How do you control your nerves the first time you give a speech?

Many bloggers and freelancers get public speaking opportunities after they become well known. If it’s your first time giving a speech, how do you control your nerves? What tips can you follow?

You should be excited about your first public speaking opportunity. And it is quite normal to be nervous about giving a speech.

There are several reasons public speakers get nervous. You are standing up in front of a room full of people, and all the attention is on you. You’re afraid of doing something stupid, like tripping over a wire, getting your notes mixed up, or leaving your fly open. You’re worried your PowerPoint won’t work. You’re worried the audience won’t like what you have to say. You’re worried your voice will come out as a little squeak instead of loudly and confidently.

These are common reasons for public speaking anxiety, but remember you have several things in your favor. First, your audience can’t see how nervous you are. You are probably the only one who notices how shaky your hands are, or how wobbly your voice sounds. You read more into your nervousness than the audience does.

Second, your audience wants you to succeed! Think about it: They are spending their precious time, and possibly money if they’re paying to see you, and they want a good return for their investment. They aren’t coming to see you flop.

A third point going for you is that no one has ever died of embarrassment. At least, not that I know of. When I spoke in college classrooms, I tripped over my own feet a few times and tried technology that didn’t work when the big moment came, with skeptical students staring at me. You know what? The very fact that I’m still here to write this blog means I lived through it. And you will, too.

Public speaking anxiety

Here are some tips on how you can control your public speaking anxiety.

There are several ways you can control your nerves. Before your speech, learn about your audience and select a topic you’re familiar with. Start preparing right away. This gives you plenty of time to rehearse. Do your speech out loud, and simulate the real speech conditions. This means standing up, moving and gesturing, and practicing with your notes. I like to use a presentation clicker with PowerPoint, and I would practice my slides before each class lecture, with notes and clicker in hand, to make sure everything worked right.

Breathe and think calmly. The more you say things like, “Omigod, I have to give a speech, and I’m so nervous!” the more nervous you’ll be. But if you say, “Yeah, I have to give a speech, but I think I’ll do fine,” the more positive you’ll be.

You can also use the image of yourself doing well. Picture yourself in front of the room, speaking perfectly and eloquently, and the audience applauding enthusiastically when you’re done. Reassure yourself that you’ve prepared and rehearsed, and that you can do this.

Finally, learn to use your anxiety to fuel your energy level before your speech. Channel your nerves into extra enthusiasm and excitement about your performance. If you own your nervousness, think about all you have going for you, and prepare well, you’ll do fine!

Readers, what do you think? Do you have any other advice for owning and controlling your public speaking nerves? Leave a comment and tell us!

How do you know if video or text is the best media for your topic?

Text video comparison

Is text or video best for your message? Each has its advantages and disadvantages.

Are you a blog writer who is thinking about adding video to your plans? If you don’t have any experience with different media, it can be hard to decide how to put text and video to best use. What are some tips to decide what content to put in writing and what to put on video?

In online communication, you have several choices of media to use to convey your message. Two of the biggest ones used are text and video. Which is better? Each medium has its advantages and disadvantages. You have to determine which one is best for your message.

When I was teaching, I used to discuss with my classes which medium they preferred. The room was usually split between print and broadcast. After we discussed the plusses and minuses of each medium, we concluded that one is not inherently better than another. You want to choose the type of media that is best for your message.

To help you decide what to put in text versus video, let’s compare those two media.

With text, you can give details, depth and context. You can explain. The reader is able to take their time to digest what you’ve written. The reader can also pace themselves and jump ahead or back in your story or post. The disadvantage of text is that you can’t show the reader what you’re talking about. You have to hope your explanation is enough to help the reader visualize your topic.

Video’s main advantage is that it is alive and real because it shows people and images. It shows the viewer what’s happening. It is the most accessible and least demanding of all media because it doesn’t require much imagination. It’s good for showing actions, emotions and experiences. However, the disadvantage of video is that it’s not as good for in-depth explanation.

Let’s say your blog is on food and cooking. If you want to do a post about the importance of good nutrition or an analysis of diet myths, choose text so you can explain. If you want to do a post about proper use of knives or how to make chipotle tartar sauce, choose video so you can show your audience.

An important point about online communication is that search engines still look for text. Even if you use video for your topic, you still need a headline and a few sentences of explanatory text so the search engines will find it.

Readers, have you added video to your blogging plans? Let us know in the comments.

What if you don’t know everything about your niche before you start blogging?

Do you want to start a blog about a subject you know a little about, but have a lot to learn? Are you afraid you don’t know enough to keep a blog going? How can you learn more and keep your enthusiasm up?

If you’re starting a blog in niche that’s new to you, you need to be like a journalist! When I was in journalism, I encountered this all the time. I would be assigned a story on a topic I knew nothing about. I would have to research and find background information so I could understand the topic and explain it to readers.

Many types of writers, not just journalists, have a sense of inquiry and curiosity. They wonder. They ask questions, and they seek answers. If you’re new to blogging, and fairly new to your niche, this is what you have to do.

Let’s say you’re a beginning guitar player, and you want to broaden your blog to learning all musical instruments. Some topics you might want to research are:

Blog niche

You don’t have to know everything about your niche before you start a blog. You just need curiosity and passion.

  • other common instruments that are good to learn,
  • taking lessons vs. being self-taught,
  • playing solo vs. playing in a band,
  • the benefits of performing,
  • and the best ways to learn how to read sheet music.

You might find resources in your area and share them with readers. You would also make your blog personal by sharing your own musical journey.

Whatever your niche is, you need to always be searching for new content related to it. You need to stay current and search for new trends.

To be a knowledgeable blogger, it doesn’t matter if you know everything there is to know about your niche before you start. What matters is that you are fascinated by your niche. If you aren’t fascinated enough to stick with your niche long-term, your readers won’t be, either. But if you are fascinated by your topic, your passion will drive you to seek new knowledge about it. Then you have new information to give your readers. That’s what will sustain your blog.

Readers, how do you learn more about your niche and keep your enthusiasm up? Let us know in the comments!

How do you write conversational copy that reaches your ideal reader?

Ideal blog reader

To find the right conversational tone for your blog, determine your ideal reader and imagine him or her as you write your blog posts.

Have you seen some blogs and websites that are really formal in their writing? And others that sound like they’re talking to a five-year-old? How can you find the right tone for your blog?

The key to better blog writing is to connect with your audience without sounding like an amateur. When you write your blog posts, you want to strike a balance between copy that is conversational, but not too casual or breezy.

Here’s a tip: Picture your reader. Maybe it’s someone you know, such as your best friend or a family member. Maybe it’s a composite of your ideal reader, the kind of person you’d like to reach.

Ask yourself these questions: Is your reader a total idiot, or do they know nothing about your niche? Does your reader know a lot about your niche?

Your readers are probably somewhere between those two extremes. They are likely interested enough in your niche to know something about it, but they don’t know everything, which is why they read your blog. Readers won’t appreciate being talked to like they are children, but they also won’t understand a lot of jargon and technical terms. The only exception is if you are trying to reach a very “insider” industry or technical audience.

Now, write directly to your ideal reader. A couple of ways to make your writing more conversational is to use second person – you. Another way is to use contractions. We use contractions in normal conversation, so use them in your blog writing.

You were probably taught in English and writing classes not to use you or contractions because they’re too informal. But formal, academic writing has no place on a blog.

Consider this:

When one writes a blog post, one must keep one’s reader in mind. The reader will not understand if the writer does not match the tone of the post to the reader’s level of understanding.

See what I mean?

I’ve been in academia, and I’ve written in that tone before. The neutral “one” and writing out all contractions has a place in academic writing, but it really sounds stiff on a blog. If I wrote all of my posts that way, you would probably never come back. And I want you to come back.

To keep your readers coming back, you have to respect their intelligence, but keep in mind that they’re there to learn something from you. If you can strike this balance, you’ll have content that is neither too informal, nor too high-brow, to reach your audience.

Readers, how do you find the right tone for your blog posts? Got any other tips to share? Let us know in the comments.

How can you develop a writing style that appeals to your audience?

As a blogger, you may have heard that you should develop your own writing style, and that your style needs to be appropriate to the audience you’re writing for. But what exactly is style, and how can you develop yours? Style is a squishier part of writing than the rules of spelling, grammar and punctuation. Rules are objective; if you don’t follow them, you’re wrong. But style is more subjective than the grammar rules. Style in writing usually means your voice, your tone. If you’re being yourself in your writing, especially in personal or opinion writing, your style should come naturally.

Style-quote

Your blog writing style is your voice and tone. It is more subjective than grammar rules.

When I was teaching college media writing, I had to separate a student’s writing style from their grammar, punctuation and spelling. A sentence might be technically correct, make sense and moved their story forward. But if was just worded differently than the way I would have worded it, then they were expressing their individual style, and I left it alone. My husband and I run into this when we proofread each other’s work. Since I come from a journalism background, my writing style is more straightforward and brief than his. He uses more metaphors and longer sentences than I do. If I have a comma in the wrong place or a word missing from a sentence, those need to be corrected. If he uses it’s the contraction when he means its the possessive, that’s an error (one he makes frequently and admits to). However, if I find myself just thinking of different wording than he uses, then we are talking about style. Style covers some areas that you need to watch out for that might bog down your writing or affect your clarity. These include wordiness, redundancy and clichés. They also include using active instead of passive voice and awkward or weak words. If you are using the best and strongest words you know and editing your writing for wording problems, then you are on your way to developing your own best style. I think some confusion over the term style comes from the fact that it is also applied to style systems. That is, Associated Press (AP) Style is what journalists use. American Psychological Association (APA) or Modern Language Association (MLA) Style is what college students and academic journals use. Chicago Style is used for theses and dissertations. These style systems tell you whether you should spell out numbers or use numerals, abbreviate state names or spell them out, and how to cite sources in text. They tell you about many other areas as well, but I don’t have room in a blog post to talk about them all. If you’ve ever used one of these style guides, you know what I mean. These style systems govern rules, but they don’t necessarily govern your personal style. Readers, how have you developed your own style? Or is this something you’re still working on? Let us know in the comments.

Use visual images to attract your audience to your blog posts

Are you a blogger in a niche that isn’t naturally photo-friendly? Do you struggle with whether you should add an image to every post? Why isn’t text enough?

Visuals in blog posts

People are drawn to images, so you want to use them with your blog posts. There are several types of visuals you can use.

Well, you’ve heard the cliché: “A picture is worth a thousand words.” In this case, it’s true. People are drawn to visual images faster than they are drawn to text.

When I was in journalism, I learned that readers look at the photo first, then the caption, then the headline, then they finally get to the story. We were encouraged to have a photo, graphic, pulled quote or bulleted list with every story. It not only broke up the text, but it also gave the story a visual anchor.

In the same way, you want to give your blog posts a visual anchor. A photo, graphic or quote related to your story or post can bring it to life for the readers. It can frame your central point in a visual way that is easy for your readers to see. Think about sports stories: The NCAA championship game story means a whole lot more to a reader when it has a picture of the winning shot, showing the effort and emotion of the players.

In online communication, visuals are also highly shareable. All of the major social networks emphasize visual content. Pinterest is the most obvious one, because it is based on pinning and repinning visual content. But Facebook, Twitter and Google+ posts with visuals also show increased traffic. They get a lot more shares and retweets than posts without visuals.

I’ve also seen the rule that you should add at least one visual to every blog post. I try to follow this myself, but my topic of online communication isn’t very photo-friendly. I’ve searched for related photos through the PhotoDropper plug-in in WordPress. But I don’t often like what I find, or I feel like I would be posting it just to have a picture with my post. I don’t want to post a photo just to be following a rule; I want to give my audience something truly related to my posts. So I have been creating my own visuals.

Creating my own visuals not only ensures they are directly related to the post, they also avoid another problem: copyright. When you use photos you’ve found online, you have to be careful of copyright restrictions. PhotoDropper finds copyright-free photos, but if you find photos through a search engine, you have to be careful. For example, most of the photos found on Google images are not copyright-free.

Readers, do you think images are important? What types of images do you add to your blog posts? Let us know in the comments!

Why do you need to watch for errors, and how do they hurt your credibility?

Do you see errors in a blog post and wonder if the author has bothered to proofread? One or two errors may not be bothersome, but how many errors does it take before you’re distracted from the message? Do you have a hard time believing a blogger’s message, and do errors really hurt credibility?

Blog errors

If you have a lot of errors in your blog and it doesn’t look like you’ve edited your posts, you can lose credibility and your potential readers will hit the back button.

When there are obvious errors on a website or blog post, the credibility of the author’s or company’s message is damaged. As an experienced writer and editor, I’m likely to notice if there are glaring errors in a blog post or on a website. Surely, other people do too. If a lot of people are hitting the back button instead of staying engaged with your content, it can harm your ability to gain an audience.

This is because credibility is built on the trust an audience has in the source of information. If your information or facts are not accurate, then of course your audience won’t trust you. Even if your facts are accurate and well-researched, but your writing is full of errors, your readers will find it hard to stick with your content. Readers will start counting the errors instead of concentrating on the message. If you didn’t bother to proofread, why should your audience wade through the errors to get your message?

There are several possible reasons so many errors occur online. Maybe it’s the urge to publish first and fast or the lack of editors in news organizations. Maybe the writer has been out of school for so many years he or she has forgotten the fundamentals of grammar.

Most people also don’t point out errors online. You might be thinking you’re producing easily readable content. Instead, you’re letting errors get through and your potential audience is quietly backing away and finding a better written site.

Poor writing may also hurt you in search engine rankings. I saw an article a few weeks ago that said Bing will rank pages with poor spelling and grammar lower than pages with no errors. Bing isn’t as popular as Google (no one is), and so far, Google has not taken such a stand. If they ever do, we will all have to be on notice to correct our errors as best we can.

Bing’s Senior Product Manager Duane Forrester wrote a post about Bing’s stance. His argument is well explained, but I noticed several sentence fragments and punctuation errors, and a couple of spelling errors in his post. Forrester’s words apply not only to himself, but to all of us who communicate online: “Mistakes happen and in the end, it’s still humans editing things, so it’s completely plausible that the odd typo gets through. … Like it or not, we’re judged by the quality of the results we show.”

Readers, what is your impression of a blog when you see many errors? Do you think it harms the author’s credibility? Let us know in the comments.

Do you communicate online? Are you a contemporary communicator?

Contemporary Communicator

Contemporary communicators use online methods, such as a blog, podcast or video, to convey a message. Welcome to my blog community!

To kick off this blog, let me explain what the name is all about, and what it means for you.

First, contemporary means events and changes happening in our modern times. Since this is a communication blog, those changes apply to modern communication media. This mostly means blogs, websites and social media, such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest and others.

Second, a communicator is someone who communicates a message to an audience through the spoken or written word. This has traditionally meant print and broadcast media, and journalists who work for major news outlets. But today, we also communicate through online methods. Many communicators operate alone – the online blogger and entrepreneur.

Putting these two concepts together, we get a contemporary communicator. This person uses online methods, such as a blog, podcast or video, to convey a message. Contemporary communicators also use social media to promote their message and establish themselves as an authority in their niche. Contemporary communicators pay attention to how a message comes across to an intended audience. This means not just that a message is targeted to the demographic you are trying to reach. It also means the writing mechanics of your message.

Maybe you operate alone, or you don’t have much help at your workplace, or you work for a business that is just figuring out this online and social media stuff. If so, it can be hard to know if your message is really coming across to your audience. This is where I can help you, and hopefully, we’ll grow into a blogging community where we can help each other.

Come back twice a week for tips and advice on how you can write and communicate better online. If you have any questions, write to me. Respectful commentary on my posts – of either agreement or disagreement – are welcome and encouraged.