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Starting A Blog? Here are 5 Things You Should Know

Starting A Blog? Here are 5 Things You Should Know

Starting a blog is incredibly easy. You sign up for one of the free blogging platforms, pick a background design, and you’re up and running, right? That works just fine if you’re blogging for your friends and family, but if your goal is to build your business or your personal brand, then you have a different set of objective. These five tips will help you get a professional blog off the ground on the right foot.

1. Research The Market

When you start a business, you research your niche and make sure that you have an original position to take. When you start a blog, you do the same thing. You need to have something new to say to those who are eventually going to follow you, which they can’t find anywhere else. If your selling point is your unique perspective, be prepared for it to take some time to demonstrate that as a value. I’d recommend all newbies to read Jeff Goins post on ins and outs of basics of blogging.

You should be able to articulate the blogs that your customers will also be reading, how they are differentiated from each other, and how your blog will be differentiated from them.

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2. Decide What Your Blog’s Job Is

What is your blog going to do? Just like any other piece of content on the web, it needs to have a clear purpose that informs what you choose to post and share. A blog for a business might decide, for example, to use its blog to answer frequently asked question, share videos and photos of a product and service being used in real time, or create informational posts about the topic at hand.

Ask yourself why you want to start a blog; this is where it all begins. When a blog is being used to build a personal brand, its job is a little more fluid. Usually, you will be presenting an idealized version of yourself to the world. You will use your blog to talk about the things you’re trying to influence. Here is another good post by Ann Smarty that answers the most commonly asked questions and one of the topics is what you want to achieve with blogging.

Someone promoting a lifestyle brand might share their favorite fashion items and stories from the most recent round of designer shows, while someone who is building a career as a life coach might share organizational tips and their favorite planners.

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3. Plan Posts Ahead Of Time

When you’re deciding what your blog’s job is, brainstorm different topics that you want to talk about. Determine how often you want to post. Once a week is considered a bare minimum, and more than once a day generally is overkill.

Once you know how often you’re going to post, start building yourself an editorial calendar. Some blogging tools offer plugins that can help with this, but many people use either a paper or digital calendar. Digital is particularly helpful because you can use the “notes” section of the “event” entry to add links to thinks you want to talk about or images you plan on using.

You can also build drafts of future posts and keep a calendar of what you want to talk about when so you know what to expand on and edit. Here are some good tips from Lory Linn Smith on how to plan and come up with blog topic ideas.

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The important thing here is that you should not get caught without anything to say. By building your blog out instead of waiting for inspiration to strike, you’re building good habits that will help you successfully maintain your blog over time.

4. Build Up Content Before You Promote

Creating a new blog is exciting, and you may want to promote it the very second you have anything posted. Resist the temptation. At a bare minimum, you should have a solid About page, any FAQ pages, and four or five posts in place before you start sharing links and encouraging your friends and family to like your page. The WP Millionaire put up a good guide on standard pages all blogs should have.

Why? Because you are competing with everything else on the Internet for your customers’ attention. If you want to make an impact on their awareness, you need to have enough content available for them to look through and understand who you are. A single blog post isn’t enough to make an impression.

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5. Have A Comment Section Or Not?

A comment section used to be an absolute given, but in recent years, many popular blogs have chosen to shut down their comments sections, citing abuse and harassment occurring. While this may not be an issue when you have a handful of followers, as the numbers increase, you will need to consider what best to do. Here is a good post by Fizzle that covers the pros and cons of blog comments by listing two different opinions from popular bloggers.

If you rarely get comments, it may not be a problem at all. If you get many comments, and you see industry relevant conversations occurring in the comments, it may be best to take a careful moderation approach, but let comments exist. If you find that you regularly see abusive comments, and they aren’t adding to the conversation, just shutting off the comments might save you time.

Running a blog can be an excellent way to learn about writing for an audience, developing themes and persuasive essay writing. What tips would you offer to someone starting up their first professional blog?

Featured photo credit: marragem via flickr.com

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Margarita Hakobyan

MBA from the University of Utah

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Last Updated on February 11, 2021

10 Secrets of Making Every Presentation Fun, Engaging, and Enjoyable

10 Secrets of Making Every Presentation Fun, Engaging, and Enjoyable

Not a lot of people are good at public speaking. You could even say that virtually everyone needs to get some practice, and preferably good guidance, before they can learn to stay calm when facing a room full of people. Having all eyes on you is an uncomfortable experience and it takes time to get used to. However, even if you can manage to control your stage fright and stay focused, it doesn’t necessarily mean that your presentation won’t put people to sleep. This is usually the case with long presentations on a very dull subject, with the presenter speaking in a monotone voice and dimming the lights to play a PowerPoint presentation.

You have to work hard to develop the right skills

If you want to be remembered and actually get people engaged, you need to make your presentation fun and enjoyable, without coming off as corny or desperate to please. I know, it doesn’t sound that easy at all! A good presentation during a promotional event or given to an important client can be a game changer for your business, so it is easy to get stressed out and fail to perform all that well. Luckily, giving an interesting lecture is something that can be practiced and perfected. There is plenty of advice out there on the topic, but let’s look at the most important aspects of giving a memorable and fun presentation.

1. Make your presentation short and sweet

With very long, meandering speeches you tend to lose the audience pretty early on, and from then on out it’s just a test of endurance for the few bravest listeners. Not only will people’s attention start to drop rapidly after sitting and listening to you talk for 30 minutes, but you also risk watering down your core ideas and leaving your audience with little in the way of key phrases and important bits of information to take away from the whole ordeal. Famous speakers throughout history have known the importance of condensing the information by using well thought out sentences and short phrases loaded with meaning.

JFK’s famous: ”It’s not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country,” expresses so much in very few words and gets the audience thinking. Ancient Spartans, for example were famous for their quick, dry wit, often demolishing their opponent’s argument with a single word or phrase. You’ll want to channel that ancient spirit and be as concise as possible when preparing your presentation.

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2. Open up with a good ice breaker

At the beginning, you are new to the audience. There is no rapport, no trust and the atmosphere is fairly neutral. Even if some of the people there know you personally, the concept of you as an authority on a particular matter giving a speech will be foreign to them. The best way to encourage a warm and friendly atmosphere is to get some kind of emotional response out of the audience right at the beginning. It doesn’t matter what emotion it is, you just need to connect with them on a more personal level. It can be shock, curiosity, laughter, knowing smirks, nervousness – whatever gets them out of that initial feeling of indifference. There are different kinds of effective ice-breakers, but generally speaking, the most successful ones utilize one of these tactics:

  • Joking
  • Tugging on their heart strings
  • Dropping a bombastic statement
  • Telling an interesting and relevant anecdote
  • Using a metaphor or drawing comparisons

You can make a small, self-deprecating comment, stir the presentation one way and then suddenly surprise the audience, use sarcasm, open up with a short childhood story that taught you a lesson, quote a famous person and elaborate on it from personal experience, use an inspirational anecdote or hit them with a bit of nostalgia. Just remember to keep it short and move on once you’ve gotten a reaction.

3. Keep things simple and to the point

Once you’re done warming up the crowd you can ease them into the core concepts and important ideas that you will be presenting. Keep the same presentation style thoughout. If you’ve started off a bit ironic, using dry wit, you can’t just jump into a boring monologue. If you’ve started off with a bang, telling a couple of great little jokes and getting the crowd riled up, you have to keep them happy by throwing in little jokes here and there and being generally positive and energetic during the presentation. You need a certain structure that you won’t deviate too far from at any point. A good game plan consists of several important points that need to be addressed efficiently. This means moving on from one point to another in a logical manner, coming to a sound conclusion and making sure to accentuate the key information.

4. Use a healthy dose of humor

Some of the best speeches and presentations in the world, which have been heard and viewed by millions, all feature plenty of humor. No matter the subject, a great speaker will use natural charisma, humor and beautiful language to convey their points and get the crowd excited about what they are saying. A great example of building rapport with the audience through the use of humor is Barrack Obama talking about the government building Iron Man.

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It is silly and fun, and absolutely not something that you would expect from a man in a position of power speaking in such a serious setting – and it’s exactly why it works. The more serious the situation and the bigger the accent on proper social behavior, the harder your jokes will hit.

5. Try to tell a story instead of ranting

Some people can do all of the above things right and still manage to turn their short and fun little presentation into a chaotic mess of information. You don’t want your speech to look like you just threw a bunch of information in a blender in no particular order. To avoid rambling, create a strong structure. Start with the ice breaker, introduce the core concepts and your goals briefly, elaborate on the various points in a bit more detail, draw logical conclusions and leave your audience with a clear takeaway message. You want to flow naturally from one part to the next like you are telling a big story chapter by chapter.

6. Practice your delivery

Standing in front of the mirror and practicing a speech or presentation is a technique as old as mirrors – well, come to think of it, as old as human speech, since you can see yourself reflected in any clear and calm body of water – and that means that it is tried and true. The theory is incredibly simple, yet the real problem is actually putting in the effort day in and day out. Work on your posture, your tone of voice, accent, pauses between sentences and facial expressions. The most important thing is to talk slowly and loudly enough to be heard and understood clearly. Many famous speakers, such as Demosthenes and King George VI, overcame speech impediments through hard work.

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7. Move around and use your hands

Although you won’t instill confidence in your project if you are very jittery, moving around erratically, not knowing what to do with your hands and making fast movements, standing dead still can be just as bad. You shouldn’t be afraid to use your arms and hands when talking as it makes you seem more passionate and confident. The same goes for moving around and taking up some space. However, try to make slower, calculated and deliberate movements. You want your movements to seem powerful, yet effortless. You can achieve this through practice.

8. Engage the audience by making them relate

Sometimes you will lose the audience somewhat in techno-babble, numbers, graphs and abstract ideas. At that point it is important to reel them back in using some good, old-fashioned storytelling. Make comparisons to events from everyday life that most people are more than familiar with. By making things look simple, not only will you help your audience get a better understanding of the subject by enabling them to visualize the information more clearly, you will also draw a connection between you. After all, you are all just regular people with similar experience, you just happen to be performing different roles at the moment.

9. Use funny images in your slides

Although slides are not really necessary at all times, if you do need them to make your point and present your information more effectively, it’s best to liven them up. They say that facts aren’t always black and white, and your presentation should reflect this. Add a bit of color, make the information stand out and use an interesting animation to switch from slide to slide. You can use the slides to add some more humor, both in terms of the text and the images. An image that is used to elicit a positive response needs to be funny within the context of what you are discussing. For example, if you are discussing the topic of authority, an image of Eric Cartman from South Park in a police uniform, demanding that you respect his “authoritah,” is a nice way to have a bit of fun and lighten things up.

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10. End on a more serious note

When all is said and done you will want the audience to remember the core concepts and keep thinking about what you have said after the presentation is over. This is why you should let things naturally calm down and end with an important idea, quote or even a question. Plant a seed in their mind and make them think. Let us turn to Patrick Henry for a great way to end a speech: “Is life so dear or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death.”

As you can see, there is quite a bit to learn when it comes to giving a good presentation, one that is both memorable and fun. Be sure to work on your skills tirelessly and follow in the footsteps of great orators.

Featured photo credit: Austin Distel via unsplash.com

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