Have you been to a Central High Eagles football game lately? Central Eagle football has a history of success, championships, and hard-nosed football. Did you happen to notice the old and outdated sound system present at the stadium? What we don’t have a history in… is an awesome sound system at the stadium! Of course, the sound system at the stadium was a great setup – 20 years ago, but technology has come a long way since then and it’s time to upgrade!
Change Desired: An Energized Environment
New head coach, Trent Usher, has stated that one of his desired changes is to create a new and energized environment on Friday nights. Obviously, this will depend on fans, the booster club, cheerleaders, the band, etc., but one way we can help create this environment is to put a new sound system in place. Yes, this is a big project to undertake, but it is one worth undertaking and would enhance the environment at the games and be enjoyed by everyone.
I’m posting this blog in hopes of helping get the word out about this project.
The Outdated System
Seriously, what year was the old system installed? It’s been a while. If you’ve been to a game lately then you know the sound system is not the greatest. If you’ve ever been inside the press box during the game then you may have seen how music is played… they literally play music on an iPhone and hold the microphone from the sound system up to the iPhone to get songs to be played over the loud speakers! So yes, we have room to improve.
The New System
We’ve reached out to multiple vendors and have settled on working with Verge Multimedia for the new system. Verge has provided a quote that entails removal of the old sound system, installation of the new sound system, and training on the system. The system has several components, but has 3 primary large speakers which will be placed on the press box. You can see the visuals from the proposal included below.
The bid total is $12,500. This amount has factored in a discount for 501 c3 Tax Exempt organizations since this will be working through the Football Club which is affiliated with the school.
Interested in more details Download the full proposal.
How You Can Help
Yes, this will take money, $12,500 to be exact. We are reaching out to former students, athletes, alumni, and local businesses in hopes of gaining the needed financial support for the new system. (So help us spread the word in all your social channels) The presence of the new system will reflect the support for the Eagles and sign of a community engaged with their local high school.
To contribute you’ll need to write a check or give cash to the Touchdown Club. These can be sent to the school or given to Courtney Usher. Please note that if you would like a receipt (for tax write-off purposes) we can provide you with one.
Want an official document on Central High School letterhead? Download the Fundraising Document
If you have questions or want more info on this just contact me on Twitter or here through my contact page or reach out to Courtney Usher on Facebook.
Help us take steps to restore the tradition of winning, success, and a great environment at Central
The Central High School Eagles of Pageland, South Carolina have a rich tradition and history of success. A few years ago my friend, Jason Fararooei, a video producer from the Charlotte area, took a liking to the program. Over the years, Jason has made some really great videos for the eagles. If you haven’t seen them then check out 3:17 and the Eagle Tribute Video.
With so much recent transition going on at Central, we decided to make another video to try and create energy and enthusiasm around the program. Our hope is that the new head Coach, Trent Usher, will get the program back to where it used to be.
As you may be aware we’ve been helping local South Carolina farmers with hog problems in recent weeks. We continue hunting hogs in hopes of reducing the crop and land devastation they cause which can literally put a financial hurting on farmers and business owners… but more on that in a future blog!
We learn more and more about hog hunting with each week, each hunt, and each track of land we pick up. Hogs are some tough animals and they’ll eat just about anything. As we learn we’ve also been adjusting and updating our strategy. One of the updates we’ve made has been to the firearm of choice.
From 223, to 300 Blackout, to 308
One thing it didn’t take us long to figure out was that our night-vision setup for coyotes was too small for some of the larger hogs we were chasing. The setup was an AR-15 shooting a 223. Yes, you can take a hog with a 223, but at the distances we found ourselves shooting from and with some larger hogs we were encountering the decision to upgrade wasn’t a hard one
The first move was to change out the upper on the AR-15 in order to shoot the 300 Blackout. We, again, reached out to the team at Reel Determined Outdoors to get exactly what we needed. The team at RDO had the new upper overnighted and in our hands by week’s end. Talk about turn-around time! We were excited to move up in bullet size and went back to the range to ensure we had it zero’d in. It only took 2 shots to confirm. The Pulsar thermal scope proved its accuracy quickly and easily.
At the end of that week we had some hogs coming in on a pattern and we setup on them. Sure enough they came out right when expected and at a pretty close distance the 300 blackout put a hurting on one of them. However, we ended up trailing the hog for 2 hours when the blood trail just ended. Now I know you may be reading this and saying “Ya’ll just can’t shoot!”. I’m not going to argue with anyone… a 300 blackout can definitely get the job done on a hog and we even got one with it, but we were tired of shooting hogs and having to trail them forever.
Perhaps I could have made a better shot and not been in that scenario, but the repeated long nights of trailing hogs forever was getting frustrating. In the midst of frustration, being soaked in sweat, having mosquitoes wearing me out, and walking in woods trailing the hog for 2 hours I told Gavin that I’d had enough and that I was to upgrade (yet again) so that we wouldn’t end up that situation anymore. In that moment, it was a done deal.
The next day we contacted Reel Determined Outdoors again to confirm that they would work with us on a gun exchange. Upon confirmation, the new Anderson Arms 308 "Hunter" was ordered. Of course, we stayed with the Anderson Arms RF-85 setup too! In a matter of days, the new gun arrived and we were on our way.
In just holding the AM-10 308 one can instantly tell its heavier than the AR-15 platform. We found that the heavier weight makes it easier to steady the gun when shooting. The AM-10 was also a few inches longer than the AR-15. We figured that out because it wouldn’t fit in the same pelican case as the AR!
To give you an example of the difference in power from the AR-15 to the AM-10 models we can reflect on the sighting in of all these models. With the 223 and 300 Blackout when we shot the hot-hands or ice packs we had to then go down and look for the hole where we hit the target. With the 308 on the first shot the bag of ice exploded, the flat wood holding the target fell off the stake, and the stake had a huge hole in it. After that first trigger pull we knew we were dealing with a much more powerful weapon.
Back to Hunting…
On the next two hog hunts we didn’t see anything. Temperatures have recently been warming up and it seems the hogs are still in the area, but their pattern is changing. They are coming in at various times throughout the night (per what the game cam is showing us). We stayed out late one evening in the drizzling rain waiting on them and never saw anything. On a different occasion, we woke up at 4am - all trying to cross paths with a specific set of hogs, but no luck yet. It has been frustrating recently, but we’re staying after it!
When Coyotes Crash the Hog Hunt
That leads us to this past weekend. One area we hog hunt also has a bad coyote problem. We frequently see and/or hear coyotes when hog hunting this location. We are intently focused on getting some hog meat in the freezer, but whenever a coyote comes on the scene the hunt instantly turns into a coyote hunt! This often happens during deer season as well.
It was Saturday night, hog bait was out, hogs had been frequenting the area, and over 40 lbs of corn had been eaten the night before. It was a good scenario and it we hoped it was just a matter of time. The waiting game had begun.
Early in the hunt some deer worked the edge of the field to the right. They were in no hurry and it was neat to see them there. Their presence signaled a quiet entry and setup. If the deer weren’t spooked neither would be the hogs.
I was scanning the field when I picked up some heat at the back-left corner of the field. I could tell from the length of the tail, size of the animal, and the way it trotted that it was a coyote. The area has some hills in it and the coyote was showing in and out of the hills. I probably watched the first coyote for 10 minutes before the 2nd one showed up. The first coyote was pawing at the dirt… it was neat to watch. The 2nd coyote was seemingly smaller in size, but it wasn’t interested in whatever the initial coyote was messing around with. In a way, I was hoping they would leave the field and I could focus on getting a hog, but when I saw them heading into the clear area of the field I knew I had to handle business.
The two coyotes then turned and started coming towards my direction. It was intense to have them closing that much space and being up close and personal with me. Since they were coming my way I just let them continue to see how close they would get. Then the lead coyote started bending toward my left and was in some brush. I looked back to the right and the larger coyote was following suit. I was getting ready to drop the hammer. All I needed was for the coyote to pause. Well in an odd occurrence of events one of the deer that were working up the edge of the field just started blowing like they do. I guess they smelled me or something they didn’t like, but whatever it was I was glad because at the sound of the blow the coyote paused and turned his head quickly toward the sound. That pause was all I needed and I pulled the trigger.
The coyote instantly dropped and to my surprise the lead coyote then turned and ran back across me heading to the far corner of the field. I started yelling and barking at the coyote to make it stop. However, the coyote wasn’t stopping so I squeezed off a second shot on a prayer hoping I could connect, but was unable to.
For now, I can say that a 308 is nothing but lights out for a coyote! I’m sure it will handle business on a hog too, but that’s for a future blog entry so stay tuned...
Here’s the video of the hunt…
My wife and I recently sold our townhome and set out to buy a new home. We spent a good deal of time researching, driving out to communities, and looking at floor plans. We finally settled on a new-construction development that was a Lennar community.
As we looked at the different floor plans we had a few that we liked, but ended up settling on a plan called the “Westley”. We chose a lot that was having the foundation laid so that we could still pick floor colors and have a little control over some features. We were excited to watch the home as it went up.
Of course once we sold the townhome we were displaced and without a home while the new home was being constructed. Based on the word Lennar gave us we would close on June 26th. Since we sold the townhome on June 5th that would give us about 3 weeks where we would shack up with my mom. This was where the “fun” began.
While the home was being constructed we made a few trips to the community to meet with the builder and to fill out paperwork regarding the loan. On one trip the home seemed to be a long way from “closing” and I asked the supervisor if he thought he was still on track to close on the 26th. He responded “Oh yeah, shoot if this good weather keeps up we may close early”. With the house still having a lot of work that needed to be done it was difficult to believe that timeline, but I am obviously not a builder and so I leaned on the supervisor’s expertise.
The day finally came for the walkthrough. As you can imagine, my wife and I were excited to go and review our soon-to-be new home. I had recently been to the home and had a list of items that I wanted to ensure were completed while we reviewed the home. At this meeting there were 2 building supervisors present, my wife and I, plus our real estate agent team members.
When we arrived at home we learned that the electricity had not been turned on. Translation: there was no air conditioning on and it was in the dead of the humid South Carolina summer. As all the windows were closed in the home it was like an oven and it didn’t take long before we all were sweating. The Lennar representatives told us that we would go through the home with blue tape and mark every item that needed to be touched up or corrected. They also indicated that this would be our only chance at creating a “punch list” and that moving forward only items on the list would be worked on. So this was our only opportunity to find items that were not done correctly – during the middle of a work day, in a house with no air condition, during the heat of the summer, and with a scheduled hour for the meeting. As you can imagine, the conditions were not the best for the walkthrough.
We started in the garage and I started asking about things and marking things up. The supervisors told me that the garage was “still a work in progress” and that a lot of work still needed to be done. I thought to myself that it wasn’t really fair to tell us that this was our only chance to make a punch list, but then to turn around and say that this area was still “in progress”. What were we supposed to do other than just trust them? We couldn’t really call out items that technically were not through or finished. That was the first of several red flags throughout the failed process.
As we went through the house we found several items that were not as they should be. There were door casings with no paint at all, door casings with large splinters, several areas that should have caulk that did not have caulk (such as the bathroom sinks), a noticeable bend in the metal in the front door’s casing, thin and uneven paint throughout the house, a metal awning over the bay window that looked terribly crafted, a crawl space door that had sprayed foam through 2 of the 5 gaps in the wood, and the main thing we noticed was a pretty nice hump in the dining room floor and in the kitchen pantry closet that was along the same seam in the floor. The uneven floor signaled a foundation that wasn’t level and that really concerned us.
By the end of the first walkthrough everyone was completely soaked in sweat, hot, and we had gone through 2 and a half rolls of blue tape. Every room in the house literally had blue tape all over it. In short, the home was a long ways from being ready and there was still a lot of work to be done. The following week our real estate agent spoke with a representative from Lennar who guaranteed our real estate agent that “Your clients won’t close until they are 100% happy".
As any home buyer would do we hired a home inspection company to inspect the house. A week or so later we met the home inspector at the house to review his report. He had been there 3 hours inspecting the house by the time we arrived. The good news was that in order to inspect the house the electricity had to be turned on, which meant this time we wouldn’t leave soaked in sweat. The home inspector found several of the items that we had blue-taped but he also found several more items that we hadn’t. He indicated that the vertical seams in the outer trim work needed to be caulked, an item which I had already raised to the supervisor in the first walkthrough and that they told me didn’t need caulk. He also identified areas where the bay windows & fireplace met the roof where there was clearly exposed wood beneath the flared edges. The inspector pointed it out to us and said “If I can see that wood and you can see it then you know that moisture can enter as well as bugs”. Needless to say you don’t need any wood exposed to the elements. The exposed wood was due to a technique Lennar uses in scenarios where bay windows connect back to fascia boards near the roof. This exposed wood scenario was present in several areas of the house’s roof. And since the air condition was on the inspector was able to identify a whistling sound in the air conditioning. The whistling sound represented air either coming through or getting out of somewhere that it shouldn’t and it could result in an increased bill to heat or cool the home.
In the end the Home Inspector created a staggering 85 page report filled with images and lists of issues with the house. I’ve included several images from the report in this blog entry. While we were glad that the home inspector found these issues it didn’t make us feel any better about the home.
By this time the builder had reviewed our punch list and had also received the inspector’s 85 page report. We worked with Lennar to accommodate their request to push back the closing by a week. A week later, when I arrived to this walkthrough I saw the entire front door being removed and there were several vehicles at the home. When I entered the house I learned that we now had a new supervisor. I’m not sure if the old one was fired, transferred, or what happened, but we would be dealing with a new supervisor going forward. There was also a Lennar representative there who appeared to be the manager of the supervisors. He maintained his distance throughout the walkthrough, but I saw him through the windows outside of the house just walking around and shaking his head as if here were saying “No” when looking at the craftsmanship of the home.
In our initial conversations with the construction supervisors our real estate agent let them know that we shouldn’t have even done the 1st walk through when we did. She told them that the house wasn’t nearly in the shape it should have been for a walkthrough. The Lennar team seemed apologetic and the new supervisor seemed to recognize that he was thrown into a difficult situation. While we were there talking one of the supervisors told us “We really do want to deliver a quality product to you all”. He seemed sincere and at the sight of seeing the front door being replaced and then hearing the reassurance from the Lennar crew I felt somewhat better initially.
As we re-walked through the home we again put blue tape on areas that needed to be updated. There were still several of the same areas that needed work. We just, again, put tape back on the same areas where we previously put tape. At one point the new supervisor said that we should just stop the walkthrough and let them revisit the entire house themselves. It was as if he recognized all the general theme of the issues and knew the house wasn’t ready for a walkthrough. Though, after making that comment they continued walking through with us. It was a little odd.
Upon walking into the dining room area it was apparent that nothing had been done with the hump in the floor. This was one of our major concerns that we had voiced to them several times. We called it out to them and continued the re-walk through. When we got to the attic we still heard the AC whistling. We again cited that to them along with the areas outside the needed caulking + the exposed wood above the windows. On this walkthrough the garage doors were up and we were able to see that the “stud” boards that the garage door was bolted to were bowing inward toward the door.
At the end of walkthrough we were in the garage talking with the Lennar representatives and our real estate agents. This time the corporate guy or the supervisor of the construction managers joined us. We again expressed concern over the hump in the floor and the most senior guy piped up saying that the hump in the floor was normal. I questioned him about that and he said that the hump in the floor was within their “tolerance” and that they wouldn’t be doing anything about it. My thought was that if something is within your tolerance then we shouldn’t be able to see it with a naked eye. My wife then spoke up saying that it was unfortunate to hear that Lennar was essentially drawing the line and not going to do anything to make the floor right. Her comment apparently got to the guy’s ego a bit because he puffed his chest out and said started telling us that he had been building houses for over 18 years and that this kind of thing is expected. I laughed out loud at him because he took my wife’s comment personally and tried to tell us how much of a building legend he was. I had never seen this guy before. All I knew was that he showed up, stood around, and was on his cell phone a lot. He could have been our neighbor for all I knew. I guess he wanted instant credibility because he wore work boots. I asked him to get his level and let’s go look at the floor. We went back into the dining room and found that the wall was also bowed. The level we used was a 6 foot level and was long enough to get from one hump to the next so to me it didn’t accurately represent the hump in the floor. They again stated that they would work on the wall, but not the floor.
By the time walkthrough #3 got here we were 3 weeks past schedule on the house. The lender was forced to extend the interest “rate-lock” agreement for the 2nd time and it was costing Lennar money each time. I had also started a new job and had been gone for 10 days which gave the builder plenty of time to fix the items that remained. I figured with me being gone so long Lennar should have no excuse for not having the items taken care of.
This walkthrough was unlike any other and was odd from the onset. We again showed up with our real estate agents and it became very clear that the Lennar sales representative + the construction manager were rushing us through the walkthrough. Why did they want to rush us? We had a punch list and before even addressing all items in one room, the Lennar reps were saying “Ok, what’s in the next room?” For much of the walkthrough I was lagging behind actually spending time looking at the issues they were supposed to fix.
When we continuously called out the thin paint the Lennar sales representative told us that in a walkthrough home buyers are supposed to stand 5 feet away from a wall and look rather then get up close to the wall. This puzzled us. If were are going to make a significant investment in a home I don’t care if I lay down on my back and look upside down. If something is supposed to have paint on it, then it should have paint on it. This goes back to a conversation I had one evening with a painter, but more on that later.
By the time we had gotten upstairs we had noticed the hump still in the floor downstairs + newly scratched up wood in the den area. When the lady told my wife to stand 5 feet away from the wall to review the thin paint it kind of put a line in the sand. We just all stood there in this one room and had an awkward moment of silence. I asked the question “So you’ve known about the punch list for over a month now and there are still issues. Are you going to fix these issues?” At this point the construction manager responded “The house is what it is and we are not making any more updates” and that essentially sealed the deal. At this point we were half-way through the walkthrough and we knew where we were headed. Though we continued walking through the rest of the house.
As we continued upstairs to the 3rd floor the building supervisor accused my wife of “creating new items” that were not on the initial punch list. As you may imagine that comment didn’t go over well. My wife responded “That’s interesting because I have video of all the items from both previous walkthroughs and if you want me to go downstairs and get my phone I can show you the video.” The supervisor responded “No you don’t have to do that” because he knew he’d been caught in a lie. After being pegged the supervisor commented, with a voice of frustration “I can’t be here all day watching people, I have other projects going on as well”. It seems like Lennar either has their supervisors on too many projects or that this guy didn’t really care about providing us a quality home.
As we reached the outside of the house I asked the supervisor about the mud that was on the fascia board above the garage. I called this out to them on the very first walkthrough over a month ago. The supervisor said they weren’t able to get it off. While we were going through the walkthrough a painter had arrived. The painter was Hispanic and I asked him in Spanish if it was possible to get the mud off. He went and grabbed his ladder, climbed it, and took 3 minutes to wipe the mud off. It was that simple. This action essentially meant that in 2 weeks’ time the supervisor hadn’t even attempted to wipe the mud off or had anyone see about it and then lied about it. That was at least 2 lies within an hour from the Lennar crew.
At the “end” of the walkthrough the supervisor asked me “Well what do you think?” What I thought was that the fact that they rushed us through the walkthrough, told us to stand 5 feet away from walls, got caught in multiple lies, and didn’t seem to care about the things that concerned us represented a surface level signal to a much more deeply rooted problem. And that problem was that Lennar wasn’t serious about not closing until we were happy and they weren’t serious about fixing the house. Ultimately they Lennar team knew we wouldn’t buy the house with the issues it had and they also knew they weren’t going to fix them. Consequently any time they spent with us was wasted time and wasted money. It was as if they wanted to hurry and get us through the process so they could start over a new buyer.
By this point in time we had already put down earnest money on the house and even transferred the down payment to the lawyer’s office. We were supposed to do the walkthrough in the morning, sign a release accepting the condition of the house, and close on the home the next day. It was down to the wire. We left without signing papers and told the Lennar reps we needed to think about some things. Of course everyone knew what was happening. The Lennar reps told our agents that they would refund us back the earnest money should we decide to withdraw the offer. This was a sign that they knew they were in the wrong.
We thought long and hard about the home. It was a nice floor plan, in a nice area, and a seemingly nice community in the making. However, we just didn’t feel good about things. You know that uneasy feeling you get in your stomach that’s always an indicator that you’re fixing to mess up… yeah that’s the one we had. The main things that led to our decision to withdraw were the poor quality home (the hump in the floor being number one), Lennar personnel rushing us through the walkthrough, and also getting mixed messages from Lennar throughout the process. They didn’t do a good job at building credibility and good will with us throughout the process.
At least for us, when considering making a large investment such as this, we wanted to feel good about it and have a sense of trust in the company with which we’d be doing business. We didn’t have that feeling and felt that we’d lost faith in Lennar by the time we got to the end of the process. As you just read it had not been easy to get the builder to take care of the items they guaranteed us they would take care of before buying the house… so needless to say, we didn’t have much faith in them coming back to fix things after they had our money.
I will give Lennar credit on the refund. They did refund us the earnest money we had put down on the house. By their paper work, which was heavily slanted towards them, they didn’t have to technically give us our money back. Though, I feel like they knew the house was not quality and thus they instantly agreed to refund us the earnest money. This was one of the few areas in which I’ll say they did right by us.
While my mom was a flexible and gracious host (thanks mom!), her home is about 50 miles from where we planned to live and where my wife works. The logistics were difficult to manage in this stressful time, so we decided to rent an apartment closer to the area we hope to live. As we looked for apartments we visited 3 apartment complexes that were brand new and still being built. This area of town is rapidly growing and thus there are houses, communities, and apartments going up everywhere. As my wife and I visited these apartment complexes I still had the flaws in the home we just backed out of in my mind. As we walked around I wasn’t so much paying the apartment representative attention as I was more so examining door casings, hardiplank implementations, observing where there was and wasn’t caulk, paint consistency, and the overall quality and craftsmanship of the buildings. And as you would imagine, there were things that were done differently than what we had just experienced with Lennar. For example, the caulking of vertical seams of the hardiplank, the same areas that the Lennar builders had just told us that didn’t need caulk. There also were no whistling air conditions, dents in door casings, door casings left completely without paint, paint in the carpet, stair “skirt” boards with dents in them, etc. The list could go on, but the point is that the quality was much better in the apartments we were reviewing than the house we’d just backed out of. After the apartment reviews I knew we had made the right the decision even though it was going to cause us more stress in the short term.
During this process we incurred several costs. We had to pay for the home inspection, movers, I’m still paying on the storage, we had nice gas tabs for our commutes, now we’re paying on an apartment, and the major cost was the inconvenience in time. Rescheduling furniture deliveries with multiple furniture companies, with movers, and with the internet installer all added up to make this a “fun” process.
The experience was unfortunate for both my wife and I and I believe for Lennar as well. We really did like the community, the floor plan, the lot, and the area of town. I believe that Lennar knew the specific house wasn’t well managed from the start and they knew the hump in the floor was an item they weren’t willing to fix because it would eat into their profit margins. I think once they recognized that we wanted something structurally updated with the house they just wanted us to hurry and withdraw our offer because they knew they weren’t going to get down to the foundation and fix it. The longer they kept us around the more money they were losing. In taking this stance they showed their true colors and literally left money on the table. I’m sure they will sell the house, but I’m also sure that house will have problems down the road.
So the process has been unpleasant, but tucked away in the frustrations and disappointments are great lessons to be learned. We learned what “problem areas” to look for when buying a house. We learned the signals and body language from home builders when things aren’t quite right. We learned about the core principals, ethics, and organizational character with which Lennar operates. We learned more about the house buying process in general and are better off for it in the long run. It was like a 3 month education on house buying. I would rather be displaced and incur stress in the short term in exchange for having a problematic house in the long run. Sure it’s not fun, but it would be even worse a few years from now if we had purchased that house.
The Lennar reps statement of “You won’t close until you’re 100% happy” still holds true and it is true because we will close on another house, with a different builder, in a community just up the road when we are 100% happy.
I’ve recently read 3 new books on leadership. One of these books was given to me as part of leadership training at work and the other two I ordered. I wish I could read more and am going to try to make an effort to read more frequently.
Anyways it was good to read these books because they confirmed some concepts I believe in and naturally try to exercise, they shed light on new leadership traits I should probably try to implement, and best of all they made me think. So what am I talking about here… let’s look into it.
I saw someone retweet a tweet by a guy named Jon Gordon @JonGordon11. I liked the tweet and looked at his website and shortly thereafter I ordered this book “Training Camp” of his on Amazon.When I received the book I started reading it that day and also finished it in the same day. It is a good read, told in a story fashion, with short chapters that will keep you engaged the entire time. In the competitive world we live in everyone wants to know what the best do to separate themselves from the rest.
The setting of the story in this book is with a football player trying to make it into the big leagues. As a former football player myself I really identified with the stories, struggles, emotions, and feelings of the story. In case you read the book I won’t ruin the story for you, but along the way of trying to make the team the player finds out all the things that the best do better than the rest. What some may be surprised with is that the recipe for success is not some magic formula, it’s more about doing the simple things well, consistently, and with great focus and pride.
If you are looking for a good read that will help you get a recipe for hopefully becoming better than the rest I would recommend this book. One thing I also admire about Jon Gordon is that he lets his faith shine through his in his writing. In one of the chapters he speaks about how the best draw from a higher power, in this case, the Lord. Jon’s spiritual beliefs tie into his recipe for greatness and it all makes sense.
Buy Training Camp on Amazon
We are reading this book as part of leadership training at work and this read is somewhat longer than the other two books mentioned in this review. Though, while it is longer it is jam packed with great insights on leadership for leaders in the middle of organizations. John C. Maxwell is a popular author and he’s been studying leadership for some time. Reading this book was like reading several books at once due to Maxwell’s thoroughness and how he cites and quotes other books. The author, John. C. Maxwell, is obviously well read, informed, and experienced on leadership.
This book was awesome and made sense in all directions (leading up, across, and down) of the 360 degree leadership model. One thing I really liked is that the author does a great job of giving a real life example with nearly every point made in the book. The examples really drive the points home and makes the concepts easy to comprehend.
As a leader in the middle of an organization I can identify with several concepts conveyed in this book. Another thing I liked was that not only did the author describe a leadership challenge, but he would also follow it up with proposed solution steps or ways to work through the challenges as well. This book provided tremendous insight into leading up, down, and across the spectrum of an organization. I may re-read this book in a few years… it’s got that much helpful info.
If you are the top leader of your organization and you’re reading this there is a chapter for you as well. At the very end of the book there is a chapter directly speaking to top leaders that offers insight into how you can better manage organizations and leverage your 360 degree leaders.
Buy 360 Degree Leader on Amazon
After reading the Training Camp book by Jon Gordon I saw some other books that he wrote. It seemed there was a lot of positivity around his book “The Energy Bus” so I ordered in on Amazon as well. Following suit of the Training Camp book I found this to be a very engaging and easy read. I read it within one day as well! Jon Gordon’s writing style makes his books easy to follow because he’s telling a story and because the chapters are short so you feel like you’re making constant progress.
I liked this book and would recommend it as well. The concepts in this book all speak to going after your work with passion and, yes, energy! Being motivated and passionate about your work makes a big difference. The book also talks about getting the right people on your bus, not letting people drain the energy out of your team, leading with your heart, and loving your passengers. If you lead a team and you (or your team) needs an energy injection then you should give this book a read! Get on the bus!
Buy The Energy Bus on Amazon
I hope this brief review has helped you out in some way. If you read any of these books I’d be interested to hear your take on them. Tweet to me @CBPSC and let me know your thoughts or post here in the comment section
Our crew had a blast last year at DNNWorld 2011 so we eagerly looked forward to this year’s conference all year long. This year DNNWord was moved up a month from November to October which was a welcomed change by me as November is the best part of deer hunting season in South Carolina. As soon as the early-bird registration came out I registered.
To me, DNNWorld is like a combination of a family reunion, a pep rally, and information-loaded-boot-camp. It’s really hard to describe and put into words, you just have to experience it. There are great people to meet, prizes to win, awesome sessions to inspire you and get your creativity flowing, a side-conversation constantly going on via social media, competitions to enter, arrows to shoot at people, good times to be had, and trees to be climbed. It’s fun and I always leave energized about the future. There was no way we’d miss it.
As a sales engineer, I do a lot of online presentations for clients, prospects, colleagues and partners. When conducted well, online presentations and demos can be very effective sales tools. We strive to make our demos interactive.
The sales rep and sales engineer work together like a well-oiled machine throughout the demo. We encourage interaction and strive to be most efficient and effective as possible within the given timeframe.
Each presentation follows the same schedule. There are things to do before the demo, during the demo, then after the demo. In this post, I’ll share 32 tips to help you rock your online presentations.
Preparation is an obvious step. I mention it as a reminder that attendees are giving you their time, and their time is valuable. Be respectful of their time by thoroughly preparing and providing value to them. Ultimately a demo is like anything else in life: if you put your time and energy into it, then it will turn out well!
Agreeing on the agenda beforehand helps set expectations, reduces wasted time on the demo, and ensures that we only review functionality in which demo attendees are most interested. Since there is generally an hour or so for the demo, we need to make sure we hit the mark given the allotted time. By agreeing on the agenda beforehand, we drastically increase the productivity of the demo.
I learned this one the hard way. I had a webinar to present with a few hundred people waiting on me and as soon as I was made the “Presenter” my machine’s memory overloaded and I got the blue screen of death as my computer crashed. I had been working in numerous programs before the demo and apparently had nearly maxed out my memory and making the presenter passed the tipping point resulting in a few hundred people waiting awkwardly on me to reconnect. Now I restart my computer before demos so that my memory is not used up.
At some point, the presenter role will be passed to you. When his happens, the software (GoToMeeting, Join.me, or whatever you use) will ask you which screen you want to share. If you have a multi-monitor setup, this can become challenging if the monitors aren’t numbered or have similar names. Knowing your monitors names beforehand can reduce missteps. You don’t want to accidentally share to the wrong screen!
Be sure to reduce the number of potential distractions. Ever been on a demo and as soon as the leader shares their screen, you see their desktop icons and you start looking at all their files to see what they’re interested in? You are not alone, as everyone does it (admit it!).
In order to remove this distraction, be sure to hide your desktop icons or demo from a monitor that doesn’t have any application or document icons on the background. With fewer things to look at, your attendees will be more focused on what you show them.
Along the lines of removing distractions, you should turn off all pop-ups that occur on the screen from which you are presenting. The last thing you want is a sales person to send you a Skype message cracking a joke and have it show up during the demo. If you do leave Skype (or any messaging application) on, be sure you know the monitor on which the pop-ups occur.
Everyone knows it, but I’m still listing it here. Mute cell phones so that while you’re presenting there is not a constant vibration happening anytime someone emails or calls you.
If you use the same environment over and over, your browser’s cache can become corrupted. Browsers often try to remember passwords, cache content, cache URL paths, etc. and these cached items can sometimes trip you up. I usually clear my cache before each demo to ensure everything is fresh.
Just when you think you’re getting in the groove you will get a “tickle in your throat” and get choked up. You’re going to be talking a lot and a glass of water can save you in long-winded demos and in the moments that you may need to wet the whistle.
I always have a backup environment prepared should something go wrong with the primary environment. This takes more time up front, but it’s worth it. Having that backup environment can be worth its weight in gold.
Have a back-up plan for getting online. Yes, it only happens once in a blue moon, but what if you are scheduled to give a demo on that particular blue moon? Having a My-Fi or hotspot is well worth the investment.
Before the demo, try to find out who will be attending, so that you can speak the right language to them. You don’t want to talk about server architecture if you are demoing to the marketing team; you don’t want to talk to the server guys about lead generation. Tailor your story based on our audience.
This won’t apply to all of you, but I demo websites and online communities.
I make sure I have my site up and loaded in memory by the time they make me the presenter. I don’t want any time wasted on something to load up. So I keep my site “warm” just minutes before the demo so that the site is up and ready to rock by the time I get controls.
Some sites load URL’s from third party services, such as Google Fonts, Facebook, and Twitter. In my demo sites, I try to remove these external calls, so that if Facebook is having a bad day, it won’t affect my load time on the demo. There are scenarios where you have to rely on these external calls, but reduce them as much as you can.
During the introduction, attendees will tell you new information. In some cases the information shared during the intro can drastically alter what you present.
Listening and waiting to talk are two entirely different things. By listening, you can pick up things that may alter your demo. You can also pick up on personality traits, the mood in the room, and social queues that may help you better connect with the demo attendees. Listening carefully can help you establish better rapport with demo attendees throughout the demo.
We like to do a roll call during the intro of a demo as well. It never fails that there is someone in the room that we didn’t anticipate being there. It may be some manager, marketer, or developer who just happened to have another meeting cancel and was able to attend, but usually there is somebody either there or not there that we didn’t expect.
This again helps us to more accurately hone in the demo. If all of a sudden the CEO shows up on the demo, then we’ll be sure to add in the value proposition and benefits of each feature as executives don’t necessarily like to know the nuts and bolts, but ask the “why’s” and the “what results can we get” or “what does this help us do” type questions. Taking roll call will help you be on point with your delivery.
I ask the question early on as to whether or not the attendees have a “hard stop.”. This helps me know whether or not we can get long-winded with explanations or if we need to be very mindful of the time. Attendees may have an extra 10 to 15 minutes at the end and when that happens we know that we have more time for questions. Finding out the exact ending time of the demo early on can help you better manage time.
One thing I strive for is smooth transitions throughout the demo. Whether it’s transitioning from one subject to the next, transitioning from me talking to the attendees talking, or the transition of the “passing of the presenter role,” we want everything to flow as smooth as silk.
I ensure that our sales reps know how to pass the presenter in the meeting software we use.
I also tell them to pass the presenter as they are finishing up their last few points. This gives me time to get the presenter role and share the correct monitor. Otherwise, there is an awkward pause where everyone waits on me to get the presenter controls.
People present in different ways and that’s a good thing. Some like questions and interactivity and some don’t. Whatever your style is, set the tone early so that demo attendees know how to act and what to expect. I encourage questions, interruptions, and interactivity, so I put that fact out there very early on in the demo. Setting the tone will eliminate any guessing on the part of your attendees.
I encourage questions during the “Setting the Tone” stage because I want attendees to feel comfortable asking questions. At the same time, each question equals an interruption. The more questions there are and the more disruptions there are, the less smooth the demo goes.
Over time, you will begin to see where similar questions get asked. After you denote a trend in the same question being asked then just go ahead and answer the question before it gets asked. This will help things flow more smoothly. So, again, while I encourage questions, I hope to give such a thorough presentation that I remove questions just before they get asked!
On some occasions, there will be an attendee who is determined to get you hung up on some very minor technical detail. In these situations, it is your job to control the demo and not let the train de-rail. When these scenarios happen, it’s good to schedule these topics as “follow up” topics so that you can get your demo back on track.
Ever listen to a very dry presenter and wanted to be somewhere else? Don’t be that presenter! When appropriate, I like to inject humor. I crack jokes on the sales guys or on my own Southern accent. Your attendees will relax and build a stronger rapport and maybe even remember you more as a result.
Oh the echo, ooo… ooo… ooo… You know the echo that I’m talking about! We’ve all been on meetings where one person is using their speakers and their microphone picks up on the sound from the speakers which creates an echo effect. The person usually denies that it’s them, it makes things awkward, and then you have to recover and make things un-awkward again.
So what can you do about this? One option is to mute your participants. You can see which participant is making the noise and then mute them. In some meeting software, you can mute all attendees.
You may have heard of the “Power of the Pause” before. If we are presenting a demo and the attendees are not very lively, then I will show a feature and then ask them what they thought about that feature. Sometimes these pauses seem like an eternity and I just let the awkwardness hang until someone responds.
While it seems like a long time on my end, I know that attendees may be in a meeting room with the phone on mute and they may be talking to each other or going around the room seeing if anyone has a question.
When I first started giving demos I was scared to death of not knowing something. Though, not knowing something is perfectly fine. If someone asks you a very technical question there is nothing wrong with saying “Hey, I don’t know that answer, let me check with our engineers and then we’ll get back to you.” Admitting that you don’t know something lets the attendees know that you are human, builds credibility, and it also gives you something to follow up on. Following up continues the conversation and gives you another touch point with the lead.
Just as I’m doing here in this blog post, tell a linear story. Build on top of things you’ve already covered. Telling a sequential or linear story makes it easy for attendees to follow you and better consume the information you are presenting to them.
There will come a time when you have to present or demo something that is complex in nature. When this happens it’s best to try to describe these via multiple concepts. Sometimes people refer to concepts differently so using multiple descriptions can help ensure clarity and that everyone understands and is on the same page.
As you get close to the end of the demo, be sure to check on the clock. If you have a hard stop, you may have to cut a feature set short so that you can leave time for questions. Q&A is critical to the demo because there are some people who will remain quiet until everything is over and then they speak up. We want to ensure that we give those people ample time to voice their thoughts because they can provide great insight.
This is a chance for you to get vital information about the demo. Attendees’ comments can be key indicators as to the demo’s effectiveness and whether or not the lead is ready to move forward.
After the demo is over, we work hard to solidify next steps so we can keep the process moving forward. Identify any “deliverables” that you need to follow up on. Often times these deliverables are PDF documents, blog links, or videos. Summarize the set of deliverables and let attendees know when they can expect them.
Once you’ve established those deliverables be sure to follow up in a timely manner. This will help you keep the process moving forward while things are fresh on the demo attendee’s minds.
The reason we conduct demos is to progress a sale forward. If the demo is effective then the lead will want to continue the conversation. Ultimately the demo is a reflection of the presenter and the organization they represent. By fine tuning the process of a demo you can better move your deals forward! I hope these tips have given you some insight into things you can do to have your demos and presentations at their best.