How to stay on track this semester by EMU PRSSA

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This comes from Eastern Michigan University’s Public Relations Student Society of America — Sept. 9, 2015

By: Katie Gerweck

It’s the beginning of a new school year, and for me it will be my last. I’m heading into my senior year, which means my schedule is full of tough classes, PRSSA duties, and work. Although I know it will be overwhelming at times, I’m going to try to stay ahead of the game this year and not fall behind. Although it can be tricky to juggle your different responsibilities, there are some steps you can take now that will help the rest of your semester go more smoothly. It’s not too late to form good habits and be prepared!

  1. Make note of important dates and request them off work now.

Whether it’s an event for the club you’re in, an important family event, or a meeting for your second job, there are probably a couple days this semester that you’ll need off from work. Put them in the calendar in your phone or your planner so you won’t forget and request those days off from work as soon as possible to make sure you can attend.

  1. Get a planner and use it!

A lot of students start out diligently noting homework assignments in their planner, only to abandon the practice two weeks in. But keeping a planner is a great way to help you keep track of assignments and remind you of upcoming deadlines. Check out Rachel’s post on how to organize your to-do list for some helpful hints.

  1. Ask other students about the classes you’re taking.

If it’s early in the semester, it can sometimes be difficult to know what to expect from certain classes. How difficult is the class going to be? How does the professor run the course? Do you really need the textbook, or can you save $100 and just use your notes? If you’re not sure, find a student who has already taken the class and ask them for advice. You’ll feel more prepared.

4.Log off from social media.

Social media and websites like YouTube and Netflix can be distracting when you’re trying to get work done, and it’s hard to find the willpower to pull yourself away. If you know social media is going to be a problem for you, it might be time to take drastic measures. Before working on a big project, have your roommate change the passwords on your most distracting sites and keep them hidden from you until you get your work done.

Katie Gerweck is a senior majoring in public relations with a minor in journalism. She is the editor-in-chief for EMU PRSSA, and also works as a copy editor for the Eastern Echo. She was the copy chief for the Echo during the summer of 2015.

EMU PRSSA | September 9, 2015

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How to unplug on vacation

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The first step is to recognize there is a problem. Here are some steps to take to get into the mindset as carried in the Courier-Post on July 23, 2015. It is by-lined by Shannon Eblen


Plan ahead: Schedule out-of-office emails and assign a main point of contact in your absence.

Limit your availability, so there are only certain times when colleagues can contact you.

Designate “no phone” times for yourself or for your family. Better yet, leave the devices at home. Only one family member needs a phone in case of emergencies.

Schedule activities where you can’t use your phone, but try not to overschedule on vacation, as that can also create stress.

Delete apps that you will be tempted to check, such as work email, Twitter or Facebook.

Try shooting vacation photos with an old-fashioned camera instead of your smartphone. or @CP_SHANNONBLEN

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Strategies: 18 tips and tricks for daily business life

Rhonda Abrams has done it again. Here are her top tips — “Little things matter to a successful operation. Abrams contact info is at the bottom of this week’s blog. [To comment: larry at larrylitwin dot com]

 Running a business means taking care of lots of little things. Sure, success depends on the big things, such as your strategy, marketing and technology. But sometimes, we could use a bit of guidance on how to better handle the little things to make our business lives easier.

Here are a few tips and tricks learned in my years of business:

• Develop and practice your “elevator pitch,” a brief sentence to describe what your business is all about. Use it when you introduce yourself to others, at business mixers, meeting with prospects. You’re more likely to land a customer and get referrals if you can clearly describe what you do.

• If you’re giving a customer or client a discount, let them know it! When you send the bill, be certain to indicate the regular price and then the voluntary discount you’re giving them. That reminds them they’re getting a special deal.

• If you get more than 50% of your business from one customer or distribution channel, diversify. Don’t become overly dependent on one source for your long-term economic well-being.

• Think of the long-term value of the customer, not just the one-time transaction. It’s almost always better to retain a happy customer than to make a big fuss over a small issue in dispute.

• If you’re a consultant, don’t nickel-and-dime clients with charges for small, routine expenses, such as overnight delivery, parking, copies and such. Figure those costs into your hourly or project fees. You’d be surprised at how many clients who never blink at being billed $100 an hour get peeved by being charged $12 for an overnight delivery.

• Make it easy for customers to pay you. Accept credit cards and get the money in your bank fast, often the day after processing. If you’re on the go, get a card reader that attaches to your mobile device from Square Up, Intuit GoPayment, or PayPal Here.

• Get a mileage-earning credit card for business purchases you now pay for by check. Then IMMEDIATELY pay off the credit card bill. Ask your vendors if they accept credit cards. You’ll get miles and extend your payment period.

• If you travel frequently, look for hotels that feature lobbies set up for working and meeting so you can stay close and cut down on travel time. And look for hotels with free Wi-Fi and, ideally, free hot breakfast.

• Build a database of your current and former customers or clients. Get in the habit of tracking every customer interaction, not just orders, and their specific needs and concerns. Then you can personalize your offers, emails, and rewards. And be sure to remember their birthday.

• Whenever possible, expand the number of contacts you have at each client company. Other divisions may have additional opportunities. And your current contacts may change jobs. Get to know additional decision-makers.

• Join your trade association. Participate in the local chapter if such exists. Attend a national industry convention at least every two to three years. Subscribe to and read an industry magazine or e-mail newsletter.

• Keep a list of your best referral sources and best customers where you can see it frequently. Contact these people at least every couple of months.

• Fire bad clients. A few reasons to end a client relationship: they don’t pay their bills, are unethical, want you to take on work you’re uncomfortable performing, they soak up all your time and energy, they make you hate your business.

• View customer complaints as an opportunity to learn how to improve your product or service rather than merely criticism.

• Keep as little stock on hand as possible and avoid waste. Don’t purchase something just because it’s a good deal. Inventory is money in a different form.

• Never compete on price alone. Make sure you have other competitive advantages that make your customers want to purchase from you even if a competitor undercuts your price.

• If you work from a home office, set office hours. Set time aside for personal and family life.

• Do everything with integrity. Treat everyone fairly and honestly, including employees, customers, and vendors. Don’t rationalize bad behavior by saying, “It’s only business.” Be someone worthy of respect.

Among Rhonda Abrams‘ recent books is the 6th edition of Successful Business Plan: Secrets & Strategies. Register for her free newsletter at Twitter:@RhondaAbrams.

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4 traits of great PR pros

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From Ragan’s PR Daily

by Tor Constantino (Jan. 26, 2015)

Every leader, entrepreneur and business owner needs to communicate their visions to stakeholders.

If a vision is complex or the contextual environment is noisy, it’s a good idea to hire a PR adviser to help get the message out.

The table stakes for a good PR practitioner are pretty standard: deep media relationships are a plus; experience working in a newsroom is helpful; strong writing skills are mandatory; managing and developing a solid team is a must; event management is good; social media savvy is a requirement.

Good PR personnel need to have each of those boxes checked, but there are four additional skills that separate great PR professionals from good ones.

1. Speaking truth to power.

Most people are intimidated by power and tend to fear those individuals who are higher on the organizational hierarchy. Surprisingly, that fact holds true even for people who already hold positions of influence and power, such as corporate or senior VPs. Higher-ups often intimidate them.

On more than one occasion I’ve witnessed every direct report of a CEO refuse to share with the leader some kind of bad news because they were afraid the top executive would figuratively “kill the messenger.”

The best PR folks need to be fearless in those meetings, willing to deliver the bad news as well as a positive strategy to respond or overcome the stated challenge.

Related: Why Investor Relations and Public Relations Should Work in Harmony

2. Ability to compartmentalize issues.

This is tougher to achieve than it seems. Every organization faces some type of crisis at some time or another. The challenge occurs when multiple crises occur and begin to overlap each other.

Some issues, such as civil lawsuits or regulatory investigations, become protracted and extend over years like a smoldering fire you can’t extinguish. Other issues, such as a data breach, flare up to intense heat instantly like a grease fire. They seem to go dormant, only to flare up later when least expected.

These critical situations require messaging and affected audiences to be effectively managed. The best PR advisors can “strategically ignore” those important issues when the immediate urgency of the crisis subsides. The issues are still there, but the expert communicators are able to still operate at peak performance and deliver day-to-day results, despite the slow or hot burn of an unyielding crisis event.

3. Seeing around corners.

When it comes to media relations, this particular skill takes years to develop. The best PR advisers in this regard tend to be former journalists, editors or producers.

It’s tricky to predict the exact trajectory a story will take prior to its publication or broadcast. However, the most effective PR counselors have a strong idea based on the type of questions asked, the manner and tone in which those questions were presented, other “news makers” the reporter interviewed to round out the story, and a good understanding of how the journalist covered the topic in the past.

Those insights equip the adviser to appropriately establish the expectations of the leadership team to help prepare for the story’s tone, message, impact and relevance. It also helps the internal team develop a ready response if needed.

Related: The Venerable Press Release Remains the Cornerstone of Public Relations

4. Powerfully persuading.

Leaders and entrepreneurs crave control, but one of the things they cannot control completely is the media coverage they engender. Whenever a negative story appears about an organization or executive, the nearly universal reaction is to issue a press release or letter to the editor refuting the “errors” of the article.

There is a time and place for that type of response, but it’s rare.

The direct response from the company tends to land flat and typically emboldens hardcore reporters to continue squeezing for more of the story. I personally know a handful of investigative reporters from my journalism days who kept binders on their desks of those flaming corporate responses. The innately contrarian DNA of journalists tends to view these authoritative responses as evidence they’re doing something right.

The best PR advisers are able to persuade the executive team from taking that course of action, or at least consider other options, such as enlisting a trusted third-party to respond on the organization’s behalf.

If you’re a leader or entrepreneur who wants the best reputation management to protect your organization’s brand, make sure you raise these areas with your communications advisor to help determine if the individual is great or merely good.

Related: Generate Great PR on a Shoestring Budget With These 5 Tips

Tor Constantino is a former journalist and best-selling author, blogger and PR pro. A version of this article originally appeared on Copyright © 2014 Entrepreneur Media, Inc. All rights reserved.

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Rhonda Abrams — 10 Small Biz Resolutions You Can Keep

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Rhonda Abrams always has excellent advice for strategic communicators. These resolutions first appeared in USA Today on Jan. 2, 2015.

What do you want to achieve in 2015 for your small business? The beginning of January is the time for New Year’s resolutions, so here are my top 10 resolutions for small business owners and entrepreneurs.

1. Focus on recurring revenue.

You may be thrilled to find any source of income, but some types of customers contribute more significantly to your long-term financial well-being. Focus foremost on customers who have the need and capacity to buy from you repeatedly rather than one-off purchasers.

2. Limit your time on social media.

Social media can eat up your day even when it’s for a business purpose. Establish a time limit—I’d say 30 minutes maximum—schedule it for a specific time each day and then click off and get back to work. To limit your time on social media, schedule your social media posts in advance using a social media management tool. We use Hootsuite. Others are Buffer andTweetDeck.

3. Put your electronic devices away.

Recent studies have shown that using an electronic light-emitting device (such as a tablet or smartphone) before you go to sleep at night significantly reduces both the quality and quantity of your sleep. You need your rest to be at your best. So if you want to relax before bed, pick up a good old-fashioned print book. (You remember those, don’t you?)

4. Get more help.

Your business may not growing sufficiently because you are trying to do too much yourself. It’s difficult to find good employees and contractors, but a great worker can truly help you grow your company significantly. Examine your operation for routine tasks that take too much of your time, and look for areas of business growth you need outside expertise to achieve.

5. Fully fund your retirement.

Sure, we all think we’re going to sell our small business one day and have enough to buy a beach house in Hawaii. But don’t bet everything on that. Instead, every year make sure you put as much money as you can in a retirement account—certainly the full amount that you can shelter from current taxes.

6. Take care of your health.

Health is basic to all our other endeavors. If your body and mind are not healthy, you won’t have the energy or capability to achieve business success. Make sure you carve out enough time to exercise, eat healthfully and get enough sleep. These are business necessities, not just personal indulgences.

7. Keep learning.

Attend conferences and workshops. Take classes. Watch instructional videos. Read. Your business depends on your brain, so make sure you are continually expanding it. The world is changing, technology is improving and your industry is evolving, so you need to know what’s going on to constantly improve your skill set.

8. Check your financial statements regularly.

In the crush of work—or from the fear of finding out bad news—many entrepreneurs hesitate to look too deeply and regularly into their financial reports: profit and loss, cash flow, aging accounts receivable and payable. Every week, perhaps on Monday or Friday, spend at least 30 minutes reviewing your financials.

9. Plan your day.

Every morning make a “to do” list and keep it in front of you. Keep it reasonable and (mostly) achievable. Use a project management tool to stay on top of your tasks. In our office, we use Asana; others use Basecamp. Use these tools not only to track your tasks, but the progress of your staff and consultants.

10. Send out your invoices.

You can’t get paid if you don’t send a bill, yet many self-employed consultants are too busy to get their invoices out on time. Better yet, accept credit card payments at the time of service or sales to eliminate invoicing.

Here’s wishing you and your small business a happy, healthy and prosperous 2015.

Copyright, Rhonda Abrams, 2015

This article originally ran in USA Today on January 2, 2015

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Eastern Michigan University PRSSA — Shares 2014 National Conference Take-aways

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Eastern Michigan University Dec. 5, 2005 blog. Lots of good information.

Raven’s recap of PRSSA 2014 National Conference

Posted on December 5, 2014 by EMU PRSSA | Leave a comment

In October, I had the wonderful opportunity to travel to our nation’s capital. It wasn’t for pleasure but I did have a blast. I traveled to Washington D.C. to attend the 2014 Public Relations Student Society of America National Conference. The site seeing was absolutely amazing and getting to relearn some of our nation’s history was enlightening. Through the five days of various student development sessions, networking opportunities, and breakout sessions, I learned a large handful of things.

Here my top 10 takeaways from the conference. (In no particular order)

  1. Say “Hello”

Being all by myself in a place that I’ve never been to was scary yet liberating. If I wanted to be around people during our evenings out, I had to actively meet people and establish relationships. Don’t just stay in one place, get out and say “hello” to a stranger every once in a while. You never know who you’ll meet.

  1. Peers can be mentors

Having a mentor is almost essential to the way our society works. There’s just something about getting to know someone who was once in your shoes. Professionals are good to have but peers were also once in your place. They know what you’re going through differently than a professional may because they were there very recently. Don’t be afraid to reach out to someone only a few years older than you.

  1. It’s the Era of Engagement

Keynote speaker and President of Powell Tate, Pam Jenkins, believes now is our time to do stuff. “We have to do something because we have the skills to make a difference,” says Jenkins. The engagement means that people no longer turn to experts when they need something. They turn towards the people. Be the people who lead others towards good.

  1. Develop your skills, but understand your weaknesses

We can’t all be graphic designers, video editors, copy editors, social media gurus, etc. Take a minute ant think about what you do well. Develop those skills even more! If you can’t do everything then you might as well be good at what you can do. And at the very least, respect and understand the people who are good at your weaknesses.

  1. Teachers are right!

The relationship between public relations practitioners and journalists is built on trust. Teachers tell you that the relationship is built on trust and a good relationship and they are absolutely right. During a breakaway session, I learned that a lot happens off the record so you have to truly develop those relationship to get to that point. Understand that everyone has a boss breathing down their necks and definitely respect everyone.

  1. You’re making your connections now

The people that I’ve met at the conference and the people I’m meeting in classes now are going to be my coworkers, bosses, and employees years later. People are so concerned having networking events but not many realize that getting to know classmates is hugely important.

  1. Three Bone Approach

To succeed, three bones are necessary. A funny bone. A back bone. A wish bone.

  1. Life is like gym class

You fail if you don’t show up but if you do then you at least get a “B”. Go to events. Go to PRSSA. Even go to PRSA events and meetings. Get involved and you’ll be just fine.

  1. Agency versus Corporation

Both are every good options. Weigh the possibilities for both. Take a look at your personality type as well and see which works best for yourself. Think about the environment you really want to in.

        10. Move people towards action

Simply telling people how things are isn’t going to get them moving. We have to move people from awareness to action. Speaking of which, comment below with any recent takeaways that you have learned from a conference, networking opportunity, or class. You can even comment with what you want to learn from PRSSA throughout our meetings next semester!

If you want any more information on the National Conference or even upcoming National Assembly or Regional Conference then don’t hesitate to take action and email EMU!

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Workplace productivity killers – but first…

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This week’s blog is a potpourri. Watching last week’s baseball Hall of Fame ceremonies was inspirational. Here are just a couple of quotes. Tony LaRussa of the cardinals said he always preached, “team, tenacity and toughness.”

The Braves’ Tom Glavine thanked his parents for “setting the example” he and his siblings followed and for giving him as much time as he needed – getting him where he had to go so he could learn and play the game.
Joe Torre of the Yankees, Braves and Cardinals stressed to his players “It is not just ability, but also character and unselfishness.” He said he never hesitated to make phone calls on players’ behalf. “When people know your name they return your phone calls,” he said. Like LaRussa, Torre would tell his players it is about “chasing your dreams and putting the team above yourself. It takes patience and persistence.” Torre still tells young players something Hall of Famer, the late Tony Gwynn once told him: “All I ever tried to do was play the game the right way.”

There was so much more, but these highlights stood out.

Transitioning to workplace productivity, CareerBuilder lists these 10 “productivity killers”:

  • Cellphone and texting
  • Gossip
  • Internet surfing
  • Snack breaks or smoke breaks
  • Noisy co-workers
  • Meetings
  • Email
  • Co-workers dropping by
  • Co-workers putting calls on speaker phone

Nearly 75 percent of employers are taking efforts to address productivity killers in the workplace. They include:

  • Blocking certain Internet site
  • Limiting meetings
  • Monitoring emails and Internet usage
  • Restricting use of speaker phones if not is an office with a door
  • Prohibit personal calls and cellphones

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5 Commandments of Strategic PR

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The George Washington University offers a master’s degree in Strategic Public Relations. One of its promotional emails offers this:



Public relations in the modern era is fast-paced, highly visible, and unforgiving. PR professionals are tasked with increasing demands and accountability; the ability to think strategically, communicate effectively, and lead your organization in this intense landscape is paramount.

1. Know your audience — Communicate meaningfully, effectively and with purpose.

2. Become a conduit — Facilitate real conversations and drive timely, appropriate follow through.

3. Speak through actions — Be socially responsible, transparent and proactive.

4. Establish credibility — Earn trust, maintain respect and manage your image.

5. Make it count — Contribute real, measurable results and leverage to data plan your next move.

Might I add, check out so much more in Larry Litwin’s The Public Relations Practitioner’s Playbook available on www dot larry litwin dot com. The sections on the MAC Triad-Plus P and T are worth it alone.Y

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Top jobs for college and high school grads

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before getting into high-paying jobs for high school grads, let’s look at college communication major.

The 7 Top-Paying Jobs for College Graduates in 2014 and Beyond

These degrees help students get the biggest financial bang for their education buck

By Mary Patrick (U.S. News and World Report)
Posted 2014

The 7 Top-Paying Jobs for College Graduates
The 7 Top-Paying Jobs for College Graduates

Going to college and obtaining the knowledge to become an expert in a specific field is a worthwhile goal in its own right.

But let’s face it: everyone also knows that earning a degree typically leads to more money.

A report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows clearly how much a college education can be worth. According to the study, a person with a bachelor’s degree makes $1,066 a week, far more than the $652 a week made by those with just a high school diploma.

Those with a master’s degree make $1,300 weekly, while doctoral degree holders make $1,624, according to the BLS.

But which occupations can maximize the earning potential of a college degree?

The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) recently released its annual salary survey, which includes salary figures for the disciplines that offer the best starting salaries.

It’s worthwhile to note that across all disciplines, the average starting salary for college graduates in 2013 was $45,327, a 2.4% increase over 2012, according to the NACE report.

Engineering Degrees

The salaries for engineers continued to be the best among all disciplines for college graduates, with an average starting salary of $62,062.  In specific fields, two stood out in the report. The starting salary for bioengineering majors jumped 10.1%. Also, the highest starting salary of any major studied in the report was petroleum engineers, who start at $96,200.

Computer Science Degrees

As a whole, computer science degree earners saw their starting salaries dip by 2.5% in 2013. Still, the resulting average starting salary – $58,547 – was enough to make those with computer science degrees the earners of the second-highest starting salary. The dip came primarily in information sciences, where the average starting salary fell about half a percent.

Business Degrees 

The chief business of the American people is business, according to former President Calvin Collidge, and the starting salaries show that. In 2013, the average starting salary for business degree holders increased 7.9%, the largest increase of any discipline. Business degree holders made an average starting salary of $55,635 in their first year on the job. Within the business category, finance majors (at 10%) and business administration majors (at 6.7%) saw the largest increases.

Communications Degrees 

Communications majors actually saw their salaries increase in 2013 by 3.7%, making the average starting salary $43,835. On the downside, advertising majors saw their salaries fall a little less than 1% to $47,300, according to the NACE.

Math & Sciences Degrees 

Overall, the starting salaries for those with degrees in mathematics and science increased by less than 1% in 2013. However, within this category there were some areas that saw bigger increases, including architecture majors (2.7%) and biological science majors (2.2%).

Education Degrees 

Those who earned a degree in education saw an overall increase in their starting salaries, going up 3.2% to $40,337. Also, according to the NACE report, the overall starting salary for all the individual education fields also increased. Those increases ranged from 7% for pre-elementary education graduates to 1.7% for physical education majors.

Humanities and Social Science Degrees 

Many of those with degrees in the humanities and social sciences saw increases in their starting salaries, according to the NACE. Those ranged from a 10.8% increase for sociology majors (to $37,000) and a 8.1% increase for criminal justice majors (to $34,800). The lowest increase was for social workers, who went up 2.3% to $36,000. Those with visual and performing arts degrees actually saw their starting salaries drop to $35,600. Overall, those with degrees in humanities and social sciences saw a 2.6% increase in their salaries, to $37,791.

Susan Ricklerof CareerBuilder wrote a column on “High-Paying jobs for high school grads:

Here is a summary:

1. Commercial pilot = $98,410

2. Claims adjuster, appraiser, examiner and investigator = $59,850

3. Construction and building inspector = $53,450

4. Elevator installer and repairer = $76,850

5. Fire inspector and investigator = $53,990

6. Farmer, rancher and agricultural manager = $69,300

7. Line installer and repairer = $58,210

8. Postal service and worker = $53,100

9. Power plant operator, distributor and dispatcher = $68,230

10. Railroad worker = $52,400

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From the PR News Blog — 9 Tips for Public Speakers Who Hate Public Speaking

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The following was carried “The PR News — the Skinny on PR:

Butterflies in your stomach. Dry mouth. Fantasy of escaping through the back door. It’s inevitable: at some point in your career, you’ll need to speak in front of an audience. Whether at a small meeting, a conference, a general session, on a panel, or on your own. For most of us, it’s about getting out of our comfort zone. If it’s any consolation, the number-one fear of Americans is Public Speaking. Death is the number-2 fear. So you are not alone (until you die). Based on my own experiences and interviews with countless public speakers over the past year, I offer these nines tips to help you get through your next speaking gig with flying colors:

1. Research your audience: why are they there, what are their job responsibilities, how knowledgeable are they of the topic you’ll be speaking about? If possible, ask the event producer to survey the audience in advance w/a few questions that will help you tailor your presentation.

2. Avoid death by PowerPoint. Put another way, don’t talk them to sleep. Slides are important but they should be springboards to your speech and not littered with words and cheesy clip art. Large point size, consistent style and about half the slide blank are the rules. Show some video if you can – but not of cute puppies or kittens, unless you’re speaking to an animal rights group.

3. Master your content:. a corollary to tip #1, speak of what you know. You’ll be more relaxed and confident if you know your material. If you’re asked to speak about a topic that is complicated and not in your wheelhouse, decline the invite.

4.  Interact with your audience. Build a quick community with the attendees and encourage questions.

5. Limit talking about yourself. You know the speaker bio provided to the audience in advance? They already know who you are. Make it about them.

6. Wear your storytelling hat. There’s nothing better than a story to illustrate your point. That is what the audience will remember. Bring one great story to your speech – not 3 mediocre ones – and you will connect with your audience.

7. Own your content. I was listening to a speaker recently whose entire presentation was about quoting other authors and experts and not sharing an original thought. Find something unique and original to say to your audience. There’s a reason you were asked to take the stage.

8. Remember social media. Be careful what you say and how you say it. One off-color quote can go viral on social media and affect your reputation and your organization’s.

9. Don’t picture your audience naked. This is an old bit of advice predicated on the notion that the naked attendee is more vulnerable than you and so you have the upper hand. This advice doesn’t hold true — better to picture your audience thinking positive thoughts about you, and cheering you on. The crowd wants you to succeed, they are rooting for you. That‘s the naked truth.

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