2017 Conference

The Pep Talk You Didn’t Know You Needed (MPD6)

Jacob Oyen, of Central College opened his HighEdWeb 17 presentation by noting that life is too short to do something you don’t care about.

He checked in with attendees to help set perspective, asking for insight such as, how many of you love your website? [chuckles from the group.] How long have you been working in Higher Ed? How many students do you serve?

He noted: nothing works everywhere, but he thinks his ideas may help.

We all have beautiful campuses with diverse student traditions. Sometimes we need a reminder that we all do amazing work. Our jobs are hard!

Slide: Not all of your website sucks

We are all doing the best we can with the hand we’ve been dealt. Each year we do more work without new resources, making us understaffed and tasked with unrealisitic timelines. Some projects hang over our heads for weeks, months, years and don’t seem to progress.

We also have challenging home lives with responsibilities such as young kids, family needs, and many things we should be doing.

YOU ARE NOT ALONE. [Emphasis mine.]

We have a community right here, and sometimes we need a pep talk.

Slide: We all are just winging it.

To do lists can get shot to bits on pretty much any day.

When you aren’t sure you can manage something new, think of the people doing the hero videos that are hot right now. Do you imagine they knew what they were doing the first time around?

Slide: Sometimes we are just trying to see what will stick.

Use event tracking analytics to help focus efforts on what really counts. No one knows how much time it takes to make that video that no one ended up watching.

Slide: YOU ARE THE EXPERT. [Emphasis mine.]

OWN IT! Have some confidence. Do that edgy thing you are itching to do.

You know that a wall of text will not be read by students. They just want to get to the info they want right now. Don’t be afraid to use A/B testing to show that you know what you are talking about.

Slide: Be adaptable despite your expertise.

Context is so helpful. For instance when the President wanted Title IX on every page, Jacob asked for context since that did not seem appropriate. It turns out that it was the institution’s attorney’s decision, and quite a different circumstance than he imagined.

Slide: Do it now and ask for forgiveness later.
Works 90% of the time and I haven’t been fired yet.

Many inherit websites when taking a new job. Talk about making changes with stakeholders. Work iteratively.

Example: A group was putting things on the homepage that no one cared about but the stakeholders. They didn’t know where the information should have lived. So they made a drop-down list of 16 quick links.
Sixteen quick links is a bad decision. There is nothing quick about 16 links!

He removed several of them, one by one, without telling anyone using analytics to omit those not being visited much. In this case, it’s important to trust your boss, own your decisions, and make them on the fly. If your boss is good, you will…

Slide: Get permission to fail

Analytics can help with determining what is working, and failing. Get permission to try what you’d love to do, or just do it and see how it works.

Slide: Nobody likes surprises, tell the good and the bad.

Slide: Nobody ever died from a half truth, we’ll just call it a strategic ommission.

[I’m stealing this!]

Dont forget to take a dose of your own medicine. Use this strategically and sparingly and remember that…

Slide: Some days you are just going to get beat.

Story: When the Governor writes a check to build a video board for your stadium, you should check that it works before the big event. Something went wrong and the video board wasn’t working. The vendor couldn’t get a tech there to fix it until the day before the big game and big event. Turns out they got beat by a $10 part. The Moral?

Dont get too cocky. The video board worked weeks before the event. Even though you are the expert…

Slide: You can only control the things you can control.

When opinions differ, agree to disagree but find some common ground to start things off right. It may not be the way you would do it but, know when it isn’t your job.

Slide: You can control how you react.

You can be positive or negative. Great communication is built on top of great relationships. Make people feel special when you talk with them. Finding the common ground is key.

The Hierarchy of Communication

is always better than

is always better than

is always better than


Example: A request seemed passive aggressive. Jacob set up a meeting, “about the website” (was purposely vague about the purpose of the meeting). By talking about the project, they quickly cleared up issues because they hashed it out in person.

Slide: Use the people in this room.
We got your back.

After the conference, when asked what you learned, you may be able to provide an example like Jacob did. At a past HighEdWeb Conference, he had talked to folks from other schools and was then able to figure out how to approach a project.

[Great line.] Political Folks…they don’t share info, but they might steal it.

Slide: Let’s talk faculty.

Example: Jacob was asked by the President to redo the campus map using Google maps. Jacob heard from a student taking a GIS class that they were mapping the campus. When he contacted the professor, he simply needed to indicate which format he wanted and was able to save weeks of work time.

Slide: Lets talk about your own team.

Example: Jacob’s team got inquiries about who owned the content on any given page. They created a button on each page that provided documentation for the page information (and ownership of it).

Use slack, improve communication.

Slide: Give a crap about what you are doing.

It’s easy to put on blinders and hard to care when you are just cranking things out.

Slide: Find an outlet besides work.

The grass is always greener, but for how long?

Slide: Chase something that matters. Seek a challenge you are invested in.

Professional development is a better investment than chasing a job title.

Slide: Be the lynchpin [expert.]
Dont be the bottleneck [hand off if you know you need to do so.]

Know when to get out of the way. Know your purpose/goals and let the rest of the work fall below the line of “caring.” #LongHairDontCare became the hashtag for this. Find your focus to work on, get to the rest when you get to it.

Slide: Be someone’s spirit animal.

Figure out how to do kind things at your institution.

Jacob’s final pep talk points:

You got this.
You are the expert.
You give a crap.
You have a great relationship that led to communication that led to amazing work.
Go forth and do amazing things!

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