Archive for March, 2010

I have a confession to make. Public speaking is one of my biggest challenges on my journey to improvement. Since I enjoy challenges I am determined to face my fear and accept as many speaking engagements as possible.

It’s not  that I am afraid that an audience member will ask a question I can’t answer. I know my topic. In fact I am  passionate about my topic.  It’s not that I don’t like to travel. I love to travel whether it’s to Australia or to downtown Houston. So what am I afraid of? I’ve ask myself often and I think I finally have the answer – boring the audience. It’s absolutely awful to stand in front of a group (small or large) and get blank stares. I’m not a mind reader but I do know that a blank stare translates to: “you are boring the heck out of me”, “who gives a rats back side about what you are talking about” or “I’d rather be anywhere else than here at this very moment!”

Last week I had the opportunity to speak to students at Hilton College, University of Houston. The opportunity came due to social media. Dr. Karl Titz joined the LinkedIn Group:  Houston Franchise Business Network that Lorri Wyndham, COMPUTER EXPLORERS Operations Manager established. He contacted Lorri indicating that he was seeking franchise speakers. We accepted even though neither one of us had experience speaking to a group of University students.

When we arrived at the University, students were outside enjoying one of Houston’s best spring days. They were gathered in groups enjoying the sunshine and we saw very few in the halls on our way to the auditorium. Now imagine our audience arriving. Young entrepreneurs just returning from spring break. One young lady  admitted to having a great time in Mexico but felt miserable due to a severe sunburn. Several inquired about their grades which the professor had not yet posted and we could feel their anxiousness. One gentleman came in very late quietly taking a seat in the very back hoping the professor didn’t notice his tardiness.

We opened our presentation and I can’t say that we were receiving blank stares from the group. It was more “I’d rather be anywhere else than here at this moment.”

Challenge on! First thing I reminded myself was  “I know my topic. I’m passionate about my topic. Do and say almost anything not to bore my audience!” One of the best pieces of advice I have received about public speaking is to engage the audience by telling a story. I thought about this before I started but I came up empty. I couldn’t prepare a particular story that related to my topic of franchising. 

I turned the tables and started to ask my own questions. The professor informed me the class had conducted research and would be  giving presentations on a  franchise they planned to purchase.  I asked them to tell me about their franchise and their due diligence. An eager  hand went up in the back of the room from the young man who arrived late with a response “I am going to buy a Subway franchise!” There were giggles in the room and immediately my story came to life. I asked if in his research he learned anything about Fred DeLuca. He replied he did. Lorri and I launched into our story how we met Fred at IFA  (International Franchise Association) and witnessed his first Tweets. I’m not sure if he was more impressed that we met Fred DeLuca or that Fred used Twitter. Either way we had instant credibility and the rest of our presentation became an engaged interchange with the students.

There is no challenge more challenging than the challenge to improve yourself. — Michael F. Staley

We always had focus but with the help of our business partners (Arment Dietrich and GMLV/St. Jacques) COMPUTER EXPLORERS is ready to share our focus with the education community.

Our true value statement: COMPUTER EXPLORERS will leverage technology to reinforce and develop core academic skills while also developing collaboration, creativity, and problem solving skills in COMPUTER EXPLORERS’s fun, engaging and proprietary curriculum as the highest and best use of a child’s social time.

Our core messages:

  • Our product is core to children’s education
  • We are experts and opinion leaders
  • Our services are precise and relevant

Now it’s time for COMPUTER EXPLORERS to engage the education community. On a national level the COMPUTER EXPLORERS corporate team will work closely with several education associations. One of our strongest partnerships is with International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE).  COMPUTER EXPLORERS has been an ISTE 100 Corp member for several years. Recently, I accepted a two-year position with ISTE Awards & Recognition Committee. Every year during the ISTE annual conference the committee recognizes  individuals for their achievements in the field of educational technology. On a local level COMPUTER EXPLORERS franchisees are excited to become members and join me and other COMPUTER EXPLORERS corporate team members at the ISTE annual conference in June.

I hope that you can help COMPUTER EXPLORERS become known in the education community. Do you have a friend or family member involved with education? Do you know someone who seeks a stronger technology education purpose for their child? If so, please have them contact me ( or one of our franchisees found on our website

We are focused to leverage technology in the education community but could always use help from our friends!

How do you pick the perfect speaker for your conference? Do you depend on recommendations? Do you search the web and hope to find the individual that will connect with your attendees?

COMPUTER EXPLORERS had excellent speakers at the annual conference last week. Here’s why: I followed and almost stalked professional speakers on Twitter and read their blogs for weeks. After several eliminations I connected to a few via the old fashion way and had telephone conversations to get to know them. Again a round of eliminations.

I know my franchisees better than anyone else. I know what their needs are. I know their personalities. With this knowledge I look for a speaker that will engage and connect with the audience. Someone that my franchisees will trust and hang on to every word that is presented. You must know the audience 100% and fully understand the theme and goals for their presentation and share this with the speaker. A good…a perfect speaker will spend the time necessary to understand the culture and the audience before their scheduled presentation.

I needed speakers that would deliver educational content, be entertaining and motivational. Hard qualities to find but not impossible! Each of our speakers this year exceeded my expectations but more importantly the franchisees walked away with concrete action steps to take home with them. They were entertained by stories that were shared in presentations. They were motivated by the passion the speakers had for the topic and how it related personally to the COMPUTER EXPLORERS concept. Each speaker spent time with the franchisees before their session to get to know them personally and their challenges. They addressed everyone in the audience on a first name basis not because they were wearing a name tag but because they knew them personally.

I don’t have room in this blog post to give a full bio of each speaker but I can introduce them to you with a video!

Randy Hall, CEO 4th Gear Consulting

Michael St. Jacques, Chief Strategic Office, GMLV/St. Jacques

Susan Young, CEO Get in Front Communications

The speakers above made our conference a success. A big thank you to each of them!

Committed to Attend!

Virtual attendance

Virtual attendance

If you have read my previous posts you understand how excited I get about the COMPUTER EXPLORERS annual conference. What you may not realize is the level of excitement the franchisees have to attend. They look forward to the opportunity not only to attend the education sessions but they are extremely anxious to work with their peers.

This year we had several franchisees who could not attend due to unforeseen circumstances. Robin Scott, 2009 Franchisee of the Year and Franchise Advisory Council member experienced a medical emergency the day before her scheduled flight.

One of our speakers, Randy Hall was working with Robin in conference calls prior to conference. Randy got to know Robin and became very fond of her and Robin developed great respect for Randy and his expertise. Both were disappointed that they were not going to have the opportunity to shake hands and sit down together in person.

For every problem I firmly believe there is a solution and if creative enough it can be found. We could have Robin attend conference virtually! Using a laptop with video we connected Robin to sessions and moved her (the laptop) from table to table to work with various franchisees. Randy spoke to the group and engaged everyone participating including Robin! During group working sessions Robin was able to interact with the franchisees and complete the assignment that Randy gave the group.

Robin was a strong contributor and someone we would have missed terribly! It was rewarding watching franchisees run to a laptop to wave, send their best wishes and virtually hug a member of their franchise family.

Conference Eve

Conference Eve Poem
by: Lorri Wyndham
T’was the Night before conference
and all through the halls
The staff was all busy
away from the Malls

Deb & Lorri were posting
all through the night
Video and twitter
hoping all would go right

Lizards & Rocks & Duct Tape
were stacked
to answer the riddles
the Zee’s brains were racked

To the Forest they came
Big smiles on their faces
The speakers to inspire
put us through our paces

Deb will Cry
And so probably Perk
then they’ll go on their way
and get back to work

COMPUTER EXPLORERS displays their culture all the time. It’s what we want to be known for. Passion, focus, engagement, dedication, honesty and most of all fun.

Each Thursday we send a weekly communication called the “Thursday Update” to the franchisees. We keep them informed digitally about what is happening at the corporate office and around the world in COMPUTER EXPLORERS. When appropriate we throw in a video so that our true personalities are on display for all to see. For their entertainment at conference we are taking them to the Houston Livestock and Rodeo!

Personally I have been teasing the franchisees with riddles. I have posted them on my Facebook page, sent  tweets and this week started a discussion on LinkedIn. I have received bribes and a few franchisees have actually begged me to spill my big FAT secret. But with just one week to go until they arrive for conference I’m staying strong.

So what does this all say about COMPUTER EXPLORERS or about me? I hope it displays the passion I have for my brand and my franchisees! I work hard and I enjoy what I do. I wake up each morning without an alarm. I have my first cup of coffee sending email,  reading posts on Facebook by franchisees. I move to Twitter to continue networking and sharing. I leave voice messages for the team with the newest idea and strategy to implement. They know exactly what to expect first thing in the morning and follow my lead with enthusiasm!

COMPUTER EXPLORERS culture is showing and we are very proud of it!