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The best communication advice anyone ever gave me

More than a decade ago, I did a presentation on public speaking for Columbia Women in Business – a club for graduate students at Columbia Business School. With more than 400 members, CWiB is one of the largest organizations on Columbia’s campus.

My presentation went well.

Afterwards, an attendee came up to thank me for the communication tips I offered. Then she added: “I’d like to return the favor by giving you a tip of my own.”

Here’s a summary of the insights she shared with me:

Women who change their opinions on a topic often face a unique blow back. Whether in business or politics or medicine or education, women are likely to get public criticism when they change their views.

Maybe they supported something 5 years ago, but they don’t support it now. They get labeled “flip-flop” or “indecisive” or “wishy-washy”. And what do they do? They often respond with apologies. “I’m sorry. I regret that choice” or “I’m sorry. I wish I’d made another decision.”

Apologies have their place – absolutely. But many women apologize way too often.

Better?

If criticized for changing your position, consider this simple honest statement: “New information presented itself.”

When new information presents itself, wise people listen. Wise people keep learning.

When new data shows a better way forward, wise people make fresh decisions.

“New information presented itself.” Memorize this short statement. You’ll convey truth and confidence – in just four words.

Gratitude to the wise audience member who shared  this with me…

Reading a lot over the holidays? Do some meaningful networking

If you’re reading a terrific article or book, why not follow that writer on Twitter, or connect with that author via LinkedIn?

It’s a great way to let writers know you appreciate their work. And it’s a great way to build your own writing network.

Remember: Creative networking on social media isn’t about getting loads of followers or scoring high numbers of connections. Creative networking thrives when you build meaningful bonds.

Think “meeting talented writers” … not “getting my numbers up”.

I’ve met terrific writers this way. Try it.

My LinkedIn profile has never included the word “resilience.” I plan to add it now.

On June 22, my condo was destroyed by a building fire. My salvageable belongings were boxed into storage, and I moved into temporary housing. I remain in temporary housing.

That’s the short story.

The long story is that it’s been an eye-opener – and not a good eye-opener, I might add.

The disaster was started by a kitchen fire on a floor above me. Word went out, a cardboard pizza box had been placed on a stovetop. The rest is history.

A long, expensive, stressful, time-consuming, and frustrating history.

Resilience gets me through. Resilience – and a fair bit of stubbornness, I think.

I stood on the sidewalk, taking videos as I watched the smoke pour out. I thought my heart might break as I watched the scene unfold, but that did not stop me from documenting the scene.

As soon as firefighters let me back into my condo, I took videos of water streaming down the walls … photographed the buckled ceilings … recorded the sound of water raining from vents into buckets (honestly, when I closed my eyes, it sounded like a bucolic waterfall in some pleasant woods somewhere – except it wasn’t).

Disaster crews put an abatement process in place, knocking down walls to dry out the space. Much of my office was dumped into black garbage bags.

I’m monitoring the rebuild process. Smooth, it is not.

If you know me well (and many of you do), then you already know how the writer in me would research every stinking detail of the building fire that made my condo unlivable and turned my whole life upside down.

In the months since I was displaced from my home, I’ve researched residential fires. I’ve talked with insurance agents, real estate agents, fire fighters, safety professionals, public adjusters, physicians, and – most enlightening – other victims of residential fires.

Here’s what I’ve learned: Fires happen a lot. They happen far more than you might imagine.

Also, they’re pretty much needless. They never should have happened at all.

True, you’ll hear the occasional dramatic story about a lightning strike, but the culprits are more often mundane: smoking in bed, toasters gone awry, driers gone haywire. And, yes, insurance adjusters know all about pizza box stove fires.

Here’s what I want you to know about fires: They happen fast and move even faster. If you value your life, your family, your pets, your financial records, your medical records [go ahead, just try reconstructing your whole medical history!], your college memorabilia, your books, your grandmother’s portrait, the latest draft of your great American novel … you need a plan.

If you’re self-employed, you REALLY need to think about the consequences of a fire. Your livelihood depends on it.

  • Review your insurance and see if you need to upgrade your coverage.
  • Get referrals from friends/neighbors/relatives who needed to use their fire insurance. What advice can they give you?
  • Keep important documents in a safe. Buy multiple safes.
  • Organize client files. Keep them handy in case of a quick exit.
  • Backup. Backup.
  • And ask yourself, “If I lost my home to fire tomorrow, where EXACTLY would I go to live/work?” The time to identify options for good temporary housing is now – not when you’re forced to. It took me several tries until I could find a solution that worked.

Final thought:

My previous blog post talked about the injuries I sustained from a hit/run driver back in November 2017. At the time, many of you wrote to express your concern and to send good wishes. Thank you so much. Your caring words meant a lot. I am making a recovery, but the hit/run injuries were serious and still present complications.

Combine the November 2017 hit/run crash with the June 2018 building fire, and it’s accurate to say: Within the past year, I’ve paid a terrible price for actions that were entirely outside my control.

Resilience keeps me moving forward.

Writers must write, and speakers must speak. I’m taking a lot of notes, and I intend to do both.

How to train your boss about communications

Mentoring Up: Training Your Boss About Communications Without Alienating Him or Her

NAGC President,  Kathryn Stokes November 15, 2017, 1:00-2:00 p.m. Eastern

Government agencies are rife with political appointees who are put in their positions for a lot of reasons, none of which include their ability to communicate. Often, they have no idea what their new agency does or why. It is up to us as the professional government communicators in our organizations to remedy this situation.

In “Mentoring Up,” NAGC President Kathryn Stokes uses her thirty-plus years of experience, most in the private sector, to show government communicators her tips for “handling” new appointees (without seeming to handle them).

Over her ten years in government service, she has used these techniques to move projects from idea to fruition, gaining the respect and trust of her agency leadership along the way. Kathryn will share discreet ways to not only educate a new leader but to gain her or his confidence. She’ll give us ideas for dealing with folks who feel they do not need help and pass on her own best practices for moving mountains—a little at a time.

Register Now for “Mentoring Up,” Wednesday, November 15.

If you have a question about an upcoming webinar, contact NAGC Headquarters at (703) 538-1787 or info@nagc.com.

A few words about introducing a speaker

For starters, don’t read any introduction from your cell phone. I’ve watched this several times, and it was always a disaster: squinting eyes, inaccurate scrolls, “Oops, I lost it”, “Just a moment – I’ll find it”, no eye contact with the audience, and no eye contact with the speaker being introduced.

Do not read a canned introduction from a cell phone. Do not read an HR bio from a cell phone. Do not read a LinkedIn profile from a cell phone. Are we clear on this?

Instead, write a great introduction and print it out. In just 1-2 minutes, a great intro explains:

  • Why is this speaker
  • from this organization
  • talking about this topic
  • to this audience
  • at this time?
  • Joan-Detz_CPC

Become known for giving great introductions. It’s a valuable career asset.

What will you do this week to get involved in a professional organization?

I rejoined the International Association of Business Communicators – Philadelphia Chapter. I started my career as a member in the New York City chapter – seldom missing a meeting.

Keep in mind:

You don’t have to join a professional organization to start getting involved. You can follow an organization on Twitter (IABC has great #commchats), get practical info through the group’s website, go to a local chapter meeting, grow professionally by attending the annual conference (I’ve presented on speechwriting at several international conferences and can vouch that IABC provides a well-run learning experience), or visit a distant chapter when you’re traveling.

Did you know, for example, that Toastmasters has chapters around the world? If you take a business trip to Singapore or vacation in Ireland, why not attend a nearby Toastmasters meeting? You’ll get a warm welcome – and boost your global network.

Each week, I do one thing to boost my engagement in a professional organization. I look forward to becoming more active in IABC again.

How will you grow this week?

Foreign Book Covers

IABC regional conference: Heritage Region

The 2017 IABC Heritage Region Conference is fast approaching You can now download the complete conference brochure to review the schedule and learn more about the speakers for this year’s 4 KEYNOTES and 21 BREAKOUT SESSIONS.

Be sure to check out the schedule and explore the complete list of speakers. Join us in one of the “17 Best Places to Travel” in 2017 according to Harper’s Bazaar to:

  • LEARN from some of the best in the field
  • CONNECT through networking opportunities
  • COMMUNICATE with speakers and fellow attendees

There’s still time to register! Visit iabcheritageconference.com to take advantage of low early bird pricing through October 2.

Enter Natl Assn of Govt Communicators Awards Program

Free Webinar: Wednesday, August 16, 2017, 1-2 p.m. Eastern

You’re doing terrific work this year, and one of the top awards in government communications would look beautiful on your desk. We want to help you compete for a NAGC Blue Pencil & Gold Screen Award.

Find out more at our complimentary August edition of Webinar Wednesday. We’ll hear from NAGC Competitions Director S.J. Brown about what’s new for 2017, the competition process, and the benefits of recognition. SJ will also cover:

  • Who earns recognition for their work
  • What the competition looks like
  • When 2017 nominations will be accepted
  • Where to send your nomination packages
  • Why you should enter
  • How you can increase your chances of winning

NAGC’s Blue Pencil & Gold Screen Awards competition is one of the top government leadership competition programs in the country. Our judges see the best work being done by local, state, federal, tribal, and international communicators from every discipline: writing, design, photography, multimedia, social media, and management.

They also face some of their toughest decisions of the year: who earns first place, second place, and awards of excellence in each category. And which agency brings home the top prize of Best in Show.

Find out if your organization has what it takes to enter on our next edition of Webinar Wednesday. And, if you aren’t yet a member, take advantage of this annual cost-free presentation to learn more about NAGC, our professional development offerings, and how you can save money by activating your membership today.

Register now for “The 5 Ws and How of Winning a Blue Pencil & Gold Screen Award”

SEJ’s Fund for Environmental Journalism: Nov 15 deadline for story grant proposals

Mark Your Calendar: Request for Proposals

SEJ’s Fund for Environmental Journalism (FEJ) invests in public service reporting on environment and the journalists who produce it.

November 15, 2017 (midnight local time) is the next deadline for story grant proposals to SEJ’s Fund for Environmental Journalism. FEJ grants will provide up to $5,000 to underwrite stipend for freelancers and budget lines for direct expenses like travel, multi-media production, translation, data sets or document costs.

Calling all donors: Give now to seed more stories. Grants will be awarded in January 2018 to underwrite coverage projects in three categories:

  1. Open Topic: Environmental Issues Made possible by unrestricted gifts and grants to SEJ’s Fund for Environmental Journalism.
  2. Marine and coastal issues of the North Pacific and Arctic Oceans Made possible by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.
  3. Environmental issues of the Amazon and Andes Made possible by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

Winning projects will be selected by an independent jury of editors. Preference will be given to projects that include an element of international partnership: journalists and news organizations in different countries working together to report an important story and expand its reach.

Grantees retain full editorial control of FEJ-funded coverage. Donors have no right of review and no influence on story plans made possible in part by their contributions. Binding agreements between donors and the Society of Environmental Journalists and between SEJ and grantees of its Fund for Environmental Journalism reinforce this policy of editorial independence.

SEJ maintains a strict policy of confidentiality with regard to story ideas submitted. The application portal for this FEJ Winter Round of competition is now open.  Applicants will be notified of results in January 2018.

Grantees will be paid and announcements made as soon as SEJ-FEJ Grantee agreements can be finalized. Want a head start on the process? Proposal requirements will include project title, 200-word summary of topic, media dissemination plan and partnership plan (if applicable) and amount requested.

To complete your application you’ll upload PDF documents to include narrative (up to 1,000 words), qualifications, letter of support from editor(s) to publish or broadcast finished work and detailed budget.

See the FEJ guidelines for more information. Then you can fill out an online form and upload your files. Note: SEJ members pay no application fee. Non-member journalists must qualify for SEJ membership and pay online entry fee ($40USD) to apply. Find full details on the Fund for Environmental Journalism here.

Media interviews: another phrase to avoid

I heard this on a media interview a few days ago:

“You don’t look seventy.”

Some thoughts:

  1. What does seventy look like? [Who knows?]
  2. Will the phrase create value for the audience? [No]
  3. Does this line rank as a key message? [Hardly]
  4. Will the phrase contribute to the ROI of that interview? [No]
  5. Since everything has an opportunity cost, the question becomes: “Does saying this take time away from saying something more important?” [Unfortunately yes]

Time is money and time is focus. Whenever speakers use unproductive lines in media interviews, they are cutting into their own message time and blunting the focus for their audience.

Omit needless/distracting lines.

stack of books

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