Category Archives: Communications

Can’t shut me up: A year for public speaking

Speaking @ The Blogger Relations Forum 2011

I like to think I put a lot of time into learning and trying new things. I’m a curious person and I try to challenge myself professionally. One skill I’ve always been a bit jealous of is excellent public speaking.

I went to my first HOBY (Hugh O’Brien Youth Leadership) conference as an ambassador my sophomore year of high school. They brought in amazing motivational speakers (awesome guys like Leon Quan) that not had the room laughing and then minutes later we would all have tears running down our faces.  I loved the way they told stories, and drew you in to build that trust in such a short amount of time. I also loved the core messages they shared at conference like HOBY. They had substance and meaning. These speakers made you feel like you could conquer the world. You took their message and somehow could apply it to your own life.

I’ve had opportunities to present and speak publicly off and on since that HOBY weekend. However, it wasn’t until last year that I decided I wanted to work on it more formally. I set some goals for myself in terms of setting up opportunities to speak publicly. I spoke at an event I organised in front of about 80 people and last month spoke at fastBREAK in front of 50+ smart people in one room (see the video from that talk). It was a step outside my comfort zone. I felt the fear and did it anyway. That can be really rewarding. It felt like a move in the right direction, but now I’m hungry for more.

I want this year to be a year that I focus on my public speaking skills. I’m going to look for more opportunities to speak. Honestly, I just need to practice more. I am also going to research joining a local Toastmasters chapter.  My last boss, and mentor Lewis always spoke very highly of Toastmasters and said it really made an impact on his public speaking skills. If you have any experiences with joining a chapter in Sydney, I’d really like to hear from you.

If you have any upcoming events that you need a speaker for, please let me know. I’m happy to come along and practice. I promise I’m not that awful, and you can help me get even better friends.

Have you taken steps have you taken to improve your own public speaking? Any advice to offer? 

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Never Eat Alone: 4 Networking Tips

cc license, marcia.furman

I’m always telling people about how Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi is my favourite business book. It made me cry (not sure if that’s a normal reaction). It was a gift from my best friend senior year of college. Ferrazzi put into words exactly what I had on my mind, but didn’t know how to say at the time. He validated the way I feel about networking and relationships.

Here are a few beautiful lessons I’ve learned from that book, and just from living. I hope they’re insightful or relatable for you.

Give to others without expecting something in return. Give your time and talent. Help connect people, teach someone, give someone a recommendation or advice. Don’t ask, “What will this action deliver me in return?” as a condition of choosing to help someone. Give selflessly, and your life will be richer. I swear by this tip.

Never attend a “networking” event. Every event is a networking event. In fact, life is one big networking event. I love Ferrazzi’s approach to networking as a lifestyle and I’ve tried to adopt this same attitude.

Understand and ‘see’ relationships. I refer to this as my “online stalking tip.” The internet has A LOT of information (if you haven’t figured that out by now) so use it to your advantage. Understand how people are connected. Research what they do, learn their story and see who their friends are. Be driven by relationships before and after meeting new people.

Be genuine and interested. Gosh this one is important. If you are hitting on tips 1-3 and mucking up this one you could get in trouble. I would give you the advice of ‘fake it till you make it,’ but I’m not sure if that applies here. Please be genuine in all that you do. It will help your relationships thrive.

Have you read Never Eat Alone? What advice would you add to this list?

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What trends are you seeing today?

Going to local events with crowd-sourced talks such as TEDx and Ignite are a great way to understand current trends in our industries. Several key messages and themes tend to resurface during the talks, and it’s not because the speakers are unoriginal. They are just putting into words, what’s on the minds of many in this snapshot of time.

Just over a year ago, before I moved to Australia, everything was focused on the “real-time.” How we were using technology and social networks to interact instantly was the hot topic. This expanded beyond just marketing. Ideas of what personalised health care might look like when delivered in real-time were discussed.

At Ignite Sydney last year, a presenter shared on how Twitter was being used to find out where bush fires in Australia were breaking out. According to him, this was more accurate than any other type of monitoring technology available.

I’ve been seeing three key trends that I find interesting and want to highlight.

1. “Collaborative consumption is so hot right now”

I tweeted this half serious, half joking during Sydney Ignite 7. Lisa Fox presented “The Aussie guide to collaborative consumption,” a story of how everyday people are using online sites such as Open Shed, to rent and share items you might find in storage. Another talk by Darryl Nichols told the story of his project, the “Garage Sale Trail,” community focused yard sales across the country. October also celebrates Buy Nothing New Month and this idea of sharing, trading, renting and swapping is pretty fashionable at the moment.

2. Becoming a catalyst for change: Empower local leaders

If we want to be most helpful, perhaps we should look to empower local changemakers instead of trying to force change ourselves. This is the message that Aaron Tait, Executive Director of Spark* International gave during his TEDxMacquarieUniversity talk. Chantelle Baxter, co-founder of One Girl also explained how education can help empower young women and girls, so they can then lead change in their communities.

3. Social entrepreneurship and Gen-Y

Last year, I think we were scratching our heads trying to further define this “millennial generation.” Topics were about Gen-Y in the work force and how Gen-Y uses technology. While these discussions continue, now the focus has shifted to the power of Gen-Y. I love the number of young people who stood up and defined themselves in some way as social entrepreneurs. We are a driven generation who wants to give back and this was reflected in the speakers.

 Are you noticing these trends in your community as well? What topics are you finding relevant and popular in today’s society?

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Filed under Communications, Sydney, Technology

Rules of Twitter: Are you following me?

A friend from the blogging world, Tim (aka @anotherguy) brought up an interesting topic related to Twitter this week. He tweeted “If I unfollowed everyone and instead put the people I follow into lists, how many of you would hate me forever?” 

I was surprised by this. I’ve had chats with Tim before online and he always seemed like such a genuine and relationship driven person. I seek out liked-minded people on Twitter to follow and enjoy it for that reason. I wondered why he had this outlook.

Unfollowing everyone on my list would worry me for a few key reasons:

1. Perception. Unfortunately people do notice when you unfollow them or if you follow no one. While I can have an intelligent conversation about why I’m doing this on my personal Twitter account with closer contacts and a certain circle of friends, I probably can’t have that same conversation with all 2,000 of my followers. That’s not even counting the people I have yet to meet online. As someone who builds online communities and works in social media I feel that I should be following others. Yes, sometimes I do care what others think.

2. New contacts. It’s a big online world out there, just waiting to be discovered. I want to continue following new people, so they will follow back and learn more about me as well. I’m interested in meeting new people in my industry, people local to me, those with similar interests etc.

3. Opportunities to connect. If I were unfollow everyone on my list I wouldn’t be able to receive direct messages (DMs). I know that I’m still very reachable by other forms of communication (which might even be preferred) but I would hate to miss even one “hello” from someone who is attending the same conference as me, sitting across the room.

Tim, being the smart guy he is, has been conducting a bit of social experiment to see what type of reactions he got from creating lists instead of following people on Twitter. I’ve asked him if he would share his thoughts on here.

Tim’s Thoughts

As Hannah put very clearly, that question I asked nearly a week ago has a lot of potential to backfire on the person who was trying to execute and experience that answer. “What will happen if I unfollow nearly 1000 people on Twitter and put them into lists?” Well, that question has changed a bit for me. Now I can ask, “What has happened since I unfollowed nearly 1000 people?”

Am I trying to be antisocial? Absolutely not. In fact, as my recent blog post about this explains, I am doing this to build my relationships with these people beyond what is possible on Twitter. These short 140 character messages are great, but just like Hannah has said before, they aren’t conducive for long conversations, they limit you on getting to know someone on more than just a shallow level, and there is almost no place for private conversations. Even the DM system is limited in this way.

So I’ve moved everyone over into Twitter Lists and said goodbye to my twitter-stream. I no longer follow anyone but the companies I am directly involved with each day, and my co-workers. At the same time, though, I’ve added many more people to the lists that I follow than I would have followed directly. In my mind, at least, my social network on twitter has actually grown, not diminished. I still reply to every tweet that mentions me, and I check those lists as often as I need to (which are organized quite well, if I may say so myself).

Where I now lack DM’s, I ask people to send me emails, or even give me a call. My address is available for anyone to contact me through, and if you ask nicely I’ll even give you my direct phone number. I want to get to know you as a human being, not you as a twitter handle. When I recently went to a meetup of webOS developers in San Francisco, everyone introduced themselves by name. While a few of those names were familiar, it was only after we re-introduced ourselves by twitter-handles that we recognized everyone around the table. Have we lost even that basic fundamental human way of identifying other people?

Plus, after that’s all said and done, I just need more time to get to my work, and Twitter takes away a lot of that time. I am a writer, a developer and a community aggregator. I am not a Twitter-Guru (is there such a thing?), and being one will not make me a better writer (it may, in fact, work against me). By refocusing my time spent on Twitter to being engaged with people who are engaged in topics that I am interested in reading about at any moment (and that I’m viewing through those lists), I am cutting out the clutter and freeing myself from wasted time reading topics that do not matter for the task at hand. If I want to read about webOS, I pull up the webOS Community list. And if I have some time to laugh it up, I grab my Just For Fun list.

The change has come with very few consequences. I’ve lost no followers due to the change, and the followers that recognized the change actually encouraged me to do so. I’m still connecting with those same people regularly through the lists that I follow, and even through other communications channels now. No one has spoken out against my decision in any way, unless they were questioning why I had made the decision. In the end, everything is actually going much better than I had originally planned. Heck I even get to write an article with Hannah over here! 😉

Now, maybe this won’t work for everyone. And with only spending a week with no “twitter friends”, I may not have seen some of the problems that might show up later on. For right now, it’s working great, and I plan on keeping it up for the foreseeable future. After all, it took me four days to get through the whole process of transitioning everyone over. Call me lazy, but I think I’ve forced myself to stay here for a while longer. Hey, testing never hurt anyone.

You can connect with Tim on any of his social profiles here and be sure to check out what he’s sharing on his blog, AnotherGuy’s Weblog. You could also follow him on Twitter but don’t do it because you want a follow back.

How do you feel about following others back on Twitter? Please share your thoughts.


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Filed under Communications, Networking

Who Do You Blog For?

cc license, Maria Reyes-McDavis

I used to think the answer to the question, “who do you blog for?” was an easy one. I’ve always blogged for others. I created a Xanga in middle school and wrote about jokes, music and posted photos my friends would like. I started my current blog at university knowing it was a way to communicate with professionals in my industry and have my voice heard.

When I sit down to write a post I have the mindset that anyone and everyone could potentially read it. My grandma, my boss, my best friend or a stranger I’ve never met. It helps me keep a very professional tone but it also limits me. I don’t write freely.

I’ve read some really great blog posts lately that I know come from the heart (thank you Lori). It’s bloggers who write with a passion and intensity as if they are writing in their own personal journal that no one will ever see. I find it scary to put yourself out there but at the same time, inspiring. It creates a connection with the reader that I think most bloggers constantly work toward.

So I’m wondering… Who do you write for? Do you write for yourself or others?

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Letting Your Blog Be Your Online Home

cc license, DeclanTM

I’m not the most consistent blogger.  I always regret that I don’t write more often and envy those who are able to find time to write relevant posts on a daily basis. I’ve heard people use this as an excuse for not blogging altogether. “I don’t have time to start a blog” or “I would rather not blog at all because I know I wouldn’t update it.”

On one hand, I think it’s smart to recognize if you’re too busy to keep up with your blog. A neglected blog can look messy, especially when paired with an out of date resume or other forgotten social networking profile.  On the other hand I’ve had great experiences having a blog despite my inconsistent posting. Depending on what approach you take to blogging you can gain a lot of value that doesn’t necessarily have a dollar amount attached to it.

My blog is my online home. I own my domain name, thanks to some encouragement from mentor and friend Nate Riggs. I have my blog linked to all of my other profiles, it’s on my personal business card and if I have to give someone a link to find me I usually give them to visit that website.

While I don’t make money off my blog or have thousands of readers who cling to my every word. I’ve found a lot of value in blogging. It has connected me to other bloggers. I’m a member of several online communities that have allowed me to meet new friends with similar interests. In my recent move to Australia I made new connections through my blog. It also is a way for me to share that part of my life with friends and family and friends I don’t yet.

My blog represents me online. It should show up in the top few results when you search for my name. It’s a way to stand out from others working in the digital space. Also managing your own brand and community teaches you lessons in managing brands for others.

I’m not the best blogger, but I’m certainly glad I have my blog.

What benefits or opportunities have you gained from blogging?

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Lessons Learned from Playing in the Dirt

cc license, eyeliam

I worked a few hours for my Dad and Uncle this summer helping out at their business. They own a sand and gravel company that’s been in our family since 1979. While selling dirt to landscapers and homeowners doesn’t seem related to the world of online communications, I still felt that my time spent there was worthwhile.

Some people don’t recognize the value of working in non-related field, but I’ve seen that the themes of customer service and running a business can be universal. I took orders and answered questions on topics that I was learning for the first time. It reminded me to be patient, think quickly and smile often.

It also gave me valuable perspective on the relationships that help support a family run business. I appreciated getting to see how my dad and uncle interact with long-time customers and community members they’ve come to know well.

I have no idea if I’ll ever take over the family biz. It’s hard to say how I’ll feel in 10 or 20 years from now, but working there reminded me of how I would want to run any future business.  My father always taught me the value of hard work early in life from living by example. He has always been my role model, especially now as a recent college graduate ready to start a new job.

My advice to a friend would be never to dismiss an opportunity and get the most out of any role you take on. Having a strong work ethic is important at any job. Don’t let yourself slack off and use the excuse that your job is a waste or irrelevant to your career. Any experience can be made valuable if you have the right mindset.

What lessons have you learned from working in the dirt…or other jobs?

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