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22 Tools and Blogs for the Savvy HR Professional

HR Professional

HR Professional

As an HR professional, you wear many different hats—especially when you are operating within a small business.

Your daily tasks probably include things like managing schedules, resolving disputes, sorting through mountains of resumes, and running interference between management and employees, all while ensuring that your company is a great place to work.

As more Baby Boomers retire and the skills gap increases, finding the right employees and talent is becoming harder and more competitive. HR is no longer a backend operation; it is central to the overall strategy and success of the business.

With so many responsibilities and so little time, we thought we would streamline the process by compiling a list of tools that will make your life as an HR professional easier.

Email Organization Software

First things first: organizing that overflowing inbox. There are tons of great tools to help you get your inbox under control.

  1. Google Inbox: If your business uses Gmail as its primary email system, this tool is a must. It is an email organization system that can be integrated on both your phone and computer so that everything is easily accessible. Watch this video to learn more about what it can do for you.

Price: Free

  1. SimplyFile: If your business uses Outlook as its primary email software, then SimplyFile is the tool for you. It acts as your own personal email filing assistant. Its advanced algorithm learns your filing habits and can file emails automatically after a training period.

Price: Free

Employee Training Courses

Making sure employees are properly trained can be daunting. Standardize the process with some helpful courses that are applicable to professionals in every field.

  1. ProofreadingCamp: Whether your employees are communicating within the office or with suppliers and clients, they must be able to communicate clearly and accurately to avoid causing confusion or seeming unprofessional. The expert editors at Scribendi.com designed the course, so you know that what you are learning is correct and the best quality.

Price: $199

  1. Microsoft Office Training: Make sure everyone is working as efficiently as possible by utilizing the many features of Microsoft Office. This Ultimate Microsoft Office 2016 Training Bundle is a comprehensive guide to Excel, Word, PowerPoint, and Access, sold through Udemy. Udemy also offers in-depth courses for specific software in the Microsoft Office Suite.

Price: $205

Scheduling Software

Depending on the size of your organization or the typical hours your employees work, Excel spreadsheets might not be cutting it. Luckily for you, there is some great scheduling software available.

  1. Setmore: This scheduling tool is great for scheduling employees within a small business. With widgets that you can integrate onto your Facebook page and website, it can also be used for booking appointments.

Price: Free

  1. Sling: Scheduling shift work is a challenge for HR professionals. Sling allows you to craft schedules faster, notifying you of double bookings and time-off requests and allowing you to communicate with employees through the app.

Price: Free

Payroll Software

Make payroll much simpler with a tool that tracks employee hours, benefits, time off, taxes, and more. Not only will a payroll software streamline your processes but it will also ensure your employees get paid on time.

  1. Wagepoint: This payroll software is great for small businesses that need to automate their payroll system. Employees get paid on time, every time.

Price: ($20 + $2/employee)/payroll

  1. Employee Based Systems (EBS) Payroll: This flexible and intuitive system makes payroll easier by helping you manage all the tasks associated with processing payroll.

Price: Custom

Communication

Depending on the structure of your organization, communicating through email might not be cutting it. Whether you are managing independent contractors or remote employees, a more advanced system may need to be put in place. Here are some great options.

  1. Slack: Slack is a communication tool that can be used on your phone or computer. It allows you to organize people into groups, message other users, and send entire files. Slack integrates disparate platforms—from phone to text message to email—into one streamlined tool.

Price: Free (with paid premium plans)

  1. Skype: Although it’s not new, Skype is a tried-and-true video conferencing platform that is especially useful when working with remote employees (think performance reviews, meetings, conferences, etc.). It is also a great tool for conducting long-distance interviews, as many people already have accounts (and if not, they can sign up for free).

Price: Free

Brainstorming and Note Taking

Ever have a great idea that you somehow manage to forget 10 minutes later? These tools help you to preserve your brilliant ideas as you think of them.

  1. Mindly: Trying to organize an event or project? It can be hard to set priorities, goals, and plans. Luckily, the people at Mindly created an easy-to-use mind-mapping tool that enables you to visually organize your thoughts by color and task.

Price: Free

  1. Google Keep: Google Keep is an app that you can also download onto your computer. Jot down notes, ideas, and to-do lists quickly and efficiently. It has several systems of organization and connects with Ask Google for Android users, letting you take notes verbally.

Price: Free

  1. MindMeister: This mind-mapping software helps you create stunning visuals, assign tasks, and collaborate with other employees to create beautiful presentations.

Price: $15/month (business version)

Recruitment

Recruitment can be a long process, especially if your industry has a high turnover rate. Recruitment software can increase your chances of finding the perfect candidate.

  1. iCIMS Recruitment Software: This software has “Hire Expectations” for your company, allowing you to share job openings and find the best candidates more easily.

Price: Custom

  1. Workable: Streamline the recruitment process with Workable. It utilizes job board advertising, social media, sourcing tools, and referrals to find job candidates. It also helps you to schedule interviews, rate interviewees, and share information with your team.

Price: $50/job/month

  1. Zoho Recruit: This tool is great for HR professionals who have to sift through a lot of applicants. It allows you to format resumes, send emails, make calls, manage groups, and post to multiple job boards. You can also customize the layout to your liking.

Price: $25/month

The All-in-One

If your HR department is a one-person operation, as is the case in many small businesses, then it may be worth investing in an all-in-one automated HR solution.

  1. BambooHR: This Human Resources Information System (HRIS) streamlines HR tasks so you can focus on other aspects of your business. It ditches traditional spreadsheets, makes hiring easier, reduces the amount of paperwork you need to do, and has built-in scheduling software.

Price: Custom

  1. SutiHR: This all-inclusive HRIS program manages recruitment, benefits, training, scheduling, payroll, and performance reviews.

Price: $2–$8.50/user/month

  1. EffortlessHR: This HR management system includes an employee portal, a time clock, an applicant tracking system, file storage, and more.

Price: $39/month

HR Blogs

Stay up to date with news, laws, and industry information with the help of these blogs.

  1. The HR Bartender: Need to find information quickly? The HR bartender’s resource list answers many hard questions HR professionals face every day.
  2. Workology: This blog offers HR advice based on your position in a company, from interns to executives.
  3. The HR Daily Advisor: Here, you can find HR news, technology, advice columns, and resources to answer pressing questions you might not have realized you had.

We hope these tools will help you navigate the day-to-day HR activities that are so vital to your organization. Which HR tools do you already use that you can’t live without? Let us know on Facebook or Twitter!

Image source: Nosnibor137/BigStockPhoto.com Incoming keywords: HR professionals, HR tools. HR resources

ProofreadingCamp

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The Ultimate Online Marketing Guide for Small Businesses

A computer displaying online marketing metrics.

A computer displaying online marketing metrics.

This comprehensive list of resources is designed to help small businesses navigate the ever-changing world of online marketing. This online marketing guide will answer your questions about ranking on search engines, increasing conversion rates, and growing your presence on social media. See how much easier your marketing process can be with the help of these articles.

Mastering Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Website Maintenance and Optimization

Image Source: Benjamin Child/Unsplash.com
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The Small Business Guide: Tips and Tools for Building Your Business

A small business owner.

A small business owner.

This small business guide is the perfect reference for small business owners who must navigate marketing, accounting, sales, and customer service.

Don’t waste time toggling between tabs when everything you need to know is in one convenient location!

Business Writing Resources

Tools by Department

Efficiency Tips and Tricks

Resume Resources

Image source: Unsplash.com/Pexels.com
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Personal Branding: How to Build Your Brand in 4 Simple Steps

Personal Branding

Personal Branding

When you think of personal branding, superstars come to mind—icons such as Oprah Winfrey, Mark Zuckerberg, Kim Kardashian, and Ellen DeGeneres.

With such giants in the public sphere, it’s easy to forget that personal branding doesn’t always result in national news coverage, a multi-million-dollar TV show, or a personal clothing line. Sometimes, the result can be getting a new contract for your freelance work, collaborating with an influencer in your field, or standing out to a potential employer.

Perhaps not as sexy, but still important.

The following four steps will help you begin to develop yourself into a brand, with the goal of getting you to the point where potential customers and employers immediately associate your name with your service and/or product.

Step 1: Envision yourself as a brand.

The first step to building a personal brand is to think of yourself as a brand. No, this doesn’t mean you’re some lifeless product; this simply means you must think about how you can market your skills, services, and/or products to others, using your own name.

Ask yourself what your area of expertise is (or what you want your name to be associated with), and consider what you have to offer that others are willing to pay for, either as a customer or as an employer.

Be specific here, and don’t worry about limiting yourself to just one area. Marketing expert Jayson Demers firmly believes in the value of deciding on a specific niche within your field. Although you’ll have a smaller audience, it will be a much more valuable audience: “Specificity is a trade of volume for significance.” In other words, quality is better than quantity.

Step 2: Build an online presence.

As soon as you’ve defined your niche, you need to create an online presence. A good place to start is by googling your name. Do you appear in the search results? Are the results positive? What is the nature of the top results—are they your social media accounts, customer reviews, or your work? Assess your immediate online visibility, and build on it using the steps below.

As you move forward with developing your personal brand, google yourself regularly (or set up a Google Alert) to monitor your presence. It’s also worth noting that, if your name is John Smith, you may want to use a middle initial to make your name stand out.

To boost your visibility, consider buying a domain name; typically, it will look something like www.FirstnameLastname.com. Depending on the site you use for your purchase, the domain may only cost a few dollars each year. Buying a domain that includes your name will greatly increase the control you have over what people see when they google you. If you’re not convinced, check out Harry Guinness’s breakdown of the importance of owning your own domain.

Adding a social media presence will also help build your online presence. You can link to your accounts on your website, and since so many people use social media, it can be an effective alternative method to reaching and communicating with people.

However, remember that this requires you to be professional with your social media accounts. Keep your presence professional and avoid posting inappropriate content.

Another step you can take to boost your online presence is writing articles that are related to your specialty. Publishing these articles online (whether through a blog hosted on your website or a third-party publisher) will increase your internet footprint and position you as an expert in your field. Offering your opinion and expertise for free will signal to others that you are passionate and knowledgeable about your field.

Step 3: Learn, learn, and keep learning.

The third step is to continue developing your skills. Think you know everything there is to know about your profession? You’re (probably) wrong. Industries are constantly changing, and you need to stay as up to date as possible, considering that your presence is competing with the entire online world.

Take courses online or at a local college or university to continue developing your expertise and to learn from other experts. The upside to this is that tuition fees are often tax deductible!

Join associations that represent your profession. Often, associations will offer workshops or seminars, which will give you another expert’s perspective and experience in your industry. With your experience, perhaps you can consider leading a seminar yourself, which will further build your personal brand as a leader in your profession.

Follow bloggers and writers who give their opinions and updates on current trends; engage with them on their websites and social media.

Taking these steps, quite fortunately, gives you a head start on the next step.

Step 4: Make friends and network.

The downside to focusing on building your website and social media accounts is that people need to somehow find or be shown them. Networking brings you into direct contact with other experts and potential employers in a face-to-face setting. Real-world networking makes a great companion to your online presence because if no one in your field recognizes your name, your online content won’t carry as much weight.

Here is where you can benefit from being in contact with professors, classmates, colleagues, and fellow members of your profession’s association. These people might have special insights on current or future trends in your field, and they might be acquainted with potential employers or clients. Either way, by establishing connections and introducing yourself to others, you’re building your reputation by word of mouth.

Conclusion

These four steps are probably enough homework to keep you busy for a while. If you can see yourself as a brand, build an online presence, expand your knowledge, and network, you will have made an excellent start on developing your own personal brand.

Image source: Snufkin/pexels.com

How to Write a Resume

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10 Ways to Use Social Media to Build Your Professional Network

A professional network.

Professional Network

Are you a budding professional? Or are you changing careers, hoping to break into that new hierarchy of skilled personnel?

Even if you’re a shy person who shudders slightly at the word networking, you have to admit it’s an essential part of our job-seeking culture. After all, it’s not what you know but who you know.

How can you enter this labyrinth of strange names and faces, trying to make connections with people you’ve admired from a distance but never had the opportunity (or courage) to meet? The answer lies in our technological society’s way of staying connected: social media.

Building a strong online presence can be just as important as interacting with people face to face, and a well-worded tweet to the right person can be just as effective as an in-person meeting.

One thing I’ve learned about networking is that it’s not about using people to fuel one’s ambitions; it’s about appreciating people through meaningful relationships. Many people have the wrong idea about how to network, believing they must hound complete strangers whom they have targeted as the most likely to give them a leg up in their career.

However, true networking is not self-interested, but community-minded. The following 10 tips will help you use social media to network effectively and in a way that benefits both you and your connections.

Networking Tips for Social Media Beginners

1. Start with your existing connections.

Most of us have accumulated phone, email, and Facebook contacts from colleagues, friends, and acquaintances we know in person. It’s a great place to start to reach out to the people you already know to make sure you have added them on other social networks, such as LinkedIn, and to make sure you have the correct information about them. These contacts form the epicenter of your network.

TIP: Import existing contacts to LinkedIn and Facebook from your online address book, or ask your friends, teachers, and colleagues for their email addresses. You can also join school groups, volunteer organizations, or associations on both these sites.

2. Reach out to your fellow social media users.

Once you feel confident with your founding network members, you can move to other applications. Reach out to people you’ve interacted with online in meaningful ways. Maybe you’re an avid reader of a blog or a dedicated follower of a fellow professional on Twitter. Look for spirited discussions on Facebook or other online forums. If you value this individual’s input or share their ideals, maybe you’ll be able to work with them or recommend a connection with another contact one day.

TIP: Start a conversation on Twitter to network with a professional. Stay polite, express genuine interest in that person, and support them before you share your personal goals.

3. Figure out where you want to be and whom you want to be like.

Sometimes learning how to network is a journey of self-discovery. But why not learn from the best? Plus, people often like to share their wisdom and help those who are just starting out. By researching people who hold interesting positions or people you admire in your field, you can start to plan the next phase of your networking—and of your own career.

TIP: Use the Company Search feature on LinkedIn to find out which companies employ the members of your network and when these companies are hiring. You can also use the Advanced Search function to find professionals and career opportunities in your field.

4. Build your online presence.

Completing your LinkedIn or Facebook profile is like wearing a complete outfit to an interview: the more coordinated and put-together you are, the better the first impression. Let your experiences, personal preferences, activities, and interests express your identity on social networks, and don’t limit yourself to just one platform. Start a blog. Write a review. Check your email (yes, and I mean frequently!). By being active on social media, you’ll give your friends and followers a better opportunity to learn about you and interact with you, allowing your network to grow in quality and in numbers.

TIP: Write an article on your blog, and include quotes from experts about a topic that interests you. In doing so, you’ll give those experts more exposure and establish a basis for building a new relationship with them. Don’t have a blog yet? Take a look at one of these popular blogging sites to get started!

5. Look for shared interests and things in common.cheese

What is your passion? Do you have a hobby, or are you part of a nerd group on Facebook? Believe it or not, your weird passion for the history of cheese making might actually pay off in your job search. Just as people converse more easily about subjects that interest them, you’ll find that your professional network will really open up when you share common interests.

TIP: Facebook Groups are a great way to network based on shared interests: you can share files, create events, and start polls about any topic you want and with whomever you want.

Social Media Tips for Networking like a Pro

If you are already familiar with networking or if you’ve already landed that dream job, there’s still more you can do to improve your professional network.

6. Join professional networks.

Once you’ve found your career niche, you can find a “version” of LinkedIn tailored to your own profession. For instance, academia.edu allows academics to share research papers with colleagues, and zerply.com connects talented film industry professionals with upcoming artistic projects. But don’t just stop at joining in—you should actively coordinate groups within your existing networks to keep your connections (old and new) alive.

TIP: Starting a LinkedIn Group is a way to form meaningful connections with smaller collections of people in common industries. They’re good places to connect with influencers in your field, allowing you to share content, ask questions, give answers, and make contacts.

7. Formality is good, but personality is better.

Remember the awkward icebreaker games they made you play on the first day of school? “Tell us your name, your favorite color, and one interesting fact about yourself!” If you were one of the outgoing ones who said, “I can do a perfect impression of a peacock!” (and then proceed to make said sound), chances are people remembered your name. Confidence always makes an impression on others, and part of that confidence involves reminding your network how they know you.

TIP: Send a friendly note reminding your colleague where you met, through whom you met, or what organization you have in common. LinkedIn prompts you to do this upon adding a connection, but make sure you take the initiative when connecting elsewhere. Sharing details about yourself can make you interesting and, above all, identifiable.

8. Practice the golden rule: help others in your network.LinkedIn

Building your professional network doesn’t have to (and probably shouldn’t) be all about you. Maybe you recently got an entry-level job in your field, and you see a position that one of your grad school friends could fill easily. Recommending that friend for the position can benefit your company, which gets a competent worker, as well as your friend, who gets a leg up in the industry—and it also helps you. Others will remember your thoughtfulness. Being part of a community means supporting others and receiving support in return.

TIP: Post job links, career fairs, and other professional events to your contacts in that field. Endorse the skills of former and current co-workers on LinkedIn, as this will provide them with value and make them more likely to reciprocate.

9. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.

Reaching out to others for help might seem scary, but the worst anyone can say to you is “No.” Besides, professional development is all about cooperating with others, sharing your strengths, and allowing others to help you in your areas of weakness.

TIP: Instead of asking a complete stranger for a job straight away (why should they help?), ask for advice or request an informational interview from a fellow professional in a courteous, friendly manner. How (and when) you ask is just as important as what you ask.

10. Use online tools to build more face-to-face connections.

Remember the days when communication meant walking up to someone, writing them a letter, or dialing their phone number? (Okay, maybe you don’t.) Previous generations had to learn effective communication by non-digital means, but you still need interpersonal finesse when communicating online. For example, people in the business world don’t respond well to an email addressed “To Whom It May Concern” because it seems impersonal, communicating that you didn’t care enough to research the recipient of your message (even if your true intention is simply to be respectful).

The goal is to be both respectful and warm, and this can be done by taking the time to read about your connections and interact with them on a personal level. Once you’ve established a cordial online relationship, you can make your relationship even more personal with phone calls, notes, and even meetings.

TIP: Use meetup.com to arrange face-to-face meetings with professionals from your local area, or simply send a friendly email to an existing acquaintance in your network.

Other Great Social Media Networking Resources

  • Just starting your career search and want to make an impression? Try Inklyo’s How to Write a Resume course to learn how to create an attractive, professional resume.
  • Maybe you want to tailor your job search to a particular profession. Join beyond.com to find jobs from multiple streams.
  • Are you a local business owner? Try localsnetworking.com to meet other professionals in your area.
  • There are even sites for emerging innovators, such as angel.co and makerbase.co, which help you find the funding you need to get started in your field.

Ask Not What Your Professional Network Can Do For You…

Now you’re ready to harness the power of social media for your professional network. Remember, though, that these 10 tips are not about climbing to the top of the professional ladder at the expense of others—they are about connecting with others in a community-minded way. Whatever you do, wherever you go in life, it’s your relationships that matter, and showing consistent politeness and consideration toward others will be more important in the end than simply “getting ahead.”

Image Source: Daria Shevtsova/Unsplash.com, Jakub Rostkowski/Stocksnap.io, Freestocks.org/Stocksnap.io

How to Write a Resume

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The Best Software for Collaborative Writing

Collaborative Writing Software

Collaborative Writing SoftwareWorking on a team is necessary for success in virtually any professional scenario. You might be a business professional collaborating on a project with your colleagues. Or perhaps you’re an academic writer who is working on an article with your peers, hoping to submit it to a field-specific journal. In these scenarios, you need the ability to communicate effectively with your team to ensure the project goals are met on time.

Easier said than done, right? A team’s ability to accommodate conflicting schedules and differing perspectives is an art form, a tenuous balancing act.

To further complicate things, members of the team might be working from separate locations, whether that means different cities or different continents. This certainly complicates what can be an already convoluted process. It is difficult enough to ensure that group members communicate effectively. But when the members of the team are working from remote locations, it is even more crucial to implement systems and methods to improve the lines of communication and optimize interaction within the group.

Many professionals and academics work remotely on collaborative writing projects. Here’s the thing: there is nothing more confusing than sending out multiple versions of a document via email with revisions from each team member. Keeping track of a document’s version history is bound to hit a snag with this editing/revision process.

Collaborative writing software to the rescue! Software for collaborative writing allows multiple individuals to engage in the virtual, real-time writing and editing of a document. Many types of collaborative writing software are out there, each providing unique features, pricing options, layouts, and degrees of complexity. Of course, the ideal collaborative writing software depends on the specific project, as well as the price and complexity required by the user.

Collaborative Writing Software: The Best of the Best

1) Google Docs

When you hear “software for collaborative writing,” does Google Docs come to mind first? If so, it’s easy to see why. Google Docs is the prevailing software solution for this task. Multiple collaborators can simultaneously compose and edit a document. The keyword here is simultaneously: those who have access to a document on Google Docs are able to work at the same time and view the changes that other collaborators are making. What’s more, Google Docs is free to use, and any changes made to a document are saved automatically.

Prior to opening a file on Google Docs, users can either select a blank document or use one of several templates (essay, letter, lesson plan, report, etc.). Contributors can provide comments that are linked to specific portions of the text, and other collaborators may respond to the issues/concerns raised in these comments. Google Docs also sends emails to contributors when a file is shared with them. In addition, files can be exported in .pdf, .doc/.docx, or .odt format.

While Google Docs is one of the major contenders among collaborative writing software, it is not open source. Furthermore, the ability to track a document’s version history is limited, and documents tend to lag and become less responsive when many individuals are writing/editing at once.

2) Etherpad

In contrast to Google Docs, Etherpad is an open-source software for collaborative writing that allows multiple users to compose and edit documents. Etherpad is available for Windows and Mac/Linux systems, and it is ideal for recording collaborative minutes or brainstorming with colleagues. Etherpad color-codes the contributions made by different authors, and the changes that have been made to a document over time can be recorded and played back for review. Therefore, the ability to track versions of a document is more robust in Etherpad than in Google Docs.

Once the document is complete, the color-coded changes are integrated into the text to produce a more appealing, professional format. Etherpad is ideal for those who do not want to dish out an outrageous monthly payment. This resource is free, though donations are encouraged. The main downside to Etherpad is that users may be limited in their ability to include footnotes, figures, or images with their text.

3) Draft

Draft is a type of collaborative writing software that enables several collaborators to work with and edit a single document. The changes are not immediately integrated into the text, however. Instead, a new version of the document is produced every time a contributor’s changes are accepted.

While this feature permits users to easily keep track of the project’s version history, some may view this as a downside, as only the original author of the document can accept or reject other contributors’ changes.

While this feature permits users to easily keep track of the project’s version history, some may view this as a downside: only the original author of the document can accept or reject these changes. The original document is updated only when these changes are accepted.

Users must create an online account prior to using this software. Draft is unique in that it prepares analytics of an individual’s writing habits, such as the number of words produced by a writer per week. And, as with Etherpad, Draft is free.

4) Quip

Quip is a writing software suite that encourages teams to collaborate more efficiently. Members of a project team can work collaboratively on documents, spreadsheets, and checklists.

Quip Logo New

Quip provides a comment thread to facilitate interactions between collaborators as they work on a file. Users receive notifications of any changes that other collaborators have made to the document. What’s notable about Quip are the multiple platforms on which the software is supported (Mac, Windows, Android, iPhones, iPads, or online). Quip is also designed to be ideal for a mobile environment. While the business version of Quip requires regular payments (a free trial of Quip Business is available), a free version also exists.

5) Dropbox Paper

Though Dropbox has always been a great tool for sharing Word documents and file folders with multiple users, it has recently improved its capabilities for collaborative writing by introducing Dropbox Paper, a cloud-based software for editing.

This application can only be accessed online through a Dropbox account. In order to access Dropbox Paper (which is still in beta), users must first join a waitlist to receive an invitation to use the application. Project members can work together on a single document, with contributions from different users marked by colored cursors. Yet Dropbox Paper offers only three fonts and basic formatting options (underline, bold, strikethrough, and italics), which certainly limits your editing capabilities.

Dropbox Paper is ideal for managing a project because users can create to-do lists and notify team members of a task that requires completion.

Conclusion

Well, there you have it—the best software for collaborative writing. For those in academic or professional environments, working with group members from different locations is a reality. And though virtual group interactions can be complicated, these tools will help you avoid the cumbersome, hopelessly frustrating, sending-edits-via-email form of collaboration once and for all!

Image source: DesignCue/Stocksnap.io

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27 Presentation Tips: How to Create and Give an Engaging Presentation

Presentation Tips

Everyone has had the experience of sitting through a bad presentation. Those are the presentations where the lights go down, the audience is faced with slides filled with text, the speaker begins by reading each slide, and the room fills with the sounds of snoring. No one sets out to give a bad presentation, but you can set out to give a good one. If you follow these 27 presentation tips, the sounds that you hear at your next presentation are sure to be clapping, not snoring!

Here are 27 presentation tips that will help take your presentation from bad to good.

How to Structure Your Presentation

1. Create an appealing cover slide.

The opening cover slide is often overlooked, but it plays an important role in setting the tone and style for your whole presentation. Use a captivating graphic on your cover slide to catch your audience’s attention.

2. Keep it short and sweet.

If you keep your presentation short, it will be easier for the audience to remember the important information. Bombarding people with information just confuses them. Besides, no one has ever complained a presentation was too short!

3. Follow the “Rule of Three.”

Steve Jobs was a master communicator and presenter. One of the things that made him so effective was that he followed the rule of three in his presentations. To follow the rule of three, make sure that your presentation touches on three major ideas. You can then use stories, graphics, examples, and analogies to elaborate on these three ideas.

4. Use a maximum of ten slides.

Guy Kawasaki’s 10/20/30 Rule is that a maximum of 10 slides should be given in 20 minutes, and the size of the text on each slide should be no less than 30 point. Following Kawasaki’s rule forces you to make sure that the information provided on each slide is necessary; it also forces you to explain your slides.

5. Use slides to clarify points.

Slides are there to reinforce your message. Do not let them carry the entire message. You should also avoid reading the slides directly or using them as a crutch.

6. Design your own template.

Consider designing your own template by following some of the steps given on various websites, or purchase a template. This will allow you to create the theme that is best suited to your presentation. Audiences have seen the common PowerPoint templates time and time again, so give them something different to look at. The extra effort that you take in creating something unique will pay off in helping to maintain audience attention.

7. Make sure that your content is correct.

Edit and proofread your slides to make sure that the spelling and grammar is perfect. No one wants to look at a slide that has a spelling mistake on it, and no one will trust the opinion of someone whose presentation is riddled with errors.

8. Make sure that your presentation flows from one slide to the next.

Smooth transitions can help your presentation to flow easily from one idea to the next and from one slide to the next. You do not necessarily have to use fancy style transitions, but you can use verbal clues to tell your audience what is coming up on the next slide—and why they need to know!

9. Summarize.

There is an old public speaking tip that says to tell the audience what you are going to tell them, tell them, and then tell them what you told them. Presentations should follow this same format. Prepare your audience for what is coming, and then use the body of your presentation to tell them your three major points (refer to tip #3). Use your last slide to summarize your presentation and remind the audience about key points they might have already forgotten.

10. Consider using other types of presentations.

Instead of PowerPoint, consider alternatives such as Prezi, Easel.ly, or SlideRocket, which are available on the Internet. Using a different type of presentation may not only inspire you to stretch your creativity, but it may also inspire your audience.

How to Make Your Slides Aesthetically Pleasing

11. Don’t put too much information on one slide.

Try to keep your slides clutter-free and full of blank space. Don’t include too much text. A good rule of thumb is 30–40 words per slide.

12. Be concise.

According to a 2015 study by Microsoft Canada, the average human attention span is eight seconds, which is less than the attention span of a goldfish (nine seconds)! You need to be clear and get your point across quickly before your audience zones out. Don’t use clichés—even though you should “think outside the box,” for instance, your audience has heard that tired cliché hundreds of times before. Make sure that the text on your slides is meaningful to your presentation.

13. Use appropriate fonts and sizes.

Serif fonts, such as Times New Roman and Garamond, are easy to read at smaller sizes, but the serifs are often lost on a large screen. Sans-serif fonts, such as Arial and Franklin Gothic, work well for presentations. Consider using unusual fonts (within reason) to keep the audience’s interest. You can download fonts from DaFont, 1001 Free Fonts, and other font downloading sites. Just be sure that the font does not make your text difficult to read. Remember tip #4: Use nothing smaller than a 30-point font size. Keep in mind that, if you use a smaller font and the audience can see your slide, you will quickly be out of sync with them because they can read faster than you can talk.

14. Use color.Font and Color Examples

Different colors evoke different emotions. For example, red is associated with passion and urgency, blue is calming and evokes tranquility, orange conveys energy and warmth, and green is associated with nature and the environment, while black is heavy and formal. Warm colors, such as red and orange, can be used to highlight, while cooler colors can be used in the background. You should also make sure that the colors complement each other.

For the audience to be able to see the text, it must contrast with the background color. For example, use a dark green background with white text or a light blue background with black text. Accent colors are used for emphasis and should be used sparingly. No matter what color combination you choose for your presentation, make sure that you use it consistently.

15. Use high-quality graphics.

Do not use blurry pictures, overly familiar clip art, or eye-roll-inducing stock photos. Try to use images the audience may not have seen before by searching for fresh new photos on such sites as Unsplash and Pixabay. Remember that using no photo or graphic is better than using a bad one.

How to Make Your Presentation Memorable

16. Be passionate about your topic.

Whether you are giving a presentation on the different types of sandpaper or the truth factor in urban myths, you should be able to speak passionately about your topic. If you speak about what you love and know well, your passion will encourage the audience to tune into your presentation.

17. Know your audience.

When you know the background of your audience—in other words, what they know and what they need to know—you can structure your presentation to meet these needs. In turn, the audience will be more interested in what you have to say.

18. Involve the audience.

The easiest way to involve your audience is to ask questions. However, no one wants to ask a question and have no one raise their hand to answer. Try asking general questions, such as “How many people watch videos on YouTube?” Involving the audience helps you connect with them.

19. Include stories.

Stories are easy for the audience to remember; listeners tend to experience the story as it is being told. A good story will also elicit an emotional response in listeners and motivate them to act. Make sure that the story fits the context of your presentation (i.e., has a purpose) and is relevant to the audience.

How to Present and Keep Your Nerves in Check

20. Practice, practice, practice.

If you know your material, you are less likely to read slides and more likely to look at the audience. You will also feel more confident.

21. Transform your nerves into enthusiasm.

Everyone enjoys listening to an enthusiastic speaker. If you speak animatedly, your audience will be inclined to pay attention to you.

22. Take some calming breaths.

Take a deep breath before you begin presenting. This may help calm your nerves.

23. Smile and maintain eye contact.

Never turn your back on your audience. Another good hint is to stand to the left of the screen. In this way, your audience can look at you and sweep their eyes over the screen.

24. Make sure to show your personality.

Steve Jobs was a great presenter because he let his personality shine through. Don’t feel that, just because you’re giving a formal presentation, you must stifle everything that makes you unique. Your personality is what makes you interesting, engaging, and relatable; infuse that into your presentation.

25. Put your game face on.

Athletes and performers know that the key to a great performance is to pump themselves up during the pre-game or pre-show warm-up. You need to pump yourself up too. You can run in place, do some stretches, or practice one more time—do what you have to do to get ready. And then, as Nike™ always says: Just do it!

26. Have fun!

It may be counterintuitive, but if you know that you have prepared well and have a great-looking presentation, you should realize that you have done your best. Use that knowledge to relax and enjoy the experience. You can also use humor to joke with the audience and make it fun for everyone.

27. Thank the audience for listening.

To conclude your presentation and to cue your audience that your presentation is finished, you can thank them for listening and participating. People appreciate being appreciated. Remember that you can also include a final slide that thanks the audience and provides your contact information.

Conclusion

There is no magic formula that you can apply to a presentation to make it great, but if you follow these 27 tips, you should be able to present a memorable, stress-free presentation.

Image source: Davide Ragusa/Unsplash.com

GrammarCamp

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How to Get Your Business Email Read Past the Subject Line

Business Email

Learning how to structure and write a business email is vital if you want the recipient to read it and respond. You probably want to come across as assertive but polite, comprehensive but to the point, and urgent but not annoying. Finding such a balance in business writing can be tricky, but it’s by no means impossible. We’re here to help.

To help you master business email writing, we’re providing you with a simple structure to follow. Outlines are an immensely helpful tool to use in any kind of writing because all you have to do is fill in the blanks. Using our eight-step process, your email should generally adhere to the following format:

  1. Subject line
  2. Greeting
  3. Introduction
  4. Reason for contacting the recipient
  5. Call to action
  6. Gratitude
  7. Sign-off
  8. Editing

This clear outline will help you write your email quickly and effectively. With our business email writing process, you’ll get your email read past the subject line and your foot in whichever door you choose.

1. Provide enough information in the subject line

To get your email read past the subject line, the first thing you will need is an engaging subject line. Most important, it should be informational. Make sure your subject line correctly summarizes the email’s message. That means no spammy-sounding clickbait. You want your email to be read, but false advertising in the subject line will result in the loss of your recipients’ respect after the initial read-through.

It’s also important that your subject line isn’t too long. Be succinct! I can’t count the number of times I’ve had to log on to a computer because the sender’s subject line was too long to read on my smartphone. Don’t make the same mistake; some people won’t even go out of their way to read your whole subject line, let alone your email.

2. Be friendly and formal in the greeting

Make sure your greeting is friendly yet formal. It’s important that you address the recipient by name whenever possible. You should hunt for the correct name and verify that you’ve spelled it right. If you don’t know the name, a simple “To whom it may concern” or “Dear Committee” will suffice.

Ensure that you know the person’s gender for certain before you ever use gendered language. Avoiding these embarrassing mistakes is important in business email writing; one small mistake can secure your email a spot in the trash bin with a simple click.

3. Make sure they know who you are immediately

Making a good first impression is a two-step process: impress the person on the other end, and flatter him or her. First, you’ll want to introduce yourself as soon as you possibly can in the email. The introduction step should only need one line containing your name and what you do (but only what you do as it is relevant to the email). You’ll also want to mention any mutual friends or experiences here, if applicable.

You may also wish to employ some flattery early on. If they don’t know you and you have nothing in common, perhaps they can know you as an admirer. You should explain what motivated you to contact them specifically, such as an inspiring paper or an impressive accomplishment listed on LinkedIn. However, if it’s obvious why you’re contacting them (like a call for submissions) or the person on the other end is anonymous, feel free to skip this part.

All this might seem excessive, but remember: write one sentence for the introduction and maybe one to butter them up a bit. That’s it! Don’t completely overwhelm the recipient with paragraphs of information outlining your biography and every little accomplishment. You also shouldn’t drone on and on about how great they are, as people can smell insincerity a mile away! If you’re being honest in your compliments, any flattery you employ should blend in quite nicely.

4. Provide a clear and succinct reason for contacting them

Now you can get to the real meat of the email. Why are you writing? Explain, as concisely as possible, what it is you want or how they can help you. If it helps, outline the reasons for contacting them beforehand to ensure a clear and concise email. Email is generally a short format, so there should be no overwhelming blocks of text.

5. Ensure an obvious call to action

What is it that you want the recipient to do by the end of your email? If it’s a simple response, make an easy call to action (e.g., “Please feel free to reply to this email address with your answer”). If it’s a request for them to look at your webpage or portfolio, provide a link (e.g., “Please click here to view more of my work”). If you would like them to open an attachment, direct the recipient’s attention to its existence (e.g., “Please see the attached file for more information”).

It doesn’t matter if it’s more concrete, like meeting somewhere or performing a specific task. Just make sure that what you want them to do is clear and that your request is polite. Think of business relationships in terms of symbiosis: both parties have something to offer, so ask for what you want but be nice about it. On that same note . . .

6. Be polite and thank them for their time

You know that advertising campaign by Dos Equis, The Most Interesting Man in the World? You need to be The Most Polite Person in the World. Generally, this means being a little less direct. If you want something, you probably shouldn’t just say “I want . . .” Instead, try “I was hoping I could have . . .” or “Would you mind if I had . . .” Because the language is a little bit softer, it sounds more polite.

Remember that recipients cannot see your expressions when reading your email. All they have to go on to determine your demeanor is your words. That’s why even direct language that isn’t intended to be rude at all can come across as abrasive in text format. You need to be aware of that while you’re writing.

You should also thank recipients for their time at the end of your email. If they’ve gotten that far, it means they’ve read your email, and that deserves your gratitude, indeed.

7. Sign off (and don’t forget to include your contact information)

Now it’s time to sign off. There’s a lot of debate about the best way to end an email, so we’ll leave it to you to decide which way best suits your email’s tone and purpose. Consider how formal you want to come across and how friendly you want to sound, and find what you need on the spectrum.

Try not to overthink it. Use something you might say in real life, and be respectful. Chances are that the person on the other end won’t think about your sign off as much as you do, unless you completely miss the mark. You’ll also want to include your name, once again, and your contact information. Make sure everything is clear and accurate before you hit Send.

8. Edit and proofread

Your email is fully written. You’ve typed your name and contact information, and you’re scrolling up to the top. Your hand is hovering over the Send button. With a simple click, your email will be flying through the Internet, never to be seen again. After you send it, though, you notice a glaring error.

It is absolutely vital that your business email is completely error-free. That goes for grammar, spelling, clarity, sentence structure, and tone. Read over your email a few times to be absolutely sure it is all correct. Scribendi.com president Chandra Clarke suggests changing the font size and color to get a fresh perspective on your words.

However, if you need an objective pair of eyes, or if you want to save yourself the frustration, you could always hire a professional editor or proofreader. It might seem like overkill, but business emails can greatly affect your professional persona; ensuring clarity and accuracy will demonstrate your commitment to professionalism and attention to detail.

Conclusion

Using our simple business email writing process, you’ve written your email from the subject line to the call to action to the sign-off. You’ve had the whole thing professionally edited and proofread, and you’ve employed all the necessary changes. It’s perfect, just perfect! You almost don’t want to send it, because that would mean saying goodbye.

Well, take a deep breath, because it’s finally time to hit Send! I know it’s hard. But before you know it, you’ll have a shiny new email response in your inbox. So pat yourself on the back because you’ve just sharpened your business writing skills, and who knows how far you’ll go now? There’s no email in the world you can’t handle!

Image source: Lia Leslie/Stocksnap.io

Effective Business Communication

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SEO Basics for the Online Business DIYer

SEO Basics for the Online Business DIYerFive minutes of exposure to any form of today’s media—TV, magazines, the blitzkrieg of emails from trendy companies you don’t remember giving your email address to—will tell you that we’re living in the Do-It-Yourself era. Grow a vegetable garden on your windowsill! Get that kitchen you always dreamed of! Cook Thai cuisine at home! The ever-growing lineup of home renovation shows and YouTube videos on How to Trick People into Thinking You’re Good Looking are now being joined by another category of DIYers: the online entrepreneurs. Where we used to see ads for designer business cards, now it’s all about website design (GoDaddy.com, WhoIs.com, and Wix.com, to name a few). More and more self-starters are taking their businesses online without the help of web designers. So how do you know if you’re doing it right?

Successfully marketing your business online is more than simply having a pretty website (though we certainly appreciate the pretty ones too). The DIY website operator needs one very important tool in his or her skills toolbox: search engine optimization (SEO). Without it, your site will be about as visible as a sandwich board on the side of a dirt road in back-country New Mexico.

So what is SEO, anyway?

SEO is what makes your website show up in Internet searches; knowing some SEO basics can mean the difference between being on page 1 or page 237 of Google search results. You want to make sure your website will be found easily by potential customers.

Can I really do SEO on my own?

Yes, yes, a thousand times, yes! Okay, so maybe you don’t need to be as dramatic as a Jane Austen heroine, but celebration is definitely in order. SEO doesn’t require coding or even knowledge of HTML; it’s about word choice and placement. What’s that? Could it really be that simple? The following SEO tips for beginners should get you started.

1. Use your words

Choose your keywords carefully (these being the words potential visitors are likely to enter into a search engine), and direct their placement even more so. Your primary keyword should be in the page’s URL, your content’s title, the page description, and ideally in the first 50 words of your body text. Keywords should appear throughout your content but not so often as to make the writing feel clumsy or spammy.

2. Tag, you’re it!

Don’t neglect your alt tags and image tags! With every image and link on your page, you have an opportunity to pump up your keyword usage. These tags (the text that appears when you hover your mouse over an image or link) should always be filled in with a concise label or description that contains your primary keyword.

3. A picture is worth a thousand clicks

A trick to jumping ahead in search engine rankings is to use different forms of media. Not only will eye-catching images and interesting videos appeal to visitors to your website, but they’ll also show up in image or video searches and even in regular web results. As Google displays the most relevant videos and images at the top of its results pages, you can sneak into visibility ahead of even the best-optimized text-only websites.

4. Content is king, but you don’t have to be a prince from Bel Air to be fresh!

We can’t stress enough the importance of fresh, relevant content. Visitors to your website won’t stick around (or come back) if what they find was last updated in 2002. That being said, constantly posting updates just for the sake of updating while falling behind on real need or quality won’t help you. Be mindful of what you’re saying when you post. Are you addressing the current needs and inquiries of your customers? Are you staying up to date and on top of trends? Determine a reasonable strategy, whether it means daily social media posts, posting blogs or articles two to three times a week, or seasonal promotions.

5. Feel the need—the need for speed!

Feel the need--the need for speed.Nobody likes a sluggish website. When the next option is only a click away, the chances of a potential customer actually waiting for a stalling website to load are slim to none. Cut down on bandwidth-hogging applications like Flash or JavaScript, and compress your files and images. Page speed is factored into search engine rankings.

6. Stay mobile

The popular build-a-site websites we mentioned earlier each come with arsenals of free templates for the not-so-technically-inclined. Make sure to choose one that is also designed to suit mobile devices. Not only are visitors unlikely to stay on your page if it isn’t readable on their phones and tablets, but Google is now factoring mobile optimization into its ranking system.

7. ‘Cause it’s all about those links, ’bout those links, no bouncing!

Basic but beautiful is the concept of linking back to your own website. Every time you post new content, include a link back to your site, be it to your homepage, landing page, or archive. If you’re using social media to market your business (and you really should be), include links to your website in your posts. Finally, establish relationships with relevant websites so that you can provide links to each other’s sites. Each link means more potential traffic and a greater chance of appearing in search engine results; just make sure that links to your site are appearing on legitimate, relevant pages.

How do I know if it’s working?

What is success if you can’t see it? Take a moment now to sign up for Google Analytics. This comprehensive system of tools lets you track who your customers are, what it is they need, what they’re looking at on your website, and how they’re reacting to it. You can also monitor what paths bring visitors to your website and from what kinds of devices so that you can continue tweaking your site to further drive traffic and conversions. From there, the power is all yours!

Image sources: Leeroy/Stocksnap.io, hingoba/Pixabay.com

 

Inklyo's free ebook, 17 SEO Myths You Should Stop Believing.

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5 Reasons Businesses Invest in Writing Services

Professional Writing Services

Professional Writing ServicesWhen they begin to develop content for their websites and marketing materials, businesses often have unrealistic expectations about the time and skill the process requires. They think, “It can’t be that hard to create some content, right? Just put together a few paragraphs, and voilà!”

Not quite.

As a writer, you know about the hours it takes to produce quality content. You know the difficulty of gearing an article toward a certain audience or composing a phrase that will resonate with all readers.

Part of being a freelance writer or professional writing service is demonstrating to potential clients how your skills—the skills you have spent years cultivating—will help them consistently produce content at a level of quality that they could not have reached without you.

As in any business, part of appealing to potential clients is understanding their pain points, or the problems they face on a daily basis that cause them frustration. Sometimes, potential clients are not even aware of their pain points until you show them a solution that will increase their efficiency and, ultimately, their bottom line.

The following list will help you understand some of the pain points experienced by businesses in the area of content production. Use this list as you build your brand as a freelancer and continue to develop—and market—your skills.

1. Businesses really don’t have the time to write.

It might not always look like it, but you know that writing right is hard work. It involves researching, organizing, composing, editing, and proofreading.

Many small businesses can’t afford to hire a full-time writer to produce content for their blog or website, so they must rely on other support staff to accomplish this goal. For an inexperienced writer, a single article can easily take five hours to write properly, while an epic post of up to 2,000 words could take as long as 10 hours or more to research, write, and edit. Add to this the need to fulfill all their other duties as well, and the business’s goal of producing new site content weekly—or even monthly—becomes either a major source of stress or an unattainable wish.

Professional writing services and freelance writers can address this pain point by working on a per-project or per-hour basis, allowing support staff to focus on their real priorities.

2. Writing is not a business owner’s highest and best use.

Most entrepreneurs didn’t get into business to become a writer or an accountant or a salesperson. They got into business because they had a great idea and found a way to monetize it.

Anything that takes them away from their main tasks of organizing, long-term planning, and networking can actually harm their business. If small business owners choose to focus on something they could easily outsource (i.e., content writing), they are using up time during which they could be advancing their business in the long term and are creating bottlenecks for projects that need their review or approval. Outsourcing the task of content creation to freelance writers or professional writing services enables business owners to focus on doing what they need and want to be doing—running and growing their business.

3. Writing is not employees’ highest and best use, either.

There are a number of content marketing blogs that suggest that businesses should involve the whole company in producing material for their blog or for social media. The idea isn’t completely without merit, as it is a great way to share a business’s knowledge, allow customers to see the names and faces of employees, and pump out content at a high rate. But it comes with an astonishing number of hidden costs.

First, as previously mentioned, support staff are not usually professional writers, so the company can end up investing a lot of time (and therefore money) in redrafting, editing, and proofreading the material. Second, businesses are effectively paying hourly rates for content that they could likely get for less by using a professional writing service. This is especially true if they are getting managers or IT staff to write for them, as these positions typically command higher rates of pay. Third, and most importantly, there are the opportunity costs. Time spent on producing content is time not spent doing what the employees were hired to do in the first place.

4. Creating content in-house complicates scheduling.

The Internet runs on an up-to-the-minute basis, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Business websites have to keep up. To ensure that prospects and customers return to a business’s site, new content must be posted regularly so that visitors do not lose interest (and so that Google continues to reward the site with a good page rank).

If companies attempt to do this themselves, they must commit a chunk of time every week. If a business relies on staff to contribute, they will require a rota to make sure everyone contributes equally and consistently. They will also have to schedule around vacation time, sick leave, conferences, and the big projects, which inevitably start sucking up whole weeks as deadlines approach.

Freelancers and professional writing services specialize in producing content according to strict deadlines, and reliable services guarantee that the content is completed and ready to publish by the deadline. By outsourcing these tasks, business owners and employees can ensure that their site always features fresh, high-quality content.

5. Do they even SEO?

Writing for the web is significantly different from writing for print. Search engines rank websites based on their content and relevance, and this has a major impact on how much traffic the writing attracts. If the proper keywords and phrases are present, the article can get into the top rankings. However, if this is not the case, the writing can be lost forever in a sea of web content. On the flip side, writing strictly for search engines can lead to keyword stuffing; this results in awkward, hard-for-humans-to-read prose that will earn a penalty from Google.

So, in addition to teaching writing, editing, and proofreading skills to staff, businesses that produce their content in-house will also need to teach staff about search engine optimization.

Freelance writers and professional writing services specializing in creating web content can use search engine best practices to make content more accessible to customers. In addition, creating up-to-date content on a regular basis will ensure that the articles remain relevant to the search engines, which in turn will bring businesses more traffic.

Harder than it looks

Content marketing is well worth the effort, time, and investment. However, doing it properly can put a huge strain on a business’s in-house resources. Understanding the main challenges faced by businesses in terms of content creation will help you as a freelancer or professional writer to appeal to a business’s desires and satisfy their needs.

Image source: stokpic.com