Friday, October 31, 2014

The weekend read

I spoke in the British Parliament last night to the Fabian Women's Network, on what goes into a TED-quality talk--as opposed to that TED-like talk your boss is asking about. It's my second time speaking to this lively group, which is a testament to the interest of professional women in public speaking, and so is the crowd of 100 assembled last night. I've been here for the week, meeting with colleagues, shooting a video, and enjoying favorite corners of London again. But I still shared some great finds on Twitter, and have curated the best of the lot here for you, weekend readers and communicators. Let's have a look, shall we?
I'm energized by this visit to London, but always look forward to spending the start of the weekend with you, weekend readers. See you stateside next week!

(Creative Commons licensed photo by Pablo Fernández)

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

30 blog posts I want to see from you. No, really: You.

I don't care what your line of business, organization or employment status is. Nor your topic. I still have 30 blog posts I'd like to see you write. Yes, you. No, really: You.

If you think I'm writing this post for you, well, I am. And if you think I'm writing it for someone else, you're wrong.

I'm being kind. The list was going to be 100 posts. But 30 posts can do a lot. That's three weeks' worth of post three times per week, or 30 weeks' worth of one post already done, if you sit down and write them all right now and stack them up in your queue. It will make the rest of the year easier with these posts in your back pocket, so to speak.

I'm always running into great leaders and professionals who tell me they can't think of what to write about on their blogs, and I hate a blog that gathers dust. So try these ideas when you come up dry, and see what happens:
  1. How you got started--you, in your career, even if it's not what you do now. Maybe especially, if that's true.
  2. How you got started--you, the organization or company, your department, the project you lead right now. Only you can tell your founding story.
  3. Your best day's work so far, and what it was like. Walk us through it hour-by-hour or look back with wisdom. Doesn't have to be yesterday--better if not.
  4. What you're reading now and why. It doesn't have to be business stuff. Maybe especially not. Also need not be in book form.
  5. What you're listening to, if you're a podcast/audiobook/radio/music kind of person. Need not be business related stuff.
  6. Five videos you love that you think I should see and why. Embed them. Describe them.
  7. What you re-read from time to time and why.
  8. What you refuse to read, and the principles behind that.
  9. Your favorite mistake...that you've made. What you learned from it.
  10. The most stupid advice you've ever gotten, and why it didn't work for you.
  11. The smartest advice you've gotten, and why it did work.
  12. Advice you used to give, and why you'd change it today.
  13. Advice for the junior person in your field, crowdsourced by you from your network. No lecturing by you alone.
  14. Advice for the senior person in your field, ditto.
  15. Someone you've met (Twitter doesn't count for this) who has inspired you, and how that takes shape in your work.
  16. Someone you haven't met who has inspired you, and how that takes shape in your work.
  17. An experience meeting someone in real life whom you met online first, and what that was like.
  18. What kinds of conferences or training you attend, and whether they're worth it. We just don't share enough of this information and it's part of your expertise.
  19. Your list of go-to, quick content you can draw on at any time, and how you use it. That might mean jokes for speechwriters, inspiration for artists, word prompts for writers, anything.
  20. What you pack for a business trip. This must include video of the packing, please, and links to your gadgets and must-haves. It doesn't matter what you do for a living.
  21. Who's your dream team? Play the equivalent of fantasy football in your field, but with people you actually know, rather than celebrities. Can you populate a communications office or development crew or programming team for us? And link to their LinkedIn profiles while you're at it?
  22. A recurring theme in your work that isn't about your work per se. Something you keep running into again and again, and your thoughts about that.
  23. The best example you've found of something, and why that is so. We're all looking for examples and use cases and stories.
  24. Redeem something that others scoff at in your field, but you support. Tell us why it's actually useful.
  25. Propose killing off something that's a staple in your field. Defend your thinking.
  26. Products and services that you use, and find useful. Add some links with free trials or other promos.
  27. Gadgets and tech that make your work easier. Tell us why, and how to find them.
  28. 3 rules of thumb that guide your work, or a specific type of task.
  29. Five blogs or Twitter accounts you follow, and what you get from them, and why you started following them. Has anything changed?
  30. Six things you can do in your field without much preparation. How did you learn to do that?
That's just scratching the surface. Go, now, and blog. Come back for reinforcement.

(Creative Commons licensed photo by Lhoretsë)

Friday, October 24, 2014

The weekend read

I'm in Amsterdam today for the European Speechwriters Network conference and looking forward to learning from my colleagues. But I still shared plenty of good leads and reads on Twitter, and I've curated them here for you, communicators. Call it your canal to the weekend:
No matter where in the world I am, I'm glad we can meet up here on Fridays. Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Is your social media style open or closed?

I keep running into businesses and organizations that run to the extremes of social media: Those that let a thousand flowers bloom, with many projects or departments or units having their own social feeds, and those that mandate one page for everybody. They're either wide-open or tightly closed, generous or controlled, conversational or super-scripted.

I'm never an advocate for trying all social media at once, particularly if you don't know why you're on any particular network. Or, as I like to say to my clients, "I can support you doing nothing  or just one thing on social media, as long as you've thought it through, tried it, and can tell me why it is strategic for you to take that approach." The small size of your staff, company or organization might well mandate just one social presence, or none. But I'm talking about larger organizations here, those with many moving parts.

Of course, organizations and companies aim to control the message on social media for all sorts of reasons that have little to nothing to do with actually communicating. It's easier (and it's much easier for your PR firm or consultant) and time-saving if you only have one Facebook page instead of the 87 that your organization's sub-units could produce. It supposedly controls the message, although in practice, that's tough to do these days.

Your version of a closed approach to social media doesn't have to involve many units. It might be your lurker-but-not-poster participation, or a decided "no personal sharing" policy, two personal ways of controlling (or omitting) your message.

These closed approaches may not just be controls on the system. They also can be the sign of a fixed mindset, not one geared to growth, an attempt to make Facebook or other social networks a stone tablet rather than moving stream of info. There's an echo of the old command-and-control approach to communications in an age where that's just not relevant anymore, a vestige of an easier time for the message controlling types. And if social media has taught us anything, it's the open mindset, the risky one, that leads to great growth and opportunity. So like life.

This put me in mind of a Brain Pickings post about the work of Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck, who studies fixed mindsets and growth mindsets. Dweck writes, "Believing that your qualities are carved in stone — the fixed mindset — creates an urgency to prove yourself over and over. If you have only a certain amount of intelligence, a certain personality, and a certain moral character — well, then you’d better prove that you have a healthy dose of them. It simply wouldn’t do to look or feel deficient in these most basic characteristics." Brain Pickings described how this played out in a research study:
...Dweck brought people into Columbia’s brain-wave lab to study how their brains behaved as they answered difficult questions and received feedback. What she found was that those with a fixed mindset were only interested in hearing feedback that reflected directly on their present ability, but tuned out information that could help them learn and improve. They even showed no interest in hearing the right answer when they had gotten a question wrong, because they had already filed it away in the failure category. Those with a growth mindset, on the other hand, were keenly attentive to information that could help them expand their existing knowledge and skill, regardless of whether they’d gotten the question right or wrong — in other words, their priority was learning, not the binary trap of success and failure.
I see this as well with clients I'm coaching for public speaking or presenting. Some are open to improvement, even eager for it. Some are scared but willing to try. Some just want to hear how wonderful they are, again and again. And all that goes double for your social media presence. A more open social media style may well mean you face more criticism, questions, or other-than-adulation.

Success vs. failure really is a binary trap, and social media isn't a binary world. Have you fallen into that trap in your approach to social media?

(Creative Commons licensed photo by Eric. S.)

Friday, October 17, 2014

The weekend read

The leaves of your work week sure looked pretty, didn't they, communicators...until someone handed you a rake. I've been raking in the great leads, reads and data I shared on Twitter this week, and have pulled out a few leaves of wisdom just for you in this week's curated collection. Time to start getting smarter by Monday:
Next week, I'm headed to Amsterdam for the European Speechwriters Network conference, where I'm leading a pre-conference session on women and public speaking. But I'll be here again next Friday, weekend readers. Thanks for showing up here again on a Friday...

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The grab-and-go checklist for last-minute TV or radio interviews

There's plenty to do to really prepare for media interviews, and most of that shouldn't happen at the last minute. But even if all you have is a half-hour before a broadcast interview on TV or radio, you can be better prepared with this grab-and-go list. Keep it handy when your moment arrives, and remember, now that many radio stations and newspapers are capturing video of interviews for their websites, the wardrobe tips are not just for television anymore:
  1. Message first. Can you boil down your core message into three points? Of course, you have much more to say. But those three things should offer the interviewer a roadmap of choices, so she can take the interview in a direction on which you are prepared to speak. Ideally, you have this figured out in advance, but if you only have a few minutes to prep, spend most of them on this. 
  2. Pick one. When you're answering a question, you may have a piece of data, an example, and a story. Just pick one to start. If the interviewer wants more, then you have the other two in your back pocket. Let him or her draw you out, and feel prepared while you do so.
  3. Wear saturated color so the lights don't wash out your outfit's advantages. All skin tones look better in a French blue shirt or similar color near your face--for women, that might also include a scarf or sweater. But in general, saturated (jewel tones rather than pale or pastel) colors stand up best to all that lighting. Prefer solids to busy patterns, especially checks and tightly patterned plaids. Frequently called to interview at the last minute? Keep some spare shirts or accessories in the office in these colors.
  4. Black and white and red all over? Both all-black and all-white outfits are difficult to light well. You may have a great black suit jacket with intricate detail that looks smart in person, but all the detail will disappear on camera. White's the opposite: often too bright and distracting, it draws the camera's focus. In general, avoid wearing only these high- and low-contrast colors. If you're wearing a black suit, make sure you have a shirt, scarf, or tie in a saturated color. And ladies, leave the red jacket behind. On camera, it can appear to be disintegrating at the edges, or "bleeding."
  5. Watch the paleness factor: If you have white hair, light hair, or no hair, plus a pale complexion, wear a dark suit to bring yourself into focus. Don't forget: Colors that look great on you in person may not do you favors in the studio.
  6. Stand if you can:  The longer you sit, the more your body wants to put itself to sleep. To feel and sound energetic, stand while you are waiting to go on the air on television. If you're lucky enough to be doing a phone interview for radio, stand up while you do it. Your voice will sound energized.
  7. Flyaway hair? The fastest fix is to drag a comb through it, after you've sprayed a little hairspray on the comb.
  8. Smile, for two great reasons: It will calm your nervous adrenaline and make you feel better (so start doing it in the taxi en route to the interview). And it will counter the natural tendency of the mouth to look either downturned or flatlined--neither of which is attractive. Even a slight smile will do. On the radio? Smiling helps enliven your voice and contributes to the energetic voice you want.
  9. Remember to let the interviewer get a word in edgewise: Nerves can make the best interviewee forget that the interviewer has a job to do. Using a three-point message lets you sum up a few key points, then stop to see where the interviewer wants to go. 
  10. Nurture your inner introvert. Don't fritter away your energy talking to everyone off-camera. Instead, head for the stairwell or restroom to grab some quiet moments alone, both before and after the interview--just make sure the producer knows where you are. "I need a moment to collect myself" is all you need to say.
Once you're done, look at the video or listen to the audio of your interview, using the checklist I give to speakers whose talks are recorded so you know what to look or listen for, and are focused on what you can learn from the recording. Then get ready for the next time--well ahead of time.