on it. It involves charts, philosophy, debate, discussion, and of course, snacks. ‘Cause let’s face it, you can’t get much accomplished without snacks. And coffee. Nothing entices a group of people into a conference room like a big bag of M&Ms and a carafe of coffee. Just drop the M&Ms like a breadcrumb trail into the conference room and bam! you’ve got yourself a dedicated committee.

But once you have your team happily munching on chocolate and slurping coffee, you have to give them something to do. And that’s where the strategic planning thing comes in. The essence of the model is asking five basic questions:

  1. Where are we now?
  2. Where do we want to be?
  3. How will we get there?
  4. What must we do?
  5. How are we doing?

If you’re coming to Sizzler this year, I’ll be diving deep into the details of how to craft a customized strategic plan for your site in my Strategic Planning 101 presentation on Monday afternoon and Wednesday morning. I can also be found hanging out at the Idea Lounge talking about project management. So come on by for a chat.

Can’t make it Sizzler? Awww… that’s sad.  But don’t worry, my presentation and many other fantastic sessions will be posted on the iModules client community later this summer. Or feel free to drop me a line and I’d be happy to work with you to create a fabulous strategic plan just for you.

Happy Friday!

Singing monkeys are not a good idea

Goodbye to Coco the Monkey

My daughter (age 1 as of tomorrow) has a singing monkey doll which came to us as part of a baby play yard which was gifted to us when she was born. She outgrew the play yard many months ago, but she still loves the monkey. My older daughter (age 2) named the monkey Coco. It lights up, it giggles, it plays a persistent little earworm that makes me want to claw my eyes out. 

I can’t get the drippy Coco song out of my head today – so I’m a little grumpy. Tomorrow we will celebrate my sweet little one’s birthday and give her all sorts of interesting battery-free toys. Coco will be quietly shoved into a far off corner of the toybox where it will hopefully be forgotten — at which point I will yank out the batteries and burn that stupid monkey doll into a pile of ashes and dance around with glee. Or maybe I will give it to Goodwill. Most likely, I will do the latter while I enjoy daydreaming about setting fire to Coco.  I’m sorry if that’s a shock to you, but I really hate that monkey.

And now back to your regularly scheduled Good Idea Day!

Let’s just put that little monkey episode behind us and shift gears, shall we? Following up on my interview with Brendon last week, I want to tell you about a great  training session that’s coming up on Thursday, July 12: Building Complex Events: Time-Saving Tips. This one hour training session will look at utilizing time saving techniques like reusing fields to collect data and role-basing attendee information. It’s chock full of good ideas for building events, complex or otherwise. As you gear up for the fall events season, this is a great way to learn some new tricks and brush up on your skills.

Happy Friday!

Events, pigeons, and pie (not necessarily in that order)

In honor of Good Idea day, I asked my colleague and friend Brendon Woodworth from iModules Professional Services  to stop by for a visit at iModules Insider and share some of his event registration expertise. Turns out that he also has some unexpected deep thoughts about pigeons. Enjoy!

Jen: So Brendon, as a member of the Professional Services team, you build complex event registrations for our clients. Would it be appropriate to call you an Event Registration Guru?

Brendon: Wow, that’s a strong image and reputation to uphold but I humbly accept the title. The events module by far has to be my favorite tool to use and I thoroughly enjoy the challenging questions clients bring to me. Some people do crossword puzzles to keep their mind sharp, I unravel event registrations.

Jen: What do you consider to be the most valuable feature in the Events module?

Brendon: I have two. I think one of the most underutilized features within the Events module is the activity functionality. Adding an activity to a form instead of a category adds so much more functionality and can go a long way when looking at reports. The second is the ability to add HTML and custom graphics to various parts of your event form including field display names. Just a little bit of coding can turn a normal event into something outstanding.

Jen: What advice would you give our clients when they sit down to build an event registration?

Brendon: This may sound backwards, but start backwards. Think about what information you need (specific counts, break down of counts, pictures, etc.) Make a wish list. Let your mind go, erase any preconceived limitations of the software, and write down what your ideal registration form would look like. This tool is extremely powerful and the only limitation by your imagination.

Jen: Do you prefer pie or cake? Please be specific about flavors, colors, etc…

Brendon: Pie! That was an easy question. I don’t discriminate on flavor, any kind is delicious. Although if I had to choose I think any red pie would be up on my list as a favorite, not just any red but somewhere in the Pantone 485 family.
Jen: What are you looking forward to at Sizzler this year?

Brendon: Not many people know this but I work from home in Upstate NY. I absolutely love working from home but I miss out on seeing people on a daily basis. At Sizzler I am really looking forward to hanging out and meeting some of the clients that I have worked so closely with.

Jen: Any closing words of wisdom for our readers?

Brendon: Accept that some days you’re the pigeon, and some days you’re the statue.

Occupy E-mail

Peter Bregman at the Harvard Business Review writes about coping with e-mail overload and has a compelling idea (heck, it’s even a good idea) for wrestling e-mail down to a manageable part of your work day.  He writes:

Instead of checking email continuously and from multiple devices, schedule specific email time during the day while you are at your computer. All other time is email vacation time.

We are most efficient when we answer email in bulk at our computers. We move faster, can access files when we need them, and link more quickly and easily to other programs like our calendars. Also, when we sit down for the express purpose of doing emails, we have our email heads on. We are more focused, more driven, wasting no time in transition from one activity to another.

I bulk process my email three times a day in 30-minute increments, once in the morning, once mid-day, and once before shutting down my computer for the day. I use a timer and when it beeps, I close my email program.

I love this idea. Now whether or not I can actually bring myself to do it, that’s another story. I find it almost impossible to resist checking my e-mail, but 99% of the time it’s not necessary to check it several times an hour throughout the work day, and I can definitely see the benefits of cutting out the endless distraction.

What about you? How are you managing (or not) e-mail overload?

Content clutter and other unfortunate events

You’re probably wondering where I’ve been all week. You’ve probably been thinking something like: “Hey, what’s with this lame blog that never gets updated?”  So here’s the story… if you have little kids at home you’ve probably heard of a pesky little virus called Fifth Disease. This highly contagious childhood disease spread like wildfire at my kids’ daycare and made a visit to our house last week.

It was a heck of a lot of fun. Fevers. Alarming rashes. Debilitating joint pain. Good times all around.  It’s now moved on to wreck some other unsuspecting family’s weekend.  And remember that lovely 5k race in the park that I was so looking forward to last weekend? Ha! Maybe next year.

Enough about me and my excuses. It’s Friday. It’s Good Idea Day. The sun is shining. And strawberry season has started in Upstate New York. What could be better?

Let’s talk about content clutter. Is your web site starting to resemble the junk drawer in your kitchen? You know that drawer where you throw extra keys, packs of matches, scissors, pens, stamps, twist ties, cat toys, paper clips, business cards, adapters of every size (mostly from gadgets you no longer own), fun size boxes of candy corn, and any other random thing you don’t know what to do with, but you’re not yet ready to part with? Now do a quick mental inventory of your site. Do you have links to giving campaigns that ended in 2009? Photos from Reunion 2008? The rainy one. Where all the photos came out blurry. How about a dozen or so dead links to the .edu “Lodging and Accommodations” page that was taken down last year? A content page for the 2011 class gift campaign still prominently placed on the Donations home page?

If your answer is “Yes” or “Ohmygod, Yes” or you just started weeping, you probably need to do a content audit of your site.  I am well aware that the idea of of a content audit is about as exciting as sorting socks, but it’s still a good idea and it’s really worth the effort. Now, I know that it’s a myth that summer means “downtime” in the world of higher ed. I’ve been there, people. I know how it is. You think you’re going to get through Reunion and the end of the fiscal year and then you’ll have all this time to get through some big projects. Then two minutes later, it’s September and you didn’t get to any of it.  But give it a shot anyway. Block out a day, put on your headphones, and start clicking away. Or you could set aside a few hours every Friday for the next month or two to look through one section at a time and find those dead links, the broken images, the never to be used again in this century content.

De-clutter your site and you’ll have a tidy place to plan your 2012/2013 communications. If you want to get really serious and do a deep cleaning of your site, you can hire the nice folks in Professional Services to do a content audit for you, and they’ll even make some recommendations. They really are lovely people over there.

Turtles are cool and so is the May product release

Hello lovely readers!

I have three exciting words for you today:  May. Product. Release.

I know, I know. It’s almost too much happiness to take on a Wednesday.

Seriously though. There are two items that brought a smile to my face which I think you should know about.

1. Form Field Sorting. Ohsweethappyday, this is so great because as a person who used to build A LOT of forms, I can attest to the incredible frustrations of sorting and deleting fields in a form. Every time you so much as breathed on a field, the system would refresh the page (argh!) and bounce you and your cursor like a rubber ball back to the top of the page (double argh!). This wonderful enhancement allows you to move and delete multiple fields on a form all at once. Begone refresh & bounce!

2. Unopened E-mail Marketing Reporting. Now you can find out who didn’t open that invitation to New York City Happy Hour and instead of sending everyone on the list the follow-up reminder,  you can just send it to the folks who so rudely ignored your carefully crafted message the first time. Added bonus is you can generate the recipient list right from the grid. Eureka!

In other news… I’m “running” my first 5k in four years this Sunday. I “ran” two miles yesterday and it took me nearly 25 minutes. Oh stop it. Stop laughing. Come on now, it’s not THAT funny. Geez.

I don’t care whether I run, walk, skip, or crawl to the finish line. I’ll be out there in the sunshine on a Sunday morning in lovely Green Lakes State Park, without a small child strapped to me. Hurray!

I hope your Wednesday treats you kindly, my friends.