Category Archives: Misc

My month of giving back

Creating a conference means asking a lot of favors. Over this past year I’ve asked people to speak, asked people for introductions, asked people to volunteer, even asked people to join me in a crazy marching band. Thankfully, I have an amazing network of fantastic colleagues, friends, and even relative strangers who helped me create two wonderful conference experiences this year.

So now it’s time for me to give back.

Since it’s the season of giving, I’m giving you all as much of my attention as possible this month. Want to grab a coffee or hop on Google Hangouts to discuss your challenges as a community professional? Done. Want to get my advice on how to use community to drive your business to the next level? Let’s schedule some time. Need an extra hand (or a weird marching band) at your event? Sign me up.Need a connection to someone? I’ll do my best. Feeling totally burnt out and stressed and concerned about the future? I’m super-good at listening, let’s talk.

I rely on my network, so I now want to make sure I’m giving back to you. Whether we know each other well, haven’t spoken in years, or are even complete strangers, I’m here for you.

Drop me a line at evan at evanhamilton dot com and let’s connect!

The Secret Structure of Great Talks

Like most good advice, Nancy Duarte’s TEDx presentation on how to give a great talk is both obvious and enlightening.

In short: talk about the status quo, then the possibility of the future. Repeat as much as possible. End with the new status quo that you’re proposing.

The repetition is very key, and her example of the classic Martin Luther King Jr speech is especially relevant: pastors know how to use repetition!

I know that I too often I build presentations with the three-act model; I state the current situation, what I’d like to change, and what the results will be. I’ll be keeping this in mind next time.

I also  love her point about making the audience the hero. It’s easy to make yourself the hero…but as a community manager, I should know that you’ll get a lot farther making someone else feel special!

 

 

Moving On

I’m extremely excited to announce that I’m leaving my position as Head of Community at UserVoice to join ZOZI as Director of Community and Customer Loyalty! There are a lot of reasons I made this hard decision, but here are the top 3.

1) Customer obsession.

I give a shit about my customersZOZI is obsessed with their customers. They’ve realized what I’ve been preaching all these years: keeping your customers happy is the most effective way to make money. Retention is easier and cheaper than acquisition, generates it’s own word-of-mouth acquisition, and lets you sleep better at night.

ZOZI is showing their commitment to this concept by doing something else I’ve been pitching for years: building a whole department dedicated to Community and customer service with it’s own director (that’s me).

The ZOZI team has a ton of ideas (as do I) and I can’t wait to start trying things out. It’s a great opportunity for me to put my money where my mouth is and implement a lot of the concepts I’ve been blogging about for years, both here and on UserCentered. Taking on this role is not going to be easy, but that’s exactly why I think it’s a good move for me. Risk is good, and I need some risk right now.

ZOZI screenshot

2) Beyond technology, into the real world.

Very few modern startups pique my interest. There’s far too many startups making tools for other startups, unnecessary flashy tech, and  more ways to avoid interacting with real people in the real world. I love technology and the web will always be a home to me but I also love to get outside, have adventures, and talk about subjects other than tech. ZOZI is all about that. They help people – especially those who wouldn’t necessarily call themselves “adventurers” – try new things and discover the amazing world around them. That’s something I can get behind.

3) Amazing Culture.

ZOZI has a fantastic culture, and their staff truly seem to live it. They’re all about exploring the world, creating positivity, and making people’s lives more fun & adventurous. A few examples? The company buys happy hour drinks for the staff jogging club. People self-organize to go rock climbing. Someone from Finance might send out a video of an Engineering coworker’s trip around the world.

This is true of their user-centricity as well. During my interviews I spoke with a lead engineer, who told me that he wanders the hallways sometimes so that he can be accessible for the rest of the team. People will come up and tell him about frustrating parts of the product…and then he’ll fix them. While I may look to put a more formal process in place, it was conversations like this that convinced me that ZOZI is going to be a truly amazing culture to be part of.


That said, it’s with great sadness that I leave UserVoice. I spent three years & change at the company and was able to accomplish an immense amount, which I’m extremely proud of. I still fully believe in UserVoice’s mission and product, and will continue to follow them closely. UserConf badge

I’ve also gotten to meet a lot of amazing people during my time at UserVoice. In addition to the fantastic UserVoice staff, I’ve had the opportunity to reach out to tremendously talented community managers, product managers, and customer support folks as part of my job. That’s an incredible treat, and I fully intend to stay in contact with all of you. I’m leaving UserVoice the company, but I’m really looking forward to continuing to be an active member of the community we’ve built. I won’t be running it (whew!) but I sure as hell will be at UserConf!

Thank you to everyone who has helped me succeed these last three years. I hope I was able to bring at least half as much greatness to your world as you did to mine. Please keep in touch with me on Twitter and subscribe to this blog to get regular updates, thoughts, and stories. Onward and upwards!

-Evan

Why I wear headphones at work

cat headphonesInterruptions are bad.

Interruptions are also common.

If you don’t want to be interrupted, too bad. It’s going to happen. There’s no way people can avoid interrupting you for the whole day.

But what you can do is indicate when you’re deep in work. When you’re doing the sort of work that requires intense concentration and will take 15 minutes to get back to.

For me this is headphones. I put on music and focus, and my coworkers know not to bug me unless it’s important.

Find your headphones. Whether it’s actual headphones (you can always put them on without any music playing if that’s what you prefer) or just some sort of indicator. Be cute about it! Put up a “recording in progress” sign or a mailbox flag.

Let people know you’re focused. Otherwise you can’t really complain when they interrupt you.


Cat photo courtesy of James Lee.

Handling the rain – a guide for San Franciscans

rain on a windowIt’s raining in San Francisco today. Which means people LOSE IT. I’m not sure what it is about San Francisco and rain. But I’ve constructed this handy guide for San Franciscans so they can better survive the rain.

1. Don’t freak out
THE WORLD IS NOT ENDING. It’s just rain. It happens pretty much everywhere. You’ve seen it before. Still freaking out? Pretend you’re just in a giant shower. Better? Um…please put your clothes back on.

2. Don’t drive like an idiot
While rain is largely safe, it does change the roads and driving at your traditional 80 MPH will not benefit you. Slow down a little bit. Because otherwise you’ll have to…

3. Prepare for bad traffic
The rest of the people in San Francisco who haven’t read this guide are still driving like idiots. They’re going to get in crashes and slow you down. Does it normally take an hour to get to work? Plan for two hours.

4. If you have an umbrella, don’t walk on the side of the sidewalk with an awning
That’s for people without umbrellas. Duh.

5. If you have an umbrella, don’t walk in the middle of the damn sidewalk
People. Your umbrella makes you about 4 feet wide. If you walk in the middle of the sidewalk, nobody can get by you.

6. Don’t splash bicylists
C’mon man. We’re already wet. If there’s a big puddle and a bicyclist, go around it or wait for them to pass it. Seriously.

7. Once more, DON’T FREAK OUT
Remember that scene in Jurassic Park where they don’t move so the T-rex can’t see them? Think of it like that. If you don’t freak out, the rain can’t hurt you. Just calm down, and everything will be ok.

Have your own recommendations? Post them in the comments!

Photo courtesy of Mohan Kaimal.

How I Prepared for My First Big Public Speaking Gig at FailCon 2010

It never ceases to bewilder people, but although I will gladly get on stage in front of dozens of people and sing, I get nervous in when I have to speak in public. Even speaking up at a meeting of colleagues can occasionally raise my heart rate. Public speaking is a different beast, and it freaks me and a lot of other people out.

DPP_0001-300x200Last week I had the privilege of presenting a 40-minute workshop at FailCon 2010, a fantastic conference about learning from your failures. I’ve done presentations before, but they’ve all been relatively short. I knew this was going to be intense, so I spent a lot of time preparing. I think my presentation went well (and so did others) and I’d like to share what I did to prepare, so that it might help you…and so that I don’t forget next time I have to do another presentation!

(Many of these insights came from a book I fortuitously got for free at the Community Leadership Summit: Scott Berkun’s Confessions of a Public Speaker. The book is a bit haphazard but has some great insights, and my dogears on various pages helped me immensely.)

Here’s what I tried to do (and what I failed at):

1. I Took A Strong Position In The Title

“There’s a Customer Out There With a Bullet For You: Ideas That Kill”. Not only does this catch the eye, but by defining what the presentation was about it helped define what it wasn’t about. Instead of talking about everything I know, I knew what to focus on.

2. I Thought Carefully About My Specific Audience

A fantastic presentation for engineers won’t work well for CEOs and certainly won’t work well for a room full of four-year-olds. I took a look at the attendee list for FailCon and the goal of the conference and determined that my audience would be founders/entrepreneurs and community managers who would want some solid numbers and examples along with the higher-level points. I also knew they’d have a sense of humor and be familiar with the tech industry examples I used (Friendster, Wesabe, Google Wave, etc).

DPP_0008-300x2003. I Built My Slides Last

This one was really key for me, and it’s the first time I really did it. It’s incredibly tempting (and encouraged in some circles) to build a beautiful set of slides first. This is wrong. Your story should dictate your slides. I spent a week and a half building the story and then built slides to support it. The downside? Less time to make your slides pretty. The upside? Your story is compelling, not just something pretty to look at.

4. I Made My Specific Points As Concise As Possible

Confessions of a Public Speaker states it best: “A mediocre presentation makes the points clear but muddles or bores people with the arguments. A truly bad presentation never clarifies what the points are.” Before I wrote any paragraphs or (to the last point) designed any slides, I carved out specific points that I wanted to cover and then worked to build the content to support them. Kudos to Rich White, CEO and my boss at UserVoice, for pointing out that my slides should spell out each point as well, so people who may have been distracted by their phone or computer can hop back in the conversation.

5. I Practiced. A Lot.

Your audience is giving you an hour of their time. Just as companies don’t deserve customer feedback, you don’t deserve your audience’s attention. I tried to respect my audience’s attention by practicing. After finally constructing a story I liked and building an outline for it, I practiced it several times (the whole 35 minutes through) in front of a webcam, cleaning up my performance and trying to cut out “uh” and “um” from my vocabulary. I practiced my presentation for friends and colleagues, and I changed it based on their feedback. Like any performer should, I practiced. Most people leave out this step because they’re scared (I know I was). Don’t skip it.

DPP_0013-300x2006. I Knew The Likely Counterarguments From An Intelligent, Expert Audience

I’ll admit, I didn’t do this as well as I would have liked to. I presented this to friends and colleagues and got some idea of what questions people might have, but I should have asked them to be more aggressive. I definitely got hit with some questions that made me pause. It’s not because my points weren’t valid, it’s just because thinking critically on the fly in front of a bunch of people is hard. Next time I’ll work harder on this.

7. I Got Familiar with the Space

I scoped out the workshop room early in the day and showed up extra early for my workshop to get my setup perfect, walk the stage area a bit, and grok the room. It helped immensely not having to take in these details for the first time right when I went up to present. The nervousness I’ve felt stepping up to the mic at previous events was totally absent.

DPP_0002-300x2008. I Set The Pace

People like to know what to expect. I told people what we were covering so they knew when we were reaching the end, and I kept people updated about how much was left. I didn’t call out the specific time I was going to spend on each section (as the book recommends), but I think that was ok – perhaps if it were a longer presentation I would do that.

9. I Asked For Feedback

I failed pretty good on this front, which is especially embarrassing because my workshop was about getting feedback! I meant to print out feedback forms but got too busy, so I had to resort to asking a few folks afterwards about what they thought. Next time I want to make sure I get this right, because most folks will say “it was great” if you ask them in person. That’s sweet, but it isn’t useful feedback.

10. I Tried To Be Likable

I tried to keep a quick pace, be funny, move around when I could, and talk directly to people. I won’t claim that I was a Johnny Carson, but I think I kept things from being dry – which is key when people have a million electronic distractions in the palm of their hands.

DPP_0010-300x20011. I Kept People Engaged

To the last point – I spoke to the audience, asked them some questions, and offered free books to those who asked questions during Q&A. People want to be part of what’s going on, not a total observer.

Some other things that helped:

1) My bosses Rich and Scott from UserVoice helped usher people into the room and keep them entertained before I came on. This was invaluable.

2) Cass, the fantastic orchestrator of FailCon, gave me a shoutout in the main room right before my workshop. She’s my hero for this and many other reasons.

3) The fact that the session opposite mine wasn’t very interesting (sorry, that’s just what I heard). Some days you’re lucky.

So thanks to everyone who helped personally or just came out to watch. You can find my presentation on SlideShare if you’re interested. I hope this post helps you put on a great presentation, and if you have any personal tricks, please add them below!

Photos courtesy of Scott Rutherford.

The Fabled Main Street

From every side in this media and political cycle, we keep hearing about “Main Street”. The people who are better than those bastards on “Wall Street”. Good, honest people who don’t have anything to do with this terrible crisis. They did the right thing and look what happened!

I thought it might be a good idea to take a look at these impressive, homegrown Main Streets. I was certain I’d find folks with rolled-up sleeves, small incomes, and folks who aren’t swayed by the fancy fatcats in Washington.

Alameda, CA


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Ok, a little empty, but what about the big city?

San Francisco, CA


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Ok, not so much the lower class…let’s look up north.

Porland, OR


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Not a lot of people on Main Street in Portland.  But I’m sure they’re off lamenting the economy.  Surely, those throwing around “Main Street” are not talking about the LIBERAL West Coast. What does Main St look like in Kansas City?

Kansas City, KS


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Ok, those windows are a little bit larger than the “average American” can afford, but howabout Oklahoma City?

Oklahoma City, OK


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Uh…um…oh. Wow. Yeah, lots of voters on that street.

Listen…I am a liberal, but this example goes beyond party lines. Constantly referring to “Main Street” is not only annoying, it’s just inaccurate. If I had to choose a street I’d personally go for “Laurel Street”…that always seems consistently middle-class.

At the end of the day, the bottom line is that you shouldn’t use stupid buzzwords over and over, because it only makes you look totally out-of-tune. The middle and lower classes are not listening closely to hear “Main Street” in your stump speech…they’re listening to hear how you’re going to fix this financial crisis!

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…annnnd we’re back!

Wow, have I really not posted since December ’07?  That’s an eternity, especially on the web.  Unfortunately, I needed to update my version of WordPress to get things working correctly here, and it didn’t happen right away.  Additionally, Twitter allowed me to keep publishing, so this hasn’t been a priority.

Let me be totally honest: I was scared to make the upgrade without the help of my web developer friend.  I know the basics of web development, but mucking about with databases is past my comfort point.  I finally found time with my friend and we got everything rolling.  The process was surprisingly simple…I think I could probably even do it myself next time, and I certainly won’t let such a long gap go by without posting again!

So…what now?  I am determined to get back on track with posting, and not let myself get behind.  A few of my goals for the remainder of the blogging year:

  • Document the process of recording the new Monsters are not Myths album.
  • Tackle the challenging subject of “what is the role of a Community Ambassador/Manager/Evangelist, as I touched on in Defending the Community Ambassador.
  • Clean up the blog. I’ve already started on this, but I’d like to do some SEO (which I’ve been dabbling in) and perhaps even move all my evanhamilton.com pages to WordPress.
  • Be impulsive. I want to post what’s at the top of my mind and get my small base of readers involved in the conversation, rather than mulling on a post for weeks.

For those that are still here, thanks for sticking around during the dry spell. Get ready for some rock’n’roll!

-Evan

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All I Want For Christmas Is To Be Left Alone

Ok, maybe that’s a bit harsh. But still, I’m frustrated.

I’ve spent the last few weeks (and will spend the next few) thinking up nice, original presents for friends and family. A silly DVD set for one friend, a mini-keg of Root Beer for my brother (don’t read this, Curran). Although it is work, I enjoy it because it’s worth them getting something they they truly like.

I appreciate this treatment as well…I’d much rather be surprised than get something that is “exactly” what I want…most of the time “exactly” is actually “approximately” and requires numerous trips to the store to return and exchange stuff.

I respect that many people don’t have the time/interest/capability to come up with a unique and fulfilling present, especially family (after all, presents from family are required, whereas they’re opted into with friends). I usually try to come up with a short list of things I would like that I wouldn’t buy myself. This year, there’s just one thing on that list: A Nintendo Wii.

I used to be a big-time gamer (even developed levels for Myth II), but I have since run out of time and money to keep up with games. However, the Wii really eliminates the time factor. I’ve played it a few times and it’s easy to pick up, play with friends, and have a great short session (unlike the long shooters and strategy games I played back in the day). I’m not going to buy it for myself; I need to save money and any splurging goes towards instruments for Monsters are not Myths or brief vacations. Thus, it is a perfect gift.

I understand that the Wii is not cheap, but my birthday is right after Christmas and I figured all the family presents could combine into it. If not, that’s fine…find out where you can find a Wii and give some gift certificates.

However, this seems not to be the case and I’m now being hounded for more present ideas from my own family. As stated above, I ALREADY spent my creative juices figuring out presents for THEM.

In short, I don’t care anymore. What I want is to be left alone. I spend enough time working at work and on music that I should not need to spend time coming up with my own present. If they can’t, then my present should be not having to deal with the hassle of presents. Honestly, that would be fine with me. Let me enjoy the holidays and give presents without having to write even one more Christmas list or go to any stores to return lame presents. Give me the gift of not having to be stressed about a PRESENT for MYSELF.

Merry Christmas.

Update: My friend Victoria Potter just wrote a great post looking at the larger, less selfish picture of why Christmas/December is no longer cool. Scope it on her blog.

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