Here's a Shortcut

Uncategorized Oct 07, 2021
Here's a shortcut to writing stories for business and PR. The trick? Start by finding a hero, a goal, and an obstacle.
Get the details here -- you can read it in a couple minutes, tops, and you'll have a new trick:
It's this week's weekly essay. (Sign up while you're there. It's free.)
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No More "Very"

Uncategorized Oct 06, 2021
Quit using the word "very." It adds nothing. Let your choice of the word it would modify do the job alone, because that other word can do the job better. "Very quickly" is no more impactful than "quickly." Same for "very" anything. Try it and see.
The effect of dispatching with "very" is to add calmness, clarity, and confidence to your prose.
It works, promise. But you have to decide you're going to do it -- so do it! (I'm very serious about this. Heh.) 
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Add This to Your Q&A Sessions

Uncategorized Oct 04, 2021
You've given your presentation. Now come the questions. Here's the thing: when someone asks you something, not everyone is going to hear it.
So do this: repeat the question before you answer.
If you jump right to your reply, odds are some people missed the question or just weren't listening.
By opening with a repeat of the question, your answer is a speech-in-miniature, and that's a good thing -- for spreading your message, and for sounding professional.
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How Can You Tell If an Expert... Is Expert?

Uncategorized Sep 28, 2021
The best test is whether their advice works as promised -- which can take a while to determine. As writers, we can ensure that what we write inspires confidence by making it as understandable as possible. That means using short, direct, declarative sentences whenever possible. It means using short paragraphs. And it means dispensing with anything that doesn't push the reader (or listener) toward understanding.
Be simple. Be direct. Be seated. That's the formula for making an expert sound like an expert.
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Don't Mention the Mistake.

Uncategorized Sep 23, 2021
Here's a public speaking tip to make you look more polished: if you lose your place, even if you end up struggling and extemporizing to get back on track, do not acknowledge it, and don't apologize.
Listening is a demanding task. Listeners drift in and out, so what seems like a big mistake to you will rarely be noticed. The audience has no way of knowing that you skipped a passage -- you're the only one with the script. As for mangled words and phrases, they're a bigger deal to you than to the audience.
An apology is likely drawing attention to something they didn't notice in the first place. So just keep going.
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The Best Advice I've Heard This Year

Uncategorized Sep 21, 2021

Let's say you went to the gym to work with a trainer and you asked, "How long are we going to go at this?"

The trainer says, "We're going to go until you're ready to quit."

Ugh. How miserable would that be?

Yet when we write, that's exactly what most of us do: we start writing and just go until we can't stand it anymore.

Here's a more productive approach: set a timer. Work for 20 minutes. Or a half hour. Or ten minutes. Or do two pages. Whatever it is, set a goal up front. That way you'll get what human beings need when they work, the satisfaction of finishing.

Don't work without a clear and reachable destination. Set a goal -- of time, words, or pages.


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Write for Them, Not For You

Uncategorized Sep 14, 2021

When you hire somebody to remodel your house, this is how it goes: they know a lot about what will and won't work but you know what you want and, in the end, they give you what you ask for. No professional contractor ever said, "I put the window here even though you didn't want it because that's where I like windows." It's the same when you write a speech, op-ed, or anything else in collaboration with your client. Your expert counsel is required but in the end it's your job to give them what they ask for. Write for them, not for yourself. Put your ego aside. You'll get more clients, and the clients you get will be a lot happier. 

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The Client Was Yelling at Us.

Uncategorized Sep 10, 2021

We were on the receiving end of an angry review of a speech we'd co-written. The client rattled off problem after problem, even phrase after phrase, complaining about what he thought was wrong. I steeled myself for an all-nighter.

"Nah, I got this. Half-hour, tops. Go home," said my writing partner, a former White House speechwriter with years of experience on me.

"But he just gave us 20 minutes of complaints!" I said.

"And I wrote down every one," said my partner. "He told us words and stories he didn't like, he wants a new opening and closing, and he didn't like the quote in the middle. This is mechanical. I can fix it in a half-hour."

And he did. And the client called the next day to praise us to the skies.

When your writing client complains, write down the specifics. When the client is vague, press them for specifics. Then take out exactly what they don't like and put in something else. Usually they'll tell you down to the word -- if you're paying attention.

Don't spend hours...

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Three Ways to Be More Creative

Uncategorized Sep 03, 2021

Number One: When you have an idea, write it down. Text it to yourself or use an app, whatever, but don't let it slip, because you won't remember it later. Start doing this and you'll build a personal library of original ideas, and you need that because creativity doesn't come on command.

Want my other two creativity ideas? Click through below to read this week's newsletter -- it's free! (But I hope you'll subscribe while you're there.) Here's the link:

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Humanize the Problem

Uncategorized Aug 24, 2021

Focus more on stories and feelings first, then move to the facts and numbers.

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