My name is Cynthia Beldner, and I am the Divisional Training and Development Specialist and Yammer Community Manager at Everest University Online. One of my jobs has been to roll out Yammer and maintain the Yammer community at Everest Online. Many of you are probably wondering how to launch Yammer in an unforgettable way that generates buzz. I was also looking for a way to do so across Everest Online’s three service divisions – Tampa, Tempe and Colorado Springs. I didn’t know what I was going to do – I just needed to get everyone’s attention, and I needed it to be fun. Naturally, my solution was to produce a Flash Mob video, involving all three locations.
It’s actually as easy as it looks…
The Big Idea
The idea itself was an evolution. It started when I jokingly “threatened” the Online leadership teams that the Yammer launch would involve choreography. At the time, I had no idea that I was being serious – and neither did anyone else. But since I like making good on my jokes, I thought seriously about asking the General Manager of our Tampa site to skip across the floor, throwing into the air large, white, maple leaves with Yammer’s logo painted on them. How that idea made sense to me is not important; I was unable to find large, white maple leaves.
The idea continued to evolve. Several sleep cycles later and with cajoling from the Yammer people, I arrived at the idea of doing a Flash Mob. You can see now, in context, that it was the responsible choice.
How was I able to orchestrate everything across three locations? To start, I needed to get buy-in. I wrote a few emails to the executives to get the right support, without which none of this would’ve been possible. An average email went like this:
They all agreed to it in public emails but came by and cursed me privately. Then I moved on to get support from managers and individual participants – it went something like this…
Then I needed sidekicks, because I couldn’t have done it without tons of help and support. People contributed their time and capital and got giddy when they heard the idea.
Finally, once I had the support, all that remained was coordinating it, which is pretty straightforward. As a first order of business, we developed what became known as “football diagrams”, showing placement and movement for the performers (click the image below to enlarge).
I added people’s names to each dot, and then facilities placed small pieces of tape on the floor on the day of the mob to help dancers know where they were supposed to be.
We had a handful of meetings to work through the particulars, and we kept in constant touch. Issues and concerns that were raised were quickly considered, and collaborative solutions were implemented. The leads at the other sites were on top of making site-specific modifications, recruiting participants, and seeing the process through to completion.
The whole thing cost about $2,500 dollars. Video crews were half of the expense, though we went the cheap route on cameras and were able to rely partially on volunteers and their camera equipment. Of course, we also had to feed the folks who left their hearts on the dance floor – dancing like that burns quite a few calories!
I pilfered a lot of the choreography from a Flash Mob that Ohio State University did in 2010. Why Ohio State? It was a top Google search result for “flash mob”. Fortunately, selecting Ohio as the blueprint helped engender the head of Online’s HR and OSU devotee; to the whole idea. I needed his support; he’s my boss’s boss.
From the blueprint, my colleague Christina Rowe, Director of Student Services and dancer extraordinaire, helped me to simplify some of the complicated steps. We recorded each of us doing the routine, and sent out the video to the other sites. All three sites then coordinated their own rehearsal schedule, and the site leads took on the responsibility of teaching their peers the steps, one eight-count at a time.
Of course, if you want see me completely embarrass myself, watch this choreography video that we created to make sure everyone was on the same page:
With this video in hand, the shy members of the crew could practice in the safety of their homes… until they had to perform of course!
I chose Glee’s performance of Don’t Stop Believin’ because it’s iconic. And also, it was free!
The feedback has been amazing; and the faces of staff in the video are a good measure of just how good the feedback’s been. We made them smile and we caught their attention, which is not easy to do given how busy they are. Overall, it was a great team-building opportunity for the leadership group. They got to work with other leaders with whom they don’t normally interact, and Yammer participation jumped. We saw a spike in both, messages and new members, after the Flash Mob and have since continued to grow these gains. And all of the dance rehearsals have even sparked calls for company Zumba / Wii fit classes.
When you are launching a product like Yammer, you should always look for ways to get everyone energized, while getting the word out. Be creative; do something you have never done before. Yes, it will end up on YouTube, but that might just be OK!