Jousting with the Black Knight

Thoughts on International Freelancers Day 1.

International Freelancers Day

If you haven’t read Ivanhoe, then you will have no idea where my title comes from, or that Sir Walter Scott introduced the word free-lance to the English language and, as a Scot, this has a special resonance for me.  I have just taken part in the first day of the first International Freelancers Day online webinar.  Having sat through all 12 presentations from the first day, and I intend to sit through all of the presentations on day 2, I wanted to record my immediate thoughts on what I saw, for the benefit of those who may have missed some or all of the sessions.

I come to these sessions with no background as a freelancer, but as someone who may be considering going into some kind of freelancing or consultancy – whether that becomes full-time or part-time is another matter.  I do come to these sessions, however, with over 30 years of presentation experience, aside from school (= up to 18 for US readers, since school ≠ university in the UK!), and I based a lot of my acceptance of the message on the quality of the presentation – not the reputation of the speakers.  I know absolutely nothing about the reputation of any of the presenters in the 24 sessions, so I am basing my opinions of what they have to offer on how well they delivered their message online – or not, as the case may be.

Three points, before I go any further:

  1. I don’t care who you are, or how many books you’ve sold, or how many people say “You were awesome”, if I think you were rubbish I will tell you.  I will not do so without saying why, because any criticism should be directed towards improvement.
  2. I respect the judgement of the people who organized this opportunity for us, at whatever level, and clearly worked to bring together a wide range of speakers and subjects to try and make the whole event engaging for most of the participants, at least some of the time.  I want to thank them for their efforts and the time they put into this, whether or not it becomes an annual event – I hope it does!
  3. There were some technical difficulties, probably due to underestimating demand, which were surmounted fairly quickly.  Communication about this could have been better, but there was enough back-channelling to keep people informed – the main page should have been updated with the revised schedule, though – or registrants emailed with a notice that the schedule had changed…

OK, a brief review of each of the presentations, as they happened, and I am directing these comments to the presenters as much as to other readers, before I make some more general comments.

  1. Michael Stelzner:
    How Facebook Can Supercharge Your Freelance Business
    This was fine as a gentle introduction to the day.  Maybe no-one was sure what was going on or how things were going to work.  It was mostly “talking head”, but I did make a note about Facebook FBML, and I wasn’t overly disappointed by the introduction to the day.
  2. Pam Slim:
    Create a killer network to build and boost your business
    I missed about 5 minutes of this because of connection issues, but there were basically 3 slides and a talking head.  I got the idea, but this could have been done in 2 or 3 minutes with some kind of expansion.  I thought at least 25-30 minutes of each allocated session would be filled…
  3. Brian Clark:
    SEO Copywriting Made Simple for Freelance Writers
    Again, I missed the beginning because of connection and ‘refresh the browser’ issues.  I don’t know if Brian covered this, but what is SEO?  Did all of the audience know this?  I am playing Devil’s Advocate here, but if anyone in the audience, like me, is completely new to everything in the conference, speakers need to explain terms.  OK, I sort of worked out that SEO was search engine optimization… but that was nowhere in the blurb for the sessions or referred to in my experience of the presentation.  I got some useful information from this presentation.  I agree about blogs needing to have good content, and specifically designed landing pages – which I do with my Twitter URL link.  I am a little unsure about ‘advising people’ to RT 3 times, however, if this is the message that people take – I look at this as Twitter-spam, unless it is done with consideration to time-zones and target audience.  Brian did give participants enough time to write down information from his slides and the pacing was reasonable, as well as providing incidental background that could be ‘skipped’ if you wanted to write things down.
  4. Pete Savage:
    How to Determine if There’s a Viable Market for Your Freelance Services!
    I thought this was a good presentation.  It highlighted six questions to consider, provided approaches based on the answers to the questions and gave enough time to take notes without missing much.  There was a clear message I took away from this, and it did what it said on the label!
  5. Mari Smith:
    Facebook Marketing Success Secrets for Solo Professionals
    I thought this was a brilliant presentation.  It was clear from the outset that, not only did Mari know her subject, but she appreciated the fact that she was presenting a video to an online audience which could not interact with her.  As with Pete’s presentation, I took away six points (which is what I would expect from a 20-25 minute presentation), but there was also a dynamism in the ‘live’ how-to demonstration which made Mari’s presentation engaging, and I almost believed she was actually there at the time.  To me, so far, this is an ideal model of how to deliver online presentations to what was basically an ‘offline’ audience, and it only reinforces my belief that Mari actually knows what she is talking about.  You should go to her Facebook page and like it immediately, if you haven’t done so already!  Yeah, how’s that for marketing, Mari!
  6. Mike McDerment:
    Workday Nirvana: How to remain inspired and productive when you work alone
    Mike had a lot to offer.  This was another, mostly, “talking head” presentation.  He did provide some slides, but didn’t give participants enough time to write down all of the information.  I think there was a missed opportunity here.  It would have been so much more effective if Mike had actually been in, or shown us, a ‘home office’, instead of standing in an environment which is clearly totally different from the one he was trying to tell us about.  I got a visual/aural conflict of message at times.
  7. Steve Slaunwhite:
    The Master Marketing Formula™ to Landing Great Clients
    OK, I have to say I start coming into this with an “oh-oh!” because of the ™ in the presentation title – I appreciate that people have a right to trademark their intellectual property and/or brand name, and I come to this as someone who has never heard of the presenters, however, I still get an “oh-oh!” moment when I see people ‘trade-marking’ things which seem to be everyday phrases…
    I didn’t allow this to affect my judgement of the presentation because, to be honest, I just clicked on the links to watch the videos without paying too much attention to titles – at first!  I thought this was average – kind of what I would expect an experienced person to deliver to an unknown audience.  From that point of view, it was fine.  It was informative, and Steve gave participants enough time to take notes from his slides. The offer of additional support through the 25 worksheets (e-mail: steve@TheMarketingCoach.com) was also a very nice addition, and I am going to say that you should take advantage of this!  I think, I would have listed the Business Information Services on the slide, rather than just saying what they were, though.
  8. Michael Martine:
    How to Attract Freelance CLIENTS with Your Blog (Not Other Freelancers)
    Very informative, but way, way too much information for the time allotted!  Anyone watching this session could take notes, because Michael allowed time for note-taking, but you’d get writer’s cramp, if you wrote fast enough…  Slide content was variable, and largely uninspiring, to say the least, but dynamic at any rate.  Judging by the tweets, Michael’s session seemed to go down very well with the audience, and many took away useful tips – for family members, if not for themselves!  I think Michael tried to ‘give away’ too much information, but I’m not going to criticize him for that, and I am certainly going to investigate his website/blog!
  9. Liz Strauss & Carol Roth:
    What Kind of Entrepreneur Are You? Knowing the Rules of the Game You’re Playing to Win
    Two talking heads, not just one – this did very little for me.  I took away some points but, unfortunately, the word ‘jobby’ has completely different connotations for me, as a Scot… again you need to think about your audience if you introduce ‘new’ terms.  I wondered what this was about, most of the time, even knowing what the title was – it actually came across as being very unprofessional or ‘put together at the last minute’.  It might as well have been two friends discussing some subject I wasn’t particularly interested in.  Not impressed.
  10. Jonathan Fields:
    How to Trigger The Big 5 Subsconscious Buy-Buttons Without Feeling Like A Slick Idiot
    [OK, that should be subconscious… title typo not a good start!]
    It was clear from Tweets before, during and after that Jonathan was a ‘name’ to some people – whatever… I did not start paying any great attention to what he was saying until about 10 minutes in.  Largely, this was because he was another talking head, the 5 points (the ‘buy-buttons’) were not made clear enough – and I am still not clear what they were, big minus points on presentation.  I got a lot of useful information from Jonathan’s presentation, though, as did many others – judging by the Tweets, although I have to say I take them with a pinch of salt.  This could have been 100% better with a couple of well-designed visuals and clearer reinforcement of the five buttons – did anyone actually catch what they were, by the way?
  11. Dan Schawbel:
    How to Build Your Brand As a Freelancer
    This was originally scheduled for earlier – number 8 – so some people were a bit disconcerted by seeing presentations ‘at the wrong time’.  I though this was particularly unimpressive as a presentation.  Clearly a ‘name’ who was ‘spouting knowledge’, without taking the time to adjust video balance or audio, or consider how the presentation was being delivered.  I was totally unengaged with this presentation, which seemed to be covering ‘old ground’, compared to the rest of the day.  If he has a brand, why do I not know who he is or what he does?  Again, why no visuals?  Only marginally better than the two women having a conversation with each other, and that’s only because I made a few more notes.  Not impressed.
  12. Dan Poynter:
    You Want to Write a Book – An Introduction to Writing, Publishing and Promoting
    Dan’s presentation was a nice way to end the day.  I have already self-published/edited a collection of fiction, as well as worked for a major publisher, so much of Dan’s presentation was not new to me, but I liked the way he explained things for the ‘absolute beginner’.  There was a good deal of useable information and, of course Dan’s website to investigate!

Overall, I think this was a very valuable and useful day.  The organizers are to be congratulated, despite any shortcomings that I or others may have pointed out.  The fact that this is being offered as a free resource to participants is also to be applauded, and none of us should have reason to complain too much about something we didn’t pay to get!  The adverts before and after each video are annoying, if you have attended every session and because they cut into the video presentation time itself, but it’s an irritation I am prepared to tolerate.  Some people decided to go into a chatroom at one point, I don’t know if they stayed there all day, but my experience as #mathchat founder suggests that chatrooms and Twitter don’t mix simultaneously.  I am also surprised that there was no archive of the conference chat set up beforehand.  So I have done this.  You can find conference related tweets on TwapperKeeper and WhatTheHashtag?!

I am looking forward to day two and, who knows, I may even blog about it!
Register now, if you haven’t already, and get access to the free replays – see if you agree with me or not!

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One response to “Jousting with the Black Knight

  1. Pingback: Aethelstane emerges | Sine of the Times: Dividing the Universe by Zero

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