Tag Archives: tips

6 Tips for Creating a Community Through Replies

Reply to CommentsContent is king, frequency is crucial, formatting and theme are important, and authorial tone (including humor) often makes a world of difference when it comes to successful blogging. But let’s talk about a sometimes-forgotten aspect of your blogging lifestyle: replying to comments.

Engaging your community through replies is extremely valuable, and especially for beginning bloggers who are in the process of building a brand and an audience. It gives commenters a sense that their views are important to you, and that they can make a difference in the direction or content of the current discussion. This will make them (and others) want to visit more. It also breaks down the rather imperial one-way street of blog content. When visitors feel that a blog’s content is going in two directions, they’re more likely to engage, increasing your traffic.

Here are six tips to start your moderating career off right.

  • Delete derogatory, racist, expletive-laced, or otherwise hate-filled speech. Don’t sink to their level and try to respond to or somehow deconstruct such comments. Not worth your time!
  • Combat comment spam. Naturally, you need to take steps to eliminate all of those wonderful broken English solicitations for designer handbags and Canadian pharmacy medications. Current versions of WordPress come with the anti-spammer plugin Akismet, and SpamFree is also a popular plugin. In any case, find a way to automate the process rather than burden yourself with the headache of manual deletions.
  • Brevity is your friend. Comments are not the place for entry-length commentary. Don’t take too much time and bury good content in replies that are harder to find than proper blog entries. If a reply warrants a whole other entry, make a new entry, and acknowledge the user who spurred the new topic.
  • Make like Gandhi with the haters. Unless you’ve cultivated a particularly tough persona and an appropriately tough audience, it doesn’t make much sense to spit venom back at those who denigrate your site, mock your expertise, and belittle what you have to offer. Non-constructive insult-slingers deserve just what they would if they called in to some huge corporation’s customer service department: an indifferent, diplomatic answer. “I’m sorry you didn’t respond to the entry. Please check back next time, and hopefully you’ll find something more to your liking.”
  • However, correct misconceptions. Vague insults are one thing; if someone is taking issue with a contention you’ve made, replies are the proper forum to engage in a healthy debate.
  • On a related note, freely admit when you’re wrong. Very few of us are some sort of unimpeachable masters of our field. First and foremost, we are intellectually curious and passionate about our topic of choice, and that’s what drives your content (and your audience). Check your pride at the door and acknowledge mistakes.

How do you handle replies? Do you think they’re useful in building a community?


5 Brainstorming Techniques for Project Managers

Project ManagementAs we all know, sometimes the solution to a project management problem isn’t obvious. There may be many moving parts: clashes of personalities, supply problems, technology limitations, personnel shortages, or any number of other challenges. That’s why it’s often useful to sit down in a room with key staff members, throw things at the proverbial wall, and see what sticks.

Here are five brainstorming techniques that are specifically useful in a project management environment. They can be used in a meeting of any number of people, and in a variety of industries. The key is structuring the meeting properly, including introducing each technique effectively, and leaving criticism at the door (that is, at least until you actually get down to evaluating the ideas everyone has generated).

Examining Parallels – How have others in your field tackled the same problem you are tackling? What successes did other organizations have, and where did they fall down? The “others” you are examining could be direct competitors, but it also might be a related but distinct industry. This technique is all about emulating success while at the same time learning from others’ mistakes and making corrections. A brainstorm session using this technique might lead to some competitor research, which can then spur new ideas.

The Mind Map – The mind map is analogous to a tree, with a central trunk (the end project goal) branching off into broad and then more specific sub-categories. For example, if your goal is a “successful acquisition,” you might list “information technology,” “personnel,” and “facilities” as sub-topics and then riff into more sub-topics.

Survival of the Fittest – Do some brainstorming in a freeform, “anything goes” style. After an initial round, knock out the least viable ideas and concentrate on the ones most people feel are promising. Then, do a second round of brainstorming, but with ideation triggered by the “survivor” ideas of the first round. With a third and even fourth round, you’ll likely arrive at brainstorming gold.

Devil’s Advocate – Yes, in this method you get to tear down ideas. But it’s actually much more productive than a first glance would tell you. In Devil’s Advocate, you challenge some basic premises of the goal itself. If the project schedule is three weeks, why? Can it be four? If the goal involves the entire company, could it involve just a few departments? These are broad questions, but Devil’s Advocate can get quite specific as to your individual goal. By challenging assumptions, you’ll arrive at new ideas.

Wall Siege – In this technique, you switch from the project goal to the impediments in the way of that goal. Which of the “moving parts” I talked about in the introduction are in the way of a successful project? And how can these obstacles be reduced or eliminated?

Are there any brainstorming techniques we missed that you’ve found particularly helpful in the boardroom? I’m always up for trying new techniques so please share them in the comments!

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11 Tips for Nailing the Big Interview

Nail Biting MomentThe big job interview. We’ve all been there: it’s pretty nerve-wracking. That’s why we’ve assembled 11 easy-to-remember tips for next time you’re on the hot seat.

1.  Research the company – don’t go into a meeting “blind.” Do your research – as quick as a ten-minute gallop through Google. Find out recent news about the company, new products, new initiatives, how the housing downturn has affected their bottom line. Anything to provide a little conversational fodder.

  1. Dress at their level or above – Just because they have casual Friday doesn’t mean you should amble in wearing your dungarees. Show them this interview is important to you by dressing the part.
  2. Firm handshake – Sure, the “you can judge a person by their handshake” philosophy belongs more to the older generation, but it never hurts to squeeze like you mean it, no matter what your interviewer’s age.
  3. Keep chatter uncontroversial – Don’t venture into any touchy subjects. The weather is fine; your stance on gun control is not.
  4. Maintain eye contact – This is a biggie. Eye contact shows you are confident, engaged, and present.
  5. Try your clothes on beforehand – In your unemployed glory, you may have had the luxury of wearing sweatpants for the last six months, but don’t let it show. Make sure your interview clothes fit properly and look good, and that you haven’t grown or shrunk since last time.
  6. Magic Question A – Interviewers often delight in throwing you a curveball question. Come up with a great canned response for this gem: Describe a situation at work where you experienced a challenge or obstacle, and what you did to overcome that obstacle.
  7. Magic Question B – The other interview staple you need a good answer for: Describe a time you had a disagreement with a coworker or boss, and what you did to resolve the situation.
  8. Get a handle on your previous job(s) – You should be prepared to explain the duties of your previous job. And you should also be ready to explain why you left it. If you were downsized or if you left to raise your family, no biggie. If you were fired, you better be ready to do your best salesperson routine and let the interviewer know how this time will be different.
  9. Lose any accessories – Psychologically, you don’t want to create any negative associations. If you’re chewing gum, you’re the rude person. If you bring food, you’re the piggish person (hey, not fair, but nonetheless true). If you’re playing games on your iPhone in the waiting area (God forbid), you’re the childish one. Let them judge you on your merits, and not any unfair associations.
  10. Be yourself – You knew this cliché was coming, right? But it’s deceptively difficult to actually pull this off, nervous as you are. You’ll need to extend energy and maintain uncommon focus to “be yourself.” But it’s worth the effort: you are your own best asset!