Mark Finnern Any significantly advanced work is indistinguishable from play. Fri, 25 Sep 2020 18:10:44 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Mark Finnern 32 32 The Social Dilemma Roundtable Q&A More Engagement Please! Thu, 17 Sep 2020 05:03:10 +0000 Just finished watching the Social Dilemma Q&A [The video is unfortunately set to private] session live! They had a great conversation. Loved that Tristan Harris is more hopeful since the movie is out as he is getting inquires and encouragement from many more people all over the world.

Jeff Orlowski shared that he is enjoying Clubhouse, a new Social Network. Its focus according to Jeff is more on conversations. It is still in Beta and you need an invitation to check it out.

We at the Future Salon had our own Social Dilemma” Watch & Discuss Party last Wednesday and had a lively discussion afterward too. I was hoping that kind of engagement would continue today with everyone there.

Of course, not everyone that was watching is able to come on screen and voice there opinion, but there are ways to let the audience participate more.

When you signed up you were able to post a question and Sheera Frenkel asked a couple of them at the end.

There were about ~200 live viewers, that is a low enough number for the chat to be lively and for insights and voices to be heard that otherwise will not. The organizers played is safe and switched off all comments on YoutTube, which I think was unfortunate.

Please host your next sessions on the platform. From the beginning, it was designed to maximize participant engagement. This is why they have some really cool features to support that goal.

Here are some of CrowdCast’s features that help you engage with your participants:

  • They have a nifty sophisticated Q&A feature.
    • People can start posting questions as soon as you have set up your session, even if it hasn’t started yet.
    • Everyone can vote up the best questions ensuring that the most interesting ones bubble to the top to be tackled first. The top one in the screenshot above got 189 upvotes!
    • Everyone can comment on any of the questions. Interesting conversations can develop around the topic that the question is addressing.
    • You can mark during the recording when you are addressing a question. The system then automatically creates a unique URL that allows everyone who is watching later to jump directly to that point in the recording. It’s that green “View Answer” button.
    • Even if you have prepared questions for your panel, post them in the Q&A and let them compete with the ones posted by the participants.
    • Any open questions that were not answered during the session, can be answered via comments later. The conversation can continue even long after the cameras are shut off :-)
  • You can create polls to get quick sentiments of your participants.
  • Crowdcast can scale: Hack summit in 2016 had 34,000+ participants (see screenshot above). I saw Singularity University Summit also had 22K+ people online with no problems.
  • Your CrowdCast session can be streamed to YouTube too, so you are not losing the audience there. I would still nudge people to watch on Crowdcast, as they otherwise miss out on the Q&A and chat feature.
  • When you post a question in the chat, the system asks you whether you rather want it to be a question and puts it there when you agree to it.
  • If there is a particularly interesting question that would benefit from a dialog with the participant that posted the question, you can bring that person on camera and engage on video, which can be very powerful!

Let’s strengthen the movement that you are creating around your topics by using the platform. It will allow many more people can lean-in, make a difference, and be part of the movement.

Ping me if you have any questions.

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Participants: Jazz Up Your Next Online Event! Fri, 04 Sep 2020 23:01:15 +0000 We all love to complain about the current state of the art of online events? Talking heads droning on, not engaging enough, making you feel small, your opinion unimportant, it often feels like a late-night infomercial.

Not that we are really missing being stuck in the middle of a keynote among 1000s of conference participants, where the speaker on the big stage is droning on as well.  

Online events have a huge advantage over live events that very few organizers fully embrace. You can engage with your participants in a much more granular way and with that actually enhance the flow and the experience of your event for everyone. We should make the best use of that opportunity. 

Sometimes though, the online event platform and the hosts do everything right, make the tools, time, and the space available for great interaction and engagement. Ready for a memorable impactful experience for and with their participants.  

It still falls flat, as the audience is like molasses, passive, leaning back, wanting to just be entertained, their attention only partially on the event. 

The unfortunate thing is, we all are trained to passively consume content by years and years of sitting on our couches watching TV, Netflix, or movies in cinemas. 

You are actually discouraged to engage there. You will get kicked out of the theater if you loudly voice your opinion about what’s going on the screen, or on the stage. 

What we need is a mind shift of all of us online event participants. We need to get off the couch of consuming and judging from the stadium stands. We need to get into the arena and start leaning into the event and actively participate. 

Stealing freely from John F Kennedy: 

Don’t ask what an online event can do for you! Ask what you can do to make this online event the most impactful, interesting, and engaging event for everyone involved! 

To help us all be the best online event participants we can be, I started an Impactful Online Events Participants’ Toolbox document. Please join us and share your tools and good behavior for participants that will lead to many more engaging online events. I hope it becomes a living document. 

Don’t be overwhelmed by all the suggestions in the Toolbox. The main goal is to raise awareness of what we all can do to improve all of our online event experiences. 

Let’s go from being in the audience enjoying a Jazz concert to picking up an instrument; listen to what is going on; and join in; with the goal of making the whole piece/event sound better! Bring out the best in other players by supporting their ideas; play pianissimo so that the quiet voices at the fringes can be heard. They often elevate the whole sound by adding new tunes. In the end, everyone walks away from the event with positive vibrations. The event’s reverberations may linger on for days and will make everyone eager to join your next session. 

As an organizer of an online event, you may want to raise the awareness of your participants too by linking to the participant’s toolbox at the bottom of your invitation post/email. You can also kick off your session by posting a link to it in your chat. Something like: “While we give the stragglers time to log in, check out this Impactful Online Events Participants’ Toolbox. Too much on the nose?” And take it from there. 

Even if big conferences are coming back. They will continue to have a strong online presence. It gives us the opportunity to connect the larger events more tightly with our online community, which is a good thing, but a topic for another post. Let’s engage at the next event!

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Flip Your Webinar to be a Collective Solution Development Session Wed, 12 Aug 2020 00:49:00 +0000 Webinar fatigue is real. It is frustrating to listen to talking heads pontificating from our screens trying to sell us something. The lack of engagement makes you feel small; a faceless participant without a voice.

Doc Searls always wanted to flip the keynote stage, as he felt there were so many interesting voices and experiences in the room, that can’t be heard because of how the room is set up, with him on the big stage and microphones and lights focusing on him.

The cool thing is, during a Webinar, if we put some effort in, we have the ability to tease out these insights from the audience, bring these voices to the front, have them on the video too.

We long for connecting with fellow practitioners around our current challenges. Let’s set our webinars up so that we tab into the insights and experience of our audience and collectively come up with the best solutions. 

Here are some tips on how to create such an environment of collective solution development when running your next webinar.

Before the Webinar

  1. Engage with your community even before announcing the webinar. Let them help you select the next topics and key participants. Ping your community:  
    • What challenge would you like us to tackle next? 
    • What are the top 3 questions around that challenge? 
    • Who has insights into that challenge? Aka who would be great panelists to share their experience during the webinar?  

This way, you get already a core audience and folks that are eager to be part of the webinar. 

  1. Once the webinar is posted encourage people to ask questions even before the start of the event! 
    • Some Webinar platforms like allows your audience to post questions directly into the webinar even if it has not started yet. Encourage that! Comments to your webinar event post work too. Just make sure you actually tackle these during your Webinar.  
    • Add any questions you want to ask the panelists to that public list of questions too. Ideally, your webinar platform allows your audience to upvote the questions they would like to hear about the most. It is OK if your questions are not the ones topping the list. 
  2. Take 1-3 questions from that list and send them to your panelist for a quick take and share that as a teaser for the upcoming event.
    At Ecosystem Aces we did that with Ray Wang before the Ecosystem Cloud Summit. Bonus if you can get them to post their answers in video form. 
  1. Start a webinar prep document ahead of time with some comments that you can easily copy-paste into the comment stream like: 
    • Connect with our panelist <name> on LinkedIn <linkedin link> 
    • This Webinar will be as good as you make it by commenting, posting questions, voting your favorite questions up, or even be ready to join us on camera [we will ask you before we do].  
    • Let’s continue our conversations at our <link to thread in your community>.
    • In our next webinar we will tackle <topic> with the following experts: <name link> Register here <link>.
    • We didn’t get to answer all of your questions but will post them in comments to the event thread. <link to event threat>

These prepped comments will really help you keep the conversation going.

During the Webinar 

  1. Set the stage right at the beginning. Your audience is used to mostly be just a consumer during webinars. You have to strongly encourage your participants to lean forward and embrace all of the interaction possibilities that you are offering: “This Webinar is only as good as you make it!” — Over time, once you have developed a core group of active participants, they will model the behavior and a flurry of activities will develop. If your audience is exhausted after the high signal activities and engagement during your webinar, you have succeeded.  
  2. Give your participants as much freedom as your platform allows to connect with each other as well as drive your webinar. It is a shame, that Zoom Webinar isn’t allowing for participants even to see each other.
  3. Keep the presentations/slides to a minimum. Max ⅓ of the session should be spent on slides and explanations. Much more powerful to flip this too and answer a question by saying: “Let me jump to this slide that illustrates my answer.” 
  4. Tackle the questions that have been posted. The work done in prep is now paying off. People are joining in part for the interesting questions that have been posted. Make sure you tackle them according to the sorting, even if your questions are not the ones topping the upvote list. 
  5. Engage your early participants from the first minute, you can even open up before the top of the hour. Instead of the dreaded: “We wait just a little longer for people to join us …”, have friendly banter with the people that are already there. 
    • Where is everyone from? 
    • How is the weather where you are? 
    • Which local businesses are thriving in this time of Covid-19? 
    • What’s your local time?
      Give away a coffee voucher to the one who called in from the worst time zone. Anyone calling in between the hours of 9pm to 7am local time is dedicated. Make them quickly come on camera and show that it is dark where they are :-)   
    • <come up with your own webinar topic relevant banter. Add those to the webinar prep document you created above> 
  6. Bring a participant on camera 
    • If there is an interesting question, that lends itself to a greater conversation, ping that participant and ask them whether they could join via voice or even better on camera. That really livens up a webinar if you are able to bring in and discuss different perspectives. 
  7. Use topic relevant polls to transition between presenters and to liven up the session. Every third poll can be light-hearted one like: “Which movie will win Best Picture at the Oscars?”. The WorkSpan team is doing a great job with these during their Ecosystem Cloud Summit. Jump to 1:16:58 to watch a recording of it. It is unfortunate that Zoom doesn’t share the polls in the video stream to Facebook.
  8. Use the last 5 minutes for Wrap-Up and end on time: 
    • Quick summary and lessons learned, 
    • Share where to find more information. (one of your prepped comment posts.)
    • Thank panelists and everyone for their participation, especially the brave ones that came on camera.
    • If you did a quiz at the beginning, reveal the solution and the winner now.
    • Announce your next session and encourage them to post questions for it already. 
    • Ask them to suggest future topics to be tackled. 

After the Webinar 

  1. Have the recording available as soon as possible and share it. Use that footage to create a podcast too for easy consumption.
  2. If there were open questions at the end of your session, which is OK, take the time to quickly answer these in comments in the webinar platform if possible, as well as in the summary post. 
  3. Create a summary post and a follow-up email to the participants and the ones that didn’t make it with a pointer where the conversation continues, and an invitation to the next one as well as ask for new topics suggestions. 
  4. Reach out to the ones that shared interesting solutions and nudge them to post them in your community.

By focusing on bringing out the best solution to a given challenge in your webinar, you will create a much stronger outcome from your session with everyone involved feeling more accomplished. heard, satisfied. Try it out.

Bonus Tips: 

Look at your webinar like it is a live performance. How can you entertain, delight, surprise? Can you add some comic relief? For example, add a quiz at the beginning? What’s the favorite snack of the panelists? At the end of the webinar, you reveal what it is and the first one who guessed it right gets a care package with all of those snacks. 

With the SAP Mentor webinars, I instituted a musical intro. I just played a quick simple melody right at the beginning. I encouraged other panelists to share their love of making music too and we got some really wonderful precious moments of participants making music. 

Here is SAP Mentor Gregor Wolf playing the guitar during an SAP Mentor introduction webinar. 

One time I took out all the stops and created a song with lyrics that I recorded with my daughter’s Ukulele in a Wig.

Hope you got inspired to switch the focus of your next Webinar to collectively bring out the best solutions for a given challenge from everyone participating.

Making your webinar more engaging can be the first step in that direction.

Please try out some of these ideas and let me know how they went. I am sure there are many more things we can do. Please share your suggestions in the comments. 

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Best in Class Enterprise Community: Salesforce Trailblazers Tue, 16 Jun 2020 13:10:00 +0000 At last year’s CMX Summit Erica Kuhl’Building Community is Smart Business presentation was my favorite. She is the former VP of Community at Salesforce and was responsible for the meteoric rise of their Trailblazer community. I loved it because she delivered one cold hard community impact measure after the other.

In summary, this is the impact the Trailblazer community has on Salesforce and its customers:

Customers report:

  • 82% Increased ROI 
  • 83% Improved Productivity
  • 90% Accelerated Innovation.
  • 93% Discover New Solutions in the Community

Salesforce perspective: active community members (minimum logged in once and 1 thumps-up) versus non-active have:

  • 2.5X Size of Pipeline
  • 2X Larger Deal Size 
  • 35% Faster Implementations
  • 2.5X Lower Attrition
  • Support case deflection: 83% of questions are answered by the community leading to $2Million savings per month. 

Member Perspective:

  • Create opportunities for a better life. “I tripled my income because of the community”. 
  • 1000 Trailblazer Community Groups organizing 300 monthly meetings (before Covid) 

Details further down. You may want to check out the video of Erica’s presentation first. 

Grateful that CMX is sharing Erica Kuhl’s Building Community is Smart Business video.

Because Salesforce’s solutions as well as their community is in the cloud, they are able to track in much more detail of how their Trailblazer community members influence Salesforce’s success. 

First the view from Salesforce’s customers. From their latest member survey with 700 responses, they derived the following impact of the Trailblazer community to Salesforce’s Customer success.

Trailblazer members report: 81% improved productivity; 80% increased adoption; 90% improved innovation at their company. 

82% also reported that the community increased their Salesforce ROI

My favorite statistic of them all 93% report that they found new solutions via the Trailblazer community.

The above were statistics of Salesforce’s customers that are active in the community. The following is showing the impact on the Salesforce business. 

They simply separated the community members into two groups: 

  • Consumers. They log into the community but don’t participate. 
  • Active members. Not even a high bar: they are counted if they post, vote, comment, ask or answer a question in the last 12 months. 

Active Trailblazers versus consumer members:

  • created 2.5 times more pipeline
  • deliver double the deal size 
  • implemented their solutions 35% faster
  • had a 2.5 times lower attrition rate.

These are amazing, falling off the chair numbers. Intuitively I always knew about the importance of an active community for business success. But to have these cold hard impressive facts readily available really makes a huge difference. 

As Erica Kuhl said in her presentation: one of the reasons for her having a decent size team are the above numbers. 

It is obvious, that smartly investing in your community is good business. 

There is more :-) 

Support case deflection: 83% of the 4.000 monthly questions are answered by the community; which are viewed 500K times; which leads to an estimated $2 million monthly savings. Every support call cost Salesforce about $50. If a question and answer pair on their community has been viewed 20 times, they count that as one support case deflection. I am missing one parameter, as my calculation ends up being $1.25 Million. But you get the gist of it and can adjust to your situation. 

85% of their traffic comes from Google. Hello, closed enterprise communities let the sunshine in. :-)

Networking: Nothing makes me happier than to hear the story of a member having improved their lives because of the connections they made in the community. 

Creating an environment that allows your members to put food on their and their families’ table is the greatest gift you can give them. 

Support the ability of your community members to acquire, test, and share their expertise by strengthening your training and certification offers. 

Salesforce also recently celebrated its 1000th Trailblazer Community Group. Before Covid-19 hit these groups would organize 300 meetings worldwide every month. 

The success of the Trailblazer Community for Salesforce is obvious as proven by the above Key Performance Indicators. 

They are the Golden Standard and north star regarding enterprise community impact on company success. Focus on these KPIs for your own enterprise community progress.

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Eric/Zoom if You Don’t Trust Us Why Would We Trust You? Tue, 14 Apr 2020 15:42:00 +0000 Zoom has gotten a lot of flack for their lack of security lately. They are actively trying to solve this. Zoom’s CEO Eric Yuan has written a blog apologizing and listing the steps they are doing to make Zoom more secure and rebuilt the trust of their users.

In that post Eric promised a weekly webinar where we can ask him anything. So I joined last Wednesday. Made a running post with screenshots on LinkedIn about it.

One of my pet peeves and frustration with video conferences is a lack of collaboration. The dreaded talking heads pontificating at you. That is one of the reasons I wrote my Zoom please join the Cluetrain post.

Joining the Ask Eric Anything webinar I was sad to see, that the chat was switched off for regular users :-(

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OK with all the controversy, I can understand that the Zoom team is a little weary about opening up the fire hose on their first call.

I stilled pinged them via the Q&A feature about it. A bit snippy, and in that haste I misspelled look, and and got the following response.

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Good marketing responds aka we want to control the message.

Alas there is a setting for the Q&A feature for all questions to be visible to all participants, which was turned off :-(

I love this feature and way to few Zoom captains use it. It has an additional switch, that lets other participants not only see, but also upvote and comment to these questions.

It totally ensures, that the questions that most participants want to have answered are always on the top. People understand if you don’t get to all the questions, as long as you go down the list of the top ones until you run out of time.

By allowing comments, you also get different perspectives and often the participants point out solutions in the comments before the speakers get to answer them. A way richer experience.

I have moderated these, it is one click for a question to disappear from the list. Just have a moderator in Zoom keep an eye on the questions and it all will be fine.

Of course if you are afraid and don’t trust your audience to behave, you keep that feature off.

Zoom if you don’t trust us with our questions, why should we trust you with your answers?

It is also frustrating, that the questions are not displayed on the screen anywhere. If you miss it being asked, you also miss the whole context of the answer, that includes the recording.

If you want to see a company in action that has nailed the interactivity, check out Crowdcast. I want to stress, that I don’t have any affiliation with them, but am a fan of how their platform enables you to engage with your audience.

Here is Crowdcast CEO Sai Hossain doing his weekly session about How to bring your conference or event online:

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As you can see on the right open chat for all participants, and you can even click on their name to see their profile.

Their Q&A is open for everyone to see and upvote. It is also available in their recording. Not only that, if you hit the “View Answer” button, you jump right to the spot in the recording where it has been answered. Very powerful.

It is also a breeze to add someone on screen to discuss a question. In Zoom you are able to unmute them, but to bring them on camera, you have to make them a presenter which forces a logout and login, which is cumbersome.

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That all makes it a so much more rich and engaging experience for everyone involved.

One thing I also love is that you can post your questions already while you wait for the session to start, even days before.

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This session is starting in 17 hours, but there is already a question asked and ready to be upvoted.

Tomorrow Wednesday April 15th 11:30am Pacific there will be the next Ask Eric Anything Zoom webinar. Please join me in nudging Eric & team to open up at least the Q&A feature for everyone to see and participate for a better dialog with us Zoom users and them.

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Zoom Please Board the Cluetrain! Thu, 19 Mar 2020 15:30:00 +0000 After high school a couple of friends and I visited Paris. La Grande Arche de la Défense had just been finished, which we of course went to check out.

I remember coming up from the Metro station and the building is breathtakingly beautiful: big, massive glass, granite and steel. It was getting late in the afternoon and the Parisians were hurrying back home from that office building. We were getting tired and wanted to sit down for a bit. We looked around and there was no place to rest. It was getting dark and the wind picked up and all of a sudden, there were almost no one there anymore. It was impressive, beautiful, but ultimately it left us feeling small, insignificant and cold. We left shortly after.

Sacre Coeur Paris

The next day we went to Sacre Coeur, the sun was shining and the stairs leading up to the church were brimming with life and laughter, people enjoyed ice cream and sat down on the stairs and got entertained by the street performers. We even had a conversation with some of the musicians. It was alive, it felt good, it was glorious.

With Covid-19 cancelling most conferences, even grounding us in our homes, the go to alternative is hosting webinars or whole virtual events.

Therefore time to check out the Zoom Webinars Training replay offering tons of tips on how to host one.

It felt a lot like La Grand Arche. The Zoom platform is beautiful for sure:

Crisp slides.

  • Presenter video with the possibility to project a different background, even an animated one.
  • Automatic transcript of what was said, which surprisingly good results.
  • Chat, which in this training was limited to the presenter sharing links to additional information, aka no possibility for real interaction.
  • You are able to post questions, but at least in the recording, you are not able to see them, even when they are answered. You also can’t check out the person that posted the question.

It is a lot like going to church, you sit down and mostly listen, you know that there are others virtually close by, but you can’t even interact with them. You are here to absorb the information that people have selected to share with you. It is a lonely experience, that makes you feel small and insignificant, just like the Grand Arche did so many years ago.

We are longing for connection, of shared experience especially right now from our home office isolation. My daughter just did a paper for school about how cruel solitary confinement is for the human psyche.

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Time for a little Cluetrain Manifesto refresher:

The Cluetrain Manifesto was written and first posted to the Web in March 1999 by Rick Levine, Christopher LockeDoc Searls, and David Weinberger.

The central theme of their manifesto is that Markets are conversations. We don’t want to be sold to, treated like cattle to be led through the chute of content. We want to interact, be seen, heard, like on a Bazaar: bump into people, reconnect, make new friends, hear the viewpoints of the audience. Simply come alive, ideally together bring the topic forward.

It is no secret that at conferences the hallway conversations are often the best ones. How can we create hallway conversations during our webinars?

When I was developing the SAP Mentor program together with Aslan Noghre-kar, a collection of ~130 of SAP’s top community influencers, we would run 2–3 webinars every week. Some were for mentors to connect with executives of SAP, or product folks that introduced the latest developments, or once a week SAP Mentors would share their insights with the rest of the community.

One of the things that we were famous for was that we were able to get a level of interactivity going especially in the Webinars, that astounded our presenters.

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Björn Goerke & SAP Mentors

We had an active general chat going, in parallel we made sure that no interesting questions got lost by collecting them in a separate Q&A window.

Every participant could not only post to the general chat, but also see and message any other participant privately. It was a way for the SAP Mentors to catch up and stay connected too.

I remember SAP Executive Björn Goerke after finishing a fast paced back and forth webinar with the SAP Mentors, leaning back and saying in astonishment and admiration: “This was a great conversation and you guys always seem to have fun”.

It was this magical mixture of intense high signal conversation, and at the same time friendly banter that was putting him and everyone in the webinar at ease. You were often really exhausted after such a session from the intensity of all the things that were happening and happy about the experience and the outcome.

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I hope with this post you start to think more about engagement when developing your next virtual event.

As Timo Elliott tweeted above: Same old lecture at people is not going to cut it. He just posted a great step by step summary of how he does these beautiful video presentations as well as a some thoughts on how to switch an all day workshop into a virtual meeting.

In my next post I will detail some of the things you can do now with the available tools, even on Zoom Webinar to make your virtual meeting more engaging. I will also share a little wishlist for Zoom and other webinar platform builders on how to board the Cluetrain.

P.S. Thanks Aslan Noghre-kar for your input to this post and the walk down memory lane.

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Seamless Online Community & Face 2 Face Event Integration Mon, 11 Feb 2019 21:22:54 +0000 One of the most powerful ways to engage your community is to get them together face to face. It builds trust and a feeling of belonging. We are social animals, once you shook someone’s hand, your engagement with that person online is on a totally different level.

One year coming back from SAP TechEd, I bumped into Matthias Zeller at the airport in Las Vegas. We were both exhausted, but happy, and he said: “You know, TechEd used to be a place where you go and maybe have dinner with your colleague from work. Now, with the SAP Developer Community and their events here, it is like a family reunion”.  

That is what you want to create with your community, extend the friends and family circle.

It is a shame, that afte all these years the community platforms are still mostly lousy in their ability to support events.

This is where the community platform shines:
[One of the main reasons why three of my last customers have selected them.]

  • Event module.
  • Ability to allow everyone to post events.
    Very important for your grassroots local events like the SAP Inside Tracks*.
  • Let members sign up for an event or at least show their interest.
  • Members can copy events to your calendar including location.  
  • Integration of other event platforms like MeetUp and Eventbrite.
  • Map integration to get a geo-overview of what is happening where.
  • Ability to comment to an event to start the conversation

You can check the events at the Alliance Aces Community to get a feeling for it. There are live podcast recordings, interactive webinars, conferences, as well as trainings posted. Some coming from the AAC members themselves.

Alliance Aces Community Events Section

If you want to deepen the engagement of your members, bring them together face to face. When selecting a community platform, keep an eye on their ability to let you and your members create events with ease.

*SAP Inside Tracks have a wiki page to organize themselves, which I like as everyone can add their event easily. Still, the platform is lacking many of the event features described above.

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GitHub + LinkedIn + Microsoft = #FutureOfWork Grand Central Station Wed, 13 Jun 2018 16:33:53 +0000

A lot has been written about Microsoft buying GitHub. I like Redmonk’s Stephen O’Grady’s So Pigs Do Fly: Microsoft Acquires GitHub post. He shares some interesting insights, like Microsoft competitors may likely switch to a different platform, or host their own.

What would be the most powerful AI?

One that is able to create the best programming solution the fastest. Having access to all the activities of all these developers on Github, as well as Microsoft’s own developers. All that data is an excellent starting point for a Machine Learning algorithm to develop a software problem solving AI.

My focus would be to develop a programming assistant first, that learns the habit of the most productive programmers and that AI would then nudge the average or even mediocre ones to write better code.

Thinking about it, even I would dust off my programming skills if there is a friendly AI helping me to get really good at it.

Here is another aspect that I have not seen covered. Deloitte recently published their Workforce of the Future study. In it 60% of the interviewees think: ‘few people will have stable, long-term employment in the future’.

Software is eating the world. Every company is becoming a HighTech company with the developers being at the center of their future success. Just try to hire a PHD level AI coder right now. They are able to command upward of $500K yearly salary at the moment.

If more and more work shifts to the gig economy, and developers are the most sought after in that economy, there is enormous value in being the platform that is ground zero for these freelance developers.

Beyond being the onramp to Azure, Github in combination with LinkedIn is best positioned to be the Grand Central Station for the gig economy, the bazaar of services, and Microsoft will be able to get a cut for all of these services:

  • Freelance Group insurance, especially health.
  • Billing, actually Microsoft should tailor their Dynamic Cloud ERP system specifically for developers that simplifies all the business stuff that freelancers have to do, so that they can focus on what they do best: writing code.
  • Visa services
  • A whole cottage industry of services will spring up.
  • <your service idea here>

Will Microsoft be able to pull that off? I think they are well positioned to do so. If they are, we will look back in a couple of years and say, that buying Github and LinkedIn was a really smart move from Microsoft.

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SAP Inside Tracks stretch SAP’s Marketing Event Budget by $1.9 Million Thu, 05 Apr 2018 17:00:23 +0000

What would it cost if SAP would organize SAP Inside Tracks themselves?

It usually is really tough to quantify in actual dollar amounts the impact of a thriving community on a company. Regarding events, you can calculate how much they would cost if not organized by the community. In this post, I am going to demonstrate that the 39 SAP Inside Tracks that were held in 2017 stretched SAP’s marketing event budget by a cool $1.9 Million. I say stretched because SAP would not spend that money but still gets the value.

Happy 10 year anniversary to the brainchild of Darren Hague and Nigel James, who enjoyed the SAP Community day at SAP TechEd so much, that they organized their own local one in London in 2008. They also renamed the event, called it SAP Inside Track for the first time the year after. [More SAP Inside Tracks history in this post.]

The SAP community team didn’t have a lot of budget, but we wanted to support these local events financially so that the organizers can at least invite everyone for a beer in a pub afterward. We earmarked $10K in our budget and gave out $500 to every event organizer. As these events are happening worldwide, it was a major headache to get the money into the organizer’s hands, but that story is for another post.

It always felt to me like these were the best marketing event dollars ever spent. I remember wanting to calculate the dollars saved when I was nurturing these events but was talked out of it, as it would put a “bad light on my marketing colleagues” that organize traditional events and need so much more money.

Recently I just got asked one too many times to quantify the impact that the community work has had on SAP so that I finally sat down and did it. Even I am surprised by the results.

Worldwide active SAP Community members, mostly lead by the SAP Mentors created 39 SAP Inside Tracks in 2017. They are hugely popular, as the passion of the community members sharing their cool SAP projects/developments is absolutely contagious.

The different locations also have developed their own event flavor. Hamburg, for example, is creating a professional level little summary video every year. Here is the 2017 one:

At another Inside Track organizers would collect all participants’ car keys in the morning, to increase commitment during the day, but also surprise everyone with a freshly washed car when they came back to it in the evening.

We can calculate how much it would cost SAP to organize these events themselves. They are usually full-day events drawing between 15-300 participants. 30 feels like a low average to base our calculations on. I created a worksheet for it and you can play with the numbers too.

It takes a lot of work to organize a successful event. Find a venue, negotiate price, coordinate agenda, catering, after hour venue, promotion, hotels, presenters, …

As you are usually not local, you have to travel to the location and stay at least the night before. Ideally, you leave the day after the event, to connect with the participants informally over a beer in the evening. These travel costs add up.

As luck would have it, I met with Amit Sinha the other day. He used to run the marketing for SAP HANA. I told him about my event calculation worksheet, and he said: “I used to run these events for the original HANA rollout. I can tell you the true costs.”. For 30-150 people if the event was at a hotel the budget was $30K, if it was at an SAP location it would be $10K. He had dedicated people in his team doing these events and on average they would produce 10 events per year.

If you put these Numbers into the worksheet you end up with the following:


Categories #SIT Event At A Hotel #SIT Event At SAP Office
Event Budget Without Employee $30,000 $10,000
Employee Costs Per Event
Yearly Full Cost Per Employee Including Healthcare, IT … $200,000
Number Of Events Per Year an SAP Employee Organizes 10 $20,000 $20,000
Employee Cost Per Event $20,000 $20,000
# of SAP Inside Tracks 39
Actual Costs SAP Pays Each #SIT $500
Current Total Costs Of SAP Inside Tracks To SAP $19,500 $19,500
Costs If SAP would organized all SAP Inside Tracks $1,950,000 $390,000
Total Amount That SAP Community Is Stretching SAP’s Event Budget $1,930,500 $370,500

I am blown away. The SAP Community organized SAP Inside Tracks have stretched the SAP marketing event budget by over $1.9 Million in 2017.

If you go to an SAP organized marketing event, you have your guard up, you know you are going to be marketed to, aka they want to sell you something.

To go to an SAP Inside Track is much more like a friends and family reunion where practitioners share the cool stuff they are doing with SAP. A totally different vibe. Check out Den Howlett reminiscing about the first true SAP Inside Track in London in 2009.

SAP employees are embraced at these events and often present the latest developments from the mothership as well. For these SAP employees, it is the best way to get a pulse check about what is really going on out in the field and I highly recommend to go to and/or help organize at least one every year.

Many of these Inside Tracks have spawned off monthly meetups called SAP Stammtisch. If I were an SAP executive, I would connect with the organizers and align my travel schedule to coincide with a local Stammtisch and pay the first round.

Smart marketers work together with the Inside Track organizers like the SAPUI5 team did. They put the UI5con the day before the SAP Inside Track in Frankfurt, both at the same location to great success.

For me, these numbers are eye-opening and there is still enormous untapped potential in these Inside Tracks and I hope they will be nurtured even more going forward.

For me these numbers are eye opening and there is still enormous untapped potential in these Inside Tracks and I hope they will be nurtured even more going forward.

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Playful Leadership Overview Fri, 23 Mar 2018 18:41:47 +0000

Riffing on that theme of play with my lovely wife, Jean, of Thrivability fame, we realized the following truth:

Your whole organization will benefit from nurturing a culture of play.

Play not as a specific game or activity, more a state of mind that brings new energy to the tasks at hand and sparks creative solutions.

Embrace play into your culture and leadership to harvest these amazing results:

  • Play is the fastest way to create deep trust throughout your organization and your whole ecosystem.
  • Play makes room for tinkering, trying out new things even if silly or especially if silly.
  • While playing, you often build on the ideas of others. It creates an environment of collaboration.
  • It breaks down barriers between departments and hierarchies, everyone can join in.
  • It blurs the lines between customers, partners, and your company.
  • Employees are more engaged if they can play.
  • Playing is human. We connect deeply to our true nature when we play at work.
  • Playfulness reduces stress.
  • Fastest way to diffuse tense situations is via humor and play.
  • Helps develop and improve social skills.
  • <How do you think you would benefit>

Only in environments where you are allowed to tinker along the lines of “That’s funny …” breakthrough discoveries will happen.

This post is sketching the highlights of our current thinking. In the coming weeks we are going to explore that topic in more detail. We don’t have Playful Leadership fully fleshed out and invite you to join us on this journey. Hello Working-Out-Loud. How did playfulness help you at your work? Please share your stories. Also sign up for the Playful Leadership mailing list if you would like to always be informed when we post something new.

Seb Paquet freely building on Arthur C. Clarke’s famous quote: Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

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