Speaking in Public

Photo courtesy of Phyllis Groner

Photo courtesy of Phyllis Groner

As nice as it is to enjoy casual dress every day of the week and labor in solitude behind a computer, there are times that require a writer to get dressed, leave home and speak in public. I will be doing this next week.

Washing my face and finding clean clothes aside, I’m looking forward to it. Speaking in public allows me to meet readers, network with colleagues, and connect with potential clients.

There are several types of public speaking a writer can expect to do in the course of her career. What they all have in common is a chance to build audience organically, by showing, not telling. Just like writing.

Know your audience.

photo courtesy of Marc Nozell

photo courtesy of Marc Nozell

Like writing, it’s essential to know your audience. Next week, I will be talking with the New England Adobe Users Group about writing for the web. My audience is primarily one of web developers. They have a lot of computer savvy, and they’re technically oriented. I will talk about the technical aspects of language and syntax for clear web content and short, powerful, blog posts.

Educate and entertain.

As with writing, content matters. I have to deliver worthwhile information, and I have to deliver it in an interesting manner. In short, I have to educate and entertain to make attending this talk worth my audience’s while.

Suit the medium to the message.

For this talk, I will use projected visuals to demonstrate how diction, word order and concision work to hone a message with laser precision, and I’ll give attendees lots of examples, so they can see these techniques in action.

A technical talk like Words on the Web is more about education than entertainment. When I give author talks, it’s the reverse.

Entertain and educate.

Brooks Memorial LibraryWhen I make an author appearance for Into the Wilderness at a library, historical society, reading group or bookstore, I have a chance to give readers extra content, similar to “web extras” offered in print journals – only in reverse. Instead of going on-line for extra content, they show up to meet me in person.

Readers are curious about the historical background to the novel’s setting and the backstory to writing the book. Readers frequently want to know what’s autobiographical and what’s made up and how I create and sustain a fictional world. Because fiction is magical, readers want to hear about the alchemy of writing it, whether I use a pen or a keyboard, write in the morning or at night.

Meet and greet.

Just as an author appearance allows readers to see the writer in the flesh, it also allows a writer to meet her readers in person. This kind of validation is a wonderful change from the months – sometimes years – of working in the relative isolation of one’s imaginary world.

Public speaking.

Deborah Lee Luskin at VPR's Upper Valley Studio.Because I’m also an editorial writer and a radio commentator, I’m sometimes asked to speak on a specific issue or for a particular event. These are the hardest public speaking events for me, because they require me to think in real time and speak without the benefit of revision, which I always do before sending anything out for publication in pixels or print.

Speech making is theater.

These events also require some theatrical talent to insure a lively delivery. For me, this means speaking from an outline rather than reading from a script. Reading a speech is guaranteed to send your audience to sleep; do that and you miss your chance to be heard.

Dress up.

But being heard isn’t enough. If it were, my radio audience would be satisfied with the broadcast of my voice. When a writer is invited to speak in public, the audience wants to see the person behind the words. And for this reason above all, speaking in public requires a writer dress up.

Deborah Lee Luskin is an author, blogger and pen-for-hire, as well as a frequent public speaker.Deborah Lee Luskin

Marketing is all about building relationships

You have a business and you want it to grow, so you know you have to make contacts and turn them into connections that lead to business growth. But thinking about the effort as ‘sales’ and ‘selling’ intimidates many, so try to think about it as relationship building.

Nurturing prospects and clients is important to retaining business – and retaining and building your business is your goal, right?

Here are some tactics you can try. Give any or all of them a shot to find what feels best for you and works best for your business.

Offer a perk to a returning client to make her feel special. Perhaps a discount on new work; a discount once a year to see if that encourages clients to hire you for new work. Perks don’t have to be discounts, you could offer a free marketing report for their area of expertise.

Keep in touch with your past clients on a regular basis – whether it’s an e-mail to touch base quarterly, or sending an article, or a link to a resource on a topic you think they might find interesting, having your name in front of them a couple times a year can keep you on their mind when they have a new project. Sending a short, personal note to a contact that shows you’re staying aware of their business in some way can go a long way in building that long-term relationship.

Meet for coffee. This could be with past, current, and potential clients that are local – meet to learn about each other’s businesses or to catch up. Don’t make it a sales-y type meeting, just a relationship building get together. With contacts further away, you could plan to meet up at a conference, when you’re in their town for some other business, or you find out they are coming near to you for some event.

Keep your clients smiling by meeting deadlines, staying within their budget, delivering what was agreed upon, and being available as they need you (within reason, of course!).

Treating new contacts as though they are friends you want to get to know better will keep your name at the front of their minds when they have a project come along. If you treat your current clients well, they will be inclined to come back. And all efforts can potentially lead to new work.

These are only a few ideas to help you build or maintain relationships.

How do you keep your name on your clients’ minds?

 

LisaJJackson_2014Lisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with businesses of all sizes. She loves researching topics, interviewing experts, and helping companies tell their stories. You can connect with Lisa on TwitterFacebookGoogle+, and LinkedIn.

Conference Burn Out

Last week I shared tips about managing the excitement of attending conferences and that I had four conferences to attend in an 8-day period.

One conference was 3 days, the other 3 conferences were single days, but back-to-back. I wouldn’t recommend doing it and I knew I shouldn’t have attempted to for several reasons:

  • It’s too much time to be “on” – mixing and mingling with people, trying to forge new relationships, trying to absorb all the information.
  • It’s too much time away from the office – the work doesn’t stop coming in, nor do I ever want it to, and even with an assistant there is always going to be the game of “catch up” once back in the office.
  • It’s physically exhausting – with a multi-day conference there’s a good chance of finding quiet space (preferably a room for a nap), but with a single-day conference there isn’t any downtime. If you aren’t in a session, you have a break and breaks are where the networking happens. There is the travel to and from the conference and depending on distance, this could mean getting up early and driving more than an hour. It all contributes to ‘too much.’

NetworkingBubblesThese were 4 conferences I wanted to attend, and had attended in the past — it just happened this year that they were scheduled within the same week of November.

Two had the livestream “digital pass” availability and next year I’ll use those options.

I’ve found it’s just as time consuming to attend a conference virtually and just as, or even more engaging, since social media is usually involved (networking is done through Tweets and Chats), but at least there are the benefits of no commute, attending in comfy clothes, and taking bathroom breaks without waiting in line, and no line for lunch either!

Have you ever attended multiple conferences in the same week?

Have you experienced attending a conference virtually, yet?

I ended up attending the full 3-day conference; I left the 1st 1-day conference early; I stayed for the entire second 1-day conference; I didn’t attend the third 1-day conference at all – I started to attend virtually, but my brain had had too much 15 minutes into the first speaker. I’ll be able to watch all of that last conference at any point in the future, though.

LisaJJackson_2014Lisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with businesses of all sizes. She loves researching topics, interviewing experts, and helping companies tell their stories. You can connect with Lisa on TwitterFacebookGoogle+, and LinkedIn.

The Ups and Downs of Attending Conferences

I just got back from a 3-day mystery writer’s conference (Julie mentioned it last week), and am now looking forward to 3 day-long conferences to attend this week.

I go through highs and lows when attending conferences, so I thought it’d make for a nice topic of conversation.

Whenever I’m set to go to a conference, the excitement builds as the start time gets closer. The weekend’s conference was mostly for fun — I love hanging with other mystery writers and readers and hearing about what everyone is interested in. The day-long conferences this week are mostly business-related, so I’m looking forward to mixing and mingling with professionals and learning new ways to enhance and build my business.

Each has (or had) the excitement build up.

Then when at a conference, there’s the peak high while settling in, saying ‘hi’ to people I recognize and introducing myself to people I don’t know yet.

Next comes the thrill at the ‘official start’ and through the first workshops, panels, and presentations.

Breaks and food are much needed throughout the day. Staying hydrated is important, but those bathroom breaks can be a bit crazy!

The excitement level wanes a bit as the afternoon progresses, but it’s still there. Learning and socializing can be mentally exhausting to different degrees.

At the end of the conference, there’s a mixed feeling (for me, anyway!) One that combines the realization that it’s officially The End (a bummer) and Oh-Good-Back-to-the-Routine and my own bed (uplifting). The mixed feeling can be delayed if carpooling or traveling with others part of the way, but it hits at one time or another.

Once back home, in order to recover and get back to real life, I find it’s important to rest. Naps are my best friend. 45-90 minutes can go a long way to resetting the body and mind. The challenge is shutting the mind off from thinking over everything that just happened, but it’s worth the time to decompress and get back to ‘normal.’

Most important of all, though, is to not lose track of people or details to follow-up on after a conference. I put those on the top of my desk as soon as I walk in the door.

Follow-up is very important, especially from business-related conferences. Letting connections fall by the wayside defeats the purpose of attending a conference.

There may be the emotional/energy roller coaster with attending events, but I wouldn’t change a thing. I’m never disappointed to learn something new or meet new people.

Do you find your energy levels going up and down when you go to conferences? 

LisaJJackson_2014Lisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with businesses of all sizes. She loves researching topics, interviewing experts, and helping companies tell their stories. You can connect with Lisa on TwitterFacebookGoogle+, and LinkedIn.

Meetup.com: A Resource for Writers and Small Business Owners

Meetup.com has been around for several years. If you’re familiar with it, you may only consider it for meeting up with like-minded people for outdoor activities; however it can also be a resource meeting other writers and meeting other small business owners.

Basically, meetup.com (obviously online) is focused on connecting people together within their local area. It’s a way to find like-minded people and actually meet them face-to-face.

From the website: Meetup’s mission is to revitalize local community and help people around the world self-organize. Meetup believes that people can change their personal world, or the whole world, by organizing themselves into groups that are powerful enough to make a difference.

New_Meetup_logo

The current stats for meetup.com include having 15.92 million members in 196 countries and 142,319 groups.

Anyone can create a meetup group and new groups pop up all the time.

It’s simple enough to create a profile and start searching for meetups in your local area for writing (you can get as specific as you want, too), within a certain amount of miles from your location. There are numerous small business-related groups too. Each group has its own parameters and guidelines.

When I search on “small business,” I find these groups within 25 miles of my location:

  • Businesses Supporting Businesses
  • Granite State Business Resource Network
  • Netlunch! Where Women Connect
  • Southern NH Community Connector

There are numerous types of writing-related groups within my immediate area. There are also groups for website designers, specific development software-focused groups (ie. Joomla, PHP, Google, java), entrepreneurs, investors, marketing, networking… it’s amazing what you can find.

A bonus to meetup.com is that if you’re traveling, you can easily do a search and find people you’d like to meet in person while on your travels. You’ll already have something in common and it’s a great way to spend some time in a new and/or unfamiliar location.

At the least, meetup.com can connect you with new people in your community you wouldn’t otherwise run into.

Why not check it out and see if you find it of any value to your writing goals or your business management aspirations. It’s free to sign up and search. Most groups I’ve dealt with are free to be involved with too. But it all depends on the group owner and the group’s purpose.

Have you connected with any like-minded business individuals through meetup.com?

 

Lisa J. JacksonLisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with businesses of all sizes. She enjoys meetup.com for finding local writers, bloggers, photographers, cyclists, and hikers. You can connect with her on Twitter, Facebook,  Google+, and LinkedIn.

If Networking Scares You, Put on the Matchmaker’s Cap

Do you cringe when someone suggests that you get out and ‘network’ with other writers, business owners, or creative types?

Networking can be intimidating, I know. As an introvert who excels at listening, networking can give me butterflies if I think it’s all about me and my business and needing to say the right thing to the right person.

I’ve found a trick that helps with the anxiety. I put on a matchmaker’s cap. I go to an event with the intent to focus on others instead of myself.

Here’s what it entails: focusing on learning about a person and his/her needs and then seeing if I can connect that person with the ‘right match’ by the end of the evening.

If you do this, people will learn about you and your experience. And if can connect two individuals with specific needs to the person they are looking for, they’ll remember you — and what you do. And when they hear about a writing need, you’ll be a referral they can give.

Networking takes time, here are some other matchmaker-like tips that may work:

  • If you don’t have much writing experience yet, become a source for referrals; be open to recommending a more experienced writer if your experience doesn’t fit a stated need — if that referral gets hired, ask to shadow the process as a way to learn and gain experience.
  • Provide useful information through your blog, website, or other social media outlets. You don’t have to know everything. If you find an article or interview another writer, share that with your audience — you’ll get known as a person with resources and/or a person who knows how to find information.
  • Find a writer to emulate to build your confidence and experience. You’re probably already subscribing to newsletters or RSS feeds and following some successful freelance writers — what is it about those people that attracts you to them? How do they keep your attention week after week? Start emulating them with your own content and build your own following.
  • Attend events that attract the types of businesses you want to work with. As you get to know someone, you’ll learn more about a particular company and be able to learn the correct contact name or department.
  • Graphic designers can be a great resource for freelance writers — as not all designers are writers and not all writers are visual. Finding a designer who works with companies you’d like to write for can pay dividends for both of you.

Consider this: if you were looking to hire a writer, would you contact folks you already know, or start cold calling random writers? You’d call people you know.

In all my years as a freelancer, the majority of job opportunities have come from relationships I’ve developed with people.

What do you think? Does networking seem a little less scary now?

Lisa J. JacksonLisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with businesses of all sizes. You can connect with her on FacebookTwitterGoogle+, and LinkedIn.

Author event in Bedford, NH, Oct 30th

There’s an event coming up in a couple of weeks that is mixing two of my passions — (dark and mysterious) fiction and New Hampshire.

Dick Hatin

Dick Hatin

An author friend of mine, Richard Hatin is celebrating the launch of his second novel by speaking and doing a book signing.

Dick is a fellow Granite State Ambassador (GSA) who volunteers his time to share his passion of NH with visitors to our wonderful state.

At this event, on October 30, from 6:30-8PM, Dick will be talking about his writing and his volunteerism.

About his novels:

EVIL AGREEMENT
Evil Agreement begins in Sutton, Vermont, in 1843, when a coven was formed comprising devil worshipers recruited by Satan s servant, the purely evil Moloch. When one coven member breaks rank, she and her family are slaughtered by coven members out of revenge. One infant child survives the massacre, however, and is hunted relentlessly by the coven, but without success. Now the descendants of that first coven are closing in on Aaron Bailey, the last descendant of that surviving infant. The Evil Agreement, the Malum Pactum, may at last be fulfilled!

The hunt is on as the coven seeks to capture Aaron to complete the coven and fulfill their ancestors hideous bargain with the devil. Meanwhile, Aaron must learn about his hidden past, forge new alliances, and, with aid from an unlikely source, perhaps have a chance to destroy the coven – and even live to tell about it!

DEADLY WHISPERS
“A dark and evil legend was born in the northeastern corner of Vermont hundred of years ago. An unspeakable act was perpetrated by a hunting party of Indians.  Later, their Chief and the tribe’s Medicine Man placed an eternal curse upon them for their crime.  Now doomed, to live only in the darkness beneath the earth, their anger and hatred of all humans, grows with each passing year. Then, in 1962, a group of young boys exploring a small cave, come face to face with this devolved and hideously evil creature, and a battle for their very lives begins.  Together, they may stand a chance, but divided, they will all surely all die.  If only…….”

The event is open to the public and is at Carlyle Place – Courville Communities, 40 Route 101, Bedford, NH.

I’ll be there, as will other local writers. It can be a great time to connect in person.

Agenda for the evening:

6:30 pm – Networking and Welcome

7:00 pm – Presentation

7:45 pm – 8:00 pm – Book signing | Personal Visits | Facility Tour

I know there will be treats, too! Since it’s Halloween, well, who knows how many ghosts might make a brief appearance, but I’m sure they will all be friendly spirits…right?

Lisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with businesses of all sizes. She loves writing about NH people, places, and activities. She writes fiction as Lisa Haselton, has an award-winning blog for book reviews and author interviews, and is on the staff of The Writer’s Chatroom where she gets to network with writing professionals on a weekly basis. You can connect with her on FacebookTwitter, and LinkedIn.

Enrichment

BFL          While working alone on a long project like a novel, it’s easy to feel lonely, disconnected from readers and isolated from peers. The best antidote I know for this malaise is a literary festival. And even though I’m not feeling particularly lonely, disconnected or isolated at this time, I am nevertheless looking forward to the annual Brattleboro Literary Festival, which takes place Thursday through Sunday, October third through sixth of this year.

Brattleboro, Vermont, is a literary town. It is home to at least four independent bookstores, despite a population of only 12,000. In addition, it’s home to the Brooks Memorial Library, a full-service resource for stories and information in all formats, from the old-school hardcover to the on-demand digital download.

Rudyard Kipling and Saul Bellow both lived in the hills around Brattleboro, hills that continue to be heavily populated by writers of all genres and styles. The area has a strong creative economy, and the literary arts thrive here, especially during the festival, when writers from away come to town.

As always, there are more readings than it is possible for any one person to attend, so I always pick and choose carefully. It’s tempting brattto attend only readings of fiction, but I’ve learned that hearing poets read aloud illuminates their work, allowing me an almost magical understanding of language. I also like to hear from at least one non-fiction writer. These researchers often tell the story of their research, a story that reveals their passion and perseverance, which is inspiring. And of course, I love to hear fiction, too. This year, I’m looking forward to hearing Megan Mayhew Bergman, Sophie Cabot Black, and Christopher Castellani. I haven’t yet decided between Patrick Donnelly, Amy Dryansky or Patricia Fargnoli. In addition to readings, there are panel discussions, workshops and other literary events – like so much candy.

Despite careful planning, I know from prior experience that no matter how carefully I schedule my days, I may not make it to all the readings I aim to. I may fall into an interesting conversation, wander into a different reading, change my mind at the last minute, or become engrossed by the books for sale at the River Garden, where publishers and book vendors display their wares.

Saturation is another possibility, and something I’ve experienced before. After listening to several wonderful readings followed by Q and As, I don’t want to hear another word. I just want to go home – and write.

In addition to the festival, Brattleboro is home to several good restaurants and some purveyors of fabulous local foods. If feasting on words leaves you hungry, stop in at any of the eateries along Main Street, Flat Street or Elliot. And if you want to see how food and drink are made, check out the Grafton Village Cheese Factory and Sapling Distillery, both less than a mile north of town on Route 30.

dll2013Deborah Lee Luskin read at the Brattleboro Literary Festival in 2010, when her award-winning novel Into the Wilderness was published.

Volunteering and paying it forward are great for business

Next week I’ll be celebrating 9 years of being matched with a wonderful young woman through Big Brothers Big Sisters. We met 2 days after her 9th birthday, and she turns 18 on Oct 2. It’s amazing how the years have flown.

Although our ‘official’ relationship ends, our personal one certainly won’t. She’s now a senior in high school and has aspirations of college and working with young children – perhaps even opening a day care center someday.

As we talked about our 9-year journey yesterday, she pointed out things she’s doing today because I shared the experiences with her, lent an ear when she needed it, or encouraged her to try something new.

Volunteering can influence any part of life, including building our businesses. Here are four benefits I thought about:

  • Discovering new relationships. When we volunteer, we meet new people by default, and we uncover new friendships and relationships as we stay involved with an organization.
  • Expanding our experiences. We can learn from every new experience, right? Even if we do something we already know how to do, if we’re doing it with different people, the experience might show us a new way to do that thing, and even broaden our knowledge unexpectedly. It’s great to be open-minded.
  • Giving our reputations a positive nudge. For the self-employed, everything we do can impact our business reputation. Volunteering in the community is a great way (I think) to show folks we want to share ourselves and get to know them personally. Perhaps those relationships turn into business or referrals in the future, but we each need to have time outside of our businesses to enjoy life.
  • Sharing our knowledge and paying it forward. I’ve always been a firm believer in sharing what I know. Giving back is one way to position ourselves in a good light. When we spend time and effort to benefit others, people see our empathetic side. Readily sharing what we know is a positive action that tends to stick with people. We can become the ‘go to’ person when a question comes up, and that goes a long way in building relationships.

Donating money to a non-profit organization to get your name out there as a sponsor and supporter is also a way to go, but I think donating your time and knowledge is what will keep you in business for the long term.

What benefits do you see in respect to volunteering in your community?

I didn’t fully appreciate all the benefits to volunteering as a Big when I started — I hadn’t thought about what I would get back in the process — but I know I’m a better person for the experience and this young lady has taught me as much as I have taught her. It’s an incredible gift that keeps on giving.

Lisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys New England’s crisp fall mornings and warm sunny days. She loves writing about NH people, places, and activities. She writes fiction as Lisa Haselton, has an award-winning blog for book reviews and author interviews, and is on the staff of The Writer’s Chatroom where she gets to network with writing professionals on a weekly basis. You can connect with her on FacebookTwitterLinkedIn, and Biznik.

Hands-on research for local journalists and mystery writers

If you write about your community, or if you’re a mystery writer, a great resource (if you have it) to gain insight and make contacts is to take advantage of a local citizen’s police academy.

Last fall I participated in a 10-week program in my current town. I’ve also participated in 2 prior academies in a town and city I lived in before. The experiences and connections are priceless.

I’ve found that academies are generally offered in the fall, but depending on the size of the community(ies) the academy is focused on, there could be multiple offerings during a calendar year. A neighboring city offers them twice a year, for instance.

Start with the Web: visit your local police department’s (PD) website to see if there is an academy. If you don’t find any information, give the department a call on its business line and ask.

Procedures vary, of course, but I’ve always had to go to the PD to fill out an application. Each time it has been a regular job application that wants high school, college, areas of study, job history (complete with start and end dates and hourly wage) – you know the type – 4 pages with lots of boxes to fill in. Applying can be intimidating if you over think it. Filling in the basics is good enough, since you are not applying for a job.

You also have to sign a form allowing the PD to perform a criminal background check.

Academies are generally capped at about 30 people, depending on the size of their conference room I think! But, most academies like to offer hands-on classes and want to keep the classes manageable. The last academy I attended only had 11 participants. The earlier academies had 30-35 participants. It’s great to have a small class because it gives everyone more time for hands-on work (there is usually a lot of show and tell) and also more time to ask questions.

All academies I’ve participated in have been no cost to participants, are offered one night a week for 8-12 weeks, and run for 2.5-3 hours each evening. It’s common for participants to volunteer to bring in goodies each week to go with the PD’s offering of coffee, water, and candy – one academy always had Dunkin’ Munchkins on hand.

During the weeks of the academy, you will meet officers at all levels of experience: newbies as well as those ready to retire. You’ll meet beat cops and detectives, lawyers, child advocates, emergency responders, volunteers, clergy, and more. You’ll learn various behind-the-scenes procedures and processes, and sometimes, if you’re lucky, get to participate in ride-a-longs with an officer on duty.

Gun Jam 6-8-02I particularly enjoy learning forensic processes (small towns don’t have a lot to work with), meeting canine officers and seeing how they work, and I love going to the shooting range for target practice. (That’s me during my 2002 class.)

Citizen police academies give you a different perspective of your community and can add depth to your non-fiction or fiction writing.

Have you ever attended a citizen police academy? 

Lisa J. JacksonLisa J. Jackson partners with businesses seeking to express themselves with words. She loves New Hampshire and is completing several 5Ks in 2013 as a way to get off the couch and away from the screen. She wasn’t a runner until now, and is thinking that someday she wants to complete the Alcatraz Triathlon. You can connect with her on LinkedInBiznikFacebook, and Twitter