Oden LogoOntario Disability Employment Networks Launches New Website in Conjunction with Employment First Conference

November 29, 2013

Toronto, ON: The Ontario Disability Employment Network (ODEN) will host Employment First: Is It Right For Ontario? on December 4, 2013.

ODEN is a non-profit organization of employment service providers advocating for policy changes that increase opportunities for people who have a disability. Employment First: Is It Right For Ontario? brings together a diverse group of stakeholders in the area of employment and disability through a round-table discussion format that focuses on the Employment First framework and how it facilitates the full inclusion of people with significant disabilities in the workplace and community.

Employment First is a community-based, integrated employment approach that is the first option for employment services for youth and adults with a disability. The Framework is sweeping through the United State with 42 states that have adopted or are in the process of adopting the policy framework.

“Employment First Policy Framework is not new to the Network. We at ODEN have been supporting this policy framework and have referenced it in discussions and position papers. Employment First strategy is included in our report to the Social Assistance Review Commission. ODEN has also had discussions with Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities (MTCU), Employment Ontario, Ministry of Community and Social Services(MCSS) Developmental Branch and Ministry of Finance regarding Employment First Policy Framework,” says Bob Vansickle, co-chair of ODEN.

“We are pleased to be able to take this next step in providing this opportunity to learn more about Employment First Policy Framework. For many, this may appear familiar as they already deliver supports and services with the same or very similar values.”

In conjunction with the event, ODEN have launched a brand new accessible website to engaging their membership, share important information and events, and integrate the organization’s strong social media presence . The new website was designed and developed by SpaceRace, a Canadian boutique digital agency that serves progressive people and organizations.

“We are so pleased to work with the ODEN team on the launch of their new website,” says Aerin Guy, SpaceRace’s Director of Digital Strategy. “We really believe in the work of this organization and are excited to help them share their messages through a site that is accessible to everyone. ODEN is at the forefront of thinking on disability and employment issues and we are proud to support their work.”

The event takes place at the Eaton Chelsea in Toronto. Interested participants can register at http://www.eventbrite.ca/e/employment-first-is-it-right-for-ontario-tickets-7234985035.

To learn more about ODEN, visit www.odenetwork.com

To learn more about SpaceRace, visit www.spaceracedigital.com

Excuse me while I kiss this guy.
Growing up in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan during the 80’s meant that I was subjected to a lot of dodgy TV advertising from affiliate stations in Spokane and Fargo. Most of it was about used cars, furniture, or pancake restaurants, none of which were particularly interesting to my Flashdancified little imagination.

I remember that my parents bought a brand new TV (without a remote) for the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. I think this might be when my love affair with commercials began. My younger sister and I would recite or sing them word for word at bedtime. Those days led to a lifelong fascination and appreciation for the medium. Imagine my excitement at 16 when our local campus theatre would run The World’s Greatest Commercials, which were largely comprised of extremely witty and clever award-winning campaigns from European and especially British agencies. No making out ensued during such screenings. I was rapt.

Iconic commercials are part of our cultural fabric, serving as a complementary soundtrack to our phases and ages. That’s why when Jimmy, being British, brought this 1989 Maxell campaign to my attention, I pretty much said “ooooooh!”, stopped all activity and watched in a glow of nostalgia envy. The British make the best ads. I wish we’d had these:

The Maxell ads brilliantly capture a completely relatable phenomenon – the misheard lyric. Combined with the recognizable and undeniably cool flipping card technique made famous in Bob Dylan’s video for “Subterranean Homesick Blues”, and excellent songs, these ads are everything successful marketing should be. Simple. Memorable. Emotional. You’ll never hear these songs the same again, and you certainly won’t forget that Maxell gave you 30 seconds of pure enjoyment. And they sold you a lot of blank tapes, too.

The campaign was created by defunct British agency Howell Henry Chaldecott Lury, and won lots of fancy awards at Cannes, as one does.

It’s time to go and bring out my collection. Who wants a mix tape?

You're my wonderwall.
You're my wonderwall.
I recently had to submit a photo of myself to accompany my bio for an upcoming conference that I’m speaking at. The only professional pictures I’ve really ever had taken were courtesy of LinkedIn at an event, and another with a fun team I worked with. My partner “encouraged” me to remove the LinkedIn picture from my profile as he said it aged me and conjured soap operas. He was right. (And that’s why you should always do your makeup in the daytime, and lay off the bronzer.) So we went out to the alley. Plenty of natural light, slightly overcast, gritty urban setting. I changed wardrobe about 5 times. My omnipresent black 3/4 sleeved shirt was covered in dog hair and fuzz, despite my best efforts with a hand wrapped in packing tape. My nipples wouldn’t behave and just simmer down for the photo. My hair looked dry (and yeah, it probably is). So I changed into a hoodie, and proceeded to take about 30 shots holding the hood strings. Why did I do that? WHY DID I DO THAT? Am I making a Britpop album??!

Not me
Not me.
Thankfully, the conference’s web designer cut my hands out of the shot he eventually used. But every time I look at the photos, I’m again confused by why I felt the need to hold on to the hoodie strings. And then, by complete coincidence, a pal sent me a hilarious post: 12 Ways to Achieve the Best Glamour Shot. And wouldn’t you know, the very first tip is to Hold On To Your Collar. I knew I was on to something!

I’ll admit to occasionally trying to capture a flattering snap with PhotoBooth. Instagram. Hipstamatic.Trying being the operative word, as it’s hard to coordinate the pressing of the right button with the perfect facial expression and not spilling the wine. And the resulting photos are rarely of the calibre that you’d want increased to 500 x 500 on a website or other piece of collateral. For one thing, I’ve realized that my eyes don’t always look in the same direction. This is a problem. This has nothing to do with the wine.

Perfect for my keynote
Perfect for my keynote.
Even when there are a zillion photography apps to convince us that we’re Annie Leibovitz, there’s really nothing like the quality of a pro head shot.

A while ago, I wrote about not using stock photography on your website to convince visitors that there are actually people that work at your company. I’m going to take that one further and suggest that whether you’re on the speaker circuit or belong to a LinkedIn group – your photo matters enough to warrant paying a pro to have a go. And before all y’all speed on down to the WalMart Photo Studio, check your local listings to see who might be available in your area. A new business? A student looking to bolster their portfolio?

According to this post from Vivian Giang of Business Insider, heatmap research proves that the profile photo is the most important part of your LinkedIn profile, and critical in the recruitment process. Eye-tracking techniques measured where a sample of recruiters looked when scanning a potential hire’s profile, and the results point squarely at that head shot. Discriminatory? Maybe – but probably not the place to take a chance on not having a picture, or displaying one that shows you in an unflattering light.

Michel Feist: Ampersand GreyI spoke with lifestyle photographer extraordinaire Michel Feist about the pros of hiring a pro. Michel runs her company, Ampersand Grey, out of Edmonton, Alberta. As well as being a top-notch shutterbug, Michel is a talented designer who has done some really interesting branding work. When I caught up with her, she was jetting off to a shoot in San Francisco but had time to give me a bit of insight:

Why do so many self portraits veer to the ridiculous?
I think most people feel uncomfortable in front of the camera so they act silly or over exaggerate an awkward pose so they don’t feel as weird taking a picture of themself.

What can a pro capture that my PhotoBooth can’t?
You’re kidding right?

What should a social media profile/conference pic say about it’s subject?

For small business I see the “avatar” picture as a mini billboard for your brand. If you’re quirky, show quirky. If you’re a fashion blogger you should probably show a glimpse into your style. Being current is the best part of social media, this isn’t a business card you just printed 1,000 of. Change it up and have some fun!

The key takeaways?
* Market yourself with a head shot that does justice to your beauty and ingenuity. No bedazzling required.
* A pro can bring out the best in your bad self. Hire one and be rest assured that people aren’t coming to your session just to see your nipples or the moustache you thought you waxed.
* An effective visual you is a critical component of your personal brand.

Say cheese. Don’t be cheese.

This morning, in the most frigid of weather conditions, members of the Fernie Chamber of Commerce came out to hear me wax strategic on social media, Web 2.0, and the potential of the internet for small businesses.
Despite a weird orange LCD effect on the presentation slides, it was a nice opportunity to share ideas and information with a terrific group of people.

Here are the slides:

[slideshare id=7046400&doc=goingsocial-ferniechamberofcommercefeb24-110224114703-phpapp01]

And as promised, I will be uploading some handy hand-outs in the next few days.

Thanks for coming out in the cold!

This gentleman uses smart productivity tools, and his resolutions are well on track. Look how relaxed he is.
Why not buck the trend and establish your resolutions (or business goals) slightly after the champagne sizzle of the new year begins to turn flat?
Are you planning to do amazing things this year?
You probably got all in a huff as New Year’s Eve approached. You probably felt like you hadn’t articulated your goals strongly enough, or committed them to something other than your lunch napkin.

Know what? Now’s the time. The hype has died down (a bit). The rest of the world is whinging that only three weeks have passed, and they’ve already broken the rules. Let themselves down. Failed to ship.

Take 3 graspable goals to set for 2011. Any of these tools might help make ‘em happen.

1. BaseCamp

Since we’re an uber-small business, we can’t (yet) hire someone to boss us around and tell us what to do. We wanted a solution that would help us manage our clients and projects, instead of the other way ‘round. And what we’ve found is that BaseCamp is the single best thing out there to keep us on track. Milestones are deadlines. To Do lists can be easily integrated with Milestones. Which means that deadlines can’t sneakily creep up and whoosh past, in the words of Douglas Adams. Writeboards let us brainstorm with clients in real time, which means we can work in our pajamas most of the time. It even lets us store files, so that they don’t get lost in email hell. Our clients seem to like the workflow set up that it provides them access to – and that workflow is what keeps us sane while multi-tasking and juggling llamas. Free and paid versions available, depending on how many projects you’re managing. Great for personal stuff too, like tracking diet and fitness goals.

2. Instapaper

Keeping up with your professional development goals can be extremely challenging, because you’re freakin’ busy. If you spend a lot of time online (and especially if any that time is spent in social networks) you probably come across a multitude of great stuff that you’d give your eyeteeth to read, but you just don’t have the free half hour, 9 times a day. (BTW, if you gave your eyeteeth, who would want them? Always wondered this.) The best tool I’ve found for archiving and saving the delightful gems I mean to read but can’t always access in real time is Instapaper. By adding a little Read Later button in your Bookmarks bar, you can simply click and save anything for later. Then, when you’re luxuriously lounging in your velour, you can visit your page and immerse yourself in the learning you’ve had the foresight to set up for yourself. You can even convert articles to text, ePub format, or printables (if you’re mad at trees). It feels good to learn. It’s a good, graspable goal. And it feels good to lounge about in velour, too. Free!

3. FreshBooks

We’re just big enough to need an accountant. Because we aren’t math people. Because we simply don’t have time to do the best work we can, and then turn around and be brilliant money strategists. We have to ski when we’re not working. An accountant is lovely, but it doesn’t mean that we can turn a blind eye to the incomings, outgoings, and time management issues of our business. So we use FreshBooks. It lets us invoice, track those invoices, manage taxes, track time spent on projects (even integrating with BaseCamp, which gives me shivers of joy), and communicate professionally with our clients. The quality of the FreshBooks blog is astounding, considering they spend so much time providing awesome customer service, responding to Tweets, and generally being cool. We want to be that cool as well, so we rely on a tool like FreshBooks to do the work for us. Free and paid plans available.

None of the above services paid for our gushingly positive reviews. We just like to write about things we like, because not every day requires a good rant.

Good luck with your resolutions, whether you’re already making progress or just getting started. Work hard, but make some time to slay the pow.

Congratulations! You’ve wheedled and schmoozed your way through the mire of convincing your CEO, Executive Director, or Honcho of Another Official Stripe to launch a blog on your dazzling new, 2.0 enabled website. Or maybe you’re the Honcho, and you have realized that blogging is a great way to increase awareness about your company/initiative/life’s work and connect with your audience. Great job – you’ve come to the right place! With some careful and deliberate planning and consideration, the corporate blog can be a place of content worth sharing. Here are some tips on how to make it so.

1. Identify a coach. Somewhere within your organization is a person who reads blogs. Who blogs themselves. Who knows a little bit about the blogging process. This person can help you. Find them. Whether it’s by providing motivation, giving quick editorial feedback, feeding and checking links, or just showing up on “post day” with a helium balloon, the blog coach can be an essential tool in getting thoughts posted.

2. Commit. That means signing off, in blood, to the promise that your new blog won’t wither on the vine within 3 weeks, or 3 months. You’re in it for the long haul, and blogging needs to be seen as another product or extension of your products.

3. Plan an editorial calendar with natural opportunities to share information. There are several editorial calendar plug-ins with which to augment the back end of your site. A calendar can be an effective tool for planning posts aligning with strategic activities and events, planned press releases, or reactions to industry news. If a plug-in is too fancy, then get thyself to Google Calendar and plot it out there.

4. Comments are good. You might never get a comment, and that might be because your content is boring. It also might be because your readership are lower on the Ladder of Engagement than in other sectors. And it might be because you aren’t asking questions that readers can respond to. Don’t sweat it. Use the challenge as an opportunity to tweak your writing. Try new things. Increase the amount of links in your posts. And if all else fails (and it will unless you do this) – start commenting on other people’s blogs. Quid pro quo. But please, please, do not make visitors who want to comment go through an extensive registration process. Remove the barriers, and people will share.

5. Get up close and personal. Be yourself. Develop your voice.

6. Use the discovery process. If you’re the author of the blog, have your “coach” interview you. An interview is a great way to draw out motivations, inspirations, and opinions that can translate to an engaging read for site visitors.

7. Integrate in other conversations and channels. In order to be read, you must be found. A blog is not an island, and selective integration with other social media channels is paramount to drawing traffic and inserting yourself into the world of online conversations. Ensure that your posts are tweeted (and Twitter is a whole other essential ballgame). Link your blog to relevant industry directories. Mention it on your company or organization’s home page, and certainly in your newsletter and any other communications. Have your coach ensure that relevant keywords are tagged, and that includes images. Link those to a Flickr account that links back to your blog.

8. Interview someone else. Struggling to come up with content and ideas to blog about? Interviewing someone else in your industry is a great way to share knowledge and extend relationships. Is there a leader in your organization who deserves to have their story shared? An employee who’s done something amazing? An interview post can be short and sweet, and rewarding to everyone involved.

9. Edit with kindness. This one’s for you, coach. Remember that we’re striving for an authentic voice, not an overly sanitized sales pitch. Don’t let the copy editors loose. Copy editors are lovely, smashing people, but over-editing a post will destroy any sense of the authentic, natural flow that makes a blog a blog.

10. Make it fun. Blogging should be an expressive act that happens to be good for business. As soon as it becomes a slog, the quality of the posts diminishes, the time between posts increases, and eventually your blog rests in the Graveyard of Abandoned Corporate Communications.

11. Use Evernote to catch and catalog inspiration. Evernote lets you capture content you find online, and save it for when you need it. It’s great for remembering things that might inspire a post of your own, including photos, text, videos, and sites. It’s free, so you have no excuse not to try it. Filing cabinet, be damned. The 21st century is here and you can save it all! Whee!

Got additional tips and experience to share? Here’s the place!

A caveman can do it, and so can you.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last 10 years, or for a company that let you reside blissfully unaware and underground, you may have noticed the importance of developing a digital profile. I hate to be a harbinger, but nobody’s safe. You could be liberated tomorrow. Your company could disappear down an earth splitting crevasse. Or you might feel compelled to quit.
And then, on your personal journey of change, you’ll probably realize that you can’t afford to hire your own PR company.
And after you get tired of licking stamps and churning out the same bs cover letter over and over (and meanwhile becoming more and more paranoid about your skills and achievements)….

Let’s think about this.

Would you hire a marketing person who had never established a presence on Twitter? In 2010? Really? Who didn’t understand Facebook Connect because they “don’t do Facebook?” Really? Who couldn’t tell you what blogs they read? If you couldn’t find a shred of evidence of their professional existence on Google?

Danny Brown’s recent post, Not Right Now, takes on what it means to be a company reluctant to embrace the undeniable reality of social media. His thoughts inspired this post, but I’d like to take it to the individual level.

And this gem from Rocket Watcher’s April Dunford also cuts to the chase about a digital profile being a virtual non-negotiable in this day and age. I really, really like the way she puts it. Awareness is not the same as proficiency, and you can only fool some of the people some of the time.

Whether you’re job hunting, or just exploring the idea that you need to be out there, here are 5 tips for building a digital profile:

1. It’s who you know. If you haven’t begun to develop and cultivate the limitless networking possibilities of LinkedIn, it’s time to give it a try. You can search for friends, colleagues and connections under all of your former employers, your places of education, and through endless group interest areas. On LinkedIn, you are searchable. Think of an online CV, a networking party, a hiring fair, and a judging panel all rolled into one. Your LinkedIn profile (which you must painstakingly craft, and yes, it takes time) can become the hub of your online portfolio, as it can integrate with your website, blogs, Twitter stream and Facebook updates. If you’ve ever created a presentation, you can upload it. Read for professional development? You can list the books you’ve read and intend to read. And much, much more. Just don’t be a big phony faker. Call a spade a spade, and don’t call yourself a dentist unless you’ve pulled a tooth.

2. And speaking of online CVs, it is now unbelievably easy to create a free website for the purpose of promoting yourself and your experience. Yes, a website all about you. Drop and drag chunks of information to create a cohesive story. Add photos, start crafting your thoughts into a blog, and purchase your domain name. I like Weebly, Moonfruit, and Magntize. Be google-able.

3. Try Twitter. Tweets and profiles rank high in search. If you haven’t established a profile because you’re not sure that it makes sense, don’t worry – it will. You can search Twitter for people and topics you’re interested in. And the people who tweet about those topics are your new community, and your potential connections. You have to follow to be followed back, and you have to tweet content that will interest your community. Using HootSuite or Tweetdeck (among many others) can help you organize your areas of interest and passion.

4. Build a trail of breadcrumbs, like Hansel and Gretel. Start commenting on blogs. Don’t be anonymous. Leave your contact email, link your website, and start making connections with the leaders in your industry.

5. Ask for help. Read, read, read. Develop an understanding of how the web has changed business, and how it impacts your particular area of interest. Discover what you like and try to emulate it. Be confident that your experience fits in somewhere, even if the online space is new to you. And don’t be intimidated by anyone who tells you that you’re late to the party. Better late than never, and better to have examined others’ mistakes and learned from them than never taking your first steps.

*UPDATE* I came across visualcv.com, an online resume builder. Serendipity-doo?


Anyone? Anyone?

I like presenting. I have a not-so-secret yearning for a job on the Shopping Channel too. Over the last year, I’ve had the pleasure of delivering several Social Media 101 workshops to a number of groups and organizations. Because I believe very strongly in what some might call the strategic tenets of the medium (and if you’re wondering what these tenets are, I’d suggest reading the inimitable Tamar Weinberg’s recent post here), I also believe in creating a similar authenticity in presentations about social media. SpaceRace specializes in helping people, companies, and organizations develop a digital strategy. Every person, company, and organization is different. Every presentation requires a close examination of the particular goals that can be achieved through a social media strategy and tactics. But the presentation itself should hold true to the ideas housed within. Walking the talk (in my best New York accent).
Tonight I’m working on a presentation for a large non-profit organization, and I’m thinking about how I’d like to position our time together as a conversation rather than a one-way delivery of stats, facts, and anecdotes. They are expecting me to stand at the front and deliver slides (and perhaps a few one-liners), but I’m going to create an experience for them that will illustrate that I’m there to listen as much as I am to share what I know. Here are my new rules:
1. I’m going to make it user-centric and personal. Do the research. What do I know about my audience? Their audience? Are they new media newbies? What is their existing decision making structure? What might their resources allow them to explore?
2. I’m going to make it interactive. Social media is “tactile”. It’s about actions and response. It’s about giving, and then responding. If we talk about Twitter, we need to tweet. I can help facilitate by creating a hashtag in advance, and invite my network to welcome and contribute.
3. I’m going to make it accessible through a number of entry points. On the day, it might be Prezi, or it might be Keynote. But it will be holdable in one’s hands, should someone want to use a pen and make notes. It will be accessible through their website, and other channels. Scribd. Slideshare. Maybe a podcast.
4. I’m going to make it fun. I’m going to wear a lampshade on my head. Wait…no! I’m going to wear my Snuggie!
5. I’m going to be myself. I won’t misrepresent my experience, my knowledge, and my current state of learning. Aren’t we always learning? Don’t we learn by listening?
6. I’m going to tell the truth. I’m going to provide case studies that relate. Warts, corns, and all. I’m not going to talk about the pot of gold, but rather how slippery the rainbow is.
7. I’m going to make it sustainable. I’m going to encourage and enable my audience to continue the conversation, with me and with each other. I might build a wiki, open up comments wherever it is housed, or plan follow ups and check ins. I’ll give my personal email address, phone number, and all the places within the social media space that I can be found and contacted.

I hope it goes well. I’m really looking forward to working with this group, because they’re out to make the world a better place for their clients. They deserve the best.


Oh, the hilarity!
I came across this inventive new breed of form just the other day. It’s set up like a Mad Lib, which I love. The possibilities for form filling fun seem endless. If you’ve ever done a Mad Lib, you already know about the sidesplitting joy that “plural body part” can result in.

I’m a joiner. I sign up for a lot of stuff. I check the boxes. When they ask about my combined household income, I always select the largest amount (and then spend a day feeling guilty). I wonder why I never win, even though I gross over a million and have 6 teenaged dependents.

Every time autofill clicks in, my ‘puter sighs a bored, tired sigh.

What if you, dear company, invested some art into the form? What if you asked me what my favourite show tune is, and then sent me a YouTube video of the original cast? Maybe on my birthday?

What if I had the chance to tell you that my celebrity doppelganger is Carol Burnett (it isn’t), or that my secret vice is eating wontons (I’m a vegetarian)? Wouldn’t we then develop a more personal exchange – maybe one built on humour and delight rather than the usual demographics?

What if I didn’t have to agree to 12 months of spam just to enter a contest? Or tell you my entire employment history to download your white paper? Or agree to join your online community about….wait for it….toilet paper? What if you just tried a little harder to engage me, and learn about my preferences? It might take a little longer, might require some higher energy customer service investment, but I’d be willing to bet that our conversion exercise would be mutually beneficial. Because I wouldn’t resent you for a) boring me and b) treating me like data.

It would be an art form, and I’d probably tell someone about you (isn’t that what you want?), and I’d definitely remember that I signed up.

Seen a form that thrilled you? Signed up for anything memorable, where the signing up part was memorable? I’d love to hear about it.


Flickr user: curtis.kennington

Last night I attended a podcasting workshop at Toronto’s lovely Centre for Social Innovation.  Sponsored by TechSoup and part of Netsquared’s Net Tuesday Toronto,  50 or so budding audiophiles jammed the room and learned about some very personal and authentic experiences with the medium. From the equipment to the planning to the eventual RSS feed that all your friends, neighbours, and clients will subscribe to – they covered it all.  The workshop was fabulous.  The presenters were excellent in presenting useful content, and also in soliciting discussion.  I ate the last gingerbread sugar cookie (don’t tell my mum).

But more on that later.

Luckily, I found someone I knew in the registration line and we commenced to sit at the back and throw spitballs.

Okay, I jest.

Here are my key takeaways:

  1. Good equipment is an investment worth making.  At SpaceRace, we like the Zoom H2. Easy to use, great sound, and perfect for Jimmy’s soulful rendition of “I Believe I Can Fly”.
  2. Plan. Plan. Plan.  And then plan some more.  Write a script. Use powerpoint to create a storyboard. Do a dry run, or several if you’re feeling croaky.  If your podcast includes an interview, make sure your subject receives the scripts as well. Give them the time to plan their answers.  Plan, and then you can be smooth (like Jimmy).
  3. Record properly. Set up a designated, quiet, professional space.  Avoid places where burps or farts are likely to occur, and put your phone in the mailbox (the outside mailbox).  Use a good mic (see #1). Leave gaps for easier editing.
  4. Editing is easier with a great program like Audacity. It’s free, which is a rather attractive price point.  The point at which your Audacity file becomes an mp3 is akin to how you feel when perfectly baked brownies come out of the oven.
  5. Broadcast for maximum impact.  In order to upload your podcast to iTunes and  increase availability and outreach exponentially, you’ll have to follow some fairly detailed instructions. You’ll have to have enabled RSS.   But it will be worth it, if only for the bragging rights.

Ready to launch your podcast? Let us know if we can help.  Let us also know if you’d like to hear Jimmy’s rendition of “I Believe I Can Fly”.  It’s out of this world.


The full report is ready for download. So are other local government action resources.