Category Archives: Certifications

Seminars and Webinars

I think we can all agree that one of the fastest growing business segments in the world today, regardless of industry, has to be the seminar and webinar segment. It has to be. Just judging by the relative number of and ever-growing list of empirical data that shows up in my email on a daily basis. I never think of myself as particularly unique within the business world in general, or within my chosen industry segment specifically, so if the expanding number of webinar solicitations is happening to me, it must be happening to others. If my mailbox is any indication of what everyone else is seeing in their mailbox, there must now be a seminar or webinar available for each of us to attend, just about every hour of every day.

When will this all stop?

I came in on a Monday morning to no less than five new seminar and webinar invitations. The first was a Hipaa Compliance educational opportunity, as if I even know what that is. I had to look it up. I guess I could stand to be educated on Hipaa.

HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996) is United States legislation that provides data privacy and security provisions for safeguarding medical information.

Okay. Nope, don’t need that.

The next was “Team Effectiveness: The Five Dysfunctions of a Team”. Nope, I think we are probably already dysfunctional enough without having to go to a webinar about it. I can just look around if I want to see dysfunctionality. I don’t need to pay a fee to see it.

I was concerned that there might be some sort of professional certification associated with that one.

The next was a SCRUM Study webinar. This one actually did propose some sort of certification. For those of you not familiar with this discipline, it is the latest and greatest variant of project management. While possibly intriguing, this one also went into the “Nope” file.

Then there was the “Keto-Burn” Protocol for Weight loss. Obviously spam, but I guess it does say something about our fixation on our weight and the growing obesity problem in the US if there are engines out there SPAMming it to business email addresses.

I personally ascribe to the age old “Eat a little less – Move around a little more” methodology of weight control.

The final one was “Stability Studies – Key steps to design and analyze the results to estimate a product’s shelf life”. Quite possibly a very interesting topic. However, not something that I think could generate appreciable business value over the course of a ninety-minute webinar.

The one thing that all these disparate webinars on all these disparate topics had in common was that they wanted me to give them money (in varying amounts) for the privilege of attending. Each of these solicitations referred to me by name and acted as if we were either long lost family, or possibly recently separated friends. They just needed a little of my money now, and they were sure that they could improve my livelihood, if not world in the future.

The first thought I had was: Are there really any people, anywhere on this planet that will sign up for one of these seminars or webinars solely based on an unrequested email solicitation?

I guess there must be.

Now I can understand how and why people will give money to a Nigerian prince if he sends them an email explaining that if they send him some money today, he will in turn send them a whole lot more money at some future date. Who wouldn’t want to make that investment? I keep waiting and hoping for such an email and opportunity, but at least up to now, to no avail.

But who would want to sign up for a webinar on some mundane or arcane topic, based on an invitation from someone who wasn’t a Nigerian prince?

Unlike the previous generation of direct mail – direct response (DMDR) campaigns, where businesses actually had to spend and invest money on the postage required to deliver their opportunities to the target addresses, all today’s email campaigns need is just an email address to send it to. It seems the internet-based bits that carry the message are essentially free. This means that if anyone, anywhere, for whatever reason ever responds to these campaign requests, and signs up for one of the webinars, there is an immediate positive business value generated to the sender. As I alluded to before, if one person does it, there will invariably be others that do it as well. After all, it essentially costs them nothing to send the invitation.

They are in essence trying to get something from you for nothing.

If they don’t. No problem. All they do is just fill up your inbox. If they do, then eureka, they scored.

A quick check of my Junk Mail / Spam Filter showed that there were no less than eleven other invitations to other events of varying magnitude that I would obviously have been foolish in the extreme to ignore, that arrived, and were diverted, over the weekend. I quickly identified the five senders that got through as spam and they too were now in the junk file. I am hopeful that all future requests from these sources will also be captured there before I have to deal with them again.

Undaunted by this apparent avalanche of cyber-trash that now appears in my email mailbox, I went and did a little research, as I am wont to do. The results are both surprising and unsurprising at the same time.

Contrary to popular belief (at least my popular belief) DMDR marketing campaigns are not dead. They still exist outside of the internet. In fact, there is an industry association set up for it (the Direct Marketing Association, strangely enough) and they continue to provide information and research on both its effectiveness as well as the effectiveness of what seems to be the bourgeoning direct spamming approach.

“Though there has been a reduction in response rate for direct mail over the last ten years, it’s still holding strong. In its response rate report, the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) analyzed Bizo and Epsilon data and found that direct mail achieves a 4.4% response rate, compared to 0.12% for email.”

I don’t know if I am horrified or relieved that such an august periodical such a Forbes is dedicating their precious column-inches to topics such as this. Then I remembered that Forbes is now also publishing on-line so the cost per column-inch has also come down appreciably in association with the cost of bits on the internet.

I guess they can now also expect an acceptance and response rate equal to the on-line DMDR people.

I wonder what that may have done to their advertising rates and values. Just a passing thought.

Not surprisingly, the DMA study shows that their preferred method of annoying people with unrequested solicitations via non-email methods, is close to forty times more successful that annoying them with email solicitations. On the surface this would seem to be the preferred method of annoyance.

However, I could not find any information regarding the relative costs of the methodology that they prefer. As I said, the bits on the internet are close to free, while postage for mail delivered by the postal service has a definite finite cost per solicitation. And since bits are basically free, forty times free is still free, so based on this type of cost – benefit logic, I think it is safe to assume that we will all continue to enjoy the multitude of unsolicited opportunities that appear in our email mailboxes for some time. Despite what appears to be a response and acceptance level that seems to be trending asymptotically close to zero.

It just means that the internet emailers need to reach out to forty times as many people as the non-emailers, to get the same number of respondents. And since the emails are essentially free, that is what they do. Hence the deluge of spam emails.

A little further research has shown me that by law, all of these opportunity suppliers, or Spammers for short, must provide the ability for those receiving their messages to be able to opt out from receiving future opportunity notices.

What I also discovered during this research is that there now appears to be another burgeoning industry opportunity on the business horizon. This one involves services that purport to be able to remove you from these email opportunity lists for you. For just a small fee, of course.

I now fully expect to start receiving email solicitations from these spam removal services, unsolicited of course, asking me to sign up for their service so that I will no longer have to receive unwanted emails from all the other internet people trying get me to attend webinars and seminars, or sell me things like spam removal services.

Gosh, I do appreciate email.

It Can Be Done

I had lunch with some friends of mine a couple of months ago. While at lunch we were all lamenting the seeming inexorable movement to the matrix organizational structure that we were all experiencing. There are times when I have felt that working for one boss was impossible (depending on the boss), but the very thought of working for two, or three or even four at the same was enough to send me screaming from the room. It seems we humans are blessed with the capability to get used to just about anything.

The standard matrix organization seems to be structured along the lines functional responsibilities (vertical) and regional ownerships (horizontal). I think we can all get our heads around this one. On occasion it can even seem to make sense.

The third dynamic that seems to be creeping into the matrix organizational lexicon appears to be that of the “Project”. We now have to understand how to operate within a vertical functional organization, a horizontal regional structure, and deliver within a project alignment that has pieces of and responsibilities to both of them.

To that point I started looking into the structures and responsibilities associated with “Project Management”. You know those guys who put “PMP” after their names. After having been through several of these management waves in the past I thought it might be a good idea to think about and perhaps even try to get ahead of this one.

Now back to my friends at lunch.

One of them told me that he too had been looking into the “PMP” phenomenon and had found out some interesting facts. I had thought that you had to take special training and go through rigorous course to attain a PMP certification. Not true said my friend. While you hade to have some training (and just about any training that you have had can count toward this amount) there was no special training that was required.

I also thought that the only way to pass the certification exam was to take a long rigorous, expensive training course. Again, not true said my friend. The PMP certification exam is 200 questions and you have 4 hours to do it. The exam is based on the “Product Management Body of Knowledge” (PMBOK for short) book (currently in the 4th edition, but a 5th edition is coming out shortly). There are many guides available to help you study, and there are even practice tests to help you prepare.

I said okay. I’ll do it. I bought the books about the time I wrote a Blog article here about “Spare Time” and good uses for it. I started reading the PMBOK. It didn’t seem to make a lot of sense. I read a study guide. It started to make a little more sense. After reading a second study guide it started to come together. I started taking practice exams. The first few were not pretty. They are very “semantically” driven whereby you have to be aware of specific written queues that provide you the direction to look for the correct answer.

In any event, I went and took the official test yesterday….and passed.

The extra self directed training has helped provide me some additional insight into some of the forces that are helping to drive organizations toward the Functional – Regional – Project matrix model. I think it has also helped position me for the future as this matrix structure moves forward. It may also be the portent of potential future structures where the project is the primary structure. This seems to be the belief of the PMBOK.

I don’t think I have actually drunk that much of the Kool-Aid though.

The point here is that with 6 -7 weeks of additional / free time / part time study and application you can attain this certification. It can be done if you want to do it. I have all the members of my team who are not already PMP certified working on this certification as part of their development plans. I continue to recommend and suggest that everyone else look into it as well. As I said, it can be done.