“50,000 people standing 6 feet apart, masked up in a stadium? Not happening. But online conferences are not exactly new. It’s just that now, it’s the new norm.” — Kate Bradley Chernis, CEO of Lately
“A day-long webinar is NOT a virtual conference” — Michael Hoffman, CEO of Gather Voices
Check out the full video of this in-depth conversation, where Kate & Michael discuss best practices for virtual events: how to drive revenue, engagement, and attendance.
Kate Bradley Chernis: If you’re, if you’re broadcasting messaging and there’s no audience to hear it, then like you’re wasting your time. So, building that audience takes a long time. I mean, now I’m just talking to anyone who’s listening. The number one thing that startups forget to do because they think, “Oh, marketing is a waste of time. We’ll just get there later when we have more money,” but, what you want to do right away, is to start building that audience, because it does take so much time to build it, so that when you have the wherewithal and the money, and the woman power or manpower to put the effort in, then you’re talking to people who actually who care about you. So one way to cheat that is, actually, there are two good ways. One is to do a follow campaign,
Which is to just follow a ton of people that you think would be interested, and they follow you back. Right? You find competitors and follow everybody who was following them. I’m talking about Twitter specifically. Twitter is one way to do it. Or, am sure you can get lists, or you probably already have target lists. Another way to do is, is to find your customers online, and all the places, whether it’s LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, PickDoc, if that’s your jam, and follow them and they’ll follow you back, you know? That’s one way to do it. Lists are good, like Twitter lists, and you’re going to be lopsided. So there will be more that you’re following, which is uncool. You don’t want that forever, but that’s the deal. And the other way, see, once I start talking, I don’t shut up.
There are other ways to glom on to other people, right? So, you ask someone who has, and this is a weird thing to do, it has to be with a partner, usually like or investors are good for this. Let’s say you have a channel partner or something, if they’re sharing you in their newsletter or somewhere else, like just asking for follows or coming up with a reason for them to follow, like, every person who follows we’ll donate a roll of toilet paper to XYZ, you know, something like that. So you have to come up with something that that. We have private groups all over the place that we become part of and when we need favors like that, we go and ask them. Like launch Michael, that’s a great place to do it because everyone at launch should be following you.
Michael Hoffman: That’s true. Everyone on Jason’s twist Slack should be following us, right?
Kate Bradley Chernis: Yes, there should be a channel. What we do in my team is, we have a channel called sharing is caring, and any link that I put in there, or that my social media manager puts in there, the whole team has to pile on. It can be annoying because sometimes we have a lot to talk about.
Michael Hoffman: That’s because as people comment and like posts, it tells the algorithm that these are important and shows it to more people. Right?
Kate Bradley Chernis: Yeah, so organic rules, the game. Paid is not good, and because it’s not real and everybody’s cotton onto that. Organic is real even if you’re not drinking the system. I mean, my humans are real humans who want to start conversations, but that’s the name of the game in the conversation. So the likes are fine, but the comments are the money that drives anything up wherever you are.
Michael Hoffman: Exactly. Well, we’re going to start here in a minute actually less than a minute.
Kate Bradley Chernis: Actually, by the way, while I’m at it, so when we do these, and I did ask my team, some of my teammates to join, we even will feed the comments in our, in our webinars. The reason is because people are shy and it takes them a little bit to want to move forward. So one thing we do here, and I’ll do it for us. Where is our chat? So first thing is to make sure that your chat is all panelists and attendees, and then I always start out like this, and my whole team is supposed to do it too as well. Stone Ridge, New York, just one way to get everybody going to my team’s already doing it for you.
Michael Hoffman: That’s really good. Yeah, I’m going to do that right now.
Kate Bradley Chernis: Exactly. I’m going to try to get my audio to be on the same channel here.
Michael Hoffman: Are you there?
Kate Bradley Chernis: Yeah, I’m here.
Michael Hoffman: Oh, that’s okay.
Kate Bradley Chernis: I took my phone number off so it wouldn’t look so weird. Ooh, Alexandria, Chicago suburbs, Toronto. That’s awesome. Hi, Toronto.
Michael Hoffman: Berkeley, sounds nice. So we’re, we’re going to get started. We only have 30 minutes with you. We really want more like 30 hours with you, Kate, but here we are. Hi everyone! Welcome to How to Maximize Your Virtual Event. This is a conversation between me, Michael Hoffman and Kate Bradley Chernis, and we’re going to get started right now. Many of you know, meCEO of Gathered Voices and Kate, I’m going to let you introduce yourself, because I think you can do that better than me. But I will just say that Kate is a bad ass startup CEO, who is the darling of the valleys, the Silicon Valley and the Hudson Valley.
Kate Bradley Chernis: I’m totally going to be using that. I’m totally stealing that. Michael, what folks may not know, is that we’ve been in some of the trenches together, and that we went to Launch, which is a startup accelerator together and, you know, not too shabby one either. Just having that brother and sister relationship, where you see somebody surviving, because number one, surviving is hard. Then, succeeding and growing and changing over the course of that time, and so we saw that from each other. It’s like being in a fraternity or sorority, I guess. I mean, I wasn’t in either of those, but maybe it’s a bit more like being on a team, like a soccer team, or it’s more powerful than that. To me, actually, my startup friends, like you, I feel like I will always help them, you know, in this relationship.
I always love them, so its special. I’m feeling a little emotional today everybody, because like, this is a weird stuff we’re in here, you know, it’s weird. So weird. Hi, I’m Kate, I’m a former rock and roll DJ in my other life. I was broadcasting to 20 million listeners a day for XM satellite radio. So, not being in person is not new to me. I like being behind the mic. I’ve been working from home for almost 20 years via a conference call like this. But then I started a marketing agency, and I created a little spreadsheet system for Walmart that got them 130% ROI year over year for three years, not too shabby, and then turned that into software. So that’s the shortest way I can get in there. Hey Peter!
Michael Hoffman: Lately’s software helps organizations take content and use it online really effectively. Would you just give me the really short elevator pitch of Lately is, and what Lately does?
Kate Bradley Chernis: Yeah, sure. By the way, one of the reasons why we gravitated was because we were both looking at different kinds of marketing, I was more focused on texts, whereas you were more focus on video, and how to streamline that process. What I was looking at was in marketing, as I’m sure, so many of, you know, there’s a lot of tools. Oh my God, there’s so many, but really people focus on marketing management or analytical understanding. And some tools do both, but where people seem to be ignoring, is that the first part, which is like the writing, you can’t polish a turd. Hello? It doesn’t matter like how big, how good your management or analytics tools are, if you know it is a piece of crap to begin with. We use AI to avoid the crap, to create writing models based off what we learned that your audience wants to see, read, or here. Then we help you take legacy content, like video conferences podcast, and blogs to help fuel that model. The easiest way is to paste in podcasts is to hit a push button, and Lately will give you 60 plus miniature video clips that will quote all the smart things, like what Michael is going to say today, so that he can have movie trailers for the rest of his life to promote this episode.
Michael Hoffman: Awesome. Well I think we’ve been both talking a lot about events and virtual events, and the fact that we’re not in person and this whole thing is so weird, and people have always done virtual events in a way for a long time, like webinars. This is a virtual event, but, everybody is canceling their in-person events and they’re starting to do virtual events. I think people are saying, you know, there are some things about those events we didn’t like before, and there’s some things we can do online that are different. It can’t just be zoom for eight hours, right? Like it just doesn’t work. I want us to get into having a conversation about that, and then we have some questions from folks that I want us to jump into. I’d like to start actually discussing pre-event because a lot of our folks, they’re creating events, and they’re worried that nobody is going to show up. So let’s talk a little about marketing an event. Let’s say you have an event coming up. What are the kinds of things that you think about, in terms of the marketing around that event to put virtual butts in virtual seats?
Kate Bradley Chernis: That’s a good question and it is important to market event in advance, but, after the fact marketing actually is more important, so it’s okay if almost no one shows up because you’re going to get so much more out of the content itself. So what I want, especially the newbies, is to not worry about that so much. Just worry about making the content interesting, and then how to use it afterwards. But before the event,we were talking about this a little bit before the call, like when, regardless of what size company you are, large or small,now more than ever what’s compelling. Right? So it’s so interesting to me, Michael, that this idea of not being face-to-face is so awkward for so many people. Again, just might be my radio background that makes it as not awkward for me, but people are very shy, it’s so cumbersome.
Kate Bradley Chernis: It’s a very new idea. How do they connect? What’s the new handshake like? You have to convey that magic before the event what’s going to be there. So in the past, when the event was live, it was a little bit easier, because just by nature of being in-person being 10 feet, or a hundred feet from Gary V. Oh my God. That’s like legit. But even as those things have gotten bigger, like South Bay is a great example. Like you couldn’t possibly be that close to Gary V anymore or anybody else, just because the events have gotten so big. It’s like going to a football game, I’d rather watch it at home because you can’t see anything from the nosebleeds, or you’re going to be missing half the play.
I think that on the way to the conference, we can talk about like actual logistics, but what’s interesting to me is setting it up so that the people who are going to be speaking know this power, like know how to reach through the screen and hug you, give you chills, or spark you up. They know how to pull in the third voice in the room, and Alexandra was just talking about a hundred thousand deaths. I’m not going to let that scroll by and ignore it. Shit, that was crazy. That is really impacting a lot of people, you know? I think that the programming is what you’re referring to, or that I want to refer it to, is that programming is going to be super important. I think that means, I hate using the phrase, thinking outside of the box, because this the most in the box fucking thing to say, but, I think that means that not getting people who speak professionally for a living, and some of my friends and customers are going to be mad at me. Sorry. I think even they may need to like change the game up a little bit.
Michael Hoffman: We seem to be in that kind of a golden age of wanting to hear from real people about real things and their real experiences, and things that are overly polished are viewed as less truthful, which is a new phenomenon.
Kate Bradley Chernis: Katie just chimed in here, and she said, “everyone has a voice.” I think she’s right, it’s that simple. Is there a way you did it? And I was bad at piling on here, but you did it before this. You asked for video questions beforehand, which I thought was super smart. For conferences, that’s a great trick for them to cottoned onto, and again, I’m going to pull South by end, because they actually have done a pretty good job of some things. The way that they source for our panel and suggestions beforehand, and the ability to nominate yourself, then you get votes and all that kind of stuff. It’s so much smarter than having SAP tell you what’s going to happen at Sapphire for a week. How do they know that’s what I want?
Michael Hoffman: Right, that’s interesting. One of the things that we’re doing with a lot of our clients today is also raising up the voices of those people in advance. So, using Gather Voices and using video to be able to say, “tell us about yourself, tell us what you’re thinking about,” and ask to ask questions, get more voices in the mix prior to the event. So you’re kind of creating this community, and the sense that we’re all going to be in this thing together, and not, like you said, the thing that you’re going to get and show up.
Kate Bradley Chernis: Let’s call it like a patchwork quilt. Can they make panels like this? I don’t know what we’re going to call the chat feed, but what do we call it? The third?
Michael Hoffman: It’s not the third screen, but it’s the back channel, you know?
Kate Bradley Chernis: Yeah, right. So when Matthew Broderick talks to the screen, that’s the fourth breaking through the fourth wall. Who knows what this wall is, but I think that bringing this back is a little retro cause Twitter started it, remember back in the day, when you sit on the stage and there would be a Twitter feed running through there’s something magical about that, and so I think they need to make sure that’s engaging. The software has to catch up, and Zoom has to catch up here. If you’re walking, and watching TikTolk and someone’s talking, like the way to talk is like letting people chime in, is more engaging, and Zoom needs to hop on that pretty quickly. I also think that that letting someone who was talking about Alexander’s was mentioning that being less professional whatever and whatever that means these days, right, because now we’re all working from home, I’m in my shorts. I showed you earlier which John Krasinski was not the first person to do that people, okay? How are we going to make that? How are we going to pull in that rawness and do it in a way where companies have to be willing to let the freak flag fly. There have to be comfortable with that edge, I think, and it is, what is going to make it.
Michael Hoffman: I think that’s right. We have such a short time. I want to get to some of our questions here, and we’re going to need to be a little bit rapid fire, I think, to get through some of them. Let’s start with this one from Ailis.
Speaker 3: Hi, my name is Ailis Yeager and I have a question. I’m putting together a virtual event and I know there are tons of different types of video, whether that’s prerecorded or live. Do you have any suggestions about the best time to use them?
Michael Hoffman: I’ll take a crack at that onethere are lots of different kinds of video and I think it really depends on what the element of your program is, right? It’s going to differ. So I, what we say is to take a look at your agenda and start to think about what makes sense to do pre-recorded and what makes sense to do live. We often call the prerecorded stuff simulated live because the person who is watching it in the moment could be experiencing it live, or it could not be live. What’s the difference, right? There having some experience and so if you can sleep better at night by having that stuff prerecorded then that’s a really good idea, but we also find the prerecorded stuff like that question, so being able to have a lot of people involved in your event, like that question was right, having different people, that’s a great use of content. Then I would say the other one other area where our clients are finding a lot of success is things like awards and award recipients. Somebody talking about an award recipient, those are great to have prerecorded because you really control the experience, the timing, and all of those things.
Kate Bradley Chernis: I love that, and, if I may, like one of the things we learned in radio, which may be obviously speak to people here, is to have a loose agenda for the live, right? Just like Michael just did, he just steered the ship real hard, which is good, because I need to be told to zip it up, which is awesome, and he made sure that the show is going on in the direction he needs to, but you don’t have to map it out. You just have to have a loose framework of like this has to happen, and this has to happen, and my thing is to always know where I’m going to end up, and as long as I know where I’m going to end up, I can get there.
Michael Hoffman: Yeah, that makes sense. Well, let’s go to our next question because I want to make sure, as we said, that we get to it. ,
Kate Bradley Chernis: I love her name by the way, Ailis.
Dionne Jackson: Thank you so much for the opportunity to ask a question. I’m Dionne Jackson, and here’s my question. Is there a one shop, budget friendly option for entrepreneurs, with small budgets like myself where they can manage all of the different aspects of the marketing for our webinars and our educational series. Whether that’s a done for you there is a done for you, or done with you option, does something like that exist?
Michael Hoffman: That’s a good question. I think I’ll let you take this Kate. I think if the question was about infrastructure for running an event or activity, there’s lots of options that are low cost, like Zoom or a YouTube Stream with chat, or other things like that. But her question was about marketing and being able to market, and so I want you to just dive in a little bit more about what you were, you were just saying there’s marketing before the event, but that doesn’t capture the value of the content, does it?
Kate Bradley Chernis: It’s like it’s like TV and music, right? So, the idea of watching TV live is pretty much dead for the most part. Same with radio for most people, except for me, I still love radio even though it’s pretty crappy these days. It’s that idea of binge-watching, I think of binge marketing the same. The way you can market after the fact, and there’s actually so much more power. Right now we’ve got an amazing audience, let’s just call it, 20 of us. I actually now I can’t see the numbers, but like it’s, there’s 20 of us. If we focus on after the fact marketing, the chances of us reaching 20,000 people is actually pretty probable after this.
Kate Bradley Chernis: What I would do and what I used to do was, by hand, I would go through this and I would make a transcript and I would look at either the questions, the things that Michael was saying, or the things that I’m thinking, saying, and try to find the nuggets of golden nuggets, the kinds of stuff that people would retweet. That’s what you want out of it and then pull them out and put the video clips or audio clips together and use that and publish it. Now, it just so happens that I made a product that does this automatically, but that’s the manual way. The value is to then take, the content and create 60 social posts that has that content in there now. I would tag Michael because I want to get the re-shares from him,
Kate Bradley Chernis: And I would tag Launch, because we mentioned them when I did, or Zoom or wherever else. Then I would schedule that content to go sporadically out over time, way over time, because your conference, if it’s any good, the information that went on there will be useful all year long, hopefully for years to come. You have to think of it as like a referral link, like a link back. If it’s not good, you need to rethink the content in your conference. I think that’s the thing that you want, to make the most out of it and then you want to reach way more than these 20 people, and they’re not here and they wouldn’t be here even if you were Gary V. They’re on all these other channels, they’re out in the rest of the world.
Michael Hoffman: I think that’s really interesting. I would say in the world that we work in, mostly the trade and professional associations and nonprofits, I would say exactly 0% of them take all of that content and cut it up over the kind of timeline you’re talking about, which could be six months, it’s valuable and it’s useful. I think part of that might be because they’re just thinking about revenue, or they’re thinking about that in the moment, a need that they have, which is to either to make revenue from the event itself, to attract people to the event, or those kinds of things, but all of that social media engagement, ladders up to organizational goals. We’re not, and your not doing Twitter for the sake of Twitter, it is part of your organizational goals as it relates to your business. Would you just talk a little bit about that? I mean, it’s not just about social media likes and vanity metrics, right?
Kate Bradley Chernis: Exactly, It’s about money. I want to make money, and I need to do marketing to make money. Hey, Katrina, so great to see you, and I saw Samantha with our hashtags is suggestion, which is super good. I just want to reference that real quick. One thing they told us in radio was to name everything, like name the show just name everything, and it’s it catches on. I mean our president does this all the time, like him or don’t, but he names people and the name stick, and that’s it in action. One thing that you were saying, Michael, is the wasted content that there is so much that we’re all putting out all the time that we don’t even realize it it’s right there, and yet people are scrambling to come up with something to promote things.
You know what I mean? It’s all it’s right in front of you. This is a phrase we say at our company all the time, it’s always right in front of you. We’ve already made it or thought about it, or written ideas around somewhere. That’s the number one thing is to look at the resources you already have in front of you, and figure out, that’s why people say content is king because it’s so hard to create, but we are creating it all the time. We’re just not thinking of it as content. I just lost my train of thought because I was so excited about what’s in your hand. The other thing you were saying, was that it is not just social for social sake, right? So like I’m social media is a pain in my ass.
I have to do it all the time, and I’m doing it to drive leads to my company. I know that I’m the force behind that for the company, and I am the cover of the magazine. Same way you are. I know that if I share the content, it will have much more reach than my brand channels, because we’re still small. People know me from wherever and they have a physical connection to me, not, not a logo of course. The reason I want to drive people here, I’m not going to be playing, I want them to discover Lately, of course. I want to take their money, that’s of course what we want. But those steps, it doesn’t work like that anymore, you have to warm people up. So the first thing they do is they, hopefully they meet me through you. They’re like, wow, we know Michael, and now we’re meeting Kate. This is cool, and then I’m going to try to charm them and make them like me. So hopefully I’m doing that. I’m just being super straight though today because there’s a reason.
Michael Hoffman: No, you’re always been straight.
Kate Bradley Chernis: It’s true. I need to just get up and show you guys my shorts and my sat belly just now just to do it, I did it because I want you to remember that. I want you to like, be like that crazy broad. Then the next thing we do is to see us online. You know, it’s a long sale these days, this is how it is because it’s all based on trust, but it does come back to you and my team will tell you right now, like we’ve been doing that long tail thing for awhile now. Somebody actually just on LinkedIn the other day was like, “Hey Kate, I reached out to your team and I haven’t heard back, do you guys like not need any more sales?” I was like, “no, we’re so psyched to see you, but we actually are overwhelmed. We can’t, we cannot keep up with our own.” Now we’re not making hand over fist money because we’re a startup, but like it works. You have to like lay in the groundwork.
Michael Hoffman: Yeah. that’s a great point. I’d just say to the to the folks on this conversation that are from nonprofits and from trade associations, there’s a total analog between that making money and having influence in your membership and, and raising funds for donations and all of those things. They’re all connected and all similar, but let’s go to our next question.
Kate Bradley Chernis: Oh yeah, and I didn’t answer beyond the question. The answer is, I don’t think there is a one stop shop. You still have to piece together a number of things, but I hope I’m wrong.
Morey Schwartz: Hi, my name is Morey Schwartz. I’m the International Director of the Florence Melton School of Adult Jewish Learning, a worldwide network of people who are getting online to study weekly. My question is the following. We have about a couple hundred people getting together daily to study with us and we’re looking for all kinds of ways to make it feel personal and relevant for those learners, so they don’t just feel like they’re part of some massive group around the world. We do some things, but we’re looking for advice of other things we might do. Thank you.
Kate Bradley Chernis: That’s awesome. That’s like the best question ever. We were talking about it a little bit before and it would be great if some people in the chat could put in some of their ideas, butthere’s a couple things. Number one, be unexpected, right? Jump up and show people your shorts, or let your dog come in or all those things are great, especially now. Now and always, but it’s so important to remember that even on the screen, on the other side, Michael is a human over there. I don’t know what’s behind that blue wall, but I really want to know. I want to know about the babbles back there, and the books, and he’s got his badges, I can see and they must mean something to him since he saves those specific badges to those conferences.
I have something boring behind me, and what I’m telling you is I really like white a lot, you know? So being unexpected I think is good and important. I think not staying on task is also important. I think it’s important to verebecause that helps keep it interesting. It’s important to stop and talk, and to acknowledge people. I don’t like doing this, but I’ve learned to do it like with my team, for example, to not only ask people how you are, but there’s a reason that we all put in the chat, “Hello from Stone Ridge,” or “Hello, from San Francisco,” from Chicago, it’s a grounding thing. It gives us all, some commonality, and it gives us a sense of space and time. At this time in life, I feel like it gives us a sense of magic that we’re able to convene. Yeah. Pets, Carrie Hoffman is Carrie related to you? She must be Carrie Hoffman. No, no. It’s another, a whole other call,
Michael Hoffman: Whole different whole different branch.
Kate Bradley Chernis: Well, that’s cool. Sorry, Carrie didn’t mean to make you feel unexpected, but real, you know? I think Laurie, you know, I would think themes are a good idea to like maybe if you’re not good at being spontaneous, you could sketch out what that’s going to look like for you. So don’t like have magical Mondays, Woohoo Wednesdays, or that kind of naming stuff, but just write down times where you’re going to take a break and ask them personal questions. Like, “since there’s no more movies to watch anymore, what’s the thing that everyone is playing the most around your house?” Or like, just try to give people a break, and be the water cooler break at your own meeting.
Michael Hoffman: Yeah. That’s interesting, and be human, right? Like that’s where it all comes down to. We have one more question that we can get to.
Kate Bradley Chernis: I want to go to Morey’s class. It sounds fun.
Stacie: Hi, my name is Stacie, and I work for an association and we just had a fantastic virtual event and gathered some amazing content. My question is, how do we maximize this post event?
Michael Hoffman: She came to the right place. Let me just add to that question a little bit. You get a lot of content from a thing, so where do you even start with all that?
Kate Bradley Chernis: Yeah, that’s a really good point. I would start now with the stuff that’s been commented on the most, either in the chat or after the fact people, I’m sure people come up to you, or not so much to you, but are emailing you or reaching out on LinkedIn, and say “hey, I really enjoyed that.” When they say I really enjoyed that, ask them what specifically, just take a second to do that. That’ll help you gauge what to do again well in the future, and then how to market after the fact. Then, once you have that understanding and engage, you can really use it because it’s probably going to be around a “who”, a somebody. Somebody did the good things wherever they are, and then, you know, you can focus on that and you can test it. So if someone says to me, “I really liked the way that Michael was breaking down what was talking about.” You mentioned nonprofits a few times a day. Let’s just say, I heard Michael saying something about video events and nonprofits. So now I’ve got two things. I got my goal, and I have nonprofits, right. So, I’m going to organize that messaging in my sharing afterwards and targeting nonprofits and conferences.
Michael Hoffman: So doing lines between different audience types and people and the content that you have.
Kate Bradley Chernis: Yeah, and experimenting. I can’t and a lot guys, cause my brain doesn’t think in a line, and so I need people like Lauren and Michael to keep me on the same path all the time. Anytime you can pull in other things to tag, or to tag specifically, you want to, because that’s how you get that reach and it’s how you get that larger audience, and that’s the name of the game, especially when you’re smaller.
Michael Hoffman: I’m shocked that our half an hour has gone by basically. So, here we are with one minute left. I could continue this all day with you, Kate. Let me just say, if people want to reach you and want to learn more aboutLately, I want to just put this up, but any closing thoughts or remarks
Kate Bradley Chernis: Thank you so much. Thanks to Susie for that last question, and everyone in the chat, you guys were awesome. I think spread the word. Let’s help other people who are doing this, do it better because we want to go to conferences still and I don’t want them to suck. Solet’s make sure we can, and that we share and help people. Thanks Samantha. You always get me. I’m firstname.lastname@example.org. All of our social stuff is called Trylately, I love you wherever you are today. I’m so glad that you were able to join us and, and be human with me and Michael today. Thanks.
Michael Hoffman: Awesome. Kate. Thank you so much for taking the time out to be with us today, and guess what everyone, we’re going to do this again. So I knew that 30 minutes would not be enough with Kate, and so stay tuned for more information. We’re going to make this a series and, and do this again, so thank you everyone. Have a terrific rest of your day, and thank you again for joining us.
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