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Create a Context for Joining the Community

Lesson 26 from: Build a Community & Grow Your Standout Business

Tara McMullin

Create a Context for Joining the Community

Lesson 26 from: Build a Community & Grow Your Standout Business

Tara McMullin

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Lesson Info

26. Create a Context for Joining the Community


Class Trailer

Class Introduction


Why the Market is Primed for Your Community


How Community Can Transform Your Business


Why This Isn’t About You


What Community Means for Your Business


Take Advantage of Network Effects with Mighty Networks Founder Gina Bianchini


Interview and Q&A with Gina Bianchini


Craft Your Community Vision


Lesson Info

Create a Context for Joining the Community

You wanna have a message that taps into that experience, taps into that sense of urgency, and gets people to convert into being a member. Again, free or paid, this pertains to both. But there's more you can do, and so, as we start talking more now about marketing and sales on the business side of things, we wanna go a little further. Because it's not most likely going to be one referral or one pop onto your sales page that gets someone to join. Much more likely, it's going to be a process, and that process tends to be full of friction. As I have said, the barrier to joining a new community is very high. We know it involves an investment of time, we know it involves an investment of energy, we know it involves an emotional investment, and so, regardless of how much it costs, or how little it costs, asking someone to join a community is a big ask. And so you wanna be prepared for taking people through a process in which they can feel really comfortable with it. So for your community, as ...

you start to consider what that process might be, I want you to ask yourself, what does someone need to experience, to overcome that friction? What can, what experience can you invite someone to, where joining your community becomes a no-brainer? Just some ideas, here, but they're probably gonna need to experience that sense of belonging right off the bat. So if you can have existing members talking with potential members, not you, but existing members talking with potential members, and connecting with them, before they've ever joined the community, that's one way you can overcome that friction. You can give them an experience of a ritual that you do inside of your community, outside of that community. That starts to help them overcome that friction. Any other ideas? How could you overcome the friction of joining? Ayelet? Events. Events, yes. And events especially with, that include, existing members and experiences. Yes, and rituals! And a sense of belonging! And a sense of belonging, exactly, yeah. You know I love events for getting people to join communities, love it. There's so much you can do with events, I'll talk about that in just a little bit, so thank you for that excellent preview. But yeah, that's another really great way to help people have an experience that's gonna help them overcome that friction. Any other ideas? Yeah, Nadia. You could communicate your values. Yeah, yeah, people love knowing there's something deeper below the community. They love getting a sense of that culture before they join. They love knowing there's a story behind the community, so again, way back in the first half of the class when we were talking about developing your community, we talked about story, what's changing in your industry. Why is this the right time? If you can kind of create that rallying cry behind your community, you can get a lot of sense of buy-in that starts to overcome that friction. You know, when we talk about how the purpose behind CoCommercial is turning today's small business owners into tomorrow's economic powerhouses, and when I talk about the reason you need CoCommercial right now, is because you need someone, you need something, you need a community that's there for you every single day, instead of an online course you spent 2000 dollars on and is there for you for eight weeks. People dig that story, right? They dig that purpose, those values, that vision. And they can create a lot of buy-in that overcomes friction. Denise? Telling your story in multiple formats, too. So for example, someone I trust shared a link to one of your articles on Medium. I had never heard of you, sorry. (laughs) That's fine, there are lots of people, more than not. And I clicked the link, because I trust this person, and read the article, liked it, clicked on "follow", get notified every time you posted something new, liked the next article, liked the next article, always saw the invitation to join, and one day, said, "I wanna see what this is about." So, you know, that was written content. I wasn't, you know, following you on Facebook or anything, it was just articles that you wrote, that really resonated with me really strongly, so that was what I needed, and I think probably, I'm not the only one. Yeah, absolutely. Actually, Medium's been huge for us, as getting new members, and people who have not heard of me but actually connected with the brand more than me, which is awesome, we're gonna get to brand here in a little bit, yeah, I know! But yeah, telling your story in as many different ways as possible, and recognizing that every time you put out a piece of content, every time you post to social media, every time you do a video, it's an opportunity to tell your story in a new way, or with a different approach. And I know it's gonna start to sound repetitive to you. It doesn't sound repetitive to everybody else, first of all, they're not watching everything you do. And second of all, they love hearing it over and over and over again. So absolutely, that's such a great point. Alright, then, once you've thought about everything that people need to experience, or could experience to start to overcome that friction, you also wanna start to tap into what can make joining a community feel more urgent. So what about the experiences that you're building can you tap into, as a sense of urgency? Make it feel really real. What is it that your customer, or potential new member, is going to run into tomorrow, run into in five minutes, run into next week, that you can tap into, as you're building these experiences, as you're creating that written content, as you're making videos, as you're writing your sales page, that's going to make it feel more urgent? Yes. If you don't figure this out soon, you're gonna go out of business, and have to go back to that j-o-b. Yeah, absolutely, talking about consequences is an excellent way to make things feel more urgent. And I know that consequences sometimes as we're writing them can feel a little weird, or a little manipulative, Alice is like, "yes", but there's also a certain amount of acknowledging very real consequences and people's very real fears that is incredibly honest and authentic as well. So what we don't wanna do is try to scare people when we're adding to a sense of urgency. Obviously, we don't wanna talk about things that aren't true, but we do want to acknowledge things that people are honest to goodness feeling, fearing or dealing with, and there are consequences to not solving the problems, or not connecting with the right people, or hearing the right stories. So if you can tap into those consequences, that helps a lot. Our headline on our sales page right now is "Don't let another obstacle, challenge or setback "stand between you and your goals." And so that ties into a real urgent need, and the trigger habit piece where we want people to be posting every time they do run into an obstacle or a challenge or a setback. And it also ties into that consequence piece, because they know, they have experienced in the past where they set a goal, they ran into a challenge, and that goal didn't get met. We don't want that to ever happen again, that's why CoCommercial exists. And so we can tap into that again, and say, "Hey, I know you're working "toward a particular goal right now, "you're working on a particular project. "It's gonna happen that you're gonna hit "some stumbling block. "Who are you gonna turn to? "That's why our community exists." This is basic marketing, and at the same time, this urgency piece is so important for communities, because by and large, communities don't feel very urgent to join, right? When I joined Facebook, if we can consider that a community, I didn't feel a certain sense of urgency, I felt like I'm bored right now, and I have a lot of baby pictures, maybe I should do this thing that everyone seems to be doing. That's not urgency, you can't control that. The more you can tap into natural urgency, the more control you have around when people join. Make sense? Okay, so once we know what feels urgent, maybe what consequences are involved, and we know what people need to experience to overcome the friction, we wanna turn this into an opportunity to explore your community before people join. Charles Vogel talks about this in terms of exploration spaces. And events are absolutely one way that we do that at CoCommercial. We tend to do workshops and webinars, as I mentioned, we're gonna start exploring a public monthly check-in, that is my homework, as soon as we get home from this class, that is my work of next week. But the same idea applies. Having a public community event that anyone can come to and experience more of what we do at CoCommercial, who we are, what our vision is, what our values are, what our purpose is, and how we can help. It's an exploration space. It's not content marketing, although that can be an exploration space, but this is a real, honest to goodness place where people can immerse themselves, really, in the culture of our community, and get a sense for whether they'd like to move on with it, and so we create a call to action at the end, we tap into that urgency, we tell them how we can help them with whatever problem or need that they have, in a couple of different ways. We tell them who belongs in our space, and then we create that invitation, come on, join us. So that's workshops and webinars. You do an open house, so that monthly ritual maybe falls into that open house category a little bit more, where literally, instead of, again, creating content, instead of doing teaching or training as we've all been taught to do, you literally say, "Hey, come check this out, we're having an open house." You can do it virtually, CrowdCast is great for this, we love that. Zoom is great for this, we love Zoom too, and you can get in there, and actually talk about your product. I know, crazy, right? We've been taught all these ways to get around talking about our product, or get around people knowing that we're going to talk about our product, and I say, when it comes to community, why not just put it out there? You've seen this thing, you've thought about buying it, maybe you know a couple of members, but you haven't pulled the trigger yet. Come check it out for yourself, and then you can make a really informed decision. It's a really open, honest way to get people into your community. You can do a free chat, oh, Melissa. So for an open house, you would do that in Zoom, and then share, what, like, screen share of the inside? You can, yeah. Or you actually open the doors, and let people in? No, I don't open up the doors and let people in, thanks for clarifying, or asking me to clarify on that. So yes, I would either do a screen share, or, more likely, because I like having control over what is seen in an event like that, where there are certain posts that I feel, like I might say, "Hey, Ayelet, I really loved that post, "can I take a screen shot of that and share that "in our open house?" And so, because we have a private, closed community, I tend to ask a lot more permission before sharing things publicly. Especially now also that we don't have a free 30 day trial as well, because when we had a trial, there is actually a certain amount of public-ness to the community. Now that we're completely closed, I really, we're really big on affirmative consent, in terms of sharing. So we don't do screen shares inside the community in public events. Obviously, we do it in our new member orientation, so I share with screen shots. I might also put together like a slide deck, like introducing, like here are our last six member features. Let me tell you about these people, let me tell you about the different features of the platform. So yes, there's a certain amount of showing here's what it looks like, here's what we talk about, and then some of it is a little bit more controlled, and just lets me talk about, or Shannon, or Megan, or whoever, talk about what we're doing, and why, and what's up, and just answering people's questions, because people have lots and lots and lots of questions that they don't know where to go with, and so an open house like that gives us an opportunity to answer those questions. Cool, thank you. Yeah, absolutely. A free challenge is another really great way to get people to explore your space. I've never been a huge person for free challenges, but I love people who do them really well, and I've seen people do them really, really well. And a couple of you guys talked about having some free course components of getting people sort of to experience your work, experience your culture, your vision, your values, before getting the invitation to join the community. So opting in for something like that, receiving that content, gives people an experience and a way of exploring what you're all about, and what the community is all about before you actually ask them to commit to joining. And I think that commit word is important here. I haven't really talked about that, but anytime someone is joining a community, you want them to be making a commitment to that community, and people feel that sense of commitment when they join. People feel bad if they don't show up, right? They feel bad if they don't comment, they feel bad when they don't post. Not everyone, maybe, but a lot of people do, I'm always surprised about this, right? Like, I haven't been there in weeks, and I'm so sorry, and I'm coming back! Like, it's cool, no problem, there's a lot of people here. We did miss you, like, yeah, and also, no worries. Come on back when you have time. A paid class is actually a great way to get people to explore your community, because believe it or not, a lot of people would rather pay 500 dollars for a class then 14.99 for a community. Trust me, I know! (laughs) So you can actually get people to pay for something that teaches them something super valuable, solves an immediate need, but also introduces them to your vision, your values, your purpose, the culture behind your community, gives them a shared language, a shared framework for talking about, and then invites them into the community. Again, whether it's free or it's paid, but that paid class, that paid experience, paid retreat, maybe, gives them an exploration space. They make one small finite commitment before they make that long-term commitment of joining the community. Then of course, content marketing, as Denise was talking about, is a great way to give people an opportunity to explore. It's not quite as active, it's not quite as immersive, but it absolutely works, as long as you're keeping your vision, values and purpose first and foremost as you're creating that content marketing. And, I cannot, you cannot overestimate the importance of great testimonials. Testimonials sell everything, and also, you must, must, must have great testimonials for your community. And the more specific your testimonials, the better. Don't just have a ton of great testimonials, well, they're not great testimonials, but don't just have a ton of testimonials that say how great your community is. No one cares. What they wanna know is how that community can help them, and the way we do that is by sharing how that community has helped someone else. So you wanna get members to say, "I had a question about marketing," or "I had a question about Facebook Ads," or "I had a question about pricing," or "I had a question about a difficult client or interaction, "and here's how CoCommercial helped me." Or "I had a really difficult sleeping situation "with my six year old," or "I had a really, you know, I was at home alone "with my three month old, bored all the time, "and I didn't know what to do, "and I thought I was screwing up my child." (laughs) "And strength in words, the strength in words community "helped me by suggesting A, B, C, "and I couldn't live without it, I'm forever grateful." That's a good testimonial. Specific thing, here's how the community helped me, now I can't live without it. That's what a good testimonial, that's what a great testimonial for your community looks like. There's some other things that work, too, but what you do not want is just, "Strength in words community is fabulous!" No one cares. No one believes you, it doesn't mean anything. Get people to get specific, and ask for testimonials. Ask for testimonials. Every time we see someone post a scary problem, a big problem, anything. Even just sort of like a, I'm stuck and I don't know what to do, and they get great responses, and they come back, and they say, "Oh my gosh, this was exactly what I needed, "thank you so much." One person on our team is tasked with saying, "Hey, can we use that in a testimonial?" And so we are actively, actively, actively going out and looking for testimonials. Angie? So, as to the actively, actively, if you are a very small business that's launching this, how would you prioritize some of these, we go into the community, search for those things, you know, because some of us are like two people or one person doing the business, so what might be a strategy for us to... So this is one of those things you want to prioritize. This is not one of the things on the bottom of the list that sometimes gets done when you're a business of one. This is one of the top two, three things that you need to be doing as a community builder on the business side of things. So that's one thing. And then the other thing is, you mentioned just getting started, too, and that's an excellent point. This is what your charter members are for. So the reason you start with a group of charter members, whether that's 20 people, 50 people, 100 people, is because you must have testimonials to get the next 50 people, or the next 100 people, or the next 500 people, or 1,000 people. So get those charter members in there, get them talking to each other, get them solving problems, and then get them to give you testimonials. That is hugely, hugely, hugely important, because it'll be like pulling teeth to get new members in your community if you don't have really good testimonials. Again, free or paid, sure, the barrier to entry on free is slightly lower, but I would say, it's like this. I mean, really, it's really, really not that different. So have testimonials. Have good messaging for a free community just the way you would for a paid community, and you're gonna get more out of that free community as well. Another question that comes up around creating exploration spaces, around creating a context for joining, is should you have an open enrollment or a closed enrollment? I have done both, and I do not have an answer for this question. But there are some things you want to consider. You should have an open enrollment if your community is helping people solve a really acute but ongoing need. So for instance, we have a client that helps people, and she doesn't actually have a community yet. But she has, her business helps people navigate the FODMAP diets,, Julie O'Hara, check her out. And so she helps people predominantly dealing with IBS get through this really constrictive diet that they get put on, and really just navigate that, and then navigate re-entry of certain foods. And that's a really acute need. When you are tired of dealing with that, you are tired of dealing with that. And if you find a solution, you want it now. And also, it's an ongoing need, so this is actually a really good time to involve community. People want it now, and they're going to keep needing it now over time. Ideally, things get better, but it never goes away, so there's a reason for people to stick around for a long time. In that case, most likely, I would advise an open enrollment, because whenever someone finds you, they're gonna want to join now. If the problem that you are solving, the need that you're addressing is less acute than that, if you address a lingering problem that every so often bubbles up into frustration, which is what a lot of communities do, mine included, a closed enrollment can be really good for that, because you can control the process of when that frustration bubbles up, because now your context for joining becomes helping people remember the last time it happened, or helping people think toward when it's going to happen again, and you create urgency in a much more controlled environment, then you open enrollment, ask people to join, and then close enrollment off. That's what we're doing right now. As I've said, we've done the open enrollment thing as well, I would say, results have definitely been better on the closed enrollment, we had mixed results in different strategies and different things with open enrollment, and that's why we decided ultimately to go to closed for now. Who knows what we'll be doing a year from now? (laughs) So that's another thing that you're gonna want to experiment with. You can absolutely experiment with both, it can change, it can adapt, you can try new things. Don't feel like it's one or the other. Give it a try, because you might be surprised. We were surprised. Questions about creating a context for joining your community, exploration spaces, enrollment, things like that? Yeah. So back when you asked about the urgency, and I mentioned, you know, like, if you don't solve this, then you have to go back to your job, and your business closes down, you mentioned shy away from using consequences in that kind of urgency? Well, no, I didn't say shy away from using consequences. I said there's a risk with consequences where it can become manipulative, but overall I'm all for reminding people of the consequences they fear. Okay, but especially strong if I can tie that to the mission of the community? Yes, yeah, absolutely, yeah. If you can say "My mission is to slow the rate "of small business failure in this country," then awesome, that sounds very like you're a superhero. It's the opposite of manipulative, it's like, look, I don't want you to have to go get that job, because if you get that job, then the world loses another brilliant leader, and you might be tomorrow's, like, Elon Musk or somebody. Yeah, totally, absolutely, absolutely, yeah. Because you're acknowledging a fear that they have, something that's kept them up at night, and you're saying, my mission in life is to make sure that doesn't happen. That's really, that's a powerful story, that's a great way to approach it. Okay, cool, thanks. Any other questions on this one? Melissa? So I know that this is not a, there's no formula for this, but if you're doing a closed enrollment, like, so I'm solving a lingering problem that bubbles up every so often, it's not an acute, ongoing need, so how do you determine when you open your enrollment? Yeah, that's a good question. I would say, you can open your enrollment anytime you have the resources to get enough interest that opening enrollment makes sense. So, like, we were playing with bi-weekly open enrollments, because I knew I could take a certain amount of money, cram it into Facebook Ads, drum up enough interest over the course of two weeks that we could open enrollment again. And that was, in fact, true, and also, I didn't like it. So we're looking at monthly now. What didn't you like about it? I didn't like how much work it was. Makes sense. And maybe, you know, if in the future, we can train our community team to actually be the pitch women instead of me, that could actually, we might go back to that, because I don't mind spending the money to enroll new community members, but if I'm spending a bunch of money for acquisition, and I'm doing a lot of work, and I'm taking our focus away from things that are equally as important, like retention, then that's a problem. Does that make sense? Makes total sense, and if you have, if you're doing the closed enrollment model, then I would imagine that your landing page for the membership, the community, would just, would send people to a mailing list or something like that? Yeah, so the way we have it set up just for ease right now, is that there's the landing page, that says, put your email address in here, and we'll send you an invitation. Then there's an automated sequence that they go through, to get that invitation, and it's really straightforward now. They get a series of three emails, and then they get the invitation. But I have the option of slowing that down if we need to slow down enrollment. We're not there yet, but I have, you know, I can tweak it so that I can make the timing what's gonna work better for us. And then, when I open enrollment, I send people to a different page. So for our enrollment webinars, our workshops, those exploration spaces, it's been When enrollment is open, there's a countdown, there's a join now button, and enrollment's only open for three or four days. And people can join there. I take that down, and I put up an email opt-in when enrollment actually closes, because it does actually close, and that's how that works. There's another page that is always open, that's the invitation they get from the email sequence, I'm not gonna share that one now. And then, for the purposes of this class, we actually set up another landing page, that is going to be open for the long foreseeable future, at least while we're buzzing about this class, it's, so you can join us now if you'd like, I highly recommend it. Anyhow, that page will stay up and enrollment will be open there until I decide that it's not, and then that'll go to a mailing list as well. So when enrollment is closed, though, they get in on an automation sequence that sends them an invitation? Yeah, so the way we have it is invitation-only. And so the invitation can come a few different ways. It can come through requesting an invitation, it can come through signing up for a webinar that includes an invitation, and it can come directly from another member. Okay, so people can actually still get in. Yes, yes. So we have a sort-of closed enrollment, I guess. Got it, okay, okay, okay. Ours, yeah, so invitation-only, yeah. And we can talk, if you wanna talk about the workflow of how that all works, yeah, Denise is like, yes, I would like to know how you're doing that, please. Okay, so we've got the main landing page, that's where they request an invitation. We run ads and do content marketing that sends people to a webinar. That is the, that's sort of the mass enrollment invitation process. Then we have other invitations, like in the bonus materials for this class, there's calls to action to join, that's another kind of invitation, and then there's the existing member invitation that goes to the mighty networks landing page, instead of one of my landing pages. It's set up very, very similarly, it's the same copy, all of that, but that one is always open. So if you know a CoCommercial member, and they send you an invitation, then you can get in. Okay, so people can join-- I'm sorry that I just overcomplicated this. No, no, no, this is really helpful. So people could join at any time actually through that landing page, they just go through this process of getting this invitation. They get on an email list, takes them a few days, and then they get an invitation, and then they can join. Yes. Otherwise, there are certain times where you have, okay, the cart's open, now you can join? Yes. Got it, sort of. Right, so the reason I have the open closed enrollment like that, is so that I have greater control over the sense of urgency that someone is experiencing. So I can take them through a whole story. So the story we've been working with is, you make plans for your business. You set goals for your business. We do that with varying levels of efficacy, right? But we all do it. I'm gonna guide you through that process, using maybe a slightly different process than what you've done in the past, and at the end of that process, I'm gonna ask you to consider all of the obstacles, setback challenges that you might anticipate in the course of executing this plan. I'm also gonna remind you of all the times that you've run into those things in the past, and when you couldn't anticipate them. And then I'm gonna ask you, where are you gonna go when that stuff happens? Then I'm going to tell you, you can come to CoCommercial, wouldn't you like to join? And so I create that whole story, I create that context. I'm not, it's not to me, anyway, Alice might disagree, but to me it's not manipulative, because this is a real story that people live every single frickin' day, which is why it works really well. And so I can tell that story, and everyone listening has been like, is thinking to themselves, oh my gosh, yes, I have been there, done that, it's been very frustrating. And so I can tap into that natural frustration, and then present a solution to that. Whether they're actually feeling it in the moment, or whether they're remembering it, or whether they're anticipating what they know is inevitable, I can utilize that as my natural sense of urgency, but then I can additionally add the sense of urgency of, this is only open for a certain period of time. We devote our resources to welcoming new members for these four days, this is where we put our emphasis, on Monday afternoon, it's closed, and you have to wait again. And it's true that you have to wait regardless, right? Because you'd have to request an invitation to get a link to a different place that you can opt-in, and then that allows me to do a significant follow-up campaign, answer questions, overcome objections, and so it just gives me more control over the process. Very impressive. (laughs) It's been a long time coming. Yeah, Jen. So that webinar that you're running people to as the other entry point, is that your open house, or your experience? Yes, so it is gonna be transitioning more into an open house in the future. Previously, it was more of a workshop format, where I'm teaching something, I'm guiding, it's very much like this, where it's like, okay, I'm gonna teach you something, then you're gonna do the work, I'm gonna teach you something, then you're gonna do the work, it's very interactive, very, like, you're doing it as I'm teaching it, and then I have the pitch at the end, yeah. I think there was one online question? Does, or would, CoCommercial ever hold live in-person events? Stay tuned, yes, absolutely! (laughs) My plan is, again, my other piece of homework as soon as we're back, as soon as I'm back from this workshop, is putting together our summer tour, I know, whoa, yes, please, everybody tune in. (laughs) We're putting together our summer tour, putting together our Montana retreat, and I have been telling my big conference event organizer that we're hoping to do a CoCommercial conference in 2019. That won't happen this year but hopefully it will happen next year, that's sort of the long-range plan. So yeah, in-person events are definitely part of our plan, and I would highly encourage it for just about any online community. Meeting people in person, it's why I love inviting community members into the audience here, because I get to talk to you, you get to meet each other, it just, ah, it creates such a cool environment. And talk about building relationships and connections for life in a community, nothing does that like in-person events. So yes, absolutely, absolutely. And, I'm thinking through actually, how to make those in-person events membership exploration spaces as well, so enrollment events.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Build a Community Workbook
Sample Community Policies

Bonus Materials with RSVP

Build a Community Resource Guide

Ratings and Reviews

Ayelet Marinovich

This class was exactly what I needed. It clarified, confirmed, and connected SO MANY more of the remaining dots for me. Tara, as always, is brilliant, energetic and a general joy to watch as she shares her immense knowledge and helps others get to "the nitty gritty" - thank you Tara, and thank you Creative Live!!

a Creativelive Student

Like I said on air... "Wow!" I've been building an online community for about 4 years now, based on what I thought I wanted to my business to be. Now I realize the value of creating a community around my VISION, then building the business based around the community needs and values. What I thought: 1) What people needed from me was my expertise. 2) Members will naturally bond with and engage with one another based on their shared interests and needs. What I learned from Tara: 1) Members rely on me to FACILITATE conversation and sharing. 2) It's my role to be the a connector and mediator. Tara has an amazing presence on stage and is super skilled at drawing out your vision as a business owner/entrepreneur. She makes community building easy to understand. I'll definitely be watching more of her courses. This one alone has changed the way I think about my business and my plan for building in monetization and community building.


I went from a vague idea of wanting to build a community to having a clear path to take to start building it. I appreciated the focus on the member vs the business model. Tara presented a clear path for creating the plan first, from vision and purpose to creating the experience for community members, to helping members take the journey to how to monetize in many different ways. My brain is full and I'm excited to take action and launch a community that consolidates my current varied business offers. The presentation was thoughtful and well presented. Excellent and highly recommended.

Student Work