How HMRC runs engaging webinars

DSC_0736In this article we will briefly look at the current state of webinars before we analyse a webinar run by HMRC (the UK tax office), and how you can replicate that on your own webinars.

We’ve all been on more webinars that we can remember, yet few of them were probably memorable. That’s because the format that most webinars run by is truly horrid. But in a recent experience that I had, I have discovered you can learn a good deal about running a highly engaging webinar from HMRC. Continue reading “How HMRC runs engaging webinars”

Review: The Slight Edge, by Jeff Olson

IMG_1254This is my review of The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson. I’ll be looking at it’s overall message, and picking out the points that were most relevant to me, in the hope that we can spark some discussion off of that.

In late 2015 my friend Robert Clay told the participants of the first Ampersand Club a story about a father who has two grownup children. He offers them both a choice: have a million dollars cash today (hey, he’s American), or have one penny, but the value of that sum will be doubled everyday.

As you can might guess, one child takes the million and it destroys him/her, whereas the other takes the one penny, and by day 30, they have become a millionaire many times over.

It turns out this story is from The Slight Edge, the book Robert recommended that evening that we go away and read. And I did go away and read it… 7 months later.

The Premise of The Slight Edge

In a nutshell, The Slight Edge is over a 250-page exhortation of the power of making small decisions that accumulate over time into a significant difference, just like the story above.

This is illustrated by the below illustration, that appears regularly throughout the book:


Olson makes this practical with the following examples:

  • Going to the gym everyday doesn’t make much difference at first, but over time, it will make a huge difference.
  • Saving doesn’t much difference at first, but over time…
  • And building your business doesn’t seem to be making much difference at first, but keep at it, and over time…

You get the point. Thus, the most basic application of this book can be summarised thus: “Keep doing what is good for you, day in, day out, even when you don’t see any difference, because it will eventually come in the end, and when it does, it will be significant.”

The time factor

The way this works is through time, and being consistent over time. He says “life is not a clickable link”, a very pertinent metaphor to a digital world that expects things to be immediate.

Normally, we see time passing as a bad thing, but Olson says,

There is a natural progression to success: plant, cultivate, harvest — and the central step, cultivate, can only happen over the course of time.

I like that. This has been one of my main takeaways. Normally I feel like time is against me, but this has flipped my mind into seeing time as my ally now.

For instance, as a consultant, I am always working on leads. It would be easy to see time as frustrating — “why won’t they get back to me” — however, now I can view time as an asset. While I waiting for this person to get back to me, I let time work on them, taking the material I have provided (and will continue to provide), and working it down into their thinking.

You can’t be static

Another idea Olson posits is that because the universe is in constant change, one cannot stand still. You are either progressing, or declining, but you are never just hovering in the middle.

Thus, the slight edge again is about that daily routine, quite literally, that slight amount of effort that sets you apart.

Personally, I’d rather have a day off every now and then, but I do recognise from my own life how great I feel when I am at the gym regularly, for instance, or eating well everyday.

Another point on not being static is that your goal will always end up being different to what you think it will be. So, given that you spend most of your time actually “off-target” for your goal in one sense, learn to be content with moving rather than perfecting.

Closing Thoughts

There’s a lot more in this book, although if you’ve read your fair share of self-help books, much of it won’t be new, and accordingly, I skim read much of this. However, when I slowed down to take in a section, I still found it enjoyable and a pertinent refresher if nothing else. If you are new to self-help / business books, this could quite change your life.

On the negative, there were some parts of the book I was uncomfortable with, but that is more to do with my aversion to gurus. Otherwise, I’d rate this book highly. It’s not as snappy as something like Eat That Frog, but it is enjoyable none the less, and does have some real nuggets that bring down the veneer of success some self-help books like to present.

Three Strategies to Increase Engagement

In this short video, I discuss three ways that you can increase participation.

This is important because participation is the currency of engagement. Engagement is not something you create in a moment, rather it is the effect of what you’ve created in the moment; the description of the moment, if you will.

The way we create the effect of engagement is through participation itself.

Therefore it’s critical to know how to create participation. In this video I discuss three ways of doing that, through three different metaphors:

  1. Buttons
  2. Dots
  3. Containers

You won’t be metaphors that these items are in fact sequential. Buttons lead to dots which lead to containers. It’s a bit obtuse to read, but as you watch the video you’ll get it!

Please do share your feedback in the comments below.

‘Small and social’ vs ‘big and broadcast’


Last night I came upon the phrase ‘small and social’ while reflecting on Brennan Dunn’s DYFConf in Europe.

Brennan ran a very different type of conference, which as you would expect, was an immersive, engaging experience and therefore very transformational.

Yet, this happened in some part by accident, because initially he wanted 100 people to be at the conference. It became clear to him as he was marketing the event and fewer bookings were coming in than he expected that he would have to adjust his expectations to a smaller group… and yet… this worked to his advantage.

In his own words:

Lesson 3: Keep it small
Like I mentioned earlier, I didn’t sell nearly the amount of tickets I was expecting to sell.

And for a conference organizer with fixed expenses, that’s not a good thing.

But next year will be the size of this year’s conference — because it was the perfect amount of people.

We didn’t have a speaker room. Nor did we even have a speaker dinner this time around. The speakers were really just attendees who happened to be up on stage, sharing something that they’re deeply familiar with. (This also came from Amy Hoy and Alex Hillman’s BaconBiz.)

I have a bad penchant for hanging out in my room during certain talks, or at least grouping with a few others in the hallway throughout the event.

This didn’t happen at DYFConf.

So why was it that the event was better smaller? What is it about small and social that makes for richer engagement? I’m so glad you asked!

Small and Social

Let’s start by clarifying that people go to events primarily for two things: learning and networking. (Thank you to Roger Haskett for telling me that.) So it would be in the best interests of event organisers and the like to create spaces where people can do those two things in the best way.

If you think back to school, the way that this was done by classrooms of around 30 people in size. In business, workshops are normally best with around 20 people in attendance. Famously, Jesus had 12 disciples that he trained. The unit that the military works in practically on the ground is in squads of 8 to 12.

What’s in common with these numbers? Well, compared to most conference or community ambitions, what’s in common is that they are small!

Yet, though they be small, they are of such a size that people can actually learn and network.

This in stark contrast to…

Big and Broadcast

Any event organiser has one objective: sell tickets. Almost every church leader I know wants a bigger church. Speakers want to talk to large audiences. And now with TED, we have attached the apotheosis of speaking to being in front of a large crowd.

What drives this is the sense of wanting to matter, to feel like you’re where the people are, to experience the emotion of when hundreds or thousands come together. Now, there’s nothing wrong with that – indeed it’s beautiful – but, if we want people to learn or to network, it is not effective.

In Brennan’s example, the need is to sell lots of tickets to make the price work (and to make it cheaper for people to attend). And as is almost always the case when running events, the way you get lots of people to come is to have big name speakers and use social proof by showing that everyone else is coming.

And again, I don’t have a problem with this, but… if we want people to learn or network, it’s not effective!

The reason why big and broadcast doesn’t work for learning is because as I like to say, if you’re not talking, you’re not learning.

Edgar Dale’s cone of learning illustrates this:


The Marriage of Small and Social and Big and Broadcast

What is to be done, then? Are we have no more big events?

I don’t think so. I think we can still have big. The way I see it, we have two options:

  1. Only be small and social. Make your event small and make it social.
  2. Be big and broadcast, with lots of pockets of small and social.

How can we have pockets of small and social? Quite easily! In a conference setting these would typically be called ‘breakout sessions’ or workshops. But don’t do what is now common practice and make them on a separate day to the plenary sessions, as if they are a lower grade of content! Make each day a mix of learning styles: some big and broadcast talks, followed by some small and social workshops, followed by some more big and broadcast talks.

Even a talk in front of thousands can create small and social pockets inside it. As a speaker you could have a moment where people turn to the person next to them and discuss a point you’ve made. Yes, it might break up your flow – but if you really want people to learn or to network, this is far better for them!

The most masterful communicators have the ability to do a big and broadcast talk, yet it is full of small and social moments. This is done by invoking the hearer’s imagination so that they literally see themselves as the object of your talk.

Anyway, I digress.

The point is that small and social wins the day on what people actually want from events, and it doesn’t mean you have to ditch being big and broadcast.


I recommend that you follow the people who have influenced my thoughts in this post.

Thank you to Brennan Dunn for the example. Also, the photo at the top of this article is from DYFConf. If you are a freelancer of any kind, his website is the number one resource for increasing your sales:

Thank you to Jeff Hurt from whom I first learned of Edgar Dale. His blog (along with Dave Lutz) is my favourite for meeting design:

And thank you to Roger Haskett for teaching me that people go to events to network and to learn. More from Roger and his incredible work here:

My Values


On my journey to discover who I am, I have been thinking about my values. By codifying my values, I hope to have a list of criteria for things that I do, then if what I’m doing doesn’t reflect this list of values, it’s the wrong thing for me to be doing.

I took me a while to get the list together, but I finally was able to boil it down to 5, each beginning with a different vowel. The 5 initial letters gave me a challenge to really think this through and pick what are the quintessential values for me:

A – Authentic
E – Essentially
I – Integrity
O – Orderly
U – Unity

Authenticity is being true to myself, open with my life, being genuine. This would probably be the number one word that people use to describe me when they talk to me, something I hold as a great honour.

Essentially is about minimalism and essentialism. It’s an adverb, so it’s about how I do things.

Integrity is doing what’s right by others and by myself. Integrity is very important to me.

Orderly is about doing things in a systematic way. It doesn’t mean pushing order onto others or not being able to handle the messiness of life, rather it’s an adverb about how I naturally seem to do things in an orderly, systematic way, and as a leader bring order to chaos. This means that when I do something, I can turn it into a framework or maxim, which I love.

Unity is being one with the world, with nature, with others, and therefore not being judgmental. There’s a spiritual element to this, but also an aspiration to be someone who’s at peace with others, rather than in antagonism with those I find difficult.

What I like is that as vowels, these are my “vowels” – and every “word” that I write with me life will have will them in it. They are also my “vows” – the way that I commit to living.

The difficult journey of being yourself

Years ago I read that as a leader you will have your own values that you lead by. This was a revelation to me – I had assumed that as a leader who should get rid of your own personality (I was a self-effacing church leader, after all!)

Recently I have returned to business after a hiatus, and one of my struggles has been to create the offerings that people will buy from me.

The struggle has been twofold. First of all, it’s finding out what’s valuable to others that I have. But the second has been in the way I’ve tried to edit who I am in order to provide that value.

Then in a moment of frustration (and to be honest, depression) a month or so ago I realised that I was making a mistake. Why was I trying to change myself in order to be valuable to others? Or, was it that I need to become even more driven, more promotional, to make things work?

Then I read this tweet, from my friend Adam, that really set me free from this pressure:

What a beautiful line! “Be yourself. Eventually we all are.”

Isn’t that just the truth? How often do we try to edit ourselves for something to end up only reverting back to ourselves in the end anyway. Thus, I realised that I would save a lot of time if I could create business offerings that were as close to the authentic me as possible.

I’m still on that process of working that out. (Hey, clarity is hard work!)

But, I have made progress by codifying my values – the essence of who I am. More on that another day.