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The Newbie Guide to Blogging

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The Newbie Guide to Blogging
The Newbie’s Guide to Blogging

We live in a blogging world. Whether you’re a business startup, an established business, a freelancer, an intern, a musician, or anyone else, blogging can help you:

  • Make your name or brand visible
  • Connect with others in your business or interest
  • Reach out to the public about issues you’re passionate about
  • Express yourself
  • Update clients or an audience about projects you’re working on
  • Share your knowledge
  • Learn to write better
  • Share your life with people important to you
  • Connect with your fans or customers
  • Make money

When I started blogging in 2000, it was virtually unheard of, and there were almost no tools to make it easier. I literally hand-coded every page of my blog — including monthly archive pages, “older posts” pages, and so on. Needless to say, I wasn’t a very prolific blogger the first couple of years!

Today, just about anyone can get up and running in a few minutes using free services that make adding a post as easy as writing email. Knowing how to get your content out there is no longer a barrier — if you have something to say, saying it is easy.

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Getting Started

There are several services that offer free blogs to anyone who wants one. The most popular services are WordPress.com and Blogger, although a Google search for “free blog” turns up over 145 million sites — surely there’s one that meets whatever crazy needs or desires you have. I prefer WordPress.com, mainly because I’m familiar with the industry-standard WordPress software that’s used on most of the sites I write for. WordPress.com offers built-in spam protection, a selection of really nice themes, a word processor-like text entry system (no coding necessary), nice stats (to see how much attention your site’s getting), and a lot more. (Note: I don’t work for them or anything, I just like them).

To get started:

  1. Sign up for an account at WordPress.com. Your blog will be at username.wordpress.com
  2. Select a template. There are lots of great ones to choose from. Or you can go with the default.
  3. Start posting.

Have a look at the site I whipped up in just under 5 minutes: dwax.wordpress.com.

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On Being a Blogger

OK, now you have a blog. What are you going to do with it?

The stereotype of bloggers is that we post about our cats and what we had for lunch, but the reality is that there’s bloggers out there writing about every conceivable topic. The two sites I just linked to, for example, are incredibly popular sites about feminism (the one with the cats; they post about dogs, too!) and making money online (the one with the food).

Your blog is only limited by your passions — what do you have to say? Think about what purpose you want your blog to serve — do you want a record of your daily life, or maybe a way to keep your friends and family up-to-date while you’re traveling? Or maybe you want a place to promote your writing, music, or artwork and to keep in touch with your fans? Maybe you want a channel to communicate with your customers — and where they can communicate with you? Perhaps you want to share your insights on politics, freelancing, soccer coaching, high school teaching, or fishing with the world?

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There are a few things you should know about writing a blog, though. While there are examples of every conceivable style of writing on blogs across the Web, there are a few qualities which blog writing tends to share:

  • It’s short: Reading on the screen isn’t as enjoyable as reading on paper, so people tend to shy away from really long pieces. 2,000 words is long for a blog post; 1,000 words is a pretty good goal; short pieces of 300 words or so are perfectly acceptable.
  • Paragraphs are shorter: Because you have to scroll a lot when reading on a screen, paragraphs tend to be shorter so a whole thought can fit in a browser window.
  • Important points are highlighted: Online readers tend to skim through pieces, so web writers often put key points in bold type so their readers can easily pick out the crucial stuff.
  • Bulleted lists are common: Bulleted lists are another way that skimmers are accommodated, making all the main points easily available.
  • It contains links to other sites: Blogging tends to take advantage of the ability to link to toher work, either to offer up references (e.g. a link to a definition of a difficult word or concept on Wikipedia) or to continue conversations started elsewhere (e.g. a link to a post on another blog which you’re responding to).
  • It’s conversational in tone: Blog writing tends to be a little more personal than most writing. What readers tend to respond to is the writer’s unique voice, their personality as expressed through their writing. That means you can use “I” and “you”, you can use slang, you can even swear if it fits your site’s purpose.

All of these “rules” are, of course, broken repeatedly.

Keeping it going

There are millions of blogs on the Internet, but only a tiny fraction of them are active. There are a number of reasons why blogs “die” — people run out of things to say, they get busy, or worst of all, they feel like they’re talking to themselves. Here are a few tips to help you keep your blog up and read:

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  • Create a posting schedule: When you start your blog, commit to posting once a week, or once every two weeks, and block out some time in your schedule to do that. Start with a low posting rate — if you find you have enough time to post more, it will be a pleasant surprise for your readers (as opposed to the disappointment of readers used to seeing you post every day when you start posting every two weeks).
  • Brainstorm a hundred post ideas: Sit down with a notebook and write out a hundred (or 50, or 200, or whatever you can — but set the bar high) topics you could write about. Even better, create 100 titles of forthcoming posts. You can even go another step and write quick outlines of how the post might look, When you are stuck for something to write about, pull out your notebook and write one ff your list.
  • Write posts in advance: Build up a backlog of three or four (or more) posts. This gives you a cushion in case you find yourself stuck for a topic down the road, and you can also use the post scheduling feature sevveral blogs have (WordPress.com and Blogger both allow this) to set up posts for the future if you are going to go on vacation or something.
  • Tell people your address: Let people know you have a blog. Put the URL on your business cards, add it to your email signatures, put it in your profile on social networking sites, include it when you post to forums, and so on.
  • Comment on other people’s blogs: Be an active part of the blogging community. People will see your comments and clock the link to find out more about you. Plus, you’ll make friends in your area of interest.
  • Link to other blogs: When other bloggers see you’ve linked to them, they’ll check you out — and may link back to return the favor.
  • Write a guest post: Lots of high-profile blogs will publish guest posts from other bloggers to help them get some attention. Check your favorite blogs and see if they have information about contributing — if you can’t find anything, email the blogger and ask.
  • Write great content: I’ve saved the most important thing for last. Nobody will read your site if you write poorly, or if it’s boring. Nobody will publish your guest posts, and nobody will link to you. You won’t feel motivated to write, because you’ll feel like nobody is reading you, and because you feel unsatisfied with the quality of the work. You don’t have to be Hemingway, but you do have to develop an authentic, engaging voice.

Making small talk

Don’t feel like committing yourself to all that just to express your random thoughts? Try “micro-blogging”, blog-like systems specially designed for short posts on whatever’s on your mind at the moment. The two best known are tumblr and Twitter, both of which allow you to easily post little bits of content — for example, by text messaging a thought, or sending a photo from your mobile phone, or grabbing a video from YouTube.

These services aren’t just for sharing with friends, either. Lots of businesses are starting to recognize the value in having their own Twitter feeds or tumblr blogs, to quickly issue updates and “thoughts of the day” and other stuff intended to put a human face on their company.

Ready, set, blog!

In the time it’s taken you to read this post, you could have set up a blog and published three 300-word posts already. It’s easy, it’s fun, and if you play your cards right, it could make you some money. Not just because you can put ads up or sell products using a blog (though you can do both of those things), but because a blog gives potential employers, clients, and customers a way to find out more about you and to build a relationship with you or your company that’s more human (and humanizing) that the simple exchange of dollars for products. Whatever your line of business, you or your company will be looked up on the Web, and if they don’t find your site, they’ll find other people’s sites about you — or nothing at all. Much better, I think, to take control of your online self, and a blog is an easy and cheap way to get started.

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Last Updated on July 20, 2021

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

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

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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