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Working Tips For Home Freelancers

The freelancing working environment is a strange one. This is because your environment remains static, but the working relationships and responsibilities you may foster online or through other commissions can be varied from day to day. Not everyone is cut out to work freelance, but not every freelancer is cut out to work a normal job in their field. Often, people dip in and out to freelancing, not always using it as a sole source of income but as a means to develop their best income stream.

No matter your reasons, your competency, the people you work with and the skills you offer to commission, considering these working tips can have a large impact on your overall comfort, happiness and effectiveness in this role. The early days of freelancing can be hard and worrisome, but over time you may find comfort developing your self-reliance:

Pay Proof

Working freelancers expect the flow of their income to vary frequently. It’s smart to use a working generating unit that needs each job completion to be verified, and uses services like PayPal to try and secure the potential for disputes from either sides. Some commissions come in independently, and may pay you half to begin with and half upon completion. You may be lucky enough to work with some form of a more systematized content production house, allowing you to subcontract solely for them and adhere to their payment standards, which are often more official and uniform. No matter how you access your form of funding, keeping track of everything can be greatly simplified if you create pay stubs using an official service to track your income. This can help you gain physical proof, and if verified by the payment provider, can help you effectively validate that document for use in tax and archiving purposes.

Communication & Reach

It’s important to always be available as a freelancer if you are offering your services on the internet. A valid email you can reach from multiple devices, an instant messaging offering like Hangouts or Skype, and even potentially a mobile phone or landline number for regular and respected clients you’ve built a cordial relationship with can be important. Staying available does not mean responding right away. Setting your own hours is an important task, so never feel obligated to respond at all hours of the night because a nasty precedent can be set from that point on! The main lesson is to open many forms of commission requests, to standardize that format in a manner you feel appropriate, and to monitor this first contact for potential income and collaborative customer care day after day.

Testimonials & Portfolios

Build a portfolio. You can use this to show examples of your work, be that artistic, content writing, or anything else you offer. Open a website to show this, and ask for testimonials from your most valued clients in exchange for a discount. These two options can help you secure more business, and help you achieve the art of staying reachable and discoverable.

With these simple tips, you’re sure to develop your working capacities in the best manner possible!

5 Ways Your Website Could Be Damaging Your Credibility

There’s nothing more liberating than starting up your very own business. To cast aside wage slavery and a corporate pay structure that’s actively working against you to insulate its own bottom line. To shake of the shackles of a job and a career that were not only letting your talents go to waste, they were slowly sapping your will to live. When you secure the funding to build up your own business from scratch and transform your idea into a reality, it can seem as though anything is possible. But the reality is that your business is just one of legions of similar enterprises, all vying for the attention of the same customers. And these customers know that in a buyer’s market they can afford to be fickle, no matter how hard you may try and earn their loyalty.

Thus, the savvy entrepreneur knows that in order to draw custom towards their business and away from their competitors that their reputation must be absolutely beyond reproach. Of course there’s a lot that goes into your business’s reputation. Every customer interaction in the real world and on social media, every telephone query, the quality of your products and service and even the design concept of your logo can influence your reputation. Here, however, we’re going to look exclusively at your website. Your website is, for many businesses, the first and last chance they will get to make an impression on potential leads. If your website does not reflect the values or quality of your brand, it can seriously undermine your credibility. And credibility is extremely important. Credibility determines whether or not prospective customers can trust you, and it’s vital that your website earns it.

What a bad website can do to your business

We’re long past the days when merely having a website was considered a boon for your business. While an online presence is somewhat taken for granted, whether your business uses eCommerce or not, a bad website can make an impression in the worst possible way. It can;

  • Create a poor or misleading first impression
  • Provide inaccurate or outdated information
  • Scare away leads and reduce conversion rates
  • Undermine trust in your brand
  • Send customers running into the arms of your competitors.

So, what could your website be doing to undermine your brand and damage your credibility? Well, if you haven’t given much care to the building of your website, it can actually be damaging your credibility if it has…

Outdated or amateurish design

Like the world of fashion, web design is subject to trends which come and go in accordance with technological changes and the cultural biases of users. As such, while your website may look just fine to your eyes, savvier users may find your web design to be outdated or lacking the professional veneer offered by others. In an age where most people now consume online content and make eCommerce purchases through mobile devices, the most egregious sin you can make is failing to ensure that your site design is responsive so that it looks great on a screen of any size. Moreover, a WordPress site that’s built using a ready-made theme can make your website look cheap, amateurish or homogeneous to the more practiced eye, no matter how great it looks to you. Look at the online presence of businesses you admire and work collaboratively with a talented web designer (here are some tips for finding one that’s right for you) to build a website that looks beautiful and professional while explicitly tailored to your brand.

Bad UX

Even a website that looks beautiful can undermine your credibility by providing a bad experience for the user. User Experience or UX is an important discipline which nascent brands can tend to overlook. A gorgeous looking website that’s hard to navigate or takes forever to load (keep in mind that a page load of just 7 seconds can increase your bounce rate by over 30%) can potentially be more damaging than a website that looks passable yet is a joy to navigate.

Poor quality content

Most new entrepreneurs understand the value of content marketing but fall victim to an overly simplistic mode of thinking. They know that content is king and that posting fresh content on a regular (ideally daily) basis is the key to getting an edge over the competition in terms of Search Engine Optimization (SEO). However, this is not to say that quantity trumps quality. In fact, it’s the opposite of the case. Outsourcing your content to poor quality, low cost click farms overseas might seem like a cost effective solution, but the increased likelihood of poorly written, grammatically incorrect or (worse still) factually inaccurate copy will seriously damage your credibility and authority in the eyes of users.

Moreover, it might not even give you the SEO boost you were expecting. While search engines don’t share the minutiae of what affects rankings, it’s widely believed that measures of genuine engagement like scroll depth and time on page are of value to search engines. If users click off your content in seconds, it could do more harm than good to your SEO.

Your images

A picture is worth a thousand words. But if you’re personally responsible for all of the images that go into your content, it behoves you to brush up on your photography skills. We human beings are visual creatures and rightly or wrongly we make value judgments based on appearance all the time. Either outsource your images to a talented photographer or take the time to improve your skills in image capture and post production photo editing. Cheesy stock images are not recommended as they can cheapen your brand and make your content look like that of an amateur blogger.  

Outbound links

Finally, while link building is an important part of SEO, it’s important to remember that not all links are created equal. Some links can actually harm your search engine rankings and leave you with less than reputable and credible associations. This is why you should never link to an outbound source or site without first doing your homework and ensuring that your brand is in good company with theirs and establishing that they are both reputable and credible.

Remember that you only have a few seconds to make a very important first impression. All of these factors go into making that impression count.

Pinching Pennies When Time Is Money

The saying ‘time is money’ is somewhat of a cliche. Though you may have used this in half-hearted attempts to improve office efficiency, it’s one of those sayings most of us don’t think about.

In truth though, time literally is money in business. In the office, every second has its costs. Even when you’re paying a salary, staff presence is an expense out of your business account. Even your presence has a cost. And, that expense can either turn into profit or leak down the time-wasting drain.

If you and your staff aren’t reaching your full potential every moment in the office, you’re a drain the company could do without. Wasted time can lead to severe issues and failing profits. Yet, if you break down the office day, there’s a good chance up to an hour goes to waste.

With profits in mind, you could do with pinching those time-based pennies. Here are a few ways you can do it.

Implement goals and rewards

Things like coffee breaks and brief conversations are the main culprits for wasted time. The trouble is, coming down hard on these means going up against an unhappy workforce. But, that doesn’t mean you can’t regain some control over an overly social work atmosphere that causes inefficiencies. All you need to do is get into the habit of setting daily goals and aligning them with rewards. Motivate staff by allowing them an earned day off with pay or to leave work earlier if they get all the tasks done ahead of schedule. This is a simple step, but with the motivation of paid time off out of the office, employees will be reaching for their phones and computers instead of the fifth cup of coffee.

Soar over setbacks

Not all time wasting is staff-based. Things like crashed computers or lack of supplies can also cause trouble. If a staff computer crashes, lack of prep could even see them unable to work for an afternoon or more. Yet, you still have to pay them! To make sure this doesn’t leave you out of pocket, put plans in place now. Something as simple as having managed IT services on hand could be all it takes to save the workday. That way, computer crashes can be corrected in no time at all. Equally, you should keep stationary and the like stocked so that staff never have to waste working time going to a store for their necessary items!

Spot the holes

If you have holes in your purse, you lose money. Similarly, if you have holes in your time management, you also lose money. As a business owner, it’s your responsibility to spot where those holes are! Simple things, like the distance between offices, can lead to lost time. If staff have to go up and down flights of stairs multiple times a day to communicate with one another, for instance, you’re looking at lost profit. Equally, a long distance to the break room could spell trouble. All you need to do is spot holes and fill them. Something as simple as rearranging the office or providing several mini break stations or copy stations around the office could be enough to put a stop to wasted time. And, that may well be all it takes to welcome more profits!

If you work in a traditional office environment, what are some of the biggest culprits of inefficiency and wasted time? Share your thoughts – and solutions by leaving a comment below!

Overcoming Writer’s Block with Automatic Transcription

descriptIf you’re a writer — of books, essays, scripts, blog posts, whatever — you’re familiar with the phenomenon: the blank screen, a looming deadline, and a sinking feeling in your gut that pairs poorly with the jug of coffee you drank earlier.

If you know that rumble all too well: this post is for you. Maybe it’ll help you get out of a rut; at the very least, it’s good for a few minutes of procrastination.

Here’s the core idea: thinking out loud is often less arduous than writing. And it’s now easier than ever to combine the two, thanks to recent advances in speech recognition technology.

Of course, dictation is nothing new — and plenty of writers have taken advantage of it. Carl Sagan’s voluminous output was facilitated by his process of speaking into an audio recorder, to be transcribed later by an assistant (you can listen to some of his dictations in the Library of Congress!) And software like Dragon’s Naturally Speaking has offered automated transcription for people with the patience and budget to pursue it.

But it’s only in the last couple of years that automated transcription has reached a sweet spot — of convenience, affordability and accuracy—that makes it practical to use it more casually. And I’ve found it increasingly useful for generating a sort of proto-first draft: an alternative approach to the painful process of converting the nebulous wisps inside your head into something you can actually work with.

I call this process idea extraction (though these ideas may be more accurately dubbed brain droppings).

Part I: Extraction

Here’s how my process works. Borrow what works for you and forget the rest — and let me know how it goes!

  • Pick a voice recorder. Start talking. Try it with a topic you’ve been chewing on for weeks — or when an idea flits your head. Don’t overthink it. Just start blabbing.
  • The goal is to tug on as many threads as you come across, and to follow them as far as they go. These threads may lead to meandering tangents— and you may discover new ideas along the way.
  • A lot of those new ideas will probably be embarrassingly bad. That’s fine. You’re already talking about the next thing! And unlike with text, your bad ideas aren’t staring you in the face.
  • Consider leaving comments to yourself as you go — e.g. “Maybe that’d work for the intro”. These will come in handy later.
  • For me, these recordings run anywhere from 20–80 minutes. Sometimes they’re much shorter, in quick succession. Whatever works.

Part II: Transcription

Once I’ve finished recording, it’s time to harness ⚡️The Power of Technology⚡️

A little background: over the last couple of years there’s been an explosion of tools related to automatic speech recognition (ASR) thanks to huge steps forward in the underlying technologies.

Here’s how ASR works: you import your audio into the software, the software uses state-of-the-art machine learning to spit back a text transcript a few minutes later. That transcript won’t be perfect—the robots are currently in the ‘Write drunk’ phase of their careers. But for our purposes that’s fine: you just need it to be accurate enough that you can recognize your ideas.

Once you have your text transcript, your next step is up to you: maybe you’re exporting your transcript as a Word doc and revising from there. Maybe you’re firing up your voice recorder again to dictate a more polished take. Maybe only a few words in your audio journey are worth keeping — but that’s fine too. It probably didn’t cost you much (and good news: the price for this tech will continue to fall in the years ahead).

A few more tips:

  • Use a recorder/app that you trust. Losing a recording is painful — and the anxiety of losing another can derail your most exciting creative moments (“I hope this recorder is working. Good, it is… @#*! where was I?”)
  • Audio quality matters when it comes to automatic transcription. If your recording has a lot of background noise or you’re speaking far away from the mic, the accuracy is going to drop. Consider using earbuds (better yet: Airpods) so you can worry less about where you’re holding the recorder.
  • Find a comfortable space. Eventually you may get used to having people overhear your musings, but it’s a lot easier to let your mind “go for a walk” when you’re comfortable in your environment.
  • Speaking of walking: why not go for a stroll? The pains of writing can have just as much to do with being stationary and hunched over. Walking gets your blood flowing — and your ideas too.
  • I have a lot of ideas, good and bad, while I’m thinking out loud and playing music at the same time (in my case, guitar — but I suspect it applies more broadly). There’s something about playing the same four-chord song on auto pilot for the thousandth time that keeps my hands busy and leaves my mind free to wander.

The old ways of doing things — whether it’s with a keyboard or pen — still have their advantages. Putting words to a page can force a sort of linear thinking that is otherwise difficult to maintain. And when it comes to editing, it’s no contest: QWERTY or bust.

But for getting those first crucial paragraphs down (and maybe a few keystone ideas to build towards)? Consider talking to yourself. Even if you wind up with a transcript full of nothing but profanity — well, have you ever seen a transcript full of profanity? You could do a lot worse.

This article is originally published by Descript.

Key Ideas that Will Make You Better at Creative Problem Solving

Key Ideas that Will Make You Better at Creative Problem Solving

What is the last problem you had to solve? Maybe it was so small you hardly realized you were making choices to reach a resolution. Or maybe it was so overwhelming and stressful you never want to relive that moment again. We are challenged to solve problems each and every day. The difference between whether these problems are minor speed bumps or major road blocks lies in our creative problem solving skills.

Some people have a very natural ability to solve complex problems with creative, out-of-the-box solutions. While others get stuck in the mindset that only one way is the right way. By embracing these five key ideas, anyone can benefit from becoming a better creative problem solver, and as a result make life easier, enrich relationships and effectively find compromise in the most challenging situations. Take a look!

No one will get everything they want

In order for creative problem solving to work, everyone involved must be accepting of the fact that they will not get everything they want. It’s called compromise. And with compromise, you know it’s working if everyone leaves just a little bit dissatisfied. That’s a good thing, really. It means everyone gave a little to get more what’s really important to them. With creative problem solving that uses compromise, people are more likely to be appreciative of the pieces they did receive than the pieces they did not.

You have to be willing to ask for something

The biggest hurdle for most people to cross when it comes to problem solving is the courage to ask someone for something – especially when it may not be well received. My personal struggle with problem solving is that I don’t want to inconvenience anyone else, so I’ll take on the burden of doing something or giving up something to make everything work out. The result is that I’m unhappy, frustrated and feel taken advantage. But this can be avoided. If you’re like me, we must speak up to initiate compromise, or accept the fact that we caused our own struggle.

You have to be willing to give something

In order to receive, you must also give. When searching for a solution to a problem, it’s to be expected that you’ll need to give something as well. Maybe this is to give time or money, or to give up your desired outcome. Prioritize what’s most important to you and let all the other, more minor details go. Stay focused on the fact that by compromising on lesser important items, you can still gain the things you really want.

It takes many pieces to solve a puzzle

Creative problem solving is exactly like it sounds. It takes creativity. You may need to blend and pull from a variety of possible solutions to ultimately build the best solution to your problem. Brainstorm all possibilities and ask for input. Though you may not adopt any one of these solutions exclusively, you may be inspired to use elements from each to piece together something far better than what you could have thought of on your own.

A good solution takes time

Finally, creative problem solving takes patience. It’s natural to want a clear and obvious solution to present itself overnight, but good solutions take time to develop. There are many moving parts and you want to be sure you’re carefully considering all of your options before you latch on to the first thing that sounds “good.” Now of course you should weigh this against the levity of the problem you’re trying to solve. If you can’t agree on what restaurant to get take out from for dinner, it’s really not necessary to “sleep on it.” How great is the potential impact? If it’s life-changing, give it time. If it’s merely a matter of meal preference, you’ll have another chance to choose your food in a few hours.

Have you recently had to find a creative solution to a complicated problem? Share that various elements you used to reach a resolution. Did you use some of the ones we mentioned in this article?

11 Tips to Become a Better Public Speaker

11 Tips to Become a Better Public Speaker

Love it or hate it. Everyone, at some point in their life, will be faced with having to speak to a group of people. This could be a crowd of thousands, or a small group setting. But in order to be effective communicators, which is essential in both personal and professional life, we must embrace, not avoid public speaking.

Truly the best way to improve your public speaking is to do it often. Only then will you be able to assess and refine your skills. This doesn’t necessarily mean booking paid speaking gigs at large conferences. No, this simply means giving a presentation to peers, speaking up in a work meeting or telling a story to a group of friends – but doing so on a regular basis!

The good news is you likely already possess many qualities of a great public speaker, you just need to be intentional about utilizing them. No matter how you would rate your public speaking skills, there’s something to be learned from these 11 tips.

  1. Understand what motivates your audience

Your audience, no matter the size, will have some sort of shared motive. Consider the reason for them to gather together in the first place. Is it a conference? A work meeting? A social function? There is a motive for people showing up to any of these (i.e. something they hope to gain). To prepare for public speaking, give thought to the shared demographics.  Once you’ve pinpointed the shared motive of the group, be sure to speak to this in your presentation.

  1. Know your content – but don’t memorize it

It’s so important to prepare your presentation so that you appear confident and knowledgeable. However, it is absolutely possible to over-prepare to the point that you sound “rehearsed” and not in a good way. By memorizing, word-for-word, what you want to say you risk losing the emotional aspect of your delivery. It can sound cold or robotic. You also remove yourself from living in the moment and adjusting your presentation to your audience’s reaction – a huge missed opportunity! Instead, aim to use your talking points as a reference guide, but don’t rely upon them so heavily that they become your script.

  1. Have back up plans for technology

When it comes to presentations, technology follows Murphy’s Law. I’ve seen so many different hiccups in presentations from a power point presentation that wouldn’t open, to lost internet connection, to a laptop that’s not compatible to the projector – and you get the picture. If you plan to incorporate technology of any kind into your presentation, expect the unexpected. Scout out the meeting location in advance, talk to someone in charge of the room’s technology and most importantly, take matters into your own hand. With a little research, you will find that there are plenty of free resources, like Google Slides, that give you easy access to your audio/visual elements wherever and whenever you need them.

  1. Set the tone of your presentation

Do you want this to feel like a casual conversation among peers? Or do you want your presentation to be highly polished and professional. In my own public speaking, I make sure to set the tone early in my presentation. This can be done by simply opening with such a statement like “I want this to be a fun and informal discussion where you feel welcome to jump in with questions at any time.” A more formal presentation would obviously not begin with such remarks, but might start with a bold attention-getter or an introduction of your credentials to establish your expertise. Setting the tone early will give people a feel for what’s to come.

  1. Get out from behind the podium

This is highly dependent upon your setting, but I feel my speaking is far more engaging when I set away from the podium and give myself the freedom to move around as I speak. First, you feel closer to your audience and as a result you will tend to engage them more. Second, you look less like you’re giving a middle school presentation and more like a confident speaker, which brings me to my next point.

  1. Convey confidence, but be likeable

Confidence is important. So is being relatable and likeable to your audience.  Someone who comes across overly confident risks looking arrogant. As a result, you will create distance between you and your audience and it will be a lot harder to engage them. Smile, make a joke, tell a personal story or share your background/hobbies so people start to feel like they are listening to a real person, not some talking head.

  1. Asses your audience and adjust

This is where you need to understand how to read visual cues such as facial expressions and body language. This is a highly valuable indicator of whether or not your audience is engaged with what you are saying. Does your audience seem distracted? Bored? Annoyed? Their face and body can tell you this. These cues can also tell you if you’re saying things that resonate with your audience. Smiles, nodding heads and people taking notes are positive indicators that you are doing exactly that. If you’re seeing negative feedback, take note and adjust your delivery or move to a new point that you think is more interesting.

  1. Share anecdotes

Everyone loves a good story. Do you have one to share that relates to your message? Practice telling it so you can fine tune your delivery and ensure it remains concise. A story worth sharing is one that elicits emotion. Stories with a funny or happy ending or ones that teach a good lesson will not only wake up your audience, but studies show it will be one of the top things people remember about your presentation.

  1. Anticipate questions

At the end of your presentation, you’ll want to end with the option for your audience to ask questions. Depending upon your audience and the setting, there is likely to be a handful of questions to facilitate discussion. However, that may not always be the case. Even the best presentation can come to an awkward end when the speaker say, “Okay, so who has some questions for me?” and then all you hear is crickets. Rather than slink off stage in silence, step in with your own question so that you’re sure you have at least one more thing to say. I’ve had to do this once or twice and when I do, it usually inspires another question from the audience. Sometimes you just need to be your own wingman!

  1. Stick around after you’re done

So long as your schedule permits, stick around for a little while after your presentation. During the next break, members of the audience may wish to ask you a question in private, offer a thank you or provide feedback on your presentation. These are all valuable opportunities to form relationships and improve your public speaking.

  1. Actively seek more opportunities to speak!

This may be the hardest piece of advice for anyone who doesn’t enjoy public speaking and that’s to get out there and do it as often as you can. There’s no way around it. It’s the only way you’ll get better. I speak from my own personal experience when I say I used to be as nervous as anyone before stepping up in front of a crowd. Now I regularly present to a wide variety of audiences – and not only have my nerves calmed, I actually look forward to sharing my passion and putting on a good “performance.”

How do you feel about public speaking?

Moreover, how would you rate yourself as a public speaker?

Share your public speaking experience and the tips you’ve found to be most effective for improving your skills!

The Best UX and SEO Practices for Your Multimedia Content

The Best UX and SEO Practices for Your Multimedia Content

When maintaining a company website, you don’t want to push out content blindly. Your marketing budget is not best spent on maintaining an online presence just for the sake of it. Rather, you want to strategically select your content to drive engagement and ultimately conversion.

Remember, the goal of your website is to generate leads, engage those leads, turn them into customers and further the relationship by nurturing loyalty to your brand. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to achieve all those things if you haphazardly put together a website and fill it with random and inconsistent content.

The Quickest Way to Push Away Customers

If it’s not easy and intuitive to find and navigate your business’s website, you substantially diminish your ability elicit action. If a visitor experiences slow loading time or struggles to make heads or tails of your website’s confusing interface, you can bet that they’ll leave your site within seconds.

According to Forrester Research, a well-designed user interface can boost your site’s conversion rate by up to 200%. Additionally, only 25% of users venture into the 2nd page of search results. Thus, the importance of a smooth user experience and a fully optimized website is impossible to ignore.

When prospects come to your site, you have mere seconds to make a good impression. Those few seconds are integral to capturing your leads’ attention, communicating your story and moving them into your sales pipeline. Simply put, a stellar interface and an optimized website must be paired with an equally stellar content strategy.

First and foremost, be aware that there is a wide array of content, each serving a unique purpose, that should be carefully considered to be part of your content strategy. Aside from highly valuable blog articles, customer stories/testimonials and white papers, visual content, like infographics, is highly effectively at quickly communicating your message and reaching key demographics. Candidly, visual content is something I know I need to work to increase in my own content strategy!

The Power of Visual Content

It’s estimated that 81% of users only skim content, making how you organize and present this content increasingly important. Moreover, studies have found that posts with images increase engagement rates by a whopping 650% compared to text-only posts. It’s also worth noting that video content attracts 3x more engagement than text-only posts.

Whether it be blog articles, images, infographics, videos, tutorials and animations, white papers, or podcasts, every type of content you produce must be optimized for your users as well as search engines. It’s a delicate balance between the two, but the end result is a substantially higher reach for your content that maximizes your marketing/public relations dollars.

Appealing to Customers vs. Search Engines: A Delicate Balance

Admittedly, optimizing your web content can prove challenging and time consuming. It takes technical know-how and a ton of analytics to process and apply into practice. Often, this sort of time and technique is not something many business owners have to spare. For clients whose business requires a highly technical content strategy, I often recommend they enlist the help of a creative agency to tackle this workload with efficiency and expertise, leaving the business owner more time to do what they do best. In this relationship, I serve as the project manager and lead content developer, who focuses on producing relevant, high quality content, while the creative/SEO agency focuses on the optimizing the content for search engines.

As I mentioned above, it’s a delicate balance and I can’t stress that enough. Speaking from the public relations side, you can’t overly conform your content to “play” the SEO game otherwise you risk producing content that is loaded with keywords and awkward sentences to fit these keywords, but loses its “human” element. While this content engages search engines, it will not engage your customers!

I hope this brief intro into developing an effective digital content strategy for your business has sparked some new ideas, and possibly some critical questions for you to consider. If you find yourself hungry for more insight, I recommend taking a look at this infographic by Micro Creatives on the best user experience and SEO practices for your multimedia content. Not only is it filled with valuable, easy-to-consume information, it also demonstrates the effectiveness of incorporating visual content into your overall strategy!

The Best UX and SEO Practices for Your Multimedia Content.

What burning questions have I left unanswered (I anticipate many!)? Start a conversation by asking your top one or two below. If it’s outside my expertise, I’m happy to enlist my network of SEO experts to chime in!

10 MORE Things to Remember When Planning a Professional Event

Android Robot with manualYears ago I wrote a blog post on 10 Things to Remember When Planning a Professional Event. These pearls of wisdom still apply to how I approach event planning for my clients. So much could be said on this topic! So I challenged myself to share 10 more pieces of event planning advice, many of which I learned since the time I wrote the original blog post.

Take a look at 10 more things to remember when planning a business or nonprofit event.

  1. Set the date for all planning meetings/calls right from the start

If you wait until the last minute to schedule your planning committee meetings or conference calls, it will be like herding cats. Avoid schedules from filling up (and poor attendance at your meetings) by establishing your meeting schedule as early out as possible. Determine the number of meetings you need and space them out. Your last meeting should be right about 1 week prior to the event. Then, get these dates on everyone’s calendar early so there are less excuses of “I had another commitment.” Don’t forget to send out a reminder a few days prior to each meeting!

  1. Plan something guests actually want to attend

This is an important one. So often people forget to think outside the box to incorporate special elements that will make people look forward to the event, not just see it as a blemish on their calendar that they have to attend. If you establish your event as having fantastic food, lively entertainment or a unique venue and décor, you will keep regular guests coming back and new guests coming for the experience.

  1. Give the event a theme (trust me on this one)

Themes sound hokey, and they can be. However, picking a theme for your event will help you out in a couple different ways. First, it gives direction to your décor, menu and keynote speaker or entertainment. Second, it makes it memorable for your guests. If you’re planning an annual event, each year will stand out separately because of its unique theme. This keeps you out of the rut of essentially planning the same event year after year.

  1. Time the sending of your invitation

It’s just as possible to send your invitations too early as it is to send them too late. Anything sent earlier than 8 weeks out is liable to get shoved under a pile of things because it doesn’t seem to warrant an immediate decision of yes or no. Anything sent later than 4 weeks out may be hitting guests too late as people tend to fill their calendars about 1 month in advance. Aim for the sweet spot of having your invitations hit mailboxes at 6 weeks prior to your event date (take into account the added time of printing, assembling and delivering the invitations).

  1. Solicit sponsors uniquely and personally

Sponsorships are the real financial success of your event. This is where you tend to make your most money, well before your actual event. Don’t assume that sponsors will come pounding on your door, checks in hand, just because you send out a mass email. They may have received the “ask” and may even be considering it. This is all the more reason to hit them again with a personal follow-up. Stress the importance of the cause the event supports. Tell them the exact role you hope they play (level of sponsorship) and outline the benefits they will receive in return. A personal ask takes mere minutes, but can result in far more sponsorships than what you would have received without doing so.

  1. Engage your planning committee by assigning very specific tasks

If you have a planning committee (and you should), make sure you’re fully utilizing them. It’s likely that one or two people will play the role as lead organizers, but that’s not the excuse for everyone else to sit back. Engage all members of your planning committee by assigning very specific tasks suited to their skills or connections. If you’re feeling like there’s too much on your plate, assign something to someone else. The bottom line is that if someone wants to lend a helping hand, make sure you’re communicating how they can best be of service.

  1. Secure your regular attendees with a personal ask

Much like sponsors, don’t take for granted that regular attendees will purchase tickets and come back year after year simply by receiving their invitation. If you’re less than one month out from your event and you notice some key people didn’t respond, follow-up! This is the “low hanging fruit” to build your attendance. Some may have a conflict and truly cannot attend, but maybe they will still make a donation in lieu of their attendance. Others may have forgotten or thought they bought tickets when they didn’t. In all cases, a follow-up is a good thing!

  1. Anything you can do in advance, do in advance

Inevitably, there will be some things you can only do the few days leading up to the event. But for everything else, do it as soon as it can be done. This will save you a lot of stress and also allow you the benefit of time to troubleshoot any problems that could occur. Maybe your program booklets weren’t printed correctly. If you take care of this weeks prior to the event, there’s still time to get them fixed. This wouldn’t be the case if you waited until the same day to print your program.

  1. People will disappoint and frustrate you – but it will all be okay

Yes, it’s the nature of event planning. You become emotionally invested in the success of your event, so when someone cancels at the last minute or there’s a vendor mix-up, it can feel like your world is crashing down. Try to stay level-headed and keep in mind it really is just an event. Most people won’t notice if things don’t go as you planned, because they don’t know your plan. Your relationships and reputation are what will last, so keep that in mind when you feel like blowing up on someone.

  1. Take time to show thanks

Finally and most importantly, be sure to share your gratitude with people who went above and beyond to make the event a success. Donors, sponsors, volunteers and vendors all put a lot of heart and soul into the details of the event. It will absolutely be noticed, and appreciated, if you send them some personal words of thanks.

Have you had to plan a business or nonprofit event? Good or bad, share your experience and some tips of your own!

Why Didn’t My Press Release Get Picked Up?

Upset disappointed young businessman sitting with hands on head

Whether we PR professionals want to come to terms with it or not, the media is not our mouthpiece that will print exactly what we want, when we want it. They are the ultimate gatekeepers who determine the extent of media exposure that will be granted to us or our clients. The sheer volume of press releases that cross their desk each and every day ensures that only a fraction will receive review, and an even fewer number will be published in some capacity.

But don’t despair! Rarely is an ignored press release a direct reflection on your business or your media relations skills. Rather it could be any number of possible circumstances. Take a look:

It wasn’t really news.

The hard truth is that you’re likely to think everything your organization does is newsworthy because, well, it involves you. It can sometimes require taking a step back and role playing a reporter to determine whether or not something is worthy of media attention. Just because it’s not a good fit for the media, doesn’t mean you can’t promote it in other ways. Utilize your website, blog, social media, and newsletter to tell your story.

It was overly promotional.

Be sure to learn the best practices of writing a press release. Your headline can make or break your chances of getting picked-up. If you start off overly promotional, with a heavy focus on your business or brand, this is a huge red flag to a reporter that this isn’t a helpful “news hint,” it’s a PR tactic. As much as a client may want to see their name in the title, explain to them that this isn’t the best media-bait.

You’ve used this angle, again and again.

Is your strategy to, every month, announce the new businesses to whom you’ve sold services or goods? The first time you do this is the best chance you’ll have at gaining media attention. Every press release after that is beating a dead horse, in the eyes of the media. Reserve this angle for a truly noteworthy client, or present your new client information in a unique way. It’s easy for the media to spot a template press release which will quickly get you tossed in the “no” file.

It got stuck in spam.

There are major benefits to using an email platform like Mail Chimp or Constant Contact to send out your press releases. However, they can increase your chances of getting you sent to a spam folder. I’ve had my own clients’ emails skip my inbox and head straight for the spam folder, even after I marked previous messages from the same sender as “not spam.” The bottom line is to track your analytics, as these email platforms allow you to do. If it seems like a low percentage of contacts are opening your email, it may be due to their spam filters.

It was poorly written.

Another hard truth is that your press release may been poorly written to a point that your media contacts couldn’t see the value in the information you were sharing. I again reference the best practices of press releases to ensure you have the greatest advantage of getting picked up. You need to write to the media’s preference, not your own. Learn to embrace AP style!

You relied solely on a “Wire” for distribution.

You are likely familiar with PR wire services such as PRWeb, PR Newswire, and Business Wire. I have yet to have a client truly benefit from any pick-ups received from such services. I believe the value lies in personal contact, not some syndication service. Even if you’re hitting a list of several hundred media contacts, you are far more able to personalize your messaging and track their engagement from traditional email. Don’t waste your time or money!

You gave up too soon.

Finally, and most importantly, you may have just given up too soon. I have yet to receive a single complaint from a member of the media for sending out the same press release twice, each with a unique headline. Sometimes you hit them on a busy news day when they just don’t have the capacity to cover your story. A few days later might be the perfect timing for when they need a story like yours. Try and try and again – but two times is the perfect number. Anything more than that could work against you.

Most importantly, don’t drive yourself crazy over-analyzing the reasons your press release may have been overlooked – and don’t stop trying! Tomorrow is another news day.

Can you empathize with this experience? Join in the conversation by leaving a comment.

 

5 Ways to Get the Most Out of Networking Events

The following post comes to us from guest blogger, Samantha Thayer. Samantha is an Education and Outreach Specialist at USANA Health Sciences. You can find her on their blog at What’s Up, USANA? or on Twitter @USANA_Samantha!


5 Ways to Get the Most Out of a Business Event

Chances are, at one point in your life, you’ve attended an event that you viewed as an opportunity to network. This could be a work-related event, charity event, community event, or an event catering to a niche that simply interests you.

If you’re new to attending such events, it may be a little overwhelming or hard to know where to begin and what’s acceptable. And even if you’re used to attending business events, these tips are a great reminder to take advantage of everything the event has to offer.

We’ve created an infographic that discusses five ways to get the most out of events and some basic etiquette to keep in mind.

5 Ways to Get the Most Out of a Business Event

  1. Connect with People

If you’re trying to build your network, it’s important to remember to connect with people and exchange information so you can easily follow-up after the event. Something I have found useful is to bring business cards with you to any and all events. Make sure they include your name, e-mail, company and a social platform available for people to find you after the event. If you don’t have a business card, make sure to ask someone else for theirs! Then, be sure and connect with people through social media such as Twitter or LinkedIn soon afterwards.

  1. Act on What You’ve Learned

Presenters at events typically will have actionable information for attendees. Pay close attention to the value those may add to your life and business. Find ways to personalize that information and how to best apply it, in order to improve your business or day to day life. Most importantly, apply it right now. Do it while the information (and inspiration) is fresh in your mind.

  1. Research the Event Beforehand

Research the event you’re planning on attending before you go. Some valuable information you’ll want to note is the keynote speakers, breakout session topics (and which ones you want to go to), available workshops and any additional fees there might be (food, parking, etc).  Find out the size of the event as well so you know how many business cards to bring!

  1. Set Achievable Goals

After listening to speakers at your event, it’s important to apply what you’ve learned to your life. A great way to do this is to set new goals for yourself or your business. Setting realistic, “SMART” goals is a great way to ensure you act on them. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-sensitive. Figure out who is going to do what, where, and by when while setting your goals, and it will be easier to achieve them as well as see what was effective and what wasn’t when looking back at results.

  1. Take Notes and Ask Questions

Finally, take notes on anything that is relevant or inspires you while listening to speakers. Don’t be afraid to ask questions! Be an active participant in discussions. It’s a great way to connect with other audience members as well as the speakers.

For more helpful networking advice, be sure to check out the infographic below!

Infographic courtesy of What’s Up, USANA?

Succeed At Your Next Business Event

13568838_10210251683992010_2184923627438616281_oThis article was contributed by Samantha Thayer, Education and Outreach Specialist at USANA Health Sciences. For more information, find her on their blog at What’s Up, USANA? or on Twitter @USANA_Samantha!