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Help a Reporter (and Yourself) Out

Help a Reporter (and Yourself) Out
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20080901-reporter

    Ever wonder where journalists and other writers find the experts they quote in their stories? In the past, reporters counted on their own networking, and on a service called ProfNet. ProfNet lets journalists search their database of experts and contact them individually to see if they’d be interested in being interviewed.

    Until recently, ProfNet has been about the only game in town, as far as finding real experts is concerned. Which might be why their website is a little less than user-friendly – no competition. But things have been shaken up rather thoroughly in the last couple months, with the arrival on the scene of a new service aiming to connect journalists and experts.

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    Help A Reporter Out (HARO) is the brainchild of Peter Shankman, founder and CEO of marketing/PR firm The Geek Factory, Inc. The idea is simple, but incredibly powerful. Journalists post requests using a simple form, detailing their story and the kind of expert they’re looking for. Experts – on whatever – subscribe to the HARO mailing list. A few times a day, the requests over the last several hours are compiled and sent out to everyone on the mailing list. Subscribers skim the list and see if there are any stories they feel they can contribute to, and they email the reporter directly.

    It’s that simple. It’s almost stupid! But it works – in a few months it’s membership has grown to over 12,000 people and Shankman is sending out 50 or more HARO requests a day.

    Why bother to help a reporter out?

    Why should you take the time and energy to read HARO’s twice- or thrice-daily email, looking for HARO requests that apply to you?

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    There are several answers, all of them good. The first, of course, is that you know something that might help a reporter to be more informative or more accurate, and therefore in some small way you can contribute to the world’s store of knowledge. That’s what knowledge is for, after all – sharing.

    But, you say, I get paid for sharing my knowledge. Hey, good on ya! Maybe the warm fuzzies aren’t enough.

    Fair enough. While journalistic ethics generally precedes paying sources, people who volunteer to help reporters with their story get another kind of payment: exposure. And no minor exposure, either – being quoted in a major newspaper or national magazine can bring a flood of traffic to your site, new clients, job offers, you name it. And smaller outlets can be just as good,or even better – being quoted as an expert by a niche publication means that the people who will see your name referred to as the go-to guy or gal on your topic are exactly the people you most want to see you as an expert.

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    PR folks know this, which is why when I sent out a HARO request recently, about 1/3 of the responses I got were publicists and marketing folk offering to connect me with their clients. It’s an excellent opportunity to establish yourself as an expert in your field.

    There’s one more reason to respond to HARO requests: it can be fun. You get to share your thoughts with someone who, while maybe not an expert, at least has an interest in the field you work in (usually, or the story would have been assigned to someone else). Speaking with a skilled interviewer is a great way to clarify your own thinking, too.

    What if I need some help, too?

    HARO is, at least for now, an open system. I’ve seen requests from bloggers, in-house writers, people taking surveys, and of course actual jourrnalists on assignment. There is no verification system in place to make sure your request is “legitimate”, and while that might become a problem down the line, for now it’s working pretty well. (I shouldn’t say no verification system – people aren’t going to respond to requests that seem phony or amateurish, so in that sense, the system is self-regulating).

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    What that means is that, if you need to interview an expert, and can offer a reasonable amount of exposure, there’s no real reason not to try a HARO request.

    And it works. My first HARO request was for an expert n what I thought was a pretty obscure topic. Within a few hours, I had 14 responses! What’s more, almost all of them were good – real, bona fide experts in the rather tiny niche I was writing about.

    If you want to improve your chances of getting a decent response, there are a few things you should do:

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    • Be real: I can imagine all sorts of ways that people are going to try to game the HARO system. Here’s the thing, though – you’re interacting with real people – smart ones, at that. They are experts, after all. If your request comes off as scammy, you won’t get a response – but even if your request does get a response, people will realize soon enough that you’re full of… it when you start responding of when you get them on the phone.
    • Explain your topic thoroughly: HARO gives plenty of room to describe who you’re looking for; be as specific as you can. Don’t think you’re being clever by being vague, or that you’ll improve your chances of finding someone if your request is so loosely worded that just about anyone might feel that they’re the right person for you. The people who sign up for HARO’s list are looking for particular requests that they feel a connection with. Ideally, you want a handful of people to read your request and feel like you’re talking about them specifically.
    • Be respectful: You don’t get to expect a response, you get to appreciate one. If someone takes the time to respond to your request, even if you can’t use them for your project, try at least to respond and tell them “no thanks”. You never know when you might need their assistance in the future, so don’t burn any bridges by being a jerk.

    I, for one, will be watching closely to see how Help A Reporter Out develops. It’s such a simple idea, but it works – and in the long run, may be a huge step forward for journalism. And for self-promotion – what a great way to get yourself noticed by people in your niche!

    I’d love to hear other people’s stories about HARO. If you have any, please share them with us in the comments.

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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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