Dr. Vrooman speaking on Twitter Engagement at TEDxSanAntonio

Dr. Steven Vrooman speaking at TEDxSanAntonio: "Our Brains Are A'Twitter"

Quick Watch!

Dr. Vrooman on Social Media Strategy in Association Leadership Magazine


Quick Read!

Delivering the Engaging Pedagogy Conference's Inaugural Keynote: "Teaching Is Persuasion"

Teaching is Persuasion


Conducting a "What Can We Learn from Games Design?" Webinar

Game design and pedagogy webinar.



The DungeonMaster's Guide to Communicating in "The Adventure Economy"

  The Big Picture

Good communication has always been invitational, with shared storytelling. But as the digital age spins us into what I call “The Adventure Economy,” it is more important than ever. There is too much information. There are too many calls on our attention. And from the 9-times-a-day programmed social media blog shares to the informational email blasts from organization leadership to the reliance on pamphletting, in paper or web form, as a substitute for the human touch in sales, most workplace communication is going the wrong direction. We respond with volume instead of truth.

The Adventure Economy is an idea that explains why people seek out swag on trade show floors, look for leaked scripts to spoil movies, pay to get locked into Escape Rooms with strangers, complain about staff meetings but then socialize past the allotted ending time, take selfies everywhere, join fantasy sports leagues, and mod video games.

In short, for the past 50 years, American culture, across a varied swath of human experience, has arced towards interactivity.

An adventure is a story where the seeming listener has a role, perhaps even a heroic one, to enter the story and take part. 

Telling the other kind of stories, the ones where we just listen or watch, used to be enough to gain attention through the noise. Our culture’s moment of Peak Story may have been the early Reagan era, from The Gipper’s shining city on the hill to “Reach Out and Touch Someone” commercials to Lee Iaccoca. But at the same time televangelists were asking you to pray with them in your living rooms, Star Trekfans were sharing mimeographs of the first fan fiction, Zig Ziglar was secularizing the tent revival and asking you to look inward for your own heroism, and kids across America were learning the joys of participatory storytelling with video games, Dungeons and Dragons, and Choose Your Own Adventure books. 

We need stories but no longer feel like we have time for them. 

Unless, like Winnie the Pooh, we admit that our favorite kinds of stories are about ourselves, because we’re that sort bear.

The Details

You can’t just give a lecture on interactivity. 

In either keynote form or smaller group workshop form, we will all work together in this. I can turn a room of 250 into an interactive laboratory.

The full spectrum of this idea takes about 4 hours. But it is easily segmented into whichever pieces fit your organization’s needs and your timeframe:

Internal Communication

invitational leadership

(build shared adventures. co-create the future.)

innovation animation

(develop a culture of interactive, productive failure.)

inclusive conflict facilitation

(transform it into negotiations. and learn to avoid the “gotcha!”s.)

External Communication

exigent adventuring

(read the ecosystem and stand out.)

engagement marketing

(social media that works. sustainably.

effective PR

(all the messy stuff we forget to do while we market.)

So many of us react in the daily grind. We are tactical. We do what is in front of us. We manage instead of lead, putting out fires and giving directives. We market, desperately, and neglect public relations. We look for ways out of conflicts instead of embracing them. 

We neglect strategy. 

As chess Grandmaster Savielly Tartakower said, “Tactics is knowing what to do when there is something to do. Strategy is knowing what to do when there is nothing to do.”

My purpose is to help participants streamline the tactical, to focus on what works, and to work smarter and quicker on the details. Then I can help them shift into strategy, into embracing the adventure economy. 

What is your organization’s identity? How do the people inside it experience that and contribute to that? How do external publics do the same? Are you an organization I want to accompany me on the adventure of life?

These are the DungeonMaster’s lessons of role-playing writ large. I am excited to bring this to you.

Not Another Social Media Keynote!

PowerPoint, check. Wireless mic, check. Canned inspirational intro story, check. Talking just long enough that there’s not much time for questions? Checkmate! 

Have you ever been to a keynote or breakout to find that the most valuable part was the conversation bubble around the speaker afterwards? Yep. Every. Time.

I do social media strategy. Big picture. *Your* story, not wag-the-dog analytics chasing. 

So let’s do that and cut out the whole PowerPoint talking head thing. 

First-come, first-served, we will load up your Instagram or whatever on the big screen. I’ll then host a large group discussion/critique. It will be like a huge, inefficient consulting session, but what makes it work is that we are crowdsourcing strategies live. I’m a professor. That kind of thing is what I do. Critique is awkward. Always is. But we’re going to have a good time. The best time you ever had being told half your Twitter posts aren’t working.

You’ll also get my strategic takeaways the way you want them anyway, you who tweets pictures of the “good slides” during a talk, as physical and electronic documents.

That’s the overview. Here’s the key: What if, in the end, we can’t beat the bots?

How much social media advice have you received that really is just about that – all the new tricks for how and when and what and how often to post? 

Social media companies make a lot of money. They do that by selling ads, or, more precisely, by continually constraining free workaround hacks to generate reach and making us buy ads. That means that eventually they beat the tricks. Facebook changes its algorithm, Instagram shadowbans you for your hashtag overuse, and on and on.

What if, instead, we stopped making content whose purpose was to drive eyeballs to more content whose purpose was to drive eyeballs to more content whose purpose was . . . .

This tactical grind, which also grinds down the limited resources of the time and patience of social media marketers, is a perpetual motion machine hunting for eyeballs. What if we stepped off the hamster wheel for a second and thought, instead, about strategy?

Assume you’ve reached an eyeball. Someone is reading and looking and clicking. Now, what do you want them to see?

This session will be about making social media destinations for people. It will be about content that converts reach into engagements and about how to build that content in keeping with your mission and brand. Could we get people coming back to our content not because we tricked it into their feed or even bought an ad, but because they wanted it, sought it out, maybe even missed it while they were gone? Of course we can! But it means making some changes.

Speaker One Sheet (pdf)