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Here Is Why “How to Write” Is Much More Important than “What to Write”

Here Is Why “How to Write” Is Much More Important than “What to Write”
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It’s hard enough to find the motivation to work. When you have to worry about concentration and creativity on top of that, things can get pretty awkward. Nowadays, with tons of information available at the touch of a button, creating the right kind of content can make all the difference for someone trying to gain more customers or readers. A lot of writers and bloggers are fully aware of this, but have a problem finding something worth writing about.

What if I told you that it is more about how to write for people, than it is about the actual content? People will rarely sift through blocks upon blocks of monotonous text, even if it holds all the answers that they need. You need to engage them. Sell your story.

Why is writing style so important? And how do you develop a great style that people will eat up?

The internet is all about sharing great content, and the competition is tough

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As people a bit more qualified than me have already pointed out, content that is relatively good and original has become the norm – it’s no longer the ultimate goal to strive for. The competition is just too tough, and people always have a few other browser tabs to go to if your writing can’t draw them in within the first ten or so seconds. However, when even the broadest topics have been covered ad nauseam, you can’t really hope to create something totally unique. I know – I’ve been there myself many times.

There is, however, some hope. Desperate writers have been using the old “everything worth writing about has already been written” line since Ancient Egyptian times. And yet good literature is still alive and kicking thousands of years later. This is because it’s more about the common themes and emotions, told with different words and through a prism of a unique worldview. People will be drawn to the same life drama as they always were – hope, dignity, overcoming adversity, just reward and poetic justice are the kind of things that rile up a crowd – but it’s up to you to find a good way to talk about them.

You have to pull the readers in right from the start

You can say what you want about Hollywood’s tendency to hire hack writers, cannibalize original stories and rush their scripts, but some of them really know how to hook their viewers. Choosing the right niche and topic is still important, as you want to write what you know. But you mustn’t get bogged down in the details. The first paragraph has to give the reader a taste of what is to come, and really sell your content.

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Good bloggers often let people know who they are and what they are about within the first few sentences. Something like: “Look, I’ve been a Batman fan ever since I saw him make a sly comment about Vicky Vale’s weight nearly twenty years ago. But I draw the line at Bat-skates and Bat-nipples”, is far more engaging than: “The 97’ Batman and Robin left this reviewer shocked and appalled”. The introduction is there to give the viewers some information about who the writer is and the kind of style he uses – they want someone who thinks like they do, but has the language skills to bring these thoughts to life in a fun way.

Tell a story

Even journalists, who try to stay objective in their writing and pursue truth through stone cold facts, are careful to create a storyline and take their readers on a journey. In the example form the previous paragraph, the first reviewer introduces himself as a lifelong Batman fan. He infers that he is prepared to go to great lengths, to suspend his disbelief, in order to see his favorite character in action. But that even such a devoted fan was disappointed with Joel Schumacher’s train wreck of a film.

When you dig deeper, you see that this is a story of a young boy learning about what it meant to be a man of principle through a fictional character that became his role model, only to have all his hopes and expectations broken by an industry who no longer understands their own creation, and is merely interested in monetizing a brand. There are multiple layers to the story, and they are all being hinted at within the opening paragraph.

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The whole piece might take you on a journey that explores social corruption and human greed, drawing parallels between Gotham’s crime elite and Hollywood producers, which ultimately cause a hero’s name to be tarnished. It’s no longer a quick recap of the film with a star rating attached to it – the article is now a story of its own, which the readers will find incredibly interesting, despite hating the very movie that inspired it.

Old themes are worth revisiting and putting a spin on

There is a common tendency for people who become skilled or incredibly knowledgeable about a topic to gloss over basics when they explain things to people. It’s fairly natural for someone who has mastered these essential premises to think of them as common knowledge, and try to build more complex ideas on them. However, when you are dealing with a growing online audience, chances are that you will come across lots and lots of beginners who still have trouble understanding the simple stuff. It’s always good to revisit the basics, and expand on them, making sure to give things your own unique flavor.

For example, loads of articles have been written on self-improvement and a number of related topics. You’ll see points like: “Go to bed early”, “Start walking an hour every day”, “Face your fears” or “Get out of your comfort zone”, repeated time after time. It’s usually a short paragraph with vague concepts and a couple of quick tips. However, books upon books have been written on learning to cope with fear in one form or another, and people can talk for hours about the different tactics, implications and potential pros and cons of going to bed early.

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A short paragraph just isn’t going to cut it. A better strategy is to tackle the whole health and self-improvement topic from a more personal angle, and tell people what they can see, hear and learn during those hour long walks. If you cover your own personal experience and accounts of other people, it’s much easier for the readers to relate. Don’t paint things black and white or paint an idealistic picture – get down and dirty, and write about what it is like to be human. You can apply this to anything – food bloggers can explain how they got their kids to try out new foods, tech writers can write a piece about living technology free for a week, and so on. Take something people want to read about, and make it your own.

People want to hear a story told by someone whose writing they find fun and engaging, because we all ultimately love a good story-teller. Here’s a good modern example from the world of vlogging. Many gaming YouTube channels, like PewdiePie, have gained immense popularity with gameplay footage, while other similar channels struggle to gain 1000 subscribers – the only difference here being the presentation style and personality of the different YouTubers.

So, remember: Focus on developing a creative style based on your worldview. There’s only one you. Tell us your story and be passionate about what you write.

More by this author

Vladimir Zivanovic

CMO at MyCity-Web

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Last Updated on July 20, 2021

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)
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You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

“Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

Warming up

If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

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  1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
  2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
  3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

Stay hydrated

Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

Meditate

Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

2. Focus on your goal

One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

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Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

3. Convert negativity to positivity

There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

4. Understand your content

Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

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However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

“No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

5. Practice makes perfect

Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

6. Be authentic

There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

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Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

7. Post speech evaluation

Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

Improve your next speech

As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

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  • How did I do?
  • Are there any areas for improvement?
  • Did I sound or look stressed?
  • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
  • Was I saying “um” too often?
  • How was the flow of the speech?

Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

Reference

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