Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The courage to encourage

Somewhere today, someone's resolution for the new year will be to explore going out on their own. What will you say when they confide their dream?

When someone I know well asks me to talk over their desire to go independent or take some other entrepreneurial risk, I always take the time to share insights and encouragement. I used to also refer these wannabes on to another business owner for advice, until one of the wannabes came back to me in tears. She'd been so thoroughly discouraged by my colleague that she was shelving her dream, ashamed of even having asked the question.

Then I remembered that this colleague had long ago once admitted seeing independents as "the competition." At the time, I'd dismissed this as ridiculous. But now, I saw it translated into advice designed to stop competitors before they opened their doors.

As business strategies go, I don't recommend it. As Seth Godin points out, approaching your business by trying to eliminate your competition means your goal is to be the provider of last resort. Far from a good growth strategy, it comes from a vision of scarcity. I'm much more a rising-tide-lifts-all-boats person, myself.

One of my mentors warned me a little over 10 years ago that starting this business would be the most intellectual thing I'd ever do. He was right, and I love that about entrepreneurship. I spin new ideas, review missteps, and mostly, encourage myself to keep at it, since entrepreneurs are the chief encouragement officers of their businesses--even if you're a solopreneur. Maybe especially. Encouragement of yourself takes dreaming, underrated as an intellectual activity. You need to be able to picture yourself succeeding at something, or at least trying it.

But now I realize that encouraging others takes courage. You need to be able to picture the other person succeeding at something, or at least trying it, and have the courage to see it as something other than a threat to you. To encourage, you need to share courage, something impossible to give away if you don't have extra for yourself.

The root of courage and encouragement comes from the French word for heart, coeur. Another word for encouragement is to hearten. We spin dreams in the mind, and seat them in the heart. That conversation missed the warning in Yeats's lines, "I have spread my dreams under your feet./Tread softly for you tread on my dreams." Treading softly need not mean skirting the harsh realities ahead for the person you're encouraging. Far from it.  I like to talk to my wannabe independent friends about the risks, then quote Robert Redford, who says about his own entrepreneurship, "Not taking a risk is a risk."

I'm fortunate to have many clients who practice active appreciation and encouragement. But for everyday purposes, I've got a couple of partners in encouragement, which is a good way to keep that muscle in shape and use it frequently. We find each other's courage for our respective ventures infectious, and we know it's needed not just when a venture launches, but at many steps along the way. That helps us create opportunities for one another

How did that start? We connected in the way that Kare Anderson talks about in this TED talk on being an opportunity-maker:
What I'm asking you to consider is what kind of opportunity-makers we might become, because more than wealth or fancy titles or a lot of contacts, it's our capacity to connect around each other's better side and bring it out. And I'm not saying this is easy, and I'm sure many of you have made the wrong moves too about who you wanted to connect with, but what I want to suggest is, this is an opportunity....
She concludes with:
I truly believe, in my firsthand experience, the world is hungry for us to unite together as opportunity-makers and to emulate those behaviors as so many of you already do — I know that firsthand — and to reimagine a worldwhere we use our best talents together more often to accomplish greater things togetherthan we could on our own. Just remember, as Dave Liniger once said, "You can't succeed coming to the potluck with only a fork."
So if you have a friend who's taking the risk of taking a risk in 2015, don't just toast the spinning ideas and dreams when they and the year are fresh. Bring out the champagne and the courage and the thoughtful connections when it's least expected and most needed. And repeat. Having the courage to encourage, remember, means you have plenty left over for yourself. Watch Kare Anderson's funny, wise talk for a little more inspiration, and happy new year!

(Creative Commons licensed photo by Zen Sutherland)

Friday, December 26, 2014

The weekend read

On Boxing Day, let's rummage through the presents and unwrap my finds of the week, shared on @dontgetcaught on Twitter and curated here just for you, communicators. Push aside that ribbon and paper...I think there are still a few gems under this tree:
It's always a gift to see you here in time for the weekend, communicators. Tell your friends about the weekend read.

(Creative Commons licensed photo by The Classy Kat)

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The DGC blog's top 10 posts for communicators in 2014

You can look out on 2014 as a field of open sea and sky, or look down at the rocks on the beach, each a gem of infinite variety, color, and size. It's how I feel about the posts you read the most last year: Some, rock-hard, specific, colorful, and practical. Some with vistas for strategy and perspective. It's always a gift of the sea to see what you chose the most:
  1. New free guide to verifying digital content in a crisis really wasn't linkbait, despite the words new/free/guide/digital/crisis. This is one useful handbook to pass around your comms shop.
  2. 10 ways to get your nonprofit board behind you on social media was requested by a participant in one of my workshops on using social media for storytelling for nonprofits. It's always a great way to cut to the chase, and get answers you need.
  3. Writing a book in Evernote on women and public speaking tells you how I started collecting and organizing notes and web clips for this big project.
  4. The weekend read as a blog sharpening tool unveiled my secret agenda behind the popular "weekend read" posts I do every Friday on this blog. You, too, can create a weekly feature that's a go-to item for your readers and clients.
  5. #HistoryRelived at the British Library: A social media case study took advantage of a workshop I participated in during a trip to London to get a new perspective on using Twitter to communicate history. This was fun and insightful.
  6. I don't write blog posts until I'm ready to write. Here's what I do instead.  Without interns or assistants, I blog at least five times a week, on one or the other of my two primary blogs. Here's how.
  7. Down with acronyms (DWA): Don't get caught making these mistakes  If your organization is acronym-prone, some communications-oriented thoughts on where the tripwires lie.
  8. Strategic View: Q&A with Binghamton University communicator Rachel Coker. This interview series asks smart communicators for perspective, and here, a thoughtful science communicator's ideas really took hold with readers.
  9. Are you ignoring published research because it's not embargoed?  builds on a post highlighted on Embargo Watch blog, in which one science communicator called out her peers.
  10. What Hemingway wrought: Word-limited storytelling's 2nd wave looked at the six-word story phenomenon, both venerable and newly popular. It's also a useful tool in the age of Twitter.
If you work with scientists, physicians, policy wonks and other subject-matter experts, you'll find useful my popular workshop, Be an Expert on Working with Experts. The next session is February 4, 2015 in Washington, DC. Register at the link by January 9 to get the best rate; all registration closes January 29 or when all seats are filled. Don't miss the workshop communicators call "informative and eye-opening."

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Paperless and paper, yes: How social media has changed my ways

My consulting and coaching business is 10 years old this year, and almost immediately after I launched it in 2004, I found myself looking for ways to go paperless in the office. Blogging was just the start, serving as my primary marketing vehicle then and now; all my social media presences drive users back to the blogs. Today, my file cabinet's empty and much of my storage is in the cloud. But this year, I went back to paper--for just a few uses, all of them designed to leave my office rather than stay there. Here's what has changed, and how you can get discounts on the services that help me use, and lose, paper:

To get paperless:
  1. I gave up scanning receipts and business cards and got Shoeboxed, which gets an envelope of my receipts and business cards from contacts every month, scans them, recycles them, and makes it easy for me to download them in a variety of useful formats. Get 10 percent off Shoeboxed with my link. For anything else that needs scanning, I use a portable Doxie scanner. It mostly lives on my desk, but is small enough to pop into a suitcase if I need it on the road.
  2. My reading's electronic, whether I'm listening to audiobooks from Audible or reading ebooks on my Kindle and scanning RSS feeds in Feedly Pro. Several years ago, I donated hundreds of books to a local charity and kept just a few hard-to-find references and art books. 
  3. I stopped signing paper contracts (with the exception of one slow-to-modernize client) and sign everything with DocuSign, which has helped me process and sign contracts all over the world with ease. Use my link to get 30 days free and 10 percent off DocuSign.
  4. I gave up my file cabinet and transferred the contents and most of my brain to Evernote Premium, and now I create new documents in Evernote and clip articles from the web right into my notebooks. I've integrated my email, Feedly Pro, IFTTT, DocuSign, and a host of other programs with Evernote, making it easy for me to capture what I want to save. Use my link to get a free month of Evernote Premium once you register, install, and sign into your first free Evernote account.
I go paper-yes these days when I want to market on a personal level. The catch: Everything I order is designed to leave the office eventually! For this, I use MOO's ever-expanding range of products, and recently ordered the following for 2015:
  • Revised letterhead and envelopes, primarily used to send handwritten, personal notes to clients, particularly clients I've coached 1:1. It's a more intimate form of outreach that suits the business relationship, and makes a major impact. Inc. magazine offers tips for writing standout thank-you notes, in case you've forgotten how to do it.
  • Updated business cards. With more and more international contacts and clients, my cards now include ways to reach me on Skype as well as by phone and email. I include a photo of me on both cards and letterhead so the new contacts I meet can remember me better, and I chose a MOO design that coordinates my card and letterhead visually. I've even ordered a rush set of MOO cards when I ran out right before a conference in Amsterdam, and had them delivered to my hotel via MOO's European site.
  • Customized holiday cards for my clients, collaborators, and suppliers. MOO lets me print a custom message with room for a handwritten one, and adjust the back of the card to remind recipients I'd like to work with them in 2015, how to refer me on LinkedIn, and what my core business offerings are, briefly and attractively. You can add logos or pictures, too. The cards come with envelopes.
  • A two-sided postcard flyer about my coaching services. It's the briefest of summaries to let clients know that I coach speakers 1:1, in training groups, and backstage or in advance for conferences, as well as my credentials and contact info. Again, envelopes are included, although these also may be used as handouts at workshops.
  • Invitations for a series of client parties I'll be hosting in 2015. The design allowed me to customize a standing set of contact information, leaving plenty of room for a handwritten invitation.
  • For my houseguests, a series of cards they can tuck in their wallets with my home address so they can find their way back, landline and cell phone numbers, and most important, the codes for my secure wifi. These stay in the guest room for easy access--no need to wonder when to ask for the info!
Right now, my office looks like a paper processing plant, but not for long. Those letters, notes and invitations are headed out into the world! Use my link with MOO to get 10 percent off your first order, or more if you choose MOO for 10+ employees across your business.

If you work with scientists, physicians, policy wonks and other subject-matter experts, you'll find useful my popular workshop, Be an Expert on Working with Experts. The next session is February 4, 2015 in Washington, DC. Register at the link by January 9 to get the best rate; all registration closes January 29 or when all seats are filled. Don't miss the workshop communicators call "informative and eye-opening."

Friday, December 12, 2014

The weekend read

Let's take the spotlight off you and this messy week, shall we, and put it where it belongs: Lighting a path to the weekend. In the starring role as we roll toward that bright object are the data, reads and leads I shared in my Twitterstream this week. They've been culled and curated here to spotlight only the best news for communicators:
For me, the end-of-week spotlight is always on you! Thanks for coming back again.

If you work with scientists, physicians, policy wonks and other subject-matter experts, you'll find useful my popular workshop, Be an Expert on Working with Experts. The next session is February 4, 2015 in Washington, DC. Register at the link by January 9 to get the best rate; all registration closes January 29 or when all seats are filled. Don't miss the workshop communicators call "informative and eye-opening." And if you are an expert, please share the workshop with a communicator near'll pay off in the long run.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Scientists, docs, experts: Send this to a communicator

This is for all the experts--scientists, engineers, physicians, policy wonks, and other subject-matter experts--who want to love the communications pros they work with, but find it difficult.

You get that participating in legislative testimony, donor meetings, and media interviews can be helpful. But those requests are taking up too much of your time, coming at the last minute, and you're feeling generally unprepared for them. So more often than not, you're not available or at best, uncomfortable.

I've seen you out there, and worked with many like you in a long career of working within organizations loaded with scientists and experts. These days, I've created a workshop I wish I'd had when I first started working with experts, and I want you to share it with a communicator you want to love.

Be an Expert on Working with Experts gives communicators what they rarely see: A look at the world from your perspective and preferences. The goal is better cooperation and better understanding of how communicators can support experts and meet communications and public-facing goals at the same time...without anyone getting hurt. Communicators call it "informative and eye-opening," and said "I particularly appreciated her emphasis on understanding a speaker's needs and motivations in order to help them deliver the best possible presentation."

Registration details are below. Pass them on to a communicator, fundraiser, or government relations pro near you, and anticipate a better working relationship to come. This workshop fills up fast, so don't delay in sharing it! If you're at a university, it may help your communicator to know that the February session follows the CASE District II conference in Washington, DC, and is an easy public transport trip from the conference hotel.

The next session of Be an Expert on Working with Experts is February 4, 2015 in Washington, DC. Register at the link by January 9 to get the best rate; all registration closes January 29 or when all seats are filled. Don't miss the workshop communicators call "informative and eye-opening."

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Winning the long-form interview: Fewer talking points and CEOs

Any reporter or producer will tell you that the long-form interview, particularly on radio, requires a different level of preparation. And that goes double in this Communications Network interview with NPR Fresh Air radio host Terry Gross,

Gross, whose hour-long program routinely features 20-to-40-minute interviews, shared some insights on using talking points for preparation, and using technical jargon. Here's what she had to say about an interviewee loaded with repeatable talking points:
Yeah, it’s like the last thing we want. There are some [shows] you need to go in with talking points because the person interviewing you is not going to know what to ask you. They’re not necessarily going to get to what’s interesting. And you need to come in armed with the points you want to get across. But you don’t want to sound like they’re talking points; you want them to sound spontaneous. On some shows, cable news shows, if they sound like talking points, maybe that’s not a bad thing. But we’re not that show. So you have to know where you’re sending the person and arm them accordingly.
And then she was asked about CEOs who tend to use what one of my clients calls "jargonese," in this case, a phrase like "building systems." She equivocated not at all:
No, no, no, no, no. You cannot use those words. If people are talking about building systems, they are not going to be on our show. There are times when I think the CEO shouldn’t be the person who should be sent out—it’s the person in the field. If you want to talk about effective teaching strategies, maybe you want to send an effective teacher, who can tell first person stories about what works and what doesn’t in the classroom.
So, media relations types, there's your target: A CEO who can handle a long-form interview without sounding like either a robot or a jargon-laden strategic plan. Can you manage that? If you want media training for that CEO to increase storytelling and conversational interview skills, email me at eloquentwoman AT gmail DOT com.

Friday, November 21, 2014

The weekend read

Friday: It's the best thing in your week since, well, sliced bread. Maybe since Monday, communicators. Here comes the weekend, and with it, the slices of goodness I found and shared on Twitter this week, curated just for you into a quadruple-decker sandwich of smartness. Consume before Monday:
Put this between two slices of bread: I'm so glad you can join me here on Fridays. Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The 6 people who shouldn't be coaching you for your next speech

A speaker was in the green room with his wife seated alongside. "I want to get some coaching time with you," he said to me. "And I don't think I should be there for it," his wife added.

I quickly agreed, on both counts. That smart woman knew she shouldn't be trying to coach her husband for his next talk, for a couple of reasons: Her relationship to the speaker, and the fact that the speech was, in part, about her.

We don't talk much about the value of having a neutral but professional third party perspective when you're getting yourself ready for a speech, talk, or presentation. But that's just what a professional speaker coach like myself can offer. Support from family and friends is wanted and wonderful, but every speaker should keep her eyes and ears open when considering active coaching from these people: 
  1. Your family: Mom knows this better than you do. So do your kids, your spouse and your extended family. Family members might willingly act as a practice audience, provide unconditional love and encouragement, and even help you make a video for practice. But they won't be offering you an unbiased assessment based on professional norms, unless you come from a family of pro speaker coaches. (And even if you do, you may want to step outside the family circle for help.) Family hopes and dreams, worries, competitive streaks and more can get in the way. If you talk about family members in your talk, you may find they have a natural yen to edit what's said about them. I've also seen family members assure me that the speaker isn't nervous, when in fact she is--but doesn't want them to know. Coaches give speakers a safe place to admit what they can't tell the family.
  2. Your friends: The same goes for your friends. They're close enough to offer support and encouragement, although you may find some getting more competitive rather than coach-like. Ask them, too, to serve as a practice audience or helpers with cameras and recording. But know that many people, family and friends alike, may think that they need to offer advice or criticism to be helpful, when all you wanted was a practice audience that would say, "Keep up the good work!" The reverse is true as well: You may get only good news, not the news you need to improve. Coaches also have the advantage of experience. I've trained thousands of people in groups and 1:1, among them nearly 100 speakers for TED talks at TEDMED and TEDx conferences. That lets me share with you what's most likely to happen in a variety of speaking settings, based on all the people I've coached before.
  3. More than one professional coach at a time: I've had one or two prospective clients approach me about coaching, then let drop that they have been working with another coach and want to continue that effort while we work together. I always decline these opportunities, which feel more like a trap for everyone involved. If you want to pay two coaches and cherry-pick the advice that sounds best to you, that also tells me you're not serious about improving and that you want to hear what you want to hear.
  4. More than one amateur coach at a time: This is a common pitfall of asking friends and family for advice: You wind up with 10 different conflicting sets of advice, none of which comes from a trained pro. I've seen many speakers ready to tear their hair out over an avalanche of well-meaning but awful advice that's often based on what 10 different advisers would do, rather than what's right for you.
  5. Your subordinates: Please don't put your subordinates in the position of coaching you before a big talk, unless that's a specific part of their job descriptions. As a communications director for several large nonprofit organizations, and later as a senior government official in the Clinton Administration running public affairs for a federal agency, it was often my role to do in-house coaching on day-to-day basis over the past 30 years. I did it for people far above my pay grade. But even then, for high-stakes talks or with delicate egos, I'd often bring in an outside coach to do the job. Spring for the coaching and let the staff breathe easier.
  6. Your boss: Bosses will certainly be evaluating how well you present as part of your overall performance--and that's exactly what makes them inappropriate, most of the time, as coaches. You may feel as if that evaluation is happening in real time as you practice, and every speaker needs a safe place to practice, fail, and try again.
Having said all that, I did have one great opportunity to coach an employee. She wasn't a direct report. It was worse: I was her boss's boss. We'd promoted her into a job where she'd be frequently speaking to members of the organization, often in large groups. Unbeknownst to us, she was an unwilling, unpracticed speaker and therefore reluctant to proceed. So we hired a coach to work with her on a creative presentation, and after that effort to set a norm, apprenticed her to me, with the agreement that we'd do the sessions together until she felt ready to fly on her own. At the same time, she enrolled in Toastmasters to get more practice.

The apprenticing meant more travel for the boss's boss, and lots of practicing in our hotel rooms, but in relatively short order we had a confident, lively presenter who knew what to do when approaching any speaking session, from checking out the room and the audio-visuals to using props and handling Q&A. Now she's a senior executive herself, and a seasoned presenter who's passing the knowledge along. In our shop, it was a case of turning a service I was already providing the leadership to the aid of one of my team, a good investment for both of us.

Need a neutral third-party coach who can help take your presentations and speeches from good to great? Email me at eloquentwoman AT gmail DOT com.

(Creative Commons licensed photo by Laura Taylor)

Friday, November 14, 2014

The weekend read

At the Palace of Westminster (the British Parliament to you), they apparently make the media line up and wait, a neat media relations trick. I've lined up more great reads, data and leads, shared on Twitter and curated here just to make you smarter by Monday. Let's muster ourselves for the weekend, shall we?
You pass muster with me just by showing up here on Fridays. Have a lovely weekend!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

5 little lifesavers for communicators, and how they help me

What's saving your bacon when you're out communicating, presenting, or traveling? For me, it's a small but choice group of devices and services that create a safety net I turn to again and again. Here are the 5 little lifesavers that have helped me recently:
  1. The LON Little Speaker with Bluetooth Compatibility saved the day for one of my clients, who was presenting at a conference where the venue couldn't manage sound projection. His presentation included musical clips on his iPhone, so we paired and connected it via Bluetooth with my LON speaker. Voila! Booming sound from a little box. I pop this in my luggage when I'm presenting, just in case I need sound options, and since it doesn't need wi-fi, it's extra-versatile.
  2. LastPass is storing that large part of my brain that used to go to remembering passwords, so it's now saving me many times per day. It generates new, complex passwords for me and remembers them, reducing my exposure to all those data breaks. Use my link and we both get a free month of LastPass Premium. If 2014 is the year of data breaches, this is your new best friend.
  3. MOO has long been my designer and printer of choice for printed products like business cards, notes, holiday cards and more. But recently, when I was heading to a conference in Amsterdam, I found I was out of business cards right before the trip. Since MOO operates in many countries, I just placed my order on its European Union site and had the cards delivered to my hotel in Amsterdam, a great last-minute save. Use my link to get 10 percent off your first order (or steeper discounts if you use MOO for Business).
  4. My Logitech Professional Presenter R800 with Green Laser Pointer is so useful I now own two of them. I can't count high enough to estimate the number of speaking gigs I've had where the remote was non-existent. This little device includes a timer that keeps me quietly but well paced when I'm presenting.
  5. I have three Belkin SurgePlus 3-Outlet Mini Travel Swivel Charger Surge Protectors with Dual USB Ports. Most recently, they saved me on a European trip, where the hotels were charming but lacking in outlets. The 3 outlets and 2 USB ports help me charge many devices at once, and mean I only need one adapter when I'm in other countries.

Friday, November 07, 2014

The weekend read

Feel as if you've been wandering in the woods, communicators? It's Friday, and I've been foraging for the best data, reads and leads shared on Twitter and curated here just for you. Call it my trail of breadcrumbs to show you the way to the weekend:
Glad you're hiking through the forest again with me this week, communicators. Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

The crisis you didn't anticipate: How to be flat-footed

"I know how to handle the major kinds of crises," said the communications pro. "Natural disasters, floods, fires." She paused. "Not scandals." She sounded dubious that she'd need that knowledge, as if a scandal or financial crisis were unlikely.

To my mind, that's exactly the type of crisis for which you should prepare: The one you're not anticipating.

I see a lot of companies and organizations who view crisis anticipation--and the communicators who get it--as rain on their parade. Asking about possibilities for crisis often prompts an automatic "that could never happen here" reaction. But it would be a mistake to take that answer and stop running scenarios. Nonprofts have embezzlers, fraud and even stolen credit card data that puts customers at risk. Wall Street occasionally gets flooded, or hit by terrorists. And staid research organizations have learned to be wary when their scientists' papers wind up in Retraction Watch. The idea that "that could never happen here" feels nice...and impractical.

Whatever you think is your "typical" crisis may not be the one that occurs. And every organization has issues it knows about, but doesn't like to talk about, the very thing communicators should be preparing for as crises-in-the-making. Universities subject to the federal laws sexual violence are now finding themselves publicized for failing to comply, and the government's affordable colleges website is a different kind of list that some universities can't get on no matter how much PR they do.

The risk isn't just that the unlikely crisis makes a good news story. Your lack of readiness to respond might become part of the story, too--and could have serious impact on your customers, supporters and users. That's something any CEO can understand, and a way to sell her on creating a culture of preparedness.

There are two easy ways to make this happen in your comnpany, university, government agency or nonprofit:
  • Create a regular meeting--weekly is not too often--in which the communicators invite the programmatic, product or subject-matter experts. Ideally, a regular representative attends these weekly sessions with the job of reporting on what's coming up, anything that looks like a surprise on the near horizon, and their wish list of public events and announcements. The communicators listen and use what's shared in the meeting to plan for and track issues, then manage them. When I ran public affairs at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, that weekly meeting coughed up lots of information that made the difference between a surprise crisis and a well-managed public announcement.
  • Become the link between senior management and crisis planning. In every organization where I've led communications, major public events occur that involve most of the management. Getting the senior managers briefed in advance on what might go wrong and what's being done about it not only means you're all prepared, it helps build a culture in which people share stinky things before they become full-blown fires. People start to bring you things before they become problems. You know more, and you're better at strategizing as a result.
No, no one wants more meetings. But if you play your cards right, these become must-attend meetings, because the participants have one place to go to find out what's really going on. Suddenly, the knowledge your communications shop gathers becomes intelligence, a means of internal information sharing as well as fodder for external comms strategies.  Try it, and give it six months to a year.
Even if you can't manage these regular intervals, you might consider what many of my clients have requested of me: A facilitated half-day or full-day session, at least once a year, in which we look at scenarios and responses to make sure your company or organization has begun to think about the crises that are possible, specifically for you and your business. I guarantee you'll have more on your radar screen, ahead of time....and isn't that how you should handle a crisis?

(Creative Commons licensed photo by Lindsay Bayley)

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.

Friday, October 10, 2014

The weekend read

The days of this week fell away like leaves on an autumnal tree, communicators--all piled up by Friday. Time to kick the pile in celebration of the weekend. I've gathered up all my finds of week, shared on Twitter, and curated them here, just for you:
Are you following the DGC blog in all its many places? In addition to @dontgetcaught on Twitter, check out our Facebook page, boards on Pinterest about social media savvy and communications skillz. and posts on Google+. The weekend read appears in all those places, so follow where you will.

I fall for you every time you show up here on a Friday, weekend readers. Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

I don't write blog posts till I'm ready to write. Here's what I do instead.

I blog a lot--on this blog and on The Eloquent Woman, my public speaking blog. Between the two blogs, I publish five posts a week, and occasionally more. Yet I don't spend all my time writing, because I don't write blog posts until I'm ready to do so.

That may sound obvious, but I work with many clients who spend all their time on the writing, whether that's thinking about the post, staring at the blog interface, or rewriting again and again. You might be sitting down "to write," but quickly get distracted by the need to find photos, copyright info, a link you remember but can't find right away. And it's distractions that lower the quality of your writing, new research shows. More important to me, as a business owner, I don't have time for all that. Here's what I do instead, while I'm waiting to write:
  • Collect string: I save anything that might be useful for the blogs in specific notebooks created for each blog in Evernote, which lets me clip from web pages, my email, or my RSS feed (currently Feedly Pro). Anywhere I'm reading, pretty much, can be saved there. I tag some saved items as "story idea" to make them easier to find, and I make specific notebooks for weekly features on each blog, such as the DGC blog weekend read or The Eloquent Woman's Famous Speech Friday feature. Because I use Evernote Premium, there's a strong search function I can use to find all the notes about, say, online video when I'm ready to write a post on that topic. (Use the Evernote link to get a free month of Premium when you sign up for a free Evernote account.)
  • Set up shell posts: I set up a shell post before I ever sit down to write. For most posts, that shell includes a title, perhaps an intro, links I want to include, quotes, photos or other illustrations--everything but the writing. That way, I'm not distracted by looking for those things when I'm ready to write.
  • Write a tweetable headline: My feed pushes out a tweet with the blog name and post title when it first publishes, so I've learned to make the headlines fit within 120 characters and, if appropriate, to include @ symbols and Twitter handles.
  • Get credits in: If I need hat tips or photo credits, those go right into the shell post--a huge timesaver.
  • Reading what else is out there: A subset of string-gathering, I read widely and listen to audiobooks and podcasts like they're going out of style. Mobile devices and tablets mean I can be collecting string while doing many other things, and if I have several shell posts set up or story ideas tagged, I'm ready to save what I'm reading or listening to and know where it belongs.
  • Wait: If nothing comes to me on a topic, even though I know it has potential, I wait. It might be my best quality control measure on the blog. To balance any anxiety over not having enough material--which might prompt me to post even when I'm not ready--I just make sure I have plenty in the queue. Waiting then lets me pull disparate pieces together in unusual ways that work better for me and my readers. 
  • Split burgeoning piles in half: The process of saving many draft posts in "shell" form also lets me quickly see when a post has many links and threads, before I start writing. Sometimes that prompts me to turn that into more than one post, a bonus for my blogging--and something I might not realize until I'd put in too much effort, without this system.
Those of you with interns and assistants can train them to do the same before you start writing, but this system makes it much easier even if you're flying solo. On Not Writing takes a deep look at putting your writing down for a long time, and is worth considering if and when you need a longer break. I'd like to think that my system builds in shorter breaks with purpose, keeping it all fresh.

(Creative Commons licensed photo by Thiophene_Guy)

Friday, October 03, 2014

The weekend read

Do you go up the down staircase this week, communicators? No matter. We're at the top of the stairs now and you can see the weekend from here. I've taken steps this week to collect, then curate, finds for you in my Twitterstream, so we can all get smarter by Monday:
Less than a month to go before I head to Amsterdam for the European Speechwriters Network for its autumn conference. I'm giving a pre-conference workshop on women and public speaking, Be The Eloquent Woman, on 23 October, followed by the main conference on 24 October. It's one of the best-curated conferences I attend. Americans traveling from the U.S. to the conference get a special discount: Use code "eloquentwoman" for a €200 discount. Join us!