How to be the Perfect Speaker

Somehow this year I found myself wrangling speakers for three conferences. It was a good challenge, and I now know how to identify my perfect speaker.

The perfect speaker gets deadlines, is respectful and is engaging. Here how they do that —

Submit your bio, photo and workshop description on time. Conferences have many speakers and if everyone is late with their details, it throws off the entire schedule. The information is needed to post to the website, to send a “Save the Date” card and to develop the program. Speakers should also adhere to the required content lengths. If I have to edit someone’s bio, it may not be to their liking, and I’m inevitably stuck in a back and forth email volley until it’s the right length.

Confirm your presentation requirements at least two weeks in advance. Conference organizers want to ensure that they have everything speakers need for an effective presentation. Usually organizers will reach out and ask, but as a speaker, if you have a special request, let them know. Many years ago, we had a speaker who requested a bar stool for her presentation. Knowing that ahead of time prevented last-minute scrambling.

Remain on point. The session description provided to the conference is in many ways a contract. When attendees read it, they are expecting to hear that content. Don’t disappoint the audience. When creating your presentation, make sure it fits within the allotted time so the session does not run long. Ideally, the conference will provide a time keeper to keep everything moving, but if it’s a small conference, do your part to stay on time.

Repeat the question. It’s challenging to hear in rooms. When you take audience questions, repeat them so others will know what was asked. It also means that your answer will make more sense.

Decide on your equipment. Some speakers like to use their own equipment. If that’s the case, be sure you have all of the necessary adapters and power cords. Just in case, have your presentation on a thumb drive. If you don’t want to bring your own laptop and will be using the conference equipment, provide your presentation in advance so it can be loaded and tested on the equipment that will be used. And again, bring a backup copy on a thumb drive.

Connect. Audience members are looking forward to learning from you. They may have more questions following your presentation. If your schedule permits, take the time to connect with audience members who rush to the front with their business cards. Some who rush to the front may simply want a selfie with you because you inspired them. Talk about a great reward!

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Promoting Your Experts

If your job is to get media placements, you may want to consider how you promote your experts.

It’s not enough to respond to media inquiries and connecting the reporter with an expert in your organization. Nor is it enough to pitch your expert directly to reporters.

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Image courtesy of Deanne Taenzer, ExpertFile

In today’s short and ever evolving news cycle, you have to be ready. And that means being able to raise the profile of your experts.

How do you raise their profile? It’s not as hard as you may think. In fact, you likely already have many of the pieces that would enable you to do so.

I picked up some great tips on this topic from Deanne Taenzer, ExpertFile’s vice president for business development. She is an authority on developing online thought leadership content programs that use an organization’s experts.

“There is so much scattered content,” Taenzer said. “We need to collect it in one place so others [reporters] can find it.”

It’s about making it easy for journalists to find the experts they need. Journalists seek experts who are relevant, credible, engaging, influential and responsive.

Content pieces that contribute to an expert’s authority include:

  • Biography Create a current biography of your expert, including a photograph.
  • Media Assets Include a list of all media outlets in which the person has been quoted or appeared.
  • Social Media Note the person’s social media if it’s relevant and if the person has a strong following. If your expert tweets about a relevant news story, it’s likely a reporter will see it and express interest in speaking with her.
  • Research Include a list of published research and links, if relevant. This demonstrates the expert’s scholarly work.
  • Speaking Engagements List what groups the expert has spoken to and what the topic was. Include the audience size if known.

These pieces address the needs of journalists. When they are located in one place, it makes it that much easier for the journalist to find the appropriate expert.

The idea is to create a directory for your experts. You can partner with a firm like ExpertFile or do it yourself.

Peeling Back the Curtain of Podcasting

Podcasts can play a key role in your mix of communications platforms.

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Kayla Dwyer shares tips on effective podcasting. (Photo by Cynthia Price)

I recently heard Kayla Dwyer provide a primer on the world of podcasting. She is the host and producer of the Allentown Morning Call’s weekly news podcast, Valley View.

Dwyer’s podcast dissects the area’s top stories from the reporters’ lenses, peeling back the newsroom curtain. Podcasting was an ideal way to do this since it “allows you to share your thought processes,” she said. “Podcasting can reach the limits of intimacy without breaching authenticity.”

A benefit of podcasting is that it allows you to multitask and be mobile. “You dedicate a fraction of your brain to a voice on your phone,” she said. Listening to a podcast is easier than watching a video, which requires you to focus on the video, the audio and the mannerisms. “It’s a lot to digest,” she said.

Podcasts also are popular with millennials, and Dwyer said that benefits her newspaper. “It’s an investment,” she said. “If you get them listening to your podcast, maybe they will read the news, too.”

If you decide to develop a podcast, Dwyer said it is important to establish goals for the podcast early. Other things to consider include the tone of the podcast, the length, the format and how much production will be required. Valley View airs weekly and is less than 30 minutes long.

Dwyer spends two full days creating her weekly podcast. When she is not working on it, she also is a general assignment reporter and online editor.

“I spend the most time editing the first 30 seconds. That’s where people decide if they want to invest 20 minutes in you,” Dwyer said.

The biggest lesson she’s learned with the podcast is how to be a marketer. “I need to be constantly looking for avenues to share my podcast,” she said. She suggested asking every member of your organization to subscribe to the podcast since the more subscribers a podcast has, the higher it will appear in searches.

Valuing a Content Calendar

A recent conversation I had revolved around how to grow a subscriber base for a non-fiction literary publication. I asked my friend if he was blogging about the publication’s content or its authors. Was he posting to Facebook or Twitter?

He said he was not because he was concerned about having enough content. I encouraged him to look at the publication for content and repurpose it. The key, though, was to create a content calendar.

How to create a content calendar

How does one do that and what should it include? You could do it the traditional way and post all the months to a wall and then put pushpins on the days to identify when content needs to be shared. Pushpin colors would differentiate the platforms. The same process works online, although there are no pushpins. All you need to do is search for a template that will suit your needs.

For this blog, I list in a Word document all the dates I plan to post for an entire year. I then note if there are events or conferences I plan to attend that could generate content. I also note any significant celebrations or anniversaries such as World Reading Day.

Driving traffic

Driving traffic to the posts is important. I’ve linked all of my social media accounts to the blog, which ensures promotion across platforms. I also have a separate content calendar for Twitter. For each blog post I write 3-5 tweets with a link to the post and sprinkle those throughout the month in which the post appeared. I note on my Twitter content calendar what the day’s tweet will be. I’m also tweeting organically on any given day. Maintaining a content calendar specific to my posts ensures that I will tweet regularly.

My friend said, “That’s a lot of work. I don’t know if I can do this every day.”

Time blocks

The good news is that you don’t have to do it every day. I work on my blog in time blocks, meaning I devote three to four hours to the blog on a specific day. During that time, I identify potential topics, research topics, write draft copy, and finalize draft posts. I then schedule the ones that are ready. Next I review my posts and write the appropriate tweets. I do this two or three times a month, and I’m good for a month or two.

The blog posts and tweets are added to the respective calendars. I can identify any holes where content is missing. If I have managed to schedule further out, I know I have given myself some breathing room. When that happens, I find I develop more ideas because I’m feeling less pressured – and less stressed.

Ultimately, that’s the beauty of a content calendar.

Improving Your Productivity

I suspect I’m like many of you in that I always have a to-do list. Okay, sometimes I have multiple lists. And sometimes, I don’t know where they disappear to.

I listened to a webinar with Ron Friedman, who suggested such an obvious idea, I couldn’t believe I wasn’t already doing it. His suggestion? Make your to-do list more visible. He said too many of us write a to-do list early in the day and then we don’t look at it again.

20181009_104956A better approach, he said, “is to keep your to-do list on a brightly colored pad, so that your eyes are regularly drawn to it throughout the day.”

I took it a step further, and found a tiny clipboard with a pad of paper. Each sheet had 5 lines. The best part is it’s magnetic so I could hang it on a metal wall beside my desk. It’s highly visible and when I look away from my monitor, it’s the first thing I see.

I end my day checking my clipboard to see that I have accomplished what I needed to. If I haven’t, I know how I am starting my next day. It’s been a game changer.

He also suggested using a screen-saver that reminds you of your most important goals. He suggested the free Chrome extension Momentum.

His other suggestion was to make your alarm your executive assistant. “One reason high-profile executives are so effective is that they have someone reminding them when to stop doing one thing and start doing another,” Friedman said.

I find this approach particularly helpful at home. I set the timer on my microwave and that’s how long I have to clean or declutter. For me, it becomes a race against the clock, and I get a lot accomplished. When the timer goes off, I allow myself to relax and do something I want to do. On any given weekend, I might do this three to five times. I get much accomplished – including writing blog posts!

How do you improve your productivity?

Humor As a Mindset

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Dessert makes Drew Tarvin smile. He encourages smiling every hour. (Photo by Cynthia Price.)

I take my work seriously, but I also laugh often and have fun most days. Sometimes I wonder if I shouldn’t be more serious. But then I heard Drew Tarvin speak.

He said we will likely work 90,000 hours in our lifetimes and why not enjoy the time?

Tarvin is the world’s first humor engineer and an award-winning speaker, trainer, author, and coach. Through his company, Humor That Works, he teaches individuals and organizations how to use humor to be more effective, more productive, and more awesome.

He is the best-selling author of Humor That Works: 501 Ways to Beat Stress, Increase Productivity, and Have Fun at Work and the recently released The United States of Laughter: One Comedian’s Journey Through All 50 States. Through his journey, he discovered that, despite what we may see on the news or read on the internet, there is one thing that unites all Americans: laughter. His TEDx talk has been viewed more than 100,000 times.

At a recent talk, he had his audience in stitches, especially as he shared stories of texting with his grandmother. In one, she replied to him with WTF, which alarmed Tarvin. He asked her if she knew what the initials stood for. Of course, she did, she said, “Wow, that’s fun!”

I’ve not met Tarvin’s grandmother but I already know I would love her.

He believes that we desperately need humor and noted that 10 to 15 minutes of laughter equals five minutes of exercise. He also emphasized that we are each responsible for our own happiness.

“Humor is a choice,” he said, while encouraging us to develop humor as a mindset. He challenged us to smile at least once an hour. And he asked us to consider the micro choices we can make each day.

“We are defined by our actions,” he said.

I’m choosing humor. How about you?

Back to School Is the Perfect Time to Organize One’s Office

The other day I received a $10 Staples reward and a $5 Staples coupon. For me, this is better than being a kid in a candy store.

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Photo by Cynthia Price

I couldn’t get to Staples fast enough. I was giddy with anticipation. Should I buy more Staedtler colored pens? What about some fun file folders? Did I need a new desk organizer? Yes to all!

The irony is that I likely have enough pens and notebooks to last me until well, forever. It doesn’t stop me from wanting new ones. I have found ways to control the urge to buy, although it’s always a challenge this time of year with back-to-school sales.

The beauty of this time of year is that it’s the perfect time to organize one’s work space or office. Here are a few suggestions to do so –

Corral your pens and pencils. I have one container, and if they don’t all fit, I need to get rid of some. Obviously, toss the ones that don’t write. For those that work fine but you know you will never use consider donating to a senior center or after-school program.

Clean your desktop – both your desk and your computer. Remove everything from the surface of your work space and wipe it down. Don’t forget to clean the keyboard, too. It’s an amazing feeling to then begin working with a clean desk. I also make the time to clean off my computer desktop. I’m always amazed how files accumulate. For me, it’s often laziness. It’s easy to save a file to my desktop rather than thinking about where I should logically file it for archival purposes. Knowing I frequently save to my desktop, I force myself at least once a quarter to organize my files. Once I do, I find my productivity increases.

Shred your files. When is the last time you pulled a piece of paper from a file? If it’s been months, maybe it’s time to purge some of your files. I’m working toward having zero files. If someone gives me a paper document that I will need, I ask for it electronically or I scan it and save it on my computer. At least once a quarter I work to eliminate one or two file folders. It helps that I had to move my office twice in the past year. That really led to decluttering.

Order the necessary supplies. Nothing is more frustrating than discovering you have run out of sticky notes or staples. I check my supplies and order what I need for the next six months. That way you don’t run out and you don’t waste time each month placing an order.