by Gihan Perera
It’s been a dynamic year – in both positive and negative ways – for many businesses. Not only have we faced a turbulent economy, we’ve also faced the most turbulent year ever in Internet technology. Many of these changes will affect your business – whether you like it or not.
To give you an idea of where we’re heading with on-line technology, here’s my list of Top Ten on-line trends for 2010, especially as they relate to a training or consulting business.
1. Internet access on mobile devices
More people – including your clients and audiences – will be looking at your Web site using an iPhone, Blackberry, Android phone or other mobile device. How does your Web site stack up? Does it load quickly? Does it even display at all? (For example, if it’s a Flash Web site, they won’t even be able to see it on an iPhone)
If you’ve been resisting Twitter, get over yourself! It’s soon going to be as important to have a Twitter address as an e-mail address.
This doesn’t mean you have to spend all day on Twitter. But at least get an account, follow other people who send interesting stuff, and send regular tweets of articles and blog posts that you read (and write).
It’s true that 140-character tweets have been insanely popular over the last 18 months, but despite this – or perhaps because of it – blogging is making a comeback. People do want the tweets, Facebook status updates, and LinkedIn connections; but they also want you to provide more in-depth insights and ideas.
Blogging is the easiest way to prove your expertise on-line. Even if you’re publishing articles in an e-mail newsletter or on your Web site, post them to your blog as well.
On-line video is hot right now (YouTube is the fourth-most popular site on the Internet). Clients, bureaus and meeting planners expect to see you in action on your Web site, so you need high-quality video production in any demo videos on your Web site.
And audiences value seeing your content on video (and other video-like tools, like SlideShare.net for your PowerPoint presentations). They’ll look you up before your presentation, and follow up later after you’re done.
5. Freemiums and other low-cost business models
What you teach is no longer valuable purely because it’s rare or unique. Somebody else somewhere else is teaching the same thing, for a lower fee and possibly even doing it better than you.
You’re not going to win by hoarding, protecting or tightly holding on to your intellectual property. Next year, give away more than you’ve ever given away before. Make money from the experiences you provide – experiences that can’t be duplicated or found on Google.
6. New delivery models
Your clients and audiences learn at their desks (using webinars), at the gym (listening to podcasts on their iPods and iPhones) and cafes (working on laptops). Are you catering for these new learning environments, or are you still stuck in the old mindset that you can only deliver your stuff in a training room or conference hotel?
7. New presentation technology
What’s more, even the traditional learning environments are changing. Your audiences aren’t going to just sit still and listen, or engage only with others in the room. They’re tweeting about your presentation, Googling the statistics you’re quoting, and even engaging in other stuff unrelated to your presentation. How are you coping? Or, even better, what are you doing to take advantage of this?
8. Presentations as processes, not events
A one-off presentation is rarely enough to truly make a difference. In the old days, you could get away with that, because it was cost-prohibitive to do anything else.
We used to talk about “take-home value”, but taking it home is no longer enough for your audiences and clients. How are you using Internet technology to prepare them for your presentation before you arrive; and what are you doing to support them after you leave?
More people are living a blended lifestyle, with a blurry line between home and work. The people who waste time checking Facebook during business hours might be the same people who check their work e-mail after hours.
How are you managing this “always on” lifestyle? People who live this lifestyle expect you to do the same. That doesn’t mean you have to; just be aware that other people might be expecting it. So use technology to create systems to make this easier for you.
For example, if a client wants a high-quality photo of you for their conference brochure, and they call you while you’re on holiday, are you able to take the call on your Blackberry and e-mail the photo immediately? Even better, have you anticipated and prevented this problem by having the photo available on your Web site?
10. Strong and weak connections
Until recently, you could survive in business by nurturing only the “strong” connections in your network: Your clients, key suppliers, joint venture partners and close colleagues.
That’s no longer good enough in a highly-connected world. Now, “weaker” connections matter as well – such as the Twitter follower who re-tweets your message to her network, the blog reader who posts a comment on your blog post, the listener who posts a positive review of your podcast on iTunes, the friend of a friend who sees you in a photo on Facebook, or the Flickr user who shares your passion for deep-sea diving.