Friday, August 29, 2014

The weekend read

It's a loooooong weekend here in the U.S. and a few other places in the world, as we draw the week and summer to a close. (Where did the time go?) That gives you extra time to catch up on my finds of the week, so you can get smarter by Tuesday this time:
All my workshops are fun, just like weekends. Don't miss out:
  • I'm launching a new workshop, Speechwriting for Communicators, in Washington, DC, on October 9. If you find yourself writing speeches, remarks and talking points, but have never learned how to do it, find out what you may have missed in this one-day session--including how to do more with boring speech occasions. Every participant gets an online toolkit of resources, too. You can save 15 percent by registering by August 29. That would be today, people.
  • You can still register for the European Speechwriters Conference, 24 October in Amsterdam. I'm leading a pre-conference workshop on women and public speaking on 23 October, and American attendees traveling from the US to the conference get a 200-Euro discount with the code "eloquentwoman." Sign up soon!
Enjoy the long weekend, weekend readers!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

6 things I do for professional development as a communicator

One of the reasons I don't offer off-the-shelf, easily standardized training for communicators today is that I've always hated those kinds of training sessions myself in the past. But once you break away from the usual suspects for your professional development, how do you approach your advancement as a communicator?

I've experimented with creative ways of developing my professional skills for a long time, both as a communications director and now as a consultant, trainer and coach. Here are some of the paths that have worked for me:
  1. Getting way out of my box: I'm great at intellectual tasks like reading, writing and speaking, and love physical activity like weightlifting and running. But artistic? Not so much. Creativity was my learning goal, so when I started this business, I started taking college-level art courses. It did the trick, firing lots of synapses, helping me see differently, and prompting loads of creative thinking. Eventually, I became proficient enough to exhibit and sell my artwork, but that was just a side benefit. I've done the same thing by learning to play guitar, traveling to new places, and shaking up my schedule (about which more below).
  2. Bespoke training or coaching: No course can replace one-on-one coaching. As a coach myself, I know I can dive deeper and accomplish more with one trainee. These days, I seek out coaching for myself to expand or refine specific skills, or when I have a specific task coming up. For example, I asked my friend and fellow speaker coach Peter Botting to coach me as I prepped for chairing an international conference. Personal training works in business and communications just as it does at the gym, aiming for improvement over time. But when you are stepping into a new role, whether you've been elected an officer of a group, are chairing a meeting, or are moving up the ladder in your company, this kind of support can give you a real boost. As Peter says, it's a poor chef who doesn't sharpen her knives.
  3. Put the shoe on the other foot: As a coach and trainer, when I seek training or coaching for myself, I get a bonus result: I get a firsthand sense of what my clients feel like when they're working with me, and can see the experience through their eyes. I make sure that this speaker coach has plenty of speaking gigs herself through the year, for the same reason. If you can find a way to put yourself in your customer's shoes, do it. Best training around.
  4. Moving the training: We've all been to conferences where you already know the home crowd, whether they are local or in a different city. Switching up your conferences and training--to a different city, country, or organization--lets you see what you're missing, and hear different perspectives. It's a fair trade-off for knowing everyone in the room and what they are likely to say before they speak. I'll be doing this again in Amsterdam in October at the European Speechwriters Network conference, where I'm offering a pre-conference workshop and going to the conference for my own development. Think of it this way, as learning "that language where others know what it’s like to leave, change, grow, experience, learn, then go home again and feel more lost in your hometown then you did in the most foreign place you visited."
  5. Consigliere sessions: My version of a "staff retreat" is to make sure I spend time with one or two close business confidantes--not necessarily all at once, and often in cities where neither of us live. We share perspectives on our work and where our businesses are headed. No reason you can't do the same with another professional colleague. I always leave with reinforcement and new ideas, something I can't say for every retreat I've been on in my career. 
  6. Keep a journal: I journal almost every day, using OhLife, an app that emails you daily, asking "How did your day go?" If you wish, it'll cough up a past entry for you, so you can see what was happening a week, a month, or most often, a year ago. While many people think of journals as cheap personal therapy, you can use this app as you please. It's a great way to see your progress and to process the day. I find I lose fewer good ideas and am more serene about my choices, having thought them through on a regular basis. 
How are you approaching your training and development? I offer management coaching for communications directors, one-on-one presenting and public speaking coaching, group workshops for speakers and communicators, and more. My next workshop is Speechwriting for Communicators, October 9--and the best discount for attending ends on August 29, just a few days from now. Email me at eloquentwomanATgmailDOTcom to figure out how we can shake up your professional development.

(Creative Commons licensed photo by Lanzun varies vague)

Friday, August 22, 2014

The weekend read

Did you put out fires this week, communicators? Or just get hosed? I've sifted through the ashes to save my finds of the week, shared on Twitter and curated here just for you. Rise like a phoenix and get the weekend started:
I've got workshops coming up and they're not as taxing as what the fire-fighters go through. Are you in?
  • I'm launching a new workshop, Speechwriting for Communicators, in Washington, DC, on October 9. If you find yourself writing speeches, remarks and talking points, but have never learned how to do it, find out what you may have missed in this one-day session--including how to do more with boring speech occasions. Every participant gets an online toolkit of resources, too. You can save 15 percent by registering by August 29. That's just a week from today, kids.
  • My subversive workshop on women and public speaking, Be The Eloquent Woman, takes place October 23 as a pre-conference session at the European Speechwriters Network conference, being held on October 24. Americans traveling from the US to the conference can use code "eloquentwoman" to get a 200-Euro discount.
I get a warm glow just thinking about the way you keep showing up here on Fridays. Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Which way do you go in a transitional time for video?

We're still in a transitional time when it comes to easy-to-manage video production. Smartphones have great recording quality, but are unwieldy--and stand-alone cameras still offer amazing advantages. Are you casting your lot with the smartphone, or sticking with the latest camera options? Here are options that reflect these transitional times and offer you the chance to rev up your video:
  • Put a handle on it: The iOgrapher Mobile Media Case for the iPad Mini was developed to solve a basic problem for those of you trying to record with smartphones: Getting a grip on them. Part handle, part case, this tool lets you attach microphones and lights, and can be mounted to a tripod. And the price is reasonable. Here's the New York Times review of the iOgrapher, and you'll find tutorials and more at the iOgrapher site.
  • Cube it: Polaroid has a new cube shaped mini HD video camera coming out this fall. An intriguing list of options for mounting the camera--as a pendant, on a helmet and other configurations--is included at the link. At 35mm tall/wide/deep (or just over 1.3 inches), the Cube is truly pocket-sized.
  • Get creative with your GoPro: GoPro HERO3+ is a workhorse camera that's inspiring all sorts of creative approaches to video. Its small size and portability have taken it underwater, into space and more, and with GoPro Tripod Mounts, you can keep the camera in place for a change. Check out the video below, where makers were challenged to create ways to make videos never before seen, using the GoPro--it's a great source of ideas.

Friday, August 15, 2014

The weekend read

It doesn't really matter that your week was loaded with lemons, does it, communicators? The weekend's ahead, fit for making lemonade. I've squeezed all the goodness out of my finds this week on Twitter, strained them, and am pouring this curated mix into a glass just for you:
Time to get serious about these two workshops coming up in October. The discounts will disappear soon: 
  • I'm leading my workshop on women and public speaking, Be The Eloquent Woman, as a pre-conference session before the European Speechwriter Network conference in Amsterdam this October. Both sessions are worth attending, and you get an early discount for signing up before August 15, aka today. And if you're an American attendee coming from the U.S. to the conference, you can get a 200 Euro discount with the code "eloquentwoman" when you register at the link above.
  • I'm launching a new workshop, Speechwriting for Communicators, in Washington, DC, on October 9. If you find yourself writing speeches, remarks and talking points, but have never learned how to do it, find out what you may have missed in this one-day session--including how to do more with boring speech occasions. Every participant gets an online toolkit of resources, too. You can save 15 percent by registering by August 29. 
You put the zest in every week for me when you show up here on Fridays. Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Are you ignoring published research because it's not embargoed?

Ivan Oransky's Embargo Watch blog just gave a bigger platform to an open letter from a biochemistry communicator to her fellow press officers who refuse to promote unembargoed research papers. It's a letter that's not to be missed, communicators.

Angela Hopp, of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, deals in research published online, without embargoes. She hears press officers refuse to even consider publicizing these studies, and has put her finger on all the excuses she hears. She anticipates your complaints and addresses them. And she acknowledges you're busy and under pressure.

What she doesn't say is this: The practice of embargoing research articles has made some communicators, well, lazy, or at least unwilling to approach the mountain of available papers because it's too big. It's easier to stick with embargoed papers which are by definition fewer in number. So you say "we only promote research under embargo" or, as Hopp is hearing, "The press office will not consider a paper for a press release after it publishes.”

Really? So when that paper gets a Nobel a few decades after publication, you're not doing a release? Or when Buzzfeed picks it up, you're not going to retweet that? If a congressional committee gets its hands on that paper and highlights it in a hearing, you're not touching it? I didn't think so. No, you can't publicize everything, and no one is asking you for that. But you could figure out faster, better ways to make it available and help reporters make sense of it, even if it has been published already. And yes, that might take work, the reason they're paying you.

I get to say all that because I've worked on every side of embargoes: As a reporter abiding by them; as a communicator abiding by, setting, and enforcing them; and later, as a communicator who decided to abandon them for journal research once my publisher went to immediate online publication. But that was well over a decade ago. Why hasn't your policy changed to fit the times? Communicators are quick to cite the publishers with embargoes as setting the policy. When the publisher says "no more embargoes," why not follow that policy? The research that's being published hasn't changed, has it? Maybe you're finding it just too tempting and convenient not to make that change, particularly when you're under pressure to get results and overwhelmed by those productive researchers.

Trouble is, neither a lack of embargoes nor already published status will get in the way of making news. Oransky's post quotes my 10 big myths about embargoes, one of which is the myth that reporters won't cover your story if you don't embargo it. He's got good data on that, too, in case you are dubious. In a nod to your workload, he also notes that promoting a study doesn't require a press release (which is a time-consuming product you should be cutting back on, anyway).

If I were a research communicator right now, I'd dig deep and rethink my approaches before too many more journals stop issuing embargoed research and too many researchers just ignored me on their way to making things public. There's some great research hiding in that pool of published-but-not-embargoed stuff. Where will you be with that "no promotion after publication" policy when all the embargoes are gone? I can work with you on strategies to revamp your process and your policy in a way that works better. Email me at eloquentwoman[at]gmail[dot]com to get started.

(Creative Commons licensed photo by Richard Eriksson)

I'm launching a new workshop, Speechwriting for Communicators, in Washington, DC, on October 9. If you find yourself writing speeches, remarks and talking points, but have never learned how to do it properly, find out what you may have missed in this one-day session--including how to do more with boring speech occasions. Every participant gets an online toolkit of resources, too. You can save 15 percent by registering by August 29.