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Boost Your Profile In Print

Boost Your Profile In Print

Boost Your Profile In Print

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Boost Your Profile In Print Ebook PDF transcript - the first 20 pages of material to encourage readers to buy the ebook:


Page 1 Page 2  PATRICK FORSYTH BOOST YOUR PROFILE IN PRINT HOW TO SELL YOUR EXPERTISE BY WRITING BOOKS AND ARTICLES Download free eBooks at bookboon.com 2 Page 3  Boost Your Profile In Print: How to sell your expertise by writing books and articles 1st edition © 2016 Patrick Forsyth & bookboon.com ISBN 978-87-403-1317-8 Download free eBooks at bookboon.com 3 Page 4 BOOST YOUR PROFILE IN PRINT Contents CONTENTS The Author 5 1 Introduction: a profitable opportunity 6 2 The range of opportunities 8 3 Selecting topics and structuring and presenting messages 17 4 Creating the message 24 5 Using language/examples and creating an acceptable style 31 6 Maximising the exposure of the finished text 37 Afterword 43 A C A R EER W I T H I N F I N A N CE & I T Denmark’s largest provider of financial software solutions needs YOU! Offering you personal and professional growth We are a leading sup- The SimCorp culture is characterized by open Who are we looking for? plier of highly specialized dialogue, empowerment and fast decision-making. Our core competencies lie within economics, software and expertise Reporting lines are clear, thus action is not bogged finance and IT, and as a result the majority of our for financial institutions down in bureaucracy. We believe in solving work- employees have a master degree within business and corporations – related challenges together, and you will find that and finance, IT, mathematics or engineering. activities, which have established our repu- both management and colleagues are very receptive tation as “the house to suggestions and new ideas. Are you completing of financial know- your master degree this year? how”. We are listed As newly hired employee in SimCorp you will go Then apply now – why wait – a fast tracked inter- on the OMX Nordic through an extensive introduction period, in addition national orientated career is just around the corner! Exchange Copenhagen to being provided with a mentor. This gives you the and have 800+ emplo- opportunity to secure the know-how necessary to yees. perform efficiently. Care to join us? – Visit us at www.simcorp.com SIMCORP A/S · Oslo Plads 12 · DK-2100 Copenhagen O · Denmark · +45 35 44 88 00 · www.simcorp.com Download free eBooks at bookboon.com Click on the ad to read more 4 Page 5 BOOST YOUR PROFILE IN PRINT The Author THE AUTHOR Patrick Forsyth is a consultant, trainer and writer. He has worked with organisations large and small and in many different parts of the world. Practicing what he preaches here, he is the author of many successful books on management, business and careers and prides himself on having a clear how-to style. One reviewer (“Professional Marketing”) commented: Patrick has a lucid and elegant style of writing which allows him to present information in a way that is organised, focused and easy to apply. In this series he is also the author of several titles including: “Your boss: sorted!” and “How to get a pay rise”. His writing extends beyond business. He has had published humorous books (e.g. Empty when half full    ) and light-hearted travel writing including: First class at last!, about a journey through South East Asia, and Smile because it happened about Thailand. His novel, Long Overdue, was published recently. He can be contacted via www.patrickforsyth.com Download free eBooks at bookboon.com 5 Page 6 BOOST YOUR PROFILE IN PRINT Introduction: a profitable opportunity 1 INTRODUCTION: A PROFITABLE OPPORTUNITY The saying that “by their deeds ye shall know them” comes from the Bible. It is a phrase that has truth in a business setting. Consider what you sell. How do people know it is any good? You may tell them, they may be able to try or test it (in the way one would take a car for a test run), but there is still an element of risk involved in buying. We think we check things out and make objective decisions (well about most things) but we are never sure that something will meet, better still exceed, our expectations. This is especially true of services. How do you know that a trainer will teach you something new and useful, that an accountant will help reduce the tax you pay, that an architect will produce plans you really like? There is no certainty in such matters. You can check and check again, get references and read brochures and scan web sites, but at the end of the day you take a risk. One thing that surely helps the buyer is specific evidence of expertise or excellence. This may be a review of a new car, film or book, but it could be evidence of the expertise of the people involved. One powerful way this can be provided is in print. If you read an article or book (in paper or some form of ebook) written by someone who you are contemplating working with and it spells out good sense, if it is saying something useful, is well researched, organised and easy to read then you feel you know more about the person and will take less risk in commissioning them. In short if a published message gives sound evidence of expertise then it can play a powerful role in influencing a decision to buy. Furthermore something like a published book can make you money and surely publicity that earns rather than costs must be worth considering. Given these facts (and they are facts) – maybe you should write a book. My business career has been punctuated by the regular injection of published material – books and articles, and more recently electronically produced material in various forms – and it has, I assure you, been very useful; and sometimes very directly useful. It has helped prompt purchase and shortened the sales process; indeed in training I have had people telephone me saying that they have read a book of mine on a subject and booking a similar course to be conducted in their organisation there and then without even meeting me. So when Bookboon suggested I write this particular title, I thought “good idea”. Download free eBooks at bookboon.com 6 Page 7 BOOST YOUR PROFILE IN PRINT Introduction: a profitable opportunity In the following pages I aim to persuade you that writing for publication may be a good idea for you too and show how it is possible. Note: it is beyond the brief here, but it is worth mentioning that a similar case about the projection of expertise can be made for presentations, a talk, a conference session, a whole seminar, all can have the same effect. There is an overlap here too: for example an article may give rise to an invitation to speak at a conference, or vice versa. Download free eBooks at bookboon.com 7 Page 8 BOOST YOUR PROFILE IN PRINT The range of opportunities 2 THE RANGE OF OPPORTUNITIES Assuming you have expertise in an area important to your business, then let us also assume that you can write something about it (we will progressively look at how to do that). So, let’s see what you could do with such a message to “put it out there” as it were. There are a range of different ways to proceed, indeed these are not mutually exclusive and you may put a similar (perhaps amended) message in more than one form. 1. A (conventionally published) book: this is perhaps the best regarded route. There is still kudos it “having something published”, i.e. selected to be published. The main advantage is that the publisher will take the risk and invest in producing and launching the book, paying the author a royalty on each copy sold (and maybe an advance: that is paying some money up front). They will also undertake publicity, though these days they usually expect the author to help in this area. 2. A (self-published) book: there are many systems, via Amazon and others, of creating your own book and publishing it in paper and ebook form. This is not as complicated as it was, but it must be done right (sub-contraction is possible here) and certainly the processes involved in making an ebook correctly formatted for Kindle and other similar systems – which are all different – getting books listed (with an ISBN) in various systems used by retailers, wholesalers and others is complex. There is plenty of guidance available about self-publishing; something to check out separately perhaps. 3. An (assisted publication) book: this is an in-between approach. You pay a publisher something up front to do the editing and other work involved in bringing out a book and get their professional input to the process, which should, if you pick wisely, ensure a professional publication appears at the end of the process. There may be marketing assistance available too. A good “assisted publisher” will not publish just anything (their reputation is at stake too), poor ones – so called vanity publishers – should be avoided: they can be expensive, poor value for money and even make promises that are not kept. 4. An e-book: this can be produced with a publisher or independently and makes what you write available to download, on a free or paid basis, to read on an electronic reader, tablet or phone. 5. An article: in any suitable media: for example, newspapers, magazines and perhaps especially in the specialist and trade press 6. A regular column: you are unlikely to start with this, but with some experience it is possible. Even a short piece (I do one monthly column that is barely 300 words) can put your name usefully in front of people every week, month, quarter or whatever. What is said must be useful, but encapsulating a succinct message gets easier with practice. Download free eBooks at bookboon.com 8 Page 9 BOOST YOUR PROFILE IN PRINT The range of opportunities 7. A blog: this is something you can control: certainly if it is run alongside your web site for instance. Or it may be that you can contribute to others’ blogs or that a publisher has an outlet of this sort you can use (for example, you will find some short pieces of mine on the Bookboon web site). 8. A web site: this could be yours or other peoples’ and can be designed to accommodate article sized pieces and more. It is possible that such a list is not comprehensive, and certainly in the electronic area the possibilities change as you watch. Some checking out may be in order and a further thought is given in the note below. Note: though I have said the methods described are not mutually exclusive, it is more complicated than that and there are links between different forms and one can aim to exploit these. For example, a conventional publisher may bring out a book in various printed formats (for example, hardback and paperback) and alongside it have an e-version that can be downloaded. The same publisher may have other outlets, perhaps a blog linked to their web site, that can also carry a version of your message and of course they will say something about it (and you) in such things as catalogues. Now before moving on let me touch on a number of disparate topics all best considered early on: Different lengths of text It is clearly more work to write a book, something that might range from 15,000 words (like this text) to 40,000, 50,000 or more, than an article of say 1000 words. You may want to start with something short, though an article has a shorter life than something like a book. But you should also recognise the way in which various lengths link together. For example: • A book might allow you to produce extracts from it to form articles (little extra work, more exposure) • One message might take several forms, even as simply as a 1000 word article in one magazine and a 2500 word one in another • A longer book might allow you to produce a different version, maybe half the length • An updated (and republished) book can have a new life too and updating may mean only altering, adding or deleting only a small proportion of the text; much less work than writing a new book Other media may draw on all of this: for instance a blog entry might be a version, longer or shorter, of an article, in turn adapted from a chapter in a book. Furthermore, if a book is translated (a publisher selling rights to an overseas publisher) then it may have a whole new life; producing revenue from overseas sales as well. Download free eBooks at bookboon.com 9 Page 10 BOOST YOUR PROFILE IN PRINT The range of opportunities Titles At this stage, before we get into too much about topic or content, let me mention titles. You will notice that this text, as do all the titles I have written for Bookboon, has both a title and a sub- title. Always there is a necessity to both maximise the information up front, for instance on a book cover, and to make it attractive. Getting this right can increase the number of readers you get and thus affect enquiries that follow (maybe persuasive writing is something else to study in due course). Sources of income You may disregard income and feel that the promotional advantages of getting a book published are enough. But money can be had, so let’s consider this for a moment. Sources of income can vary a good deal and the first step to maximising income is to assess the possibilities and see how they benefit, or might benefit, you. What you write affects this. Not everyone has published books, but let’s start with that. The income from a book will come primarily from royalties. These are normally paid with some sort of advance up front (typically split so that some comes on signing a contract, some on the manuscript being delivered and approved and some on publication) then, if the book sells in a way where the per book royalty exceeds the advance, you begin to receive further payments. It is possible that this goes on for some time and both assistance with promotion and initiatives to keep a book in print – by producing an updated version of a non-fiction book for instance – are well worthwhile. In addition, money may come from overseas translations (the overseas publisher pays a royalty to your original publisher, which is then shared between publisher and author). Income (in the UK) can also come from central schemes paying for library use and copying. Prime here are the Public Lending Rights (PLR) and Authors’ Licensing & Collecting Society (ALCS); the latter you need to register for – if you have not done so and they could help you, then do so at once. Whatever country you are in look for similar schemes. Additionally of course there can be the profit on copies you buy and resell personally; something you can aim to maximise. If you self-publish there is more promotional work to do, but all the income is yours. Different sources of income are possible once something is in print (and this does not only apply to books). One potentially important one is talks. For instance, I give talks at writing groups and the like and also, some linked to three travel books I have had published, for a variety of bodies ranging from Women’s Institutes to Rotary Clubs. Such assignments can both pay a fee and constitute an opportunity to sell books to attendees. Of course a cheque for £100 – or £1000! – is better than one for £25, but for the part-time writer small sums may be useful and don’t forget how they add up: £25 a month is £300 in a year, and that sum every week would be £1300. It all mounts up. Business speaking engagements, of which I have done more, like conferences, may pay significantly more. Download free eBooks at bookboon.com 10 Page 11 BOOST YOUR PROFILE IN PRINT The range of opportunities If articles are your thing then there should be fees from them and more fees if you republish them in a different form or overseas. There are links here also. A book being published may give you the opportunity to earn from articles about it or what it is, and several articles published on one topic may be able to be turned into further opportunities as you put yourself in a position of being regarded as an expert on something making it easier to sell more. You may of course write and get something published which pays you nothing. While many writers do not want to do this very often, it can be useful (or you may not care about payment and just want to see your name in print for promotional reasons – and why not if you so wish?). For example, an article may plug a book, or a talk or something else that will earn you money. Or maybe you can negotiate an alternative to payment. For example, writing an article for nothing on condition that you are paid for a second one (two at half price for the editor, one fee for you) or that you get a free subscription for a year if it is a monthly magazine; this latter may be useful for you and actually costs the magazine very little. The precise situation that prevails always needs to be borne in mind, and some things can be less than life-changing in financial terms but very useful and go beyond just a one off event. Every little helps as they say. Indeed you might well take the view that just to cover costs on such a thing is worthwhile. And…the whole thing can be fun too; and if you do not write, at least in part, to get some fun from it all, then you should! Note too that there may be financial advantages in terms of expenses and tax. Publication does not just happen, of course, and I am not meaning to underestimate the job of securing paid commissions, there are many articles and books looking at the detail of such things as how to write a synopsis (while I thus regard this area as outside the brief for this short book an example of a typical business book synopsis appears after this section as a guide), so let’s leave that on one side here. I hope however that I am persuading you that earning money from writing is possible and also that over and above the task of seeking commissions the way you view the money making potential matters. You need to wear a “business hat” sometimes in tandem with your creative one; I hope I am not mixing my metaphors too much here; the point is that the two must go together. Download free eBooks at bookboon.com 11 Page 12 BOOST YOUR PROFILE IN PRINT The range of opportunities Example synopsis There is a great deal of work involved in writing a book and then trying to sell it. So, if you are aiming for the traditional publishing route, you may want to sell the idea of the book first and then write it once you have a contract. An example of a synopsis that got me one title published (by Kogan Page) follows. SYNOPSIS: Working title: DISASTER-PROOF YOUR CAREER: Approaches to job security, job satisfaction and career enhancement The first description here is a suggested blurb for the back cover (+ author details and quotation). Everyone wants to succeed in their career, but success does not just happen. You need to initiate action to survive and thrive in what is a competitive workplace and a tough world; economic difficulties heighten the need to be wary, prudent and plan ahead to increase the likelihood of success. This book is designed to help. It shows how to take a systematic view of your career and career prospects, and how to take action whether to fit yourself for promotion, greater responsibilities and rewards, new challenges or just to disaster-proof your career against hard times. It shows how to: • Plan your approach and strategy • Ensure your skills suit your aspirations • Present a “success profile” to create the right image • Use the systems and procedures of an organisation (such as job appraisal) constructively to better your lot • Motivate yourself so that you have the confidence to make your plan work. However good a job you do, whatever your job, gender, age or level of seniority, leaving career security and progress to chance is not an option. It risks diluting your chances of coming out on top. Succinct, accessible and practical, this book will inspire and assist you to maximise your career success. The author (see comments about this) Download free eBooks at bookboon.com 12 Page 13 BOOST YOUR PROFILE IN PRINT The range of opportunities Background A book (not about how to get a new job, CVs, interviews etc. – of which there are many), but rather about the positive methods you can use to ensure that you are fit for the career path ahead, however rough the road ahead and whether you seek to maximise your current position, be promoted or move on to new challenges. Target audience: this book addresses an important (and topical) ongoing issue of increasing importance to everyone working in an organisation (commercial or not) of any size – executive to manager, man or woman, young or old. It is literally vital to peoples’ job, job satisfaction and the rewards they receive for their endeavours. The workplace gets ever more competitive – so this can be made to seem topical (and, given current economic conditions, is and is likely to remain so) and, to pick just one point, has a survival appeal. For example, who can honestly say they look forward to their next appraisal? It is also an aspect of career development that is little documented. Contents: Preface – why this book is necessary and how it will help you 1. The 21st century workplace How it is – how it’s changed – the competitive workplace – the new realities and trends for the future – the necessity of undertaking active career management 2. The confidence to succeed You must believe you can succeed – creating self-confidence – acting with confidence – action to link what you want, feel and do – creating continuity. 3. Your career plan Action in the face of current trends – thinking through your options – assessing your strengths and weaknesses – setting clear objectives – rewards: what do you want/need to earn? – matching your intentions to the reality of the organisational world 4. Job performance appraisal The role of the “dreaded” job appraisal – the link to contracts and employment legislation – how they work (and how they should work) – planning for your appraisal meeting(s) – pitfalls and opportunities – keeping operational matters in step with the appraisal cycle Download free eBooks at bookboon.com 13 Page 14 BOOST YOUR PROFILE IN PRINT The range of opportunities 5. Surviving and benefiting from appraisal Using your plans and information to make a good appraisal more likely – communicating with your manager – making the meeting itself go well: the agenda, taking an initiative, focusing on the future, the link to action (and development) 6. The development process The overall development process – the three effects of development – its evolution in light of workplace changes – what you can do and what your employer can do – making development and training practical, relevant and ultimately effective 7. Methods to take you forward Horses for courses – different ways to add, enhance and develop skills: from courses to books to e-learning – the development “best buy” – making it possible (cost, time and opportunity) 8. Making it work Career enhancement in action – examples of best practice, e.g. the power of mentoring – locating and utilising development aiding resources – the link to your immediate plan and long-term future Lighting, beyond illumination In 10 years 2/3 of people will be living in big cities. At Philips we focus on providing lighting beyond illumination to make these cities more livable, enjoyable and safe. #makeitmeaningful What will be your impact? www.philips.com/careers Download free eBooks at bookboon.com Click on the ad to read more 14 Page 15 BOOST YOUR PROFILE IN PRINT The range of opportunities 9. Summary: ten steps to being “career fit” An overview of what can be achieved and a final word stressing that the process is necessary, manageable and worthwhile. Length/style: c. 40,000 words Copyright: Patrick Forsyth Contact: (email address) No more should be necessary with regard to length. The headings deal with the main issues, including something about yourself, which is also important; such might be like the short piece at the start of this book or it might be a full page. It should suggest to a publisher that you will deliver (on spec and on time); doing so can make getting further projects agreed easier. Note: It is good to appear flexible as you make suggestions, so you might sensibly use phrases such as “working title” and “suggested blurb” and suggest that content can be fine-tuned in collaboration with the publisher. Getting the best deal Many kinds of publication need a formal agreement: a contract. Certainly if you have a book conventionally published that is the case. There is an old saying that you don’t get what you deserve, you get what you negotiate. True. Publication may be welcome, but perhaps not on any terms. A publishing arrangement is, remember, a contractual one and, while this may apply primarily to book publication you do need to be clear what the exact arrangements are even for a “simple” article. First you must regard the process of agreeing terms as negotiable. Consider something apparently simple – deadlines. Sometimes they seem fixed. A magazine may go to press on a particular day each month, miss that and your deathless prose is omitted. But maybe you can make the editor happy to have it in the following issue. A book manuscript must be delivered on time; only a date you must be sure you can hit can be agreed. Contracts usually run to many pages and deadlines are but one of their contents. All such details are negotiable. But you need to know how to tackle what is essentially a complex process. Negotiation is bargaining to reach a mutually agreeable outcome. Both parties must end it content (what is referred to as “win-win”). So it needs some thought. Good negotiators do their homework. They also respect the other party and work at understanding their position. That said you must still be prepared to fight your corner, take time to do so and be patient; never rush negotiating or appear to be pushing for a swift conclusion – it will be seen as rushing to get your own way, and resisted. So how do you go about it? Download free eBooks at bookboon.com 15 Page 16 BOOST YOUR PROFILE IN PRINT The range of opportunities You need to be clear what you want (hence the need for some homework), particularly as this may relate to many different things. Everything is potentially variable: from deadlines and financial terms to the right of veto over say a book’s cover design. And the process must be handled sensitively so as not to upset the prospect of agreement and change minds about whether to publish you or not. Topics for negotiation include: • Advances: their amount and timing • Deadlines: for manuscript, proofs and publication (and method of delivery too – emailing a manuscript is cheapest for you) • Royalty rates (home and overseas; and, separately these days, electronic ones) • Subcontracting tasks (like indexing) • Publicity: what will be done, how much will be done and by whom • Author involvement (in, say, cover design, advance reviews and publicity) • Overseas contract/sales arrangements • Communication: who will liaise with who about what and when • Particular initiatives (for example, will pre-publication reviews be sought using the manuscript, and if so, from and by whom) You can doubtless think of more (list and prioritise what’s important to you). Particular situations may add to the list (for example, in a magazine you may want your article in a special position). One detail agreed as you want, rather than left unaddressed, may make a project more successful. This implies an assertive approach, yet one deployed with empathy and which avoids inappropriate confrontation. Do not get into a corner you cannot get out of. Avoid rows and showdowns, but stand firm and keep calm. Do not let perfection be the enemy of the good. An outcome that is one hundred per cent what you want is rare. Be realistic; do not waste time and effort seeking an impossible ideal. Use openness, but do so carefully. Declaring your plans and intentions may assist the discussion, but you may want to keep your underlying motivation hidden. Stick with your objectives, be watchful and, if necessary, bide your time (Some things might best be discussed over several meetings or contacts). Always be professional: for example, always respect confidences given during negotiations. Such consideration builds relationships and may help you in future, for instance with an editor for whom you come to work regularly. Finally, never underestimate people. And always end discussions positively; neither party will get exactly what they want, but if the deal is agreeable emphasise this at the end. If all this seems somewhat complicated, so be it. The complexities mean that the best negotiators keep a firm overview in their mind as discussions proceed. Negotiation is clearly worth some thought (and is another personal technique you may want to investigate). Download free eBooks at bookboon.com 16 Page 17 BOOST YOUR PROFILE IN PRINT Selecting topics and structuring and presenting messages 3 SELECTING TOPICS AND STRUCTURING AND PRESENTING MESSAGES Nothing is possible unless you have a topic on which to write. A topic must fit your chosen form. By this I mean you must have a topic that can be done justice to in a 1000 word article or a 40,000 word book; or anything in between. Be practical, be realistic. A piece that fails to deliver and is thus unsatisfying will not project the kind of image you want. The topic must fit both for you and for users. Let me take a personal example. One area of training I undertake relates to presenting. I have a book on the subject (100 Great Presentation Ideas Marshall Cavendish). This provides a comprehensive guide to those needing to make a presentation. But I have written numerous articles on the subject and another book (The PowerPoint Detox, Kogan Page), which focusses on the aspect of visual aids used to support a presentation. So you need to consider: • The extent and range of the treatment: and thus length and form of what will be written • The level of treatment, i.e. whether it aims (in my example) at first time presenters or the more experienced • Style of treatment: and thus style of writing; the example below adds to this thought. • Arrangement: is it to be a book in many chapters, in a series of short sections (as 100 Great Presentation Ideas), an article with many headings or few and so on? You also need to make sure that it is interesting and useful in the sense that a publisher may see a sufficient number of potential readers wanting to read it and finding it useful. Note: having said that, I have books on sales and sales technique directed widely, but also one focused on a small niche (Maximising Hospitality Sales, aimed at those working in hotels and conference centres and published by Cassel); the latter produced much work for me. While it is possible to write material that is essentially news or which reports the results of research, the prime form that works here is to provide information in what is essentially a how-to form. Doing this effectively needs a careful approach. Download free eBooks at bookboon.com 17 Page 18 BOOST YOUR PROFILE IN PRINT Selecting topics and structuring and presenting messages Telling them how There are many things people cannot just do. I certainly can’t juggle with flaming torches without burning holes in the carpet, but, who knows, maybe I could learn to do so. I would doubtless have to practice, but first I would need to check out something about how to do it. It is difficult to do something if you don’t know quite what it is you should be doing. Which I hope brings us to my subject here: how to write how-to-do-it material. The potential here is enormous, a wealth of publications and publishers – including this one, of course – publish material which might well be called “instruction”. If you are to add to this well doing so may need some planning. It needs clear structure, it needs complete clarity. There is no room for saying “you sort of attach the thingy to the whatsit and, oh by the way, before that you should…”, and it needs a clear focus and sequence. So, first things first, how do you start? Well, not with a “First you do this…” approach. The first job is to set the scene and make readers feel comfortable; hence the flaming torches above. Your first intention should be to make yourself seem a good source of advice and get people thinking “this may help”. The first words need to make what’s coming seem likely to be interesting and particularly to be manageable and useful as a guide. A clear focus But before you write anything you must decide precisely what to write about. Usually comprehensiveness is impossible. Certainly here in this section of c. 1600 words I cannot mention everything that could be said about how-to writing. I must accept that and have a focus on the key issues. This has implications for preparation and getting the words down (which we come to in a later chapter), where it is worth noting possible content first, only then selecting what to include and not include, as well as how much to say about differing aspects of your topic. Such an approach suits well as it helps separate the job of deciding what to write from that of deciding how to put it. Maybe I am a bear of very little brain, but I find this easier and certainly it allows you to concentrate on how to put matters with a clear content list already decided. More of this later. Download free eBooks at bookboon.com 18 Page 19 BOOST YOUR PROFILE IN PRINT Selecting topics and structuring and presenting messages Context is everything First bear in mind context: you, presumably, know a lot about whatever you are writing about, but your readers may know less. So you must not blind them with science and you must make things, even complicated things, seem understandable and manageable. If you ever get people saying to themselves “I’m not sure what this means” you have failed. Let’s imagine that you are going to teach someone to drive. You sit them down in the driving seat and ask them to disengage the clutch and they, perhaps never having been in a car before, say “What’s the clutch?” That’s what I mean by context: you have to be sure you are starting far enough back and that wherever you do start is appropriate to your readers. Consider another example. If you want to tell someone how to tie a bow tie, then it is going to be very difficult, if not impossible. You will need diagrams. You can show someone what to do, but telling them is likely to confuse. So an assessment of what is possible is necessary. In choosing a topic make sure you are picking something that you can make work. Write something that simply confuses the reader and no editor will ever ask you to write again. Clarity of description Given that you may have a good deal to explain you must be succinct: “write tight” as our American cousins say. Couple this with language that is jargon free and memorable and people will follow you and enjoy doing so. Ambiguity kills explanation stone dead, it not only fails to explain – it also removes any credibility that you can actually explain clearly. We all hate the inadequacies of, say, computer manuals; all too often they are impenetrable. Remember that because people love it when what they expect to be complicated proves manageable, a jargon-free style works wonders. There are other hazards to clear explanation. A lack of precision may itself be sufficient to confuse. Luckily English is a powerful language: even a couple of words can speak volumes – witness the story of prolific writer Isaac Asimov (who wrote nearly 500 books), asked what he would do if told he had six months to live he replied in two words: “Type faster”. Words must be carefully chosen. And descriptions must be in terms the reader will relate to. For example, I once saw a guide to conducting meetings which touched on room layout (conference style, boardroom etc.); it referred to an open U-shape, which is pretty easy to imagine – a U of tables open at one end so that the person conducing the meeting can go into the U to face individuals. The description was strengthened powerfully by describing it as an arrangement that “puts everyone in the front row”. True; and something anyone running meetings will envisage instantly. Comments that produce the feeling that matters are being reviewed in a way that is easy to identify with add to the strength of any piece. Download free eBooks at bookboon.com 19 Page 20 BOOST YOUR PROFILE IN PRINT Selecting topics and structuring and presenting messages Let me add a specific example here to show how how-to points need to be made. I have already mentioned that writing and public speaking can usefully link; yet public speaking is not everyone’s bag. Many sensibly seek advice about it. Space means I can only take one simple point (a useful but perhaps counterintuitive one): it concerns one aspect of how to end on a high note and is set out here (in the boxed paragraph) in a way that reflects a clear way of presenting it (This example is adapted from my book 100 Great Presentation Ideas (Marshall Cavendish)). No thanks The last thing(s) you say are more likely than average to stick with people, more likely to need to link to the purpose of your talk and any action that you want to flow from it and must thus be delivered with real precision. Here is an idea, something to avoid to help make the end as powerful as you intend. Idea: Never make your final words a Thank you. It is not that a thank you is not appropriate. Indeed, it may well be essential, but it nearly always makes a poor last word. What happens is that the talk appears to tail away, a final punchy point being apt to be followed by something like: Well perhaps I should end with a thank you, it has been a pleasure to be here. I appreciate you giving up some of your time for this…so, many thanks to you all. When this is done it is often not delivered with any precision (guiding notes may list only the word “thanks”); indeed I have heard people ramble on for long minutes. Furthermore it distances the words that preceded it from the real end in the audiences’ perception, making them less memorable and less likely to be effective. So, in practice: • The moral here is simple: just resolve not to end with a “thank you” • If you start with a brief thank you in your introduction, this could sometimes negate the necessity to repeat it at – or towards – the end, or certainly mean that whatever is said later can be brief, perhaps referring to what was said earlier, Let me repeat my thanks and conclude…(and you can move swiftly to the real, and more powerful conclusion) • It is much better, when a thank you is necessary, to have it before the final point: Thank you for being here, I am grateful for your attention … now, a final word in conclusion…. This enables your final words to be more considered and punchy. Download free eBooks at bookboon.com 20



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