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Canva tips and tricks


Recently, Kara Miller introduced us to Canva in her article, Canva graphic design for dummies

Everyone said, “try it. It might be worth your time.” Truer words were never spoken. As I explored this easy to use application, I realized what a time saver it turned out to be.

It was my mission to find out everything I could about this web-based design application, what more could it do, what was I missing out on? Below are the top 10 tips and ideas I found across the internet: 

Note, the following are for the free version of Canva only
• Your Brand. Upload your logo and brand images to quickly use across a variety of your designs. With the free version you can’t add to the Your Brand section, however you can store it in your library. You can create a unique color palate in Your Brand, which is stored permanently in Document Colors. Use your specific color codes in the color wheel and Canva will remember that color while you are designing. Your color code will be a six-digit number and letter combination with the pound sign in front of it.

Decide on your organizations fonts to make designs consistent, what to use for headings, content text etcetera. You can’t store in Your Brand, so make a note of your choices in a template. There are a limited number of fonts available to you, so take the time to scroll thru and choose the ones that complement your company identity:

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• Templates for quick and easy posts. Create templates for Facebook and Twitter posts. For example, to welcome new members, award programs and upcoming conferences, we’ve created separate templates where we simply add the newest information and can post on Social Media – don’t forget to include a tag or hashmark to make sure the subject of the post will see it, like it and follow you.

• Customize library background images. If you like the texture/pattern of one of the free backgrounds, you can change the color by clicking on the color palette. Change the shade on a background by highlighting and choosing a different color or shade.

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• Working with frames and images. If you’re using a frame, double clicking on the image will allow you to move or resize it. You can click and drag to show just part of the image or grab the corners and make the photo bigger.
Clicking on the filters button (when you have photo selected), and then choosing advanced, will give you complete control over the look and feel of the photo.

Filter codes can be copied and pasted so you can have all your photos with the exact same setting.

The little arrow (when you have a photo selected) will allow you to flip it vertically or horizontally.

The little arrow in blue is the one that will flip flop your photograph.

Use an image and set the transparency to 60%. Then use the frames to highlight the same image for a neat effect.

• Font Effects. If you want to create a shadow on your text, copy the text, make it black, and send it behind the original text. With it selected, use your arrows key to move it slightly behind and down. It’ll create a shadowed look.

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• Watermark your work If you have a custom watermark or logo, have your designer make you a transparent PNG you can upload into Canva for when you want to watermark your graphics.

• Nudge elements by 10px. To move an element, you can just select the element and hit an arrow key, but that only moves the object 1px at a time. To increase the nudging distance, click the element. Then hit the shift button + any arrow key in the direction of your choice!

• Grouping elements. If you want to move a group of objects at the same time, hold down the shift key while you click on multiple elements. This will group them together. Once grouped, nudge/move elements as normal.

• Centering text. To quickly and easily center your text on a graph, make sure your text box is the same width as the element you’re trying to align it with. Then, simply navigate to the drop-down menu (as pictured) and hit the “center” option.

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• But how do I check my spelling? The free browser extension called Grammarly can check spelling and grammar as you type.

Check out other tips on designing in Canva. Canva provides some excellent tutorials to help you further explore. The tutorials will show you what to do and how to do it, letting you try your hand at recreating the examples. https://www.canva.com/learn/design/tutorials/perfect-presentations/

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Speaking on a webinar? Do these first!

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Interruptions, awkward camera angles, and background noises are all indications that you’re an amateur webinar presenter. Polish up your act by doing these 10 things first, to ensure you’re viewed as a professional (and asked to speak again!).

1. Use headphones
Most webinar tools allow you to connect via a telephone or VOIP. Using headphones helps minimize background noise, ensure your voice is heard clearly, and reduces the possibility of audio-feedback. I was once on a program where the busy street traffic and police sirens could be overheard on the speaker’s phone line… don’t be that person.

2. Close the door
You’re giving a presentation, and therefore it’s obvious that you find a quiet place to present. If you’re in your office, a space in your home, or a shared conference room, simply close the door. This is an indicator that you’re busy and shouldn’t be interrupted. Better yet, put a physical “Do Not Disturb, Recording in Progress” sign on your door to alert those nearby to keep their voices and potential disturbances to a minimum.

3. Put your phone on DND
Often overlooked are potential distractions from incoming calls and the occasional office page. Turn on the Do Not Disturb setting on your phone, which will both mute your office ringtone and disable others from being able to interrupt your phone line. Yes, I have been in a program before where the presenter’s phone line was automatically put “on hold” due to an incoming call into their line, triggering the dreadful “hold music” across the airwaves and therefore derailing the entire presentation.

4. Turn off pop-up notifications and alerts
These usually important attention getters will become points of frustration for you during a webinar. If you’re sharing your computer screen, it will become increasingly frustrating (as well as embarrassing) anytime an alert or pop-up comes through on your device, visible to all participants. Common ones to silence include: incoming email notifications and previews, in-office chats, text messages (if your cell is connected to your laptop), and calendar/task reminders. Not to mention, these also make distracting noises.

5. Mute your computer speakers
Again, this is an example of muting any device that may potentially disrupt your presentation unintentionally. Muting your computer speakers is a sure bet that you’ll minimize distractions (perhaps even from an unintended alert you forgot to turn off? See #4). Also, if you’re connecting to the audio line via VOIP through a headset plugged into your laptop, muting your computer speakers may also reduce the potential for audio feedback.

6. Charge all batteries
Again, it seems obvious, but when your mind is concentrated on preparing the content for your presentation, the obvious is commonly overlooked. Is your laptop charged or plugged in? Are you connecting via a cell, is it also fully charged? What about a computer mouse… usually used as your slide advancer. Yes, I have been on a webinar before when the presenter’s mouse batteries literally died during the webinar. Simply put in a fresh set beforehand and you’ll be assured you’re good to go.

7. Have water available
You’ll be speaking a lot. Keep your voice clear and drink plenty of water. Enough said.

8. Install updates and plug-ins in advance
Is your laptop scheduled to automatically install system updates? Does your webinar platform require a plug-in (lots do)? These updates and installs may be routine, but, if they’re prompted right before you’re set to speak, could put you off balance and render your device temporarily unavailable. Nothing’s worse then watching the dreadful “Updates in progress, this could take a while” notification take over your computer.

9. Print out a hard-copy of your slides or notes
In the event that something unexpected happens, it’s important to have a printed copy of your speaking points in front of you. I also use this paper copy to jot down notes, perhaps of something interesting that a prior speaker said that was worth mentioning again. Having a hard-copy of your materials is a simple way to ensure you’ll be prepared. One time during a presentation I accidentally bumped my desk and knocked the wire loose from the computer docking station to the external monitor. My screen went black while I was on the air. I continued presenting from my printed notes, and at the next break for Q/A, I promptly plugged the cord back into the dock. No one was the wiser, but see how this could have escaladed quickly?

10. Preview your camera shot
Check in advance to find out if the webinar will be featuring video feeds of the presenters. If yes, use a website like this to test out your camera shot before you go live. Things to check: your personal appearance (do your hair, make-up, sit up straight, and wear appropriate attire), lighting (you’ll want centered front-lit lighting which could be accomplished by repositioning a desk lamp and closing the curtains), camera angle (lens should look slightly down on you, which may require raising your laptop on a few books), what’s in your background (a blank wall with minimal distractions is best). This video demonstrates how to look good on webcam.

Presenting on a webinar has similarities to speaking live on stage. Both require quality audio, technology, and the reduction of distractions and interruptions. Use these steps as a guideline the next time you present on a webinar. What other tips and suggestions do you have? Share in the comments below!

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Moderating a webinar? Some tips for a successful presentation

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I recently had the opportunity to moderate a webinar for the first time. Over the years I have participated in many webinars and panel discussions as a member of the audience or a presenter, so I anticipated this experience would be similar. In many ways it was, but serving as a moderator did come with a unique set of considerations and preparing for the sessions was certainly a learning experience! Looking back, I realize how much I did learn from this opportunity and since many of us in association management may one day find ourselves in the position of session moderator, I thought I would share some of what I learned.

1. Do your research. As the moderator you are probably familiar with the subject(s) being discussed but don’t take that for granted. Take some time to study and read about any of the latest news or developments. This will make you more comfortable and able to take an active role in the discussion.

2. Check in with the panelists. Once you have assembled panel, don’t forget to check in with them prior to the event. Presenters are working diligently to prepare for their own participation, so consider putting together some information to assist them. This gesture will almost certainly be appreciated! Some examples of information to provide:

  • Introductions: It’s always nice to know who you’ll be working with. If these individuals don’t know each other they will appreciate a bit of background on their fellow panelists.
  • Reminder of Event Logistics: Date, time and anticipated length of the webinar; whether slides are required or encouraged (if so, submission instructions); event format.
  • Anticipated Subjects: What is each presenter expected to discuss and for how long? If registrants are submitting questions ahead of time, consider sharing those to help speakers plan their remarks.

3. Have a plan to encourage discussion. It’s possible that the audience will not immediately engage in dynamic conversation with the panelists. Have some questions or talking points ready to help encourage discussion and audience participation.

4. Be ready for the unexpected. Despite all your best planning, something unexpected may come up. While it isn’t possible to prepare for every possibility, try to think of some that may be most likely. Do you have a plan if there are audio or connectivity issues? If a panelist cancels at the last minute can you or another panelist cover his or her talking points? If you are able, consider doing a dry run with the panelists/presenters to help identify technical glitches ahead of time and give everyone a sense of how the session will flow.

5. Review the tapes. If the session is recorded, take some time and watch/listen to the recording. It’s a terrific way to see yourself in action, see what went well and identify improvements for next time.

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Tips for clear email communication

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Our members and volunteer leaders are inundated with emails on a daily basis. How do you get through, get what you need, and not result in confusion? Here are some email etiquette tips to be sure to follow to make everyone’s lives (yours included!) a little easier:

Tip #1: Be Clear and Concise
Nobody likes to receive an email that they have to scroll through. Can what you are asking for or saying be shortened? Use bullet points to clearly separate ideas, questions, etc. If you’re asking for multiple things, they can get lost in paragraphs of information. Calling them out will make it easier for the reader to refer back to.

Tip #2: Set Deadlines
If you need a response to or action from your email by the recipient(s), make sure to clearly lay out a deadline. Trust me—they’ll appreciate it! I like to call it out in the closing of my email, such as “Response is appreciated/needed no later than 5pm CT on Friday, February 23.”

Tip #3: Use BCC
In my opinion, nothing is worse than being overloaded with emails on a chain that you no longer need to be a part of or getting everyone’s responses. Below are a couple examples of when to use BCC.

  • Example 1: You’re emailing one of your Boards to confirm that a specific set of dates works for an upcoming meeting. Save the Board members from getting everyone’s responses if someone hits “Reply All” by blind copying everyone instead. As a courtesy, make note in the email that the entire Board is blind copied.
  • Example 2: A colleague makes an email introduction between you and another person. Said colleague does not need to remain on the chain back and forth between you and the new person. A simple “Thanks for the introduction, Tim – I’ll move you to BCC now” at the start of your reply to all will cover it.

Tip #4: Don’t Be Afraid to Change the Subject Line!
Are you on an email chain where the topic has changed or gone on a different tangent? Don’t be afraid to change the subject line to match! A recent example: I emailed a potential sponsor to offer them the opportunity to host a cocktail party with a client in Las Vegas. My subject line was “Sponsor Opportunity – Event in Vegas.” Throughout the chain, a marketing person got looped in regarding another topic—we were out of their flyers we typically include with our membership renewal invoices. When I replied to that marketing person, I used tip #3 and moved two individuals to BCC who didn’t need to remain on the chain for this particular topic. I also changed the subject line to “[Client Name] – [Sponsor Name] Inserts.” This way, the people dealing with the sponsorship didn’t need to have their inboxes cluttered with irrelevant emails (but know the other item was taken care of), and it was obvious to me and the marketing person what the topic of the email was.

Tip #5: Reread Before Hitting Send
Stop. Before you hit send, read the email through one more time. Is what you are asking for clear? Are you missing any vital information? Did you set a deadline if you are in need of something? Take a few extra seconds now to cover these bases and save yourself from having to send any further clarifying emails.

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AMPED blogs you may have missed

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It’s part of the culture at AMPED Association Management that staff regularly share with one another tools and processes they use to support our mission: to perfect operations and accelerate growth for the organizations we manage. In fact, we specifically share “hacks” during our weekly staff meetings — what works for one person or organization may also work for another. It’s that sharing of knowledge across diverse associations that is the beauty of the AMC model.

Another, more public way of sharing what we know is through the AMPED-UP! blog. Staff members write weekly about challenges, tips and solutions for all things associations, from technology, to governance, to workplace issues.

Here is a list of top-read blogs from the last few months that are not to be missed.

Nine questions that can green-light or sideline your next association initiative
by Tony Veroeven

Planning a joint convention: Tips for a successful and positive collaboration
by Michael Battaglia

How to develop strategic priorities using a breakout session model
by Jen Brydges

When a hurricane hits your convention city: How our meetings team prepared for the worst
by Chris Caple

Is Squarespace right for your association's website?
by Emily Viles

Why you should attend user conferences for your technology platforms
by Emily Wiseman

First impressions: How to welcome new members
by Terry Driscoll

The Hitchhikers Guide to the CAE: Part 1
by Christina McCoy, CAE

What’s in your bag? Using video to up the entertainment value of your social presence
by Kristin McGuine

Certification program is opportunity to recognize key members
by Kim Siebecker

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In appreciation of Helvetica

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My name is Jeanne Weiss and I’m a font nerd.

I came to grips with this while watching Helvetica, a documentary film dedicated to the proliferation and appreciation of the Helvetica font.

Judge me if you like, but I. Was. Glued.

The film takes the viewer through the 60-plus-year history of Helvetica while gathering the opinions and thoughts of designers and typographers around the world.

Until I watched the film, I was oblivious to just how much Helvetica had shaped my world. Now, I see it everywhere!

Helvetica is ubiquitous
Most likely, you’re not even aware of the extent to which Helvetica demands your attention every day. It directs you on street signage. It’s used on official Federal documents like your tax forms. It’s a favorite of corporate logos — Greyhound, Crate & Barrel, Urban Outfitters, the U.S. Post Office, American Apparel, Nike, Kodak, Target, Samsung, American Airlines, TNT and more!

The next time you watch The Office, pay attention to that opening sequence. That’s Helvetica.

We even use it in our branding at AMPED! 

Helvetica is neutral
Even with thousands of possible font choices at their disposal, designers continue to favor Helvetica because it’s clean, simple and perfect.

Said one of the designers in the film, “It’s very hard for a designer to look at Helvetica characters and say, ‘How would I improve them? How would I make them look any different?’ They just seem to be exactly right. Helvetica is a beautiful, timeless thing and certain things shouldn’t be messed with.”

Said another, “Some fonts only say one thing: Christmas! Wedding! Helvetica says everything, and that’s part of its appeal.”

Helvetica is powerful
There were so many wonderful quotes from the film about design and typography that I wanted to share them with those of you who geek out on such things. Here are a few:

“A typeface should express a mood, give atmosphere or color.”

“Graphic designers have an enormous responsibility. They are the people putting their wires in our heads. Graphic design is the communications framework through which these messages are sent.”

“Don’t confuse legibility with communication. Just because something is legible doesn’t mean it communicates.”

“If something has an important message and it’s set in a boring, nondescript way, it might be lost.”

“If you take the same message and apply a different design and typeface to it, the emotional response will be different. The choice of typeface is the prime weapon in that communication.”

“Type casts a secret spell. It makes you say, ‘I like that. That’s my kind of product.’”

“There’s a thin line between simple and clean and powerful, and simple and clean and boring.”
Standing joke: “A typographer can’t see a historical film because the fonts are always wrong.” Which reminded me of this recent story.

“The reader shouldn’t be aware of the font at all. The font should just hold, display and organize the information, not draw the reader from it.”

“Think about when an actor is miscast in a role. The viewer will still follow the plot, but be less convinced or affected. Typography is similar. A designer choosing typefaces is essentially the casting director.”

Whattaya know, I’m a font nerd AND a casting director!

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How to be a reporter’s favorite source: Ten tips, plus bonus tips for recorded interviews

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A call from a reporter is an opportunity for you and your association to share valuable information and build your reputation among readers and viewers. A little preparation will help you get your message out and pave the way for future interviews.

  1. Ask who the reporter’s audience is, if you’re not familiar with the publication. Consider the audience and their knowledge level, and then tailor your comments accordingly.
  2. Identify what you believe is most newsworthy to his or her readers. You have a limited time to tell your story, so get to the point.
  3. Make sure you know the basics, i.e., the five Ws and H: Who will benefit? What is new or innovative? When will an event occur? Where? Why is this important? How does this advance knowledge?
  4. Be prepared with some short anecdotes and examples. Reporters will be looking for information that helps their readers relate to your comments. While you should have one or two stories in mind, be careful to avoid scripting your comments.
  5. Speak slowly; allow the reporter time to take notes.
  6. Avoid using acronyms and technical jargon.
  7. Don’t speculate. If you don’t know the answer to a question, offer to investigate and follow up with a response.
  8. End the interview by summarizing your two or three main points.
  9. Offer to share photos, graphics or links to videos that illustrate the subject. Visuals can be as simple as your head shot or your organization’s logo – anything that will add color and draw the eye to the article.
  10. Make sure the reporter has your correct name, title and organization’s name. Offer your contact information and volunteer to answer follow-up questions. Do not ask to review the article before publication.

Four Bonus Tips for Video and Audio Interviews

  1. Remember to take a millisecond break between sentences. The reporter may not be able to use your entire response. A brief pause allows for editing, without cutting you off or omitting your comment entirely.
  2. Repeat the subject of the question in your response. For example, let’s say you’re asked, “How long have you been working on this project?” Don’t say, “Five years.” Instead, say, “We started developing this project five years ago.” Parroting back the subject allows the video editor to delete the reporter’s questions and keep the focus on you, the expert.
  3. Avoid wearing small prints, checks or plaids, which create a moiré effect or rainbow pattern on camera.
  4. Offer to meet in a quiet space, away from the crowd. Not only will the sound quality be improved, but you won’t inadvertently film other people without their permission.

Finally, remember that reporters are working on deadline. If you aren’t available to comment, they will move onto someone who is. The more accessible you are, the more likely you and your organization are to be featured.

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Preparation takes the panic out of public speaking

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The thought of public speaking is enough to make even the most composed and confident among us a little nervous. While public speaking is often ranked among people’s worst fears, it is also an experience that many of us encounter at some point. Over the years I’ve been given a lot of advice on the best ways to approach a public speaking opportunity. These are some of my favorite tips.

Be prepared…but not too prepared. It goes without saying that practicing a speech is beneficial. I’ve known some people who can practice once a few minutes prior to speaking and they’re ready to go, but I need a little more preparation. If possible, I’ll practice in front of a group and ask for feedback. Am I talking too fast or too slow? Am I using awkward hand gestures or not making enough eye contact? Is my speech too long or too short? Also, I like to practice with any technology I’ll be using, like a wireless mic or slides. In the course of practicing a presentation I have found that there can be such a thing as over preparation. There often comes a point where I find myself second guessing my remarks and wanting to make a lot of last minute changes. This is the point when I’ll stop, put the speech away, and focus on something else for a while.

Keep slides simple. My husband does a lot of presentations that involve the use of slides. His advice when it comes to slides is “less is more” and I tend to agree. Text heavy slides or slides with a lot of graphics or animation can distract from what the speaker is saying.

Be comfortable. The colleague who gave me this advice was referring to physical comfort. The day of a presentation is not the day I choose, for example, to wear a new pair of shoes for the first time. I make sure to carefully choose an outfit that fits the event’s dress code (if there is one) and that I’m comfortable in. Clothes can be a great confidence booster but they can also be a huge distraction if I’m onstage tugging at my jacket or thinking about how my shoes are pinching. Being comfortable with the place where I’ll be speaking is also incredibly helpful. If possible, I’ll do a run through on site to get a sense of things like the size of the room and how much space I’ll have to move around.

Finally, I try to remember that I’m the only one in the room who knows what I’m going to say. The audience doesn’t have my speech memorized so if I forget a line or make a small mistake, chances are I’m the only one who will know.
I have found public speaking to be great for building self-esteem and each of my experiences has certainly been a terrific learning opportunity! How do you approach public speaking? Have you received any particularly helpful tips or advice?

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Holy (holey? wholly?) macaroni: Don’t trust spell check

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Who among us hasn’t dashed off an email at the end of the day, and then cringed when the morning light reveals a word that sounds similar but has a different meaning? Most of the time, it’s a simple error.

But when precise English counts, for example, when you’re (not your) writing a proposal to a prospective (not perspective) client or your annual personnel (not personal) review, build in some extra time to pore (not pour or poor) over your writing and flush (not flesh) out incorrect words.

The following is a list of commonly confused words I’ve come across while editing my own or others’ work. I’ve included some memory aids.

Accept: Always a verb meaning “to receive.” Accept an award.
Except: Means “but for.” Think of exclude.

Addition: In math, you add two numbers. You would never ed.
Edition: An editor edits a new edition of the book.

Advice: Noun meaning “guidance” or an adjective, “advice column.” Advice and guidance both end in ce.
Advise: Always a verb. Advisers advise.

Affect: Almost always a verb meaning “to change.”
Effect: Almost always a noun meaning “result.”

Assure: To calm someone.
Ensure: To make sure.
Insure: To provide insurance.

Breath: A noun that rhymes with death.
Breathe: A verb that rhymes with seethe.

Cite: Verb meaning “to name.” The police cited him in the citation. ¬¬¬
Sight: Something seen or the sense. What a sight to see!
Site: A place, as in worksite or website.

Complement: A verb meaning to supplement and a noun meaning complete.
Compliment: That’s so nice.

Council: A noun for a group of people, like a tribal council.
Counsel: Usually a verb. A counselor counsels.

Desert: A dry place like a desert island. Both have one “s.”
Dessert: Super sweet.

Foreword: Comes before chapters in a book.
Forward: Onward!

Lay: Verb that takes an object. Now I lay the baby down to sleep.
Lie: Also a verb, no object required. I too lie down, my rest to keep.

Loose: Adjective describing how something fits or something that isn’t confined. A moose is loose.
Lose: Verb that rhymes with choose. If I lose weight, my clothes will be loose.

Moot: Debatable. Up in the air, like a hoot owl.
Mute: Speechless. Rhymes with flute. You can’t talk and play a flute.

Precede: Comes before. The firetruck precedes the parade.
Proceed: The parade moves forward.

Principal: Usually an adjective meaning the first or chief. Can be a noun, as in the school principal. Originally, the school principal was the principal teacher.
Principle: A rule. Both end in le.

Set: Takes an object. I set the book on the table.
Sit: I sit in the chair to read.

Than: Used when comparing. Easier said than done.
Then: Relates to time. Think “when.”

There: Not here.
They’re: Contraction for “they are.”
Their: Possessive, like his and her. They’re going to their house.

Wave: Wave goodbye.
Waive: Waive your rights.

Who’s: Contraction for “who is.” Who’s having a party?
Whose: Possessive, like his or hers. Whose party is it?

Your: Possessive of you. What was your score?
You’re: Contraction of “you are.” You’re the best. Really, you are!

Simply becoming aware of frequently muddled words will improve your writing. But I encourage you to develop your own mental tricks – words that rhyme, familiar sayings or lyrics, visual cues (the more farfetched the better) – to help you find the right (not rite) word every time.

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Pinky up! Email etiquette from a correspondence snob

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I attended a baby shower this weekend at which guests were asked to pre-address their own thank you note envelopes. What? I may as well have been asked to write the thank you note, itself. In my book, this is tacky and a major etiquette no-no. If a guest has made an effort to show up at the shower and bring a present, the least the recipient can do is send a personalized thank you card.

Am I a correspondence snob? Probably. When it comes to business correspondence, there are a lot of us. Dozens of business etiquette resources and websites point to the same bothersome trend: that writers have gotten lazy. The days of hand-written letters, even printed business letters, are fading, replaced by email and further degraded by phone texts.

To set you, the sender apart, I suggest the following email tips culled from my own experience and some pretty awesome etiquette websites.

  1. Include a courteous greeting and closing. It’s just a nice thing to do.
  2. “Please” and “thank you” are common courtesies that will take you far.
  3. Initially, address your recipient formally: Dear Mr. Pitt, Hello Ms. Jolie. Use first names after a few interactions.
  4. Know your fields: The “to” field is for those from whom you would like a response. The “cc” field is for those who you are just FYI'ing.
  5. When replying to an email with multiple recipients noted in the “to” or “cc” fields, remove the addresses of those who your reply does not apply to.
  6. Refrain from using the “Reply to All” feature to give your opinion to those who may not be interested.
  7. To be safe, don’t complete the “to” field until you’ve completely written and reviewed your message and are ready to send. How many times have you accidentally hit the “send” button prematurely? “Doh!”
  8. Take the time to review each email to ensure the message is clear and cannot be misconstrued. Check your tone.
  9. Refrain from using too many exclamation points. It’s annoying. This is a good rule for any writing – electronic or otherwise.
  10. If your email is emotionally charged, take a break before you send it. Nine times out of ten, you’ll feel differently in the morning. It’s for the best.
  11. Just because someone doesn't ask for a response doesn't mean you ignore them. Always acknowledge emails from those you know in a timely manner. And if you cannot respond to an email promptly, at the very least email back confirming your receipt and when the sender can expect your response.
  12. Keep emails brief and to the point. Don’t lose your message in a sea of filler.
  13. In a string of emails, feel free to modify the “Subject” field to more accurately reflect a conversation's direction.
  14. When in doubt, go formal. No abbreviations — use full words and sentences (you, not “u”).
  15. And for goodness sake, no crazy fonts or fancy backgrounds.

Lastly, if you need to clarify your message, don’t forget the telephone. I know it’s a scary thing to actually talk to people. Maybe my next blog will focus on the lost art of conversation . . .

 

Sources:
businessemailetiquette.com
www.netmanners.com
101emailetiquettetips.com

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Successful webinars or “How I learned to stop worrying and love the mute button”

webinars

Webinars are great for connecting with existing members or prospects. It can be a simple PowerPoint or a multifaceted Prezi with videos and live webcam feeds. I’ve co-paneled and hosted several webinars in conjunction with our client associations and put together some pointers that I believe will help make your next webinar a success.

1) Determine a topic that would be worth taking time away from work to watch.
Just because you can host a webinar on any issue or topic doesn’t mean you should. If you simply put together a few slides and read from a script to promote yourself, you won’t find many attendees. A great webinar will cover an important issue that many deal with. It should be educational, builds off the introductory slides, and benefits those attending. Don’t sell hammers – sell hanging pictures.

2) Practice.
A dry run is always recommended, especially if you’re co-paneling with someone else. Get name pronunciations down, pacing, who controls the slides, etc. It makes the webinar run far smoother.

3) Sign-on 20-30 minutes early.
Even with practice, there’s always the chance that technical difficulties or issues will arise. (As they usually do.) Plan on being signed on and ready to go at least 20 minutes in advance so you can work out the bugs and be ready for go-time.

mute-button4) Typed questions only.
A chat window allows attendees to ask questions throughout the webinar that you can return to at the end. If you have another person with you, they can answer questions while you continue with the presentation

That said, restrict it to typed questions only. An open mic results in attendees who aren’t familiar with the mute button, and I have listened to someone eat during a webinar. It’s not pleasant.

5) Always have a follow-up plan.
After the webinar, debrief on how it went and what the next steps are. You have a list of those who registered and attended — make sure you follow up. It can be a quick thank you email, or link to references made during the presentation, or even a recording of the webinar for future playback.

 

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Keywords are so last year: The new "formula" for SEO success

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There are no Search Engine Optimization (SEO) guarantees, only good practice. There is no silver bullet or shady tricks that will shoot your site to the top of the search engine rankings. It's as simple as that. I would advise caution if any company or freelancer guarantees SEO success, unless of course they come with a 6 or 12 month plan.

SEO used to mean putting a few bits of text, key-words or phrases in place on your site, getting a few links to your site and the rest would fall into place, with no further effort and no further thought.

But since search engines continually update and refined their ranking algorithms, that all changed. Search engines now rank sites a lot differently, and add weight to the type of links you have to your site, and the quality and relevancy of the content on your site. So called "black hat" techniques will kill your site and rightly so. Why should a site without decent content go to the top of the rankings ahead of a site that has?

Remember, search engine sites are companies like any other. Even massive companies need satisfied customers. Search engines need the best, most relevant sites at the top of their search results, otherwise their users will look elsewhere. So those terrible, irrelevant, content-light sites get punished. It just makes sense!

So what is the new “formula” for SEO success? Substance + Relevance + Shares = Success!

Today your website, blogs, and social media presence have an actual chance of out-ranking your competition under multiple searches, and this is where the new SEO practices will have their day.

Substance: Substance means a complete base of a few things: Content, content and, oh, more content. Part of the new formula is content creation, and yes, this means content that is relevant to your business and your potential customers.

Relevance: Without relevance, your SEO efforts are dead in the water. We cannot manipulate rankings no matter how hard we try, our business is not that of ranking, but of being relevant to those who search for the answers they want or need.

Shares: Today’s link building is not as serious a struggle as some SEO “experts” would have you believe. Forever it was link to this persons high traffic page and if they linked back even better, not so today. Social sharing and citations are the cause for serious linking success.

Sharing content not only promotes successful linking, but also creates a couple things that are far better, trust and credibility.

Sharing content that others will in turn share themselves, creates trust. When people do click a link and follow you through to your website, blog, or your social media page, it is all about the trust and credibility you are building with them and the search engines.

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When your publisher's contract is up for renewal: Tips for the RFP process

publisher rfp

If you’ve worked successfully with a publisher over a period of time and you’re happy, is it necessary to go through the proposal process when your contract is up for renewal? My answer is “Yes, definitely.” Why? Because the board and staff have a duty to their association to ensure the best deal possible. Technology changes, new players come into the market. Without exploring and revisiting the agreement, you may miss out on additional savings.

Having just gone through the publishing RFP process with one of our clients, I have a few quick tips to share.
Don’t reinvent the wheel. Associations send out RFPs for publishing all the time. Do a little digging and find an RFP to use as a template. Trouble finding a sample? Pose a question to your peers on ASAE Collaborate or your state society of association executives’ online community – someone is sure to step up and share their RFP. An online search will yield samples as well.

Know what you have. My client has a lot of “extras” with their current publisher that are offered to members and would be hard to replace. Value-added items might include a digital version of your publication, a mobile app, complimentary member access to related journals and magazines in your publisher’s catalog or member discounts on any related books they publish. Although these items don’t have a particular dollar value attached to them, they provide solid member benefits.

Respect confidentiality. Whether it’s a confidentiality clause in your contract that prohibits the sharing of specific information or a “confidential” statement on provided information, respect the agreement with your current publisher. If you have a question about whether or not the release of certain information is in violation of your agreement, err on the side of caution or consult your attorney. In the case of my client, we couldn’t provide revenue figures, but one publisher was resourceful and found the information on our IRS 990. Another publisher declined to submit a proposal because they didn’t have the information or know where to get it.

Be available and responsive. Potential publishers are sure to have questions. Respond to their questions in a timely manner, just as you expect them to respond to you quickly. Don’t be surprised if the publisher wants to have a conference call instead of emailing back and forth. Ask a committee member to participate on the call with you; you may not be a subject matter expert, especially if you publish a scientific or medical journal. Including someone knowledgeable in the subject on the call will help ensure that all the publisher’s questions are answered.

How is our process ending? It looks like we’ll be staying with our current publisher, but everyone agrees we spent our time wisely. We can say with certainty that we have the best publishing fit for our organization.

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How to become a better proofreader

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Proofreading is a skill that can be learned. Believe me when I say that I learned it the hard way. Your writing may be eloquent, insightful, even witty, but if you get someone’s name wrong -- (McFarlane? I thought it was McFarland.) or incorrectly calculate a United Way deduction in a graphic (What? It’s twice a month?) or simply don’t know your facts (Oh, it’s Canada – not Canadian – geese.) – they will never forget it. Neither will you.

Besides years of making mistakes (see preceding paragraph), three things have helped me improve the accuracy of communications for which I’m responsible: Training, a checklist and a two-sets-of-eyes rule. 

In one of my first writing and editing jobs, it was suggested (OK, mandated) I attend a Proofamatics class. I am pleased to see that the company still exists and its techniques are the same. Proofamatics teaches you to look at a document multiple times, each time looking in different places for different types of errors. If you simply start at the first word in the upper left corner and read to the end, you will read for comprehension and overlook errors.

For example, if you’re proofreading a newsletter, you might first read the headlines, bylines, subheads, photo captions and authors’ biography paragraphs. Then, verify names, titles, numbers, times and dates. Finally, read the body text. This divide-and-conquer technique works best when you print out the pages, so you can see multiple pages at once and easily mark corrections. 

My proofreading proficiency took a second leap forward when I created a checklist, at the suggestion of my husband, who was once described as an “engineer’s engineer.” Engineers love checklists, and for good reason; they present a systematic way to make sure every step in a process is completed. And, because I don’t read from top to bottom, front to back, a checklist helps me get back on track if I’m interrupted or take a break, which I highly recommend during marathon proofreading sessions.

Over the years, I’ve modified my proofreading checklist many times to reflect different types of publications and new technology. For example, my first checklist referred to bluelines; my current one lists hyperlinks. You are welcome to a copy of my checklist, however, please know that every situation calls for different “checks.” For example, I check “TOC with actual.” That is, do the headlines and page numbers in the table of contents (TOC) match the actual magazine or newsletter content? Your documents or web pages may not have a table of contents, but they might have footnotes, address blocks or some other element not on my checklist. The point is to create a checklist that meets your individual needs.

Finally, implement a two-sets-of-eyes rule. This is particularly important when you are proofreading your own writing. Ask someone else to proofread your work before publishing it in print or online. Suggest your backup proofreader use your divide-and-conquer technique and checklist.

The techniques I’ve shared here will add time to the process, but I firmly believe that it’s time well spent. Few people will notice if your newsletter or magazine is published a day behind schedule, but leave their name off a list (Randy, I know it’s been almost 30 years, but I still feel terrible.) and they will remember forever. So will you.

If you are interested in a copy of my proofreading checklist, please email me.

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Before you go live: Five steps for successfully redesigning your website

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After twenty plus years in the association management industry working on countless projects that I loved, I now have a personal favorite. The recent redesign of a client website that seemed daunting at the outset brought together all of my favorite elements: the opportunity to work closely with staff, volunteers and an industry partner, and the chance to be creative and produce a website that provides value to our members and visitors every day. After a successful launch, I reflected on why this project meant so much to me and more importantly, what tips I could share to help my peers. Here are a few of the things that led to a stress-free “go live” date.

Map out a plan. Before you embark on the project, make sure you have a well thought out plan. The first step for us was to come up with a site map that laid out the overall vision for the new site. The site map resided on a large whiteboard in my office. Every category of information that was going on the site was included on the map. Even though you have your plan in place, be sure to stay flexible because I guarantee that not every detail will go exactly as planned.

Don’t be afraid to de-clutter. As we developed the site map, there were some hard decisions that needed to be made about what would be transferred over from the old site and what was no longer needed. When you deal with an organization of volunteers, sometimes it’s difficult to eliminate things that have a lot of emotion and hard work attached to them. That’s why I recommend making sure you don’t skip the next item.

Get buy-in from stakeholders along the way. Throughout the process, I reached out to the volunteer “owners” of the website’s different pieces to get their input. As staff, we made recommendations that would help site visitors get all of the information they needed without getting lost in a world of unnecessary clutter. We respected the hard work that was put into the old site and worked with stakeholders to streamline the new site.

The more eyes the better. This piece was key to a successful site. On the whiteboard were a list of categories and a place for staff initials to show, at a glance, the status of each piece. Was the copy written? Had the copy been reviewed by our staff point person? If there was volunteer involvement had that person seen the final product? Were there graphics included on the page? Was final copy sent to the designer? Had the related pages gone through final review? Was that piece ready to “go live?”

Hire a web designer who will act as a true partner. At AMPED, we’re very lucky to work with a designer who truly wants to be creative with us. He understands that we welcome his suggestions and we know we can depend on him to be on top of what’s up and coming in web design and function.

Launch day has come and gone and the new site is a success, but the work doesn’t stop there. We will continually look for ways to enhance the site and provide value to all of our visitors. I’d love to hear how you engage visitors on your organization’s site so that they keep returning!

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Is print dead?

Newsweek

At the end of 2012, when Newsweek magazine ceased printing and moved all content online, some media observers declared print was “dead.” Predictions were that, within a decade, all content would be online, accessed by on-the-go readers using tablets and other smart devices.

Immediacy, accessibility, searchability, interactivity, embedded video – all available for free – give online media huge competitive advantages over traditional print. Early in the online vs. print debate, magazine and newspaper publishers questioned how they could hold onto paid subscribers if they gave away the content on their website. Publication websites were mostly placeholders, where past issues could be warehoused along with media kits and subscription information.

Now, more publications are making their websites their primary delivery method. The shift from traditional print to web forces publishers to rethink every aspect of their business. How can they continuously produce fresh content? Where will the revenue come from to support a staff of writers, editors, designers and salespeople? Can they afford to create two versions of the publication? How will they build in interactivity? Who will monitor and respond to readers’ comments? How will they use social media to extend their reach?

One of the magazines to which I contribute articles from our members made this transition in the past year. Now, instead of submitting a bimonthly column for the print magazine, we are posting a weekly blog written by our members. The editors then choose among the blog posts for the print edition, based on web traffic and knowledge of their print audience.

I believe the publishers that reinvent themselves as online content providers will be the ones that flourish in the future. They will examine traditional business models and develop new ways to attract readers and advertisers. They will provide a nonstop flow of information that it is timely and relevant. They will engage readers in conversations that add perspective to the content. Their websites will be multimedia, multidimensional vehicles for news, opinion, entertainment and connectivity.
Print isn’t dead, but I think it’s safe to say it’s on the endangered list. Start charging your smart devices.

 

Addendum: Shortly after I finished writing this blog, the new owners of Newsweek announced they would resume publishing a print version of the magazine in January or February. The New York Times reported that the magazine will focus on in-depth, global reporting and rely on subscribers rather than advertisers for revenue, which will result in higher subscription rates. I look forward to seeing how this develops.

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