What’s on Your Happy List?

I love big adventures and big, exciting news. But at the end of the day, it’s the simple things that matter.

Many years ago, I made a list of things that make me happy. I have a list because sometimes I do need to take it out and remind myself of the things I enjoy.

My happy list includes:

  • Enjoying a meal with friends
  • Riding my pistachio-colored bicycle
  • Getting lost in a good book
  • Feeding the birds
  • Going to the movies

I’ve also found that having daily rituals can make the day more enjoyable. My mornings begin with a walk. I enjoy the peacefulness of it. I’m shrouded in darkness when I begin and by the time I finish I have marveled at the beauty of another sunrise. Then I pour a cup of coffee and read the morning paper.

cafe-dumond

Friends surprised me with treats from Cafe Du Monde in anticipation of a trip to New Orleans. That made me happy!

After work I come home and grab my mail. Not many people get jazzed about mail anymore, but my mum and I write to each other each week. I love receiving an envelope from her.

I come inside and curl up in a chair to read the latest happenings at my parents’ home. As mum notes, it’s rarely exciting, but that’s okay because her words connect me with my family. I learn the latest pinochle scores, what was for dinner and what the neighbors are up to. Sometimes, there are clippings from the newspaper or magazines she reads – all things she knows I would enjoy. It’s a great ritual at day’s end.

Do you know what makes you happy? If you are willing to share, would you post your “happy” in the comments section? That would make me happy!

 

 

 

 

 

Creating a Powerful Presentation

I recently finished – or so I thought – my PowerPoint presentation for NFPW. However, as I always do with any presentation, I reviewed it through a checklist I created to ensure that I would be providing my audience with valuable information.

Because it was a new topic for me, I quickly realized that I had fallen into some familiar traps. I definitely did not want my audience to suffer a “death by PowerPoint” experience.

To avoid such an experience, I strive to make my presentations as visual as possible. This has several benefits:

  1. It avoids using slides as a script.
  2. It ensures that I have done my research, including finding images that reflect my key points.
  3. It enables audience members to focus on me the deliverer of messages instead of trying to read slides.

A TEDxRVA speaker toolkit noted that, “People need to process everything you are saying while simultaneously absorbing your slides.”

That means eliminating complex slides. With that in mind, I reviewed my presentation and realized I needed to do some tweaking, including:

  1. Using only one idea per slide.
  2. Identifying the great image that would convey my message.
  3. Creating short phrases for bullet points the few times I used them.

I reworked my presentation, and now I’m ready. I also must remember to pack the tools of public speaking. To learn more about them, check out this article from Inc.

If you are looking for tips on how to begin to build your presentation, check out this blog about how to use PowerPoint to support your presentation.

7 Tips to Get the Most From a Conference

Conference season is upon us. I’ll be attending two in the coming weeks, and I’m really looking forward to them. Through the years I have learned a few tricks to maximize what I get out of a conference.

1. Do your prep work. Ahead of the conference, review the schedule, the hotel location, amenities and anything else that is important to you. For example, I always find out how safe the area is for walking or if there is an onsite workout facility.

2. Review the schedule. You don’t want to miss the one session you should attend because you are elsewhere. One of the conferences I am attending is for mystery writers and fans. I looked up my favorite authors and have highlighted their sessions so I can be sure to sit in on their panels and hear their advice.

20160829_1956273. Bring the right tools. I now take a mini multi-prong adapter with me when I travel. I can plug in two devices and two USB cables. I can’t tell you how many times I have been to a hotel and I can’t find an electric outlet that is easily accessible. Traveling with this device lets me plug everything in in one spot.

Did you know that most conference attendees bring three mobile devices to conferences, according to the Benchmark Resorts and Hotels 2014 list of trends? I also go old-school and bring a highlighter, which is perfect for marking the program and a tablet for writing notes. An envelope or pouch is handy for storing receipts, business cards and any other relevant conference materials.

4. Take a nap. Conferences can be exhausting. Not to mention that most of us also are keeping up with our offices. Given that, sometimes it’s worth it to skip one session or a networking event to take a siesta. The downtime is the perfect way to recharge.

5. Leverage social media. If there is a conference hashtag, follow the tweets to learn what others think about the speakers and topics. Share your take-aways on Twitter or LinkedIn. You can also acknowledge great speakers, conference staff and hotel staff.

6. Network successfully. I am not talking about walking around and collecting business cards. I am talking about introducing yourself to a few people, and then asking them questions about what they do. If you make a connection, continue the conversation and find out if there is a way you might assist them. Sometimes, it’s as simple as sending them a link for a resource. Be sure to follow up.

7. Block your first morning back. I always block the first morning I return to the office. I use this time to identify my priorities for the week, respond to outstanding requests and review emails. I also use the time to follow-up on conference items. This includes connecting on LinkedIn with people I met at the conference and ordering or downloading books I learned about and want to read. I also create a short document of my take-aways so they aren’t quickly forgotten. (To read about one I recently created, check out this blog.)

If you have a suggestion to add to this list, please leave a comment with it.

 

 

 

 

My Travel Checklist

I travel a lot, often for work and at one point internationally a few times a year. I’ve developed some tricks and tips to make it easier, and to not forget anything.

I’ll leave it to you to figure out what you need to pack in terms of clothes; just remember, less is more. I prefer to use a carry-on only, even for long trips and trips that involve multiple functions.

So as I wander the globe, here are some tips I’ve picked up or developed –

On your phone, enter the name, phone number and address of your hotel under “Hotel.” Each time you travel, update it with the next hotel. I find this particularly helpful in foreign countries where I’m likely to mispronounce it when telling a driver where I need to go.

Get a passport wallet or something similar and keep your important details in it. I keep a bit of cash, my passport and the credit card (usually associated with the airline I am traveling) in the wallet. Make copies of everything, and keep the copies in a different place. If you are traveling with someone, give it to that person. He should do the same.

Buy a small satchel for your chargers. I keep them all in one place. I stow them in my carry-on bag, but sometimes I am forced to gate check the bag. With the satchel I simply grab it and go. No fumbling for chargers that I’ve tucked throughout the suitcase.

Find a small bag (even a sealed sandwich bag works) – I prefer one of the free bags from a makeup counter – and put your pens, highlighters, stamps, envelopes and business cards in it. This way you already have everything you need. I find highlighters useful for marking up programs so I know what I want to attend. When you collect business cards, put them in this bag and then follow up in the evening or when you return to the office. The stamps are in case you want to send a letter or a thank you note. I find if I write my thank yous while at the conference, they get done and mailed. Since everyone complains about too much email, I find an old-fashioned note is often appreciated. The envelope is to store your receipts if you aren’t doing so electronically.

What are your travel hacks?

Do ‘The Hustle’ to Succeed at Pitching

Ever since I was in D.C. the other week, I can’t stop humming The Hustle, and it has nothing to do with the upcoming election, and everything to do with Michael Smart’s presentation on pitching the media.

Michael is an independent communications trainer who helps PR pros improve their pitching success rate and enhance their PR writing. He is regularly among the highest-rated speakers at the industry’s largest conferences. Last month he gave an outstanding presentation and then later, I spoke with him in further detail about some of his points, including how important it is for media and PR practitioners to hustle. “You have to know your boundaries and constraints within which you are going to go all out,” he said.Michael Smart

It’s important to not settle. That means don’t just send an email to the faculty expert you are trying to connect with a reporter. If you don’t hear back, call the person, go by their office, check with the department chair. If the story is that important, you want to connect your expert with the reporter and that means going the extra mile “for a journalist who is of a certain caliber.”

Part of being successful at The Hustle is setting boundaries. Those boundaries enable you to have room for the high-caliber journalists. Michael recommended PR pros spend 80 percent of their time pitching the top 20 percent of their media list.

He said it also is important to develop a service mindset that is useful to reporters. “Don’t send reporters things that won’t help them,” Michael said.

No matter how good you are at The Hustle, it may not be good enough for your boss. Michael stressed that a boss has their institution’s best interest in mind. “Respect their judgment and authority,” he said. “Don’t let it affect your professionalism.”

Sometimes you have to switch up your moves. Today, Michael says, PR practitioners can use online metrics as assets when they pitch. If an online story already has 50,000 views overnight or has been shared thousands of times on Facebook, a digital journalist may be interested in the story. It’s also a great way to convince administrators that digital placement is as valuable as print.

He also noted that traditional news hooks no longer work. “It’s important to brainstorm compelling angles beyond what you are given to work with,” Michael said. In other words, “creativity always trumps budget.”

However, some steps never go out of style. Many PR people thought that when Twitter became so popular it would be the way to pitch a story. Many of the reporters speaking at the College Media Conference where Michael spoke said they still prefer good pitches by email.

“Don’t just chase the new, shiny technological tool,” Michael said. “Don’t wholesale abandon something that is working.”

If you want to learn more tips from Michael you can sign up for his weekly email tips. Visit michaelsmartpr.com/articles and you can see the recent tips and opt-in to receive them by email.

Learning To Be Creative

As a former newspaper reporter, I was good at gathering the facts. I could write a decent lead and story, but I would not say that my strength was creativity.

When I took Shonali Burke’s Social PR quiz, the results said much the same. During a webinar she challenged participants to find ways to play to their strengths and also, when possible, to build the areas where they weren’t as strong.

I took that advice to heart during a recent conference. I always take notes at conferences and in meetings. Notetaking keeps me focused and helps me remember the key points from a workshop or meeting. My notes are very linear and rarely have doodles. I like watching artistic people take notes because theirs are so creative — tiny graphics to sum a key point; clever bullets to highlight a list.

During the webinar with Shonali, I challenged myself to creatively take notes, but quickly discovered I was missing key points because I was so focused on figuring how to visually depict what she was sharing. I knew I couldn’t do that at my conference because there was a ton of valuable information I wanted to learn and share with my colleagues.

Before I headed to it, though, I learned about canva, which allows you to more visually display your information. Since I am not a graphic artist, I thought this might just work. Of course, at the conference, I forgot the name of the program, but I was committed to the idea of presenting my conference learnings more creatively.

Capture_CMCI created a one-page document using Excel that was a series of boxes of differing sizes. Within those boxes, I placed my take-aways as well as some unique stats. I included tips about media pitching and using Twitter. I noted that I walked 20,000 steps on the day I arrived in Washington, D.C., as I explored many of the monuments. I captured that I moderated a panel. I filled the boxes with color to make it more pleasing to look at.

And while my designer friends might shake their heads at it, I am pleased with my creative thinking. More importantly, I pinned the document to my bulletin board to remind me of the things I learned and need to be doing in my job.

That, I think, was what I was supposed to learn from the results of my Social PR quiz.

Summer Success Check-in

Summer is in full swing, and while for the most part, I strive for unstructured weekends, I did set summer goals. It’s time to check in.

I had three areas of focus – walking, reading and writing.

I’m on target with the walking, but it has required some creative stepping (pun intended). The actual goal is to walk one million steps. It is an ambitious goal because while I know I should be walking 10,000 steps most days I was only reaching 5,000 to 7,000. I decided I needed to ratchet my efforts, and I set the one million steps goal.

As crazy as it is, it’s working. I’m currently 100 percent on target and 53 percent to goal. Yes, you read that correctly – I have walked more than 500,000 (give or take a thousand) steps so far this summer.

20000 StepsIt has required some herculean efforts on my part. One lazy Saturday, I walked less than 5,000 steps. That Monday I walked 15,000 steps, and was back on track. At a recent conference, I arrived the day before and explored Washington, D.C., on foot visiting many of the monuments. By day’s end I had accumulated 20,000 steps. That helped out when I only had 5,000 steps on the day I returned home.

I get up in the morning and walk 3,000 to 6,000 steps before work. At first, I struggled, but now I really enjoy my mornings. It’s cooler and peaceful. It’s my own world. During the day, if my schedule permits, I walk for 15 to 20 minutes with a colleague. We save all of our discussions for the walk time, and we’ve solved several problems on our walks and taken some great photos to share on social media. If she is not available, I will still try for a short walk. I find the walk allows me to think and processs, and I return to my desk reinvigorated.

My summer reading, which actually started back in May is a bit sporadic because I am tending to read novels. I did, however, finish Greg McKeown’s, “Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less.” I’m more focused on celebrating the essential, and not busyness. I say no to focus on what does matter to me and set boundaries. That means that while I would like to resume golfing, for now, I must say no because what is important to me is my writing. Golf requires too much time – time that could spent writing and rewriting.

I also am about halfway through “Mastermind” by Maria Konnikova. Already, I am finding I am more observant. Still on my list are “Reinventing You” by Dorie Clark and “How Philosophy Can Save Your Life” by Marietta McCarty.

As for writing, I’m making great progress on one of my books. My accountability partner is helping me to stay on track. I also signed up to attend a mystery writer and fan conference in the fall. Not only will I meet some of the authors whom I read and are inspired by, but I also will learn about writing techniques, agents and marketing.

Still, I’m glad there are a few more weeks left to summer. I still need to eat an ice cream cone and catch fireflies!