A Labor of Love – Creating a BBQ Festival

Saturday Night Blues Party - KY State BBQ Festival
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Every year about this time my regular business grinds to a halt as I do my part to help create another Kentucky State BBQ Festival. As a member of the Festival’s Board of Directors, I wear many hats, but none of us could do this alone. We have a fantastic Board of Directors and an equally fantastic General Committee who take ownership of various moving parts and put it all together.

The Festival website, Twitter and LinkedIn accounts are among my responsibilities. Brad Simmons does our Facebook marketing. My wife Maureen and I took on the added responsibility of handling the online sales of our raffle tickets this year, and boy, was THAT a learning experience. New systems will be in place for next year when we will have more time to promote the raffles and increase the revenue and the work involved.

Every January, we begin building the Festival that will take place the weekend after Labor Day. The momentum builds throughout the year until it reaches a frenetic pace in the final weeks leading up to the Festival dates. This year those dates are September 11-13.

There are t-shirts to be designed, bands to be hired, beer and soda (pop) contracts to complete, sponsors to be contacted, an endless array of vendors who want to be part of the show, marketing, all new web pages, a seemingly never-ending parade of things that need to be coaxed into being from nothing.

Saturday Night Blues Party - KY State BBQ Festival
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When my dear friends Brad and Cindy Simmons originally conceptualized the Festival in 2011, we had this thought “why not have a BBQ block party?”, invite some celebrity Pitmasters, and have a few thousand local people come and eat BBQ. We had been doing a few KCBS competitions, but you can’t eat the barbecue there. So we were dying to taste some of what was being cooked at competition level.

We put the 2011 Festival together in 8 weeks, with the help of Shelly Hunt invited Moe Cason of Ponderosa BBQ (who we had met at the Jim Beam BBQ Classic in Springfield, KY a few weeks earlier), Carey Bringle (the Peg Leg Porker), Craig Kimmel of Firehouse BBQ and Melissa Cookston (a repeat Memphis in May champion) of Memphis BBQ and Shelly Hunt of Desperados BBQ. Miraculously, they all accepted and we had us a BBQ Festival. Last year Mike Mills of 17th Street Barbecue in Murphysboro, IL joined our list of illustrious Pitmasters in place of Melissa.

It kicked off on a beautiful November weekend. That year we expected a few thousand attendees and wound up with 25,000. Ran out of food on Saturday afternoon, causing a mad scramble to clean out Kroger, Sam’s Club and Gordon’s Food Service for more BBQ to cook for Sunday. It all worked out great and we’ve been doing every year on the weekend after Labor Day ever since.

Check to United Way - KY State BBQ Festival
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The Kentucky State BBQ Festival is operated by the Kentucky State BBQ Festival Foundation, Inc. and is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization. Donations may be tax deductible. Form its beginnings in 2011, the Festival has benefitted the Heart of Kentucky United Way and last year raised $28,593.30 to fund United Way projects.

This is an all volunteer organization. We all put in hundreds of unpaid hours to make the Festival a success. I want to offer special thanks to the Festival Board of Directors, Brad and Cindy Simmons, Maureen Loar, Myrna Miller and Rick Waldon for all they do to see this project through every year.

If you’ll be in the area next weekend (Sept. 11-13, 2015), stop by the Festival for some great barbecue, beer and live music. You can learn more about the Festival at the Kentucky State BBQ Festival website.

For a Simpler CMS, Grab a Perch

What is enough CMS?

Perch logoI started blogging in 2005 using Userland Software’s Radio. By 2006, I had switched to WordPress and have been very happy with it for developing everything from simple blogs to complex websites. Along the way, I tried Joomla and Drupal, but found them unwieldy for my clients to make changes to. WordPress was a simpler system to teach to clients, but still required some time and, once in a while, video tutorials.

WordPress also offered much quicker web page building and maintenance. Even if a client didn’t want to add or edit content and preferred me to do it, the ease of doing it in WordPress saved me time and them money.

So, as you might guess, I have been a big fan of WordPress for many years. I have attended WordCamps in Columbus, OH and Louisville, KY for a few years and plan to attend a few more next year. For me, WordPress is a tool I want to know more about as its capabilities expand and creative developers find new ways to add features to it.

Sometimes I have a prospective client approach me who has an HTML website and wants to keep it that way. But they’d like to be able to make small edits to their content and don’t wish to experience the learning curve of HTML, PHP, CSS, etc. They don’t want me to convert their site to WordPress for any number if reasons. They just want to be able to edit what they’ve got.

Sometimes what they’ve got is worth saving; sometimes not. When it is not, I try to convince them that now would be the ideal time to upgrade their entire web presence. When what they have is up-to-date style-wise and perfectly useful, I search for another solution.

SnippetMaster has come to the rescue on more than one occasion. But is limited in capabilities and pretty clunky looking. Teaching a client to use it properly has been something of a chore.

So what can you do?

If you run into this situation, what would you do? You might look to Perch, a pure CMS system that can be installed on any website. Without trying to serve multiple purposes, such as blogging, Perch is even simpler for your clients to edit content than other, more popular CMSs.

The nice thing about Perch is that it can be installed on any existing website with no modification to the design. If your pages are all .html, you will have to change them to .php and put proper 301 redirects in place to retain search engine ranking, but that is a fairly simple task.

At the Perch website you can read about all of its features and watch a video that shows you how easy it is to deploy Perch on an existing website. You can also learn about Perch Runway for those bigger projects that need a more powerful CMS. But for most websites, the basic Perch app is more than adequate.

I would advise seeking a professional web developer to implement Perch on your website as they have a deeper understanding of all that Perch can do to make your online life easier.

Combined Web and Email Hosting? Bad Idea?

What does email mean to your business?

For as long as there has been web hosting there has been email hosting packaged with it. It is free, convenient and a bad idea. I’ve been using combined web and email hosting since 1996 and it took me this long to figure out just how bad of an idea it really is.

If you have any kind of email volume and use combined hosting, I’m sure you’ve had times when your email server refused to respond, asked repeatedly for the password that you knew was correct or failed to deliver an email you had been waiting for. And despite promises of 99% plus uptime, all web hosts have times where their service goes down – and your email goes with it.

Additionally, most combined email services have poor spam filtration and that can get annoying even if you don’t you have an older email address that received hundreds of spam email every day.

If your business is like mine, email is an essential tool every moment of every day. You just can’t afford to do have your email offline while your web host goes about replacing that failed hard drive or worse yet the server that gave up after so many years of service taking both your web and email services with it.

The best web hosting companies, like WP Engine realize the importance of specialization. They don’t even offer email service. Think about that. Would you want your plumber to do your electrical work?

So what are you to do?

In her article, “Know what’s a terrible idea? Mixing hosting with email”, which started my research on this subject, Carrie Dils recommends using Gmail Business Apps or Hover, both of which allow you to set up email accounts using your own domain name. I think she’s right and we’ll get into that a bit more.

Getting Dedicated Email Service

Dedicated email service would seem to be the answer to your problem. But where do you get it, how reliable is the service you are thinking of and how expensive is the service itself?

Out of all of my clients, the ones that seem the most satisfied with their email service are those that use Google Apps for Business or Hover. I’ve had good experiences setting up Google Business Apps, and am starting to experiment with Hover to see which works best for me.

Google Business Apps logoGoogle Apps for Business lets you use your own domain name for email (e.g. Cost for 30GB of storage is $5 er user per month. They have a upgrade for $10 per user per month that gives you more storage space and permanent archiving. Google allows unlimited aliases.

hover-logoHover is $20 per year for 10GB of storage and $29 per year for 1TB. Aliases are $5 per year each at present. They say they are working on a system to allow aliases on the $29 per year account in the near future.

Dedicated Email Service? Just do it!

If email is important in the day-to-day running of your business, start planning to move to a dedicated email service immediately. Don’t put it off. Go to Google Business Apps or Hover, read up on their features and how they would apply to you, and make a decision to take action now.

BackUp Creator fixes website disasters with one click?

Backup Creator - Backup, clone and protect your WordPress websites and blogs

Computer glitches and crashes, cyber attacks, data losses, hacking. We hear about them all the time on the news. But what if it happened to you?

In the past, for those of you running your websites on WordPress, I’ve recommended a plugin called Automatic WordPress Backup
that will save your files to Amazon’s AWS Cloud. But in the event of a data loss, there will still be a considerable amount of time and expense to download the files, re-install WordPress, and import and configure all of the files necessary to get your website back to its original state. Plus the plugin hasn’t been updated in over two years and that can create a security risk. If you are using Automatic WordPress Backup, you need to be making new plans.

What if there was a solution that would allow to to restore your site with a simple click? ALL of your site. Content, photos, illustrations, comments, theme, plugins and all of your configurations. One click!

And what if you had a choice of where to store your backups? Amazon AWS? Sure. But you can also choose Dropbox, the BackUp Creator Cloud, via FTP or as an email attachment!

You can do all of this with one click in BackUp Creator. And with BackUp Creator Ultimate, you can backup ALL of your websites automatically and restore them with just a single click.

Need to clone one of your sites? With BackUp Creator, it’s easy.

Moving your site to another server? This has always been a major undertaking, but it’s no problem with BackUp Creator.

BackUp Creator is a WordPress plugin with years of development and world class support behind it.

I have used BackUp Creator on one of my WordPress sites for years and it does a super job. Now that Automatic WordPress Backup is not being updated, I am going to upgrade to BackUp Creator Ultimate and add it to all of my WordPress sites.

Click here to see the latest video on BackUp Creator.

Or get it now!

Do your PowerPoint presentations suck?

Your presentation slides need to enhance your presentation, not overpower it. One of the biggest mistakes we see all the time is trying to present too much information on one slide. If your audience is reading your slide instead of listening to what you are saying, that is a major FAIL!

Jesse Desjardins SlideShare, “You Suck At PowerPoint!”, presented above, will show you how to get more from your presentations whether you use PowerPoint, Keynote, Impress or online presentation solutions such as Prezi, Emaze or Empressr.

One thing to remember is that if your presentations suck, it is not the fault of the software; it is the fault of how the presentation slides were created and the content included.

Put your best foot forward. Watch this SlideShare to learn how make your PowerPoints sing!