Friday, August 18, 2017

The weekend read

What's that I see? Looks an awful lot like a weekend, communicators, despite the glare of the week. Shade your eyes and check out my finds of the week, shared via @dontgetcaught on Twitter and don't get caught on Facebook, and curated here for you. You look good in shades:
(Creative Commons licensed photo by Shélin Graziela)

Don't get caught unprepared, speechless, or without a message, but do catch me on Twitter, on Google+, and on the don't get caught page on Facebook--all great places to add your comments to the discussion. Subscribe to my monthly newsletter, Speakers & Communicators, to make sure you don't miss a thing on my blogs and get the first news about new workshops and projects.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Using a blog hiatus to, well, blog

This will sound like a busman's holiday, but bear with me.

I took a blog and social media hiatus in the month of June, and one common reaction was, "Have a wonderful break!" or "Enjoy that long vacation!" But I didn't enter into it as a vacation. For one thing, I worked all of that month. I just didn't publish and didn't post on social sites, professionally or personally. But I did use part of the hiatus--a relatively small part, as it turns out--to get my two blogs populated for much of the rest of the year.

Wait, what? You heard me. I put in a small amount of time, and wound up being able to fill most of my blog schedule--two posts a week on one blog, three on the other--for the rest of 2017. As I came out of the hiatus, I had 109 posts either half set up or completely written on my two blogs, and that leaves just about two dozen or fewer posts to do for the rest of the year. A month after my hiatus was over, both blogs were fully scheduled with posts.

Here's how I tackled the task:
  1. I started with the highly formatted posts: I have two weekly features, one on each blog, that round up posts I've shared on Facebook and posts on those blogs. They each have a specific format, so I scheduled weekly posts; put in the shell text that's the same each time; found and added photos and graphics. Then I got into my Evernote notebooks for these posts and set up posts on each blog's Facebook page, with links to those articles in the shell posts. This was fairly mechanical, and therefore fast.
  2. I set up time-focused or calendar-specific posts: At the end of December, I do some "top 10 for the year" posts about the most-read posts on each blog. At Thanksgiving, I write posts thanking my clients and readers. Those are easy to set up now.
  3. I dug into my queue of draft post ideas and my Evernote story ideas file: I tag specific notes in Evernote as "story ideas," and I got in there and cleaned up that file, then wrote up the remaining ideas. 
  4. I got my virtual assistant to research missing pieces: Some of my posts rely on texts or transcripts of speeches, or videos of speech delivery, so I tasked FancyHands with running those down. Once available, I could write the related posts.
  5. I farmed out a couple of posts to my freelancer writer, and invited a couple of guest posts. Those went right into the queue when they were received.
  6. As new ideas popped up, I wrote them up. That's one of the luxuries of taking yourself off of a regular publishing schedule for a bit: You can get to the writing faster. This alone helped me fill up the queues for the blogs.
  7. I left some room for flex: I know I'll have more ideas in the next six months, and having the blog queues well-stocked helps me when it comes to doing of-the-moment posts that can't be planned--and I've already done some of those, moving the scheduled posts further out in the queue. It's a great mix of timeliness and planning.
If you're going to try this, it helps to understand the editorial plan for your blog. On my blogs, I know which type of post appears on which day of the week, what the format is for series posts, and the goals for each post. That makes it easier to understand the overall vision, and fulfill it. Recurring posts or a series may seem onerous when you are thinking them up, but if you set them up right, they are easy to put together.

I liked this catch-up approach so much I may try it again later this year. If I were just starting a blog, I'd hold off first publication while spending a month populating that blog for the next six months. Not having to worry about posts appearing currently freed me up to think more and better about the posts I was prepping ahead of time. Getting long-saved story ideas onto the blogs was a delight. And having it all (well, nearly all) prepped this far means my next six months will be that much easier...well worth the month-long hiatus.

(Creative Commons licensed photo by Anonymous Account)

Don't get caught unprepared, speechless, or without a message, but do catch me on Twitter, on Google+, and on the don't get caught page on Facebook--all great places to add your comments to the discussion. Subscribe to my monthly newsletter, Speakers & Communicators, to make sure you don't miss a thing on my blogs and get the first news about new workshops and projects.

Friday, August 11, 2017

The weekend read

Some things just work better in pairs. Flip flops, for instance. Or Fridays, paired with my communications finds of the week, shared via @dontgetcaught on Twitter and don't get caught on Facebook, and curated here for you. Let's bury our toes in the weekend, shall we?
(Creative Commons licensed photo by zeevveez)

Don't get caught unprepared, speechless, or without a message, but do catch me on Twitter, on Google+, and on the don't get caught page on Facebook--all great places to add your comments to the discussion. Subscribe to my monthly newsletter, Speakers & Communicators, to make sure you don't miss a thing on my blogs and get the first news about new workshops and projects.

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Bill Clinton demos the public speaking 15-percent-less rule

The 15 percent less rule, a lifesaver for speeches and media interviews, is among the most-read posts on this blog, and I'm not surprised: It's the tactic I recommend most to speakers who routinely blow through their time limits and those who don't let the reporter get a word or question in edgewise during an interview. In that post, I used a famous example: Former U.S. President Bill Clinton:
It's said that former U.S. President Bill Clinton--famous for talking well past his assigned time slot, earlier in his career--has been able to rein himself in with what I call the "15 percent rule." The rule: You plan to fill 85 percent of the time allotted. 
That leaves 15 percent of your time as a cushion to ensure you don't exceed the limit. But the benefits go further, and Clinton uses it as time in which he can make an aside, or do some back-and-forth with the audience extemporaneously, based on where he feels the audience is emotionally, on the spot.
The genius of the rule is that it allows all that extemporaneous charm while still keeping you on time, the best of both worlds.

Recently, President Clinton gave remarks at a memorial service for Helmut Kohl, the former Chancellor of Germany, and demonstrated the rule--but at the start of his speech, not at the end or midway. And he announces to the audience that he's doing it, perhaps to underscore the emotion he felt on the occasion.

I've had the speech transcribed here, but here are the beginning and the early off-the-cuff paragraph. And yes, the extemporaneous bit constitutes a little under 15 percent of the total.
Maike, thank you for giving the me opportunity to say a few words. Thank you to Peter, Walter, Helmut’s family.  To the leaders of Europe and the European Union, Chancellor Merkel, President Macron, other prime ministers and officials who are here, I ask you to think about something not in my notes.  
I was looking around this crowd today, at all of us who used to be in office. All of us who came. Why? Because Helmut Kohl gave us the chance to be involved in something bigger than ourselves. Bigger than our terms of office. Bigger than our fleeting careers. Because all of us sooner or later will be in a coffin like that.  And the only gift we can leave behind is a better future for our children, and the freedom to make their own choices, including their own mistakes.  
As a practical matter, and particularly if you know your remarks by heart, it's much easier to put the 15 percent interpolation at the beginning or end of your existing remarks, as Clinton did here. And he goes a step further: Clinton echoes this late-inserted theme later in his remarks, so seamlessly that you might be forgiven for assuming it was there in the first place. Three paragraphs from the end:
But in his big, highly political, often overbearing leadership there was a germ of understanding that the cancers of the 20th century were all born of people who believed domination was better than cooperation. That’s why we’re all here. All of us old guys that used to be wanted to come back and say thank you for giving us a chance to be part of something bigger than ourselves.
The 15 percent rule should not be deployed as a "give them an inch and they'll take a mile" tactic. It's not a wide-open door, but a judicious margin. Here, it's essentially one paragraph added to well-planned remarks--but it's a paragraph that adds immediacy and emotion and an overarching theme to tie the remarks together. Not bad for 15 percent.

The speech is just 11 minutes and 1100 words, which means it's delivered at a brisk pace--perhaps not unwelcome at a memorial service. Watch it here or below, and get inspiration for your own 15 percent.


Don't get caught unprepared, speechless, or without a message, but do catch me on Twitter, on Google+, and on the don't get caught page on Facebook--all great places to add your comments to the discussion. Subscribe to my monthly newsletter, Speakers & Communicators, to make sure you don't miss a thing on my blogs and get the first news about new workshops and projects.