Archive for April, 2009

A Reader Writes: How Do I Start A Blog?

Wednesday, April 15th, 2009

Dear Lindsay:

Setting up a blog for yourself is really pretty simple. First of all, you need a website and domain name. (Picking a name that isn’t already in use is a challenge. But – with a little creativity – you can find one that hasn’t already been claimed.)

Next, you must find a service (I’m very happy with WordPress) that provides the template – the permanent aspects of your site, such as the look of your Home Page. After that, try to come up with a short, pithy name that accurately conveys your point of view. Again, the more creative you are, the better.

Next, decide how often you want to write – from whenever the mood strikes you to several times a day. Include a feedback mechanism on your site so that those who wish can respond. By linking to them, you increase your visibility on the World Wide Web. “Ezine” is one of many services that reprints blogs on a wide variety of topics. You can also google your chosen topic to see what other sites appear. By corresponding with them, people who visit their sites will learn about you. This increases the dialogue potential exponentially.

Finally comes the grunt work of writing the blogs themselves. I recommend short, highly focused, paragraphs on very specific sub-topics of your general theme. And by short, I mean brief enough for your readers to enjoy without scrolling down.

At times, you’ll feel like you are the only one reading what you’ve written. But then, someone from across the country or around the world will respond, and you will realize the enormous potential at your fingertips.

Blogging pay is lousy, but for me, the satisfaction level is pretty high. After all, it gave me the opportunity to respond to you.

Good luck from your fellow blogger, Dave Tanner

Sometimes “Free” Is Way Too Expensive

Monday, April 13th, 2009

Gina and I drove down to Houston this past Friday to see son Erik’s band performing at a Rice University event. It was a “night to remember,” but not for all happy reasons.

Erik’s band was one of several groups appearing at an outdoor concert. Sound was being provided by volunteers (which is to say – in this case – “amateurs.”) The power to run the PA system was all coming from one standard 50-foot extension cord, run from a floor outlet in the nearest building. No one had bothered to tape down or otherwise secure the cord, which ran for much of its length across a pathway. Any number of disasters could have occurred. People could have tripped over the cable, and even – under the worst of circumstances – have suffered injury. That didn’t happen, fortunately.

What did occur was that the extension cord was repeatedly knocked loose from its outlet by folks who either stepped on it, or who closed the door into the room to which it was run. Every time this happened, the PA went dead. Then, every time the PA went dead, a mad scramble took place to plug the cord in again. Never did the well-meaning volunteers think to secure the extension cord (with tape, by laying something heavy on it, or by stationing someone by the outlet to sit on the cord.)

It happened to Erik’s band during their very first song. Rather than stand around doing nothing, he called up an instrumental, which the band played while PA issues were being sorted out. It was a shrewd move, in that it kept the band members occupied (and not focused on the problem) while keeping the audience entertained. Later, the sound went out again. And again, the band played on.

Bottom line: free PA is great, if those providing it have enough experience and/or savvy to prevent most of these foreseeable problems from occurring, and to deal quickly and decisively with them when they do. When – like last Friday in Houston – such is not the case, countless hours of preparation by dozens of folks can go down the toilet. Your party can crash as badly as that PA system did.

Just remember Mr. Murphy and his law. Plan accordingly, hoping for the best while expecting something less.

Want Improved Behavior? Try EXPECTING It.

Wednesday, April 8th, 2009

When I was young and irresponsible – but I repeat myself – a teacher of mine found a way to force me to act grown up: she thanked me in advance for being mature.

Huh? How does that work?

It was simple (for her), and – believe me – she played me like a violin.

Somewhere along the way in her career, she had learned that the old “spoonful of sugar” routine works better most of the time with college-aged guys than do heavy-handed tactics. But she had also discovered a secret, insidious, improvement: by letting me know that she trusted me to perform at a higher level, she actually forced me to do so.

The situation was this: in a group project, I had to turn in my part of the work first in order for my partner to do hers. I’m sure that my very responsible partner had seen me in the classroom enough to know how lax my work habits were at this point in my life. She probably went to the teacher, begging for another partner – anybody.

So it was that – at the end of class – our teacher called me up to the desk to ask when my part of the work would be ready. Naturally, I assured her that I would have it finished on schedule. At that point, I expected her to threaten me if I failed to deliver or, perhaps, try to shame me by talking about how much this grade meant to my poor partner.

Instead, once I promised to be on time for a change – she thanked me for being a man of my word.

I know it sounds simple, but it was deadly. She called me a “man” – a term that had rarely (or never) been applied to me. Throwing in the “…of my word” just sealed the deal. Now I had to hold up my end of the bargain. And I did. I was even early!

So, next time your teen, tween, or otherwise uninspired worker has an important job to do, don’t threaten them – just let them know that you expect them to come through with flying colors. Treat them like a functioning adult.

Who knows? They might even behave like one!

Before Making That Important Announcement – First, Get Their Attention!

Monday, April 6th, 2009

Why is it that – even with everything that goes on at a 3-ring circus – the ringmaster is always heard?

There are 3 reasons: First, he’s a pro and is experienced at making himself heard. Next, he has a PA system which can be even louder the trumpeting elephants and laughing rug rats. And finally, he has a band to help him.

All of us have heard fanfares. We know that when they are played, they signal that important information will follow (“Ladies and gentlemen, let’s eat!”) But – even to someone from Mars with no cultural awareness of fanfares, the fact that they are louder than the surrounding noise gets our attention – at least for a moment.

This is why I hate to see shy violets try to hush a room. They always start by clearing their throats (which accomplishes nothing in noisy surroundings). Then – in an almost apologetic voice – they add a meek “Excuse me” (ditto the reaction above.) It’s sad to watch, and worse, it never works.

The way to quiet an audience is to break through their myriad conversations and thoughts in a bold way. Fanfares are great, gongs or cymbal crashes are good, and even a good old fashioned loud whistle (either the kind you make with your mouth, or the one that coaches and referees use) is pretty reliable. Any of these should momentarily lower the ambient sound in the room a few decibels.

The key to success, however, is what comes next. The instant that the fanfare opens the door a crack, whoever plans to speak must barge right in to fill the sonic void. And nothing – repeat nothing – has ever improved on the classic ringmaster’s cry: “LADIES AND GENTLEMEN!!!”

Say it, say it fast, and say it loud. And there may be hope for you in the circus, yet.

Band Or Deejay – Or How About BOTH?

Wednesday, April 1st, 2009

A good live band at your wedding reception adds class, and can personalize songs (by customizing lyrics or making songs longer or shorter, as needed) in a way that deejays cannot easily do. But no band – not even my own – can play the full range of songs that a professional DJ has at his or her fingertips. So – which is right for you?

For more and more brides, the answer is BOTH!

One way this method works well is to have the live band start the party, play for the ceremonial first dances, dinner, and start of the dance portion of the evening. During their breaks, the deejay can play short sets of tunes and styles the band doesn’t play.

Then, when it’s really time to par-tay, the band yields the dance floor to the deejay, who effortlessly (ie. without need of breaks) keeps the wedding guests dancing until the wee small hours. As Hannah Montana would say, it’s “the best of both worlds.”

Where either budgets or stage size don’t permit two music providers, most bands have the ability to play prerecorded music during their breaks. Many of my brides actually supply me with CDs of their “infinite playlists.” In this way, every song played – whether live or Memorex – is a personal favorite.

A bride who is hearing all her favorite songs is a happy bride, and a happy bride makes for a perfect wedding.