Remember what you’re going to say?

How do you remember what you’re going to say? If you’re giving a talk or a presentation, how do you remember what to say? Can you memorise a couple of hours worth of material, or do you have a clever way of reminding yourself what you need to cover?

I usually start by writing out what I want to say, in long hand – or the typed version. Then I go through it and highlight the key words or phrases that will remind me what I’ll be talking about as I go through the session. They get marked with a highlighter pen or put in bold. After that I usually create a postcard for each section of the talk, with the keywords written on them. I take the cards with me and put them somewhere that I can see them, where they won’t distract my audience. I’ve been using this technique for many years, since I learnt it at Toastmasters (a great place to start to learn about public speaking, by the way.) Most of the time the postcards work quite well, but I have to make sure I don’t put so much onto each one, or the writing gets too small. Which means that I can’t always get enough onto the card to remind me of everything I want to cover.

And then I learnt a great new technique! It was at the monthly session of a peer to peer group I belong to, called MD2MD. Our speaker, David Hyner, taught us this great new way of remembering stuff. He read out a list of about 20 words and on their own, none of us could remember beyond the first three or four. Then he had us attach an emotion to each word – joy, fear or love. When he read out the list again, I started to see the words as pictures – things I knew or had seen somewhere else recently; things that made me laugh or smile at. Being a visual person anyway, this really brought the list of words to life and all of a sudden I could remember them, like a story. When we were asked if anyone would like to have a go at remembering the whole list, I volunteered. I scored 20 out of 20 and won a bar of chocolate for my efforts!

To prove that this wasn’t a fluke, I decided to try out the technique when I got home. I was due to give a 30 minute presentation the next morning at a networking event. I got out my coloured pens and a sheet of card. I looked through the presentation that I’d already typed out and turned the highlighted words into colourful images. Now, each section of my talk was represented by a picture!

The following morning I took my pictures to the networking event and had them on the table next to the flip chart. Each time I needed to know what came next, I just looked at the pictures and knew exactly what to say! Rather than seeing a list of words, I saw an image that represented paragraphs of a whole page of text. It was one of the most enjoyable presentations I’ve given for a while!

In this blog is a picture of the images I drew for the presentation. It won’t mean much to you, but I thought you might like to see what you can do!

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The secrets of marketing

The secrets of marketing

There are a number of secrets to great marketing. You don’t need to spend lots of time and money trying to work out what’s best for your business, because other people have already done the trial and error. You can learn from them and save your business a fortune.

One of the secrets is that as ad hoc marketing doesn’t work. Ad hoc marketing is where you pay for one advert in a special magazine supplement, because the salesman told you the magazine will be sent to thousands of your target client. But it’s going to people who haven’t asked to receive it and who won’t actively use the supplement to search for your services. They might not even know that they need your services and solutions. The salesman also told you that he could give you a great price for last minute space, so you paid it without checking your marketing budget, or making sure that the magazine would be read by your ideal clients – the people who really want to work with you.

Another big secret of great marketing is that you need to do more of what works and less of what doesn’t work. This means that you have to measure all your marketing activities. If you keep plugging away at a particular marketing tactic, even though it’s not working – not bringing you the enquiries or new clients that you want – then you should stop doing it. If you’ve run the same advert in the paper for three months and it hasn’t done what the salesman promised, then either stop doing it, or change the advert – the wording, the size and/or the position. When you’ve been going a particular networking meeting for six months and you’ve not met any of your ideal clients (and the people who have met don’t know any of them either) then it’s time to stop going and try out a different group, or a different message.

So measure your marketing and you’ll be able to do more of what works and get more from your marketing budget.

LinkedIn Groups for interaction, publicity and knowledge

Alice

A great feature of LinkedIn is the groups. There are literally thousands to choose from, in a similar myriad of subjects, levels and sociability.

Locate them through the ‘Groups’ link at the top of your profile page, and you will automatically go to the list of groups you have joined. These vary from open to closed groups, depending on the whims of the administrators, and subgroups can be created out of a parent group, especially if it has grown too big or commands splitting up to cover further aspects of the group’s subject.

To join a group, either click on ‘Groups You May Like’ where a selection of groups that marry up to the keywords you have provided on your profile page (another reason to complete your profile as fully as you can) will be offered to you, or you could search out relevant groups via their categories (alumni, corporate, conference, networking, non-profit, professional or other) and in whatever language you prefer (LinkedIn is, of course, international).

Choosing a category will concentrate the selection, and the search field above that will focus it further. The more succinct you are with your keywords, the better the results. The groups are listed with the most popular (or with the most members) at the top, and closed groups show a little locked sign before the title, which means you will have to be accepted by the administrators before you can contribute.

Once you’ve entered a group, you will see a status update field for you to add in your own contribution (a comment, discussion, question, link to blog post, article or newsletter issue, or whatever you want to share) with the other entries listed below. There is a moving gallery of the latest discussions entered by members, and a discussion hierarchy can be allocated by the administrators for extra promotion.

You will also get email notifications of new discussions whenever they are entered, and when you have contributed to a particular discussion and others have commented so you can follow the conversation and reply if necessary. Discussions thrive on interaction, and some provide a lot of knowledge on particular subjects that I have found to be very useful.

You can check out the other members of the group to see if they are worth connecting with, or to read their profiles if their contributions was particularly noteworthy.  There are other links to publicise promotions and a job board to find new recruits or better employment! The ‘Search’ link allows you to view all the discussions made on the group to backtrack a particular subject or find a comment that is useful to you. And the ‘More’ tab reveals ‘Updates’, ‘My Activity’, ‘My Settings’, ‘Subgroups’ and ‘Group Profile’.

If you are so inclined, you could start your own group. It is very easy to create one, and much enjoyment, knowledge, interaction and opportunities could be obtained through accomplishing such an activity.

Ineffectual landing pages are a waste of time

Alice

This sweeping statement has arisen because I see so many examples!

In fact this covers two kinds of landing pages, since it refers to the webpage the visitor first lands on when visiting a website.  This can actually be any page on your website, not necessarily the index or homepage. This is because it may be the result of a visitor asking a question on the search engines, and your landing page answers the criteria or keywords within the question.

If each webpage is carefully constructed to act like mini-index pages for its specific subject, it should have been suitably optimised to respond to such searches, with the keywords strategically placed to activate such a response from the searched question.

The other kind of landing page is the squeeze page. This is also called a sales page and is the result of a email or online campaign where the prospect is directed straight to a specific page specially created to fulfil the transaction portion of the campaign.

This is another point of failure. In the States this kind of page goes on for miles and miles, and this is because the Americans expect that level of persuasion to enable their prospects to be convinced to take appropriate action. In the UK this is not tolerated, as we find it ridiculous that so much needs to be said to make a sale. But even if the British version isn’t constructed in such a manner, it still needs to take on a formula to succeed.

It should act like a story-board, driving the reader onto the next section. Each section should explain why the reader should buy the product, explaining all the benefits that will make their lives better, counteracting all the objections the customer may have towards buying this product, providing case studies and testimonials that will help promote the product in a much better light – and of course all this takes up space! Now do you see why the American versions are so long?

So the latest example I saw was a simple box saying ‘Buy this product’ with a ‘Pay now’ button underneath is certainly not going to work – there was no call to action or explanation why, and with such basic elements missing it hadn’t really got a hope!

Why you shouldn’t neglect your blog

Alice

All the excitement of creating or building a blog, the newness of it all, can be quite short lived. Many would-be writers avidly start their blog with great gusto and go through the settings and themes to get the ‘look’ they want, vowing to contribute posts regularly every week.

But the reality is different. My boss asked me to design a banner for one of her clients’ WordPress.com blog, and taking a quick look at the existing content I noticed that the style and subject matter were good, lively and readable, but he hadn’t posted since May. All that frenzied activity for the first month had quickly fizzled out, the enthusiasm had drained away, and a poor, neglected blog that appeared to have great potential languished before me on my computer screen.

This is the plight of so many blogs out there (the same is with Twitter accounts and other social networking profiles). A blog with no content might as well be a cheese sandwich! These self-editable websites are carefully designed to attract the search engines and their spiders, and thrive on consistently produced new material stuffed full of keywords and links that are so appetising to the internet bots who constantly roam looking for something to index. To forgot to regularly update them is as sad and unthinkable as getting a new puppy and then forgetting to look after him properly!

The adage “blogs are not just for Christmas, they are for life” may be scary, but this needn’t be so. If you are as diligent and full of enthusiasm as you need to be to make your business a success, then you need to do some sort of social networking activity, and a blog is an easy (and it is easy) example.  If you can’t write well, hire someone who can – there are lots of good ghost-bloggers out there who will do a good job. Even so, I’m sure whatever you write will be suitable towards promoting your business the way you want to. After all, who else knows your business better than you?

That is what the blog’s content should contain – all about you and your business.  Don’t submit irrelevant material like you find on Twitter, instead write about what you know. You must be a fountain of information and expertise about your industry, so why not share it with your existing and potential customers? Use your blog as somewhere you could record everything you think is important for your customers to know, a point of reference that can be fed into your social networking accounts, back-up links to affirm your points of view, a place to hold your latest revelations, fantastic ideas for the future, past successes with great clients, scintillating information that your clients would really benefit from…

So don’t neglect your poor old blog!  He needs visiting, reassuring, feeding – remember, he’s hungry for your knowledge!

20 uses of the hash tag in Twitter

Alice

If you’re prolific in using Twitter you’ll notice that some tweets include a hash key (#) before certain words. This makes these words become hash tags, or specialised keywords that can be tracked.

Why would you want to use hash tags within your twittering activities? Here are 20 reasons:

  1. to focus on particular keywords that are relevant to your business
  2. to segregate your posts into specialised topics
  3. to track posts that contain those hash tags
  4. to create and follow streams that use that hash tag
  5. to create specific columns in TweetDeck or Hootsuite to follow those hash tags
  6. to find out who else is tweeting about that subject
  7. to draw your attention to other Twitterers who use that hash tag
  8. to follow your competitors on Twitter
  9. to develop your expertise within the hash tag’s subject
  10. to gain more information about that subject
  11. to see who else is twittering about that subject
  12. to find suitable tweeple to follow
  13. to gather feedback, complaints or testimonial
  14. to become part of the conversation using that hash tag
  15. to gain more followers relevant to your industry
  16. to pinpoint a particular audience within Twitter
  17. to use them within marketing campaigns
  18. to track particular conversations within your industry
  19. to track particular links to external resources relevant to your business
  20. to draw attention to your business

Can you think of any more reasons why to use hash tags? What are your experiences? Were they useful and what did you gain from them? Did you use them in measuring your Twitter usage? Have they provided good results?