I am moving

Am excited to announce that after years of dawdling, I have finally launched my site. It is at rowenamorais.com.

What’s new

This new site has just been launched in August 2016. The focus is clear  : I am helping my readers to write, to get published and to strengthen their personal brand.

It’s been difficult to figure out what I’d like to do. I look back at my history and I see myself writing about all kinds of things, it’s a bit of a mish-mash. But I also know it’s a journey and you have to begin to get somewhere. It’s just daunting to be so exposed, to have your digital footprint so clearly visible.

For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them – Aristotle

Yet, for the very reasons I have been less than satisfied with my efforts so far, it has helped to distill what I am good at, what I care about and what I’d like to focus on.

Why you should care

If you’re an existing follower of mine (via email), I have migrated you onto my newsletter. If you’re a WordPress  blog follower, I am not sure how to migrate you over so please take this as an invitation to check out my new site. Hopefully, if you like what you see, and if it makes sense for your journey, then you will sign up for my newsletter. No pressure intended, no commitment required and you can always opt-out anytime you like.

If you’re interested in writing and building your brand name through the written word, you’re probably looking at creating or bettering your website or blog. You probably already do some form of content marketing, whether through ad-hoc pieces like eBooks or regular pieces like long-form content.

This is what I can help with.

What’s next?

I intend to blog at my new site, from now on. I will still keep this site up but don’t intend to post anything new here. So, I hope you will check rowenamorais.com out. I’d love to hear from you, whether it’s suggestions for improvements, other things I could work on or just to say hello.

Hopefully, we meet again.


How do you want your first interaction to go?

The price of short-term gains

An increasingly  common trick I’ve noticed is people sending you an email  with the subject heading starting with Re : XYZ. It makes it look like a conversation was already initiated except I have no idea who this person is and this is the first email I am getting from them.

The conversation starts with a lie.
It confuses the receiver.
It may be confusing especially if the person writes skillfully and well, referencing a place they’ve met or a conversation they’ve had.  In effect, they carry through the lie from the subject header and into the body of the email. This may not be too hard to do if you can be generic enough about some of the details and if you do enough research into the person online  – I guess practice makes perfect.
The conversation starts with a lie.
The point being that if you decide to spend a minute pondering and then you slowly realise that hey, the conversation never took place, which do you think is more likely :
1) that I respond to her email; or
2) that I block her or just bin any other email I get from her?
Yes,  she got the email through to me and I spent the time reading it. So it was successful on one level. But on another, she has lost out because of the disrepute she has come into – the manner in which she communicated.
Bottom line, we are all looking for results. But it makes more sense to go for results that matter, that are done in the right way and that will give you long-term gains. The time and effort involved is just as much – is it not?
#communication #branding #integrity
So my question is : how much will you sacrifice for short term gain, knowing there is a price to be paid in the long term?  
I run Vertical Distinct, supporting both Human Resource and Technology professionals through online resources and educational programmes and I blog here on the entrepreneurial journey. I write for Women of HR and am also Associate Editor at the HR Gazette. Feel free to connect to talk or let me know how I can support you.

Are you staring at a blank page again?

When faced with a blank page, it’s so easy to walk away, find something to distract yourself with or find something urgent you need to tick off your list.

I deal with this daily and typically, I am reminded of this poster I see at my gym of some sweaty ex national athlete  (because a normal person wouldn’t be as convincing?) working out with furrowed brow and looking very serious with the caption – “It doesn’t get easier, you just get better at it.”

So true.

Go through the pain of this process, there’s no avoiding it.

I am dealing with content development at least 6 days of the week, in some form or other, whether for work or my own blog. Planning distribution, editing articles, SEO, figuring out how to socialise articles seems easier compared to coming up with new, original content.

What’s the best way to fix this?

Go through the pain of this process, there’s no avoiding it.
You come out stronger, trust me. I have been there.

It’s what you need to develop your voice.

But write. Write daily.

I know it sounds cliche. I never really understood what it meant until I went through this process. Of course, you know your voice. But speaking is very different from writing. There’s the element of permanence and certainty in what is written that can be made lighter in a conversation. You will write and be disgusted and what comes out – how boring and unoriginal it may sound after you’ve spent hours on it. But do it anyway. Journal if you need to, save it as a draft even.But write. Write daily.

Like getting the smoky eye look down pat or cooking up an awesome paella, you need to get it wrong many times before you finally get it right. You need time and space to figure out what you will say, how you will do it and the core messages you will keep coming back to without even realising.

Keep going. Keep going. Keep going.

How do you face the blank page? Pls give me some tips! Share your thoughts in the comments, as I too want to learn from you.

I run the VerticalDistinct platform to support both Human Resource and Technology professionals. I blog on the entrepreneurial journey. I also write for Women of HR and post on LinkedIn. Let’s connect, let’s learn from each other. Let me know how I can support you.

Getting the fundamentals right on your LinkedIn profile

Whether you realise (or are even willing to admit) it, you’re selling something. Everyone sells.

One of the most tangible pieces of you selling something important – yourself – is your CV.

At work, at it’s highest level, you’re selling a service or product for your company. But even when you don’t work in sales, you’re selling something. You’re selling an idea, concept or mission that you want others to buy into and believe.

One of the most tangible pieces of you selling something important – yourself – is your CV. In today’s connected world, this is your LinkedIn profile.

Employers everywhere check not only your LinkedIn profile but your social profiles, like Facebook and Twitter, to get a better picture of who you are against who you claim to be. Therefore, it’s a no-brainer to argue that the manner in which you maintain your profile and how you choose to describe yourself will affect the kind of conclusions drawn about you.

Here are some simple, easy -to-do tips you should look at to make sure you’ve got the baseline stuff covered.

1.Get on LinkedIn

Here are some compelling stats :

  • a professional network on the Internet with more than 400 million members in over 200 countries and territories;
  • professionals are signing up to join at a rate of more than two new members per second.
  • more than 40 million students and recent college graduates on LinkedIn- their fastest-growing demographic.

If you don’t move forward, are you slipping behind?

If you’re not on LinkedIn, at a time when others are, what does that tell a prospective employer about you? Also, how are they expected to find you? You’re doing yourself a complete disservice.

Move with the times.

2. Get the right photo

Notice that I don’t say you should have a photo because that, to me, is a given. People are visual creatures and that is the first thing people look at when they’re checking out a profile. So, it raises questions when a person creates a profile yet is not willing to put a photo up.

I say get the right photo because surprisingly, there are still many who post strikingly wierd, funny, unflattering photos of themselves online. This is the platform you are using to say something of yourself. You are in charge of what is said, how it’s said and the manner in which it is displayed.

Take control and put your best face forward. Make an effort.

Tips – Please avoid these sorts of pics

  • you at a party with disco lights in the background;
  • you holding your cute dog ;
  • you holding a beer!;
  • you in all your Identity Card/Passport insipid photo glory;
  • you in a landscape shot where we can’t make out your features because you are too far away in the distance;
  • selfie – come on!

3.  Clean your profile URL and spread the word

Your profile will come with a profile URL. Clean it up, own it and share this. Put it on your business card, include it on your socials and put it on your email signature.

4. Join a few LinkedIn groups

Joining a few groups, strategically, will inform prospective employers  (or those who might want to do business with you) about your interests cross referenced against your professional background and experience.

There’s a limit of 50 groups you can join at any one time. Work on the assumption that you will reassess the groups you’ve joined to see whether you’ve gotten value from it, and if it still works for you. If not, leave said group. If you hit the max, you will need to leave a group in order to join any new one.

5. Reach out and make a few connections

Nothing worse than finally getting onto LinkedIn than to be seen to have 3 connections!

Start with your existing network of  colleagues, supplier relationships, partners etc. Reach out to ex-colleagues and those who you might have worked closely with in past roles. Reach out to new people you want to be connected to.

I’ve cold-contacted people who are in my industry and many accept my connection. It does not work every time but you make the effort to see what happens.

Tip : personalise the Invite to Connect message. Make it worth their while. Give them a reason to do so. Just hitting the “connect” button which will automatically send a generic invite to connect increases the chances of a bad response. A bad response here could be one of two things : silence or them reporting “I dont know you” in which case, enough such responses will get your account blocked eventually.

6. Write up a strong Positioning statement/Summary

This is one of the most important sections in your profile and sets the tone.

It’s also the section where you have the chance to display your creativity and mettle. Keep in mind when writing this, that it is not so much who you are and what you can do but why people should get to know you and what you’re about. Give them a reason to.

Talk about yourself boldly, in the present tense and be focused on only 1 -2 things you want to drive the reader’s attention to. Leave out the typical descriptions (I am an ambitious go-getter, a people person who works hard and is productive…..) that mean nothing to others and which will only make them click away.

7. Create a bold, strong and clear headline

The area just below your name is the headline. It can, by default, be used to display your current occupation but you could easily change this – and –  you should. It should sum up who you are and what you’re about without the specifics of a job title.

Tip 1 – I’m not a big fan of people using this space to mention that they’re looking for new opportunities. Pssst – they don’t care. This activity is very you-centred and an effective profile should be reader-centred.

Secondly, you should make it easy for people to pass you a lead or tell you about a job. If you are looking for opportunities, make it easy for people to discover who you are, what you do and the kind of role you’re after. You weren’t expecting them to trawl through all of your profile and come to the conclusion about that, were you? You can always mention what you’re looking for, in the section at the end.

Tip 2 – This is the space where you can display the most creativity in selling yourself. It’s also the place readers focus on. Ask yourself whether what you put up here does yourself justice.

8. Images bring your profile to life

The use of images throughout your profile will help you immensely. It makes it attractive and creates the stickiness so that the reader stays on the page.

  • A good background image – high resolution – is a must. Those who have written books or spoken at high profile events, tend to use these elements to their advantage. But if you havent (yet) published a book or spoken at some high profile event, this can be a space for you to speak about your passion by putting up a quote with good supporting graphics. It could be about supporting your company by including the company logo (if you want to go there), it could be a push to your blog, twitter feed or instagram account. Whatever you do, personalise this space because visuals matter.
  • I’ve spoken about the need for a good profile photo.
  • Slides you’ve used to present at talks or conferences can be great pieces of content to showcase your talent. Other materials could be articles or blog posts you’ve written, books you’ve contributed chapters to or if you work in a design capacity, this could be a space to showcase some of your portfolio.

9. Complete your profile

As much as you can, complete your profile, fleshing out your work experiences (with date ranges), projects or assignments you were involved in, volunteer activities you take part in as well as languages and skillsets. I don’t think it’s always necessary to include every single job you’ve had. Just list what you think is a good fit with how you’ve positioned yourself as well as what you believe will add an interesting (and complementary) element to a strong profile.

10. Bonus : Write at least one Pulse post

If you can, writing a Pulse post can be quite advantageous to position you in a stronger light. It showcases your communication skills, gives the impression of someone dynamic and proactive and lastly, is an opportunity, yet again, to showcase your abilities and skills, in a creative way through the use of prose and supporting imagery.

If you need to get someone to give it a once over to check for overall structure and grammar, do that because it will be worth it. Surprisingly, I have seen quite a few posts that were not subject to such rigour. In that form, they do far more damage than imagined. Bad news? You don’t even know it.

11. Focus on the reader, not on you

It bears repeating because what the mind can understand may not translate well, in any event, into corresponding action.

Think about…

…what they might be asking about who you are (based on what they read);
… what conclusions they may come to (based on what’s presented);
… what you’d like to tell them vs what they are likely to want to hear.

So, one area that can be worked on is your work experience. Your focus should be less on your responsibilities and more on what you’ve achieved.

12. Add your contact info

There are two sections where your contact details are displayed:

  • towards the bottom of your profile, after work history and education etc, there will be a section displayed “Advice for Contacting Rowena”. This is a space where you can add your contact details clearly; and
  • just below the top section of your profile, below your headline and photo. It is on the right side column marked “Contact Info”.

Before you’re connected with someone, you are not able to see their contact information in the top section. Once you’ve connected, this information is then accessible. However, the info you share at the bottom of your profile, will be displayed to all who view your profile, thus providing contact details to those who may not necessarily want to request a connection.

You put yourself on this network to be discovered.Therefore, one of the most critical things to do is to provide clear contact details so that those who wish to contact you can do so. You achieve this by adding your contact details at the bottom. How much detail you share (whether it’s a phone number, skype ID or email) is up to you.

13. Provide regular status updates

With millions on this network, you’re lost and chances of being found are well, slim. But chances of being found by the people you want to find you can be increased with a little forethought and regular action.

A status update is far less time consuming that a full blown post and so, for non-bloggers, presents an opportunity to connect, to reach out, to make a dent in someone else’s life. As a professional network, you want to be clear about the sort of posts/updates you put here. A good place to start is to post stuff you find that is of value and that you believe others will find useful eg current news or interesting articles.

Bonus – don’t just share it, add your two cents to it. It brings the post to life, it shows people you’re not just aimlessly clicking and sharing (anyone can do that) and it showcases (and over time, cements) your expertise in given field.

14. Update your email

You need to have an email associated with your account. It is how LinkedIn contacts you about account-related issues and its also the email you get sent messages if you turn the notifications on.

Make a conscious decision about which email to use. Your choice of email indicates the era you’re born in (hello Hotmail users!). If you choose to use a work email, then you need to remember to update that email when you switch jobs or risk losing emails until you realise that mistake – which could be costly.

If you use a personal email, try to make it as professional as you can. After all, you are sharing this with others on a professional network. Email me at disco_queen143@yahoo.com? It’s easy enough and free to get a new one done.

Granted, some of these tips will take time to get into the groove on. But if you could start out on LinkedIn strong, this will help you create the impact you’re looking to make.

#branding #linkedIn #profile

So there you go, not an exhaustive list but a damn good start. What do you think? Please share your thoughts in the comments, as I too want to learn from you.

I run the VerticalDistinct platform to support both Human Resource and Technology professionals. I blog on the entrepreneurial journey. I also write for Women of HR and post on LinkedIn. Let’s connect, let’s learn from each other. Let me know how I can support you.

Master the Art of Writing

Writing is about distilling your thoughts and in that process, learning the skills needed to communicate your ideas persuasively. After all, we communicate so that we can influence.

But good writing takes a lot of time, effort and dedication.

Its beauty is visible when what is complicated is made to look easy.

Two factors that have an impact on your art :

  1. How much you read;
  2. How much you write.

Learn from those around you, who are mastering the same art, with the techniques which work for them. Explore new ways and be curious.

And write.

Write to find your voice.
Write often.
Write with abandon (that’s what editing is for).
Write about many things or write about one thing – it does not matter. And remember that it’s easier to maintain a daily habit than a monthly one.

What works for you? What features are you responding to when you come across good writing? Please share your thoughts in the comments, as I too want to learn from you.

I run the VerticalDistinct platform to support both Human Resource and Technology professionals. I blog on the entrepreneurial journey. I also write for Women of HR and post on LinkedIn. Let’s connect, let’s learn from each other. Let me know how I can support you.

Do you want to win their business or get their attention?

It’s about them, not you.

It’s simple to understand and conceptually, it makes a lot of sense. But it can be very hard to do this.

When you write a proposal, when you reach out to someone on email, when you’re selling a product, it’s always about your reader.

Does this mean that you never can ‘sell’ someone an idea or product? No.

It’s about them, not you.

There’s nothing wrong with the direct approach, at least people know where you’re coming from and they can decide if what you’ve got to offer them is something they want. But we are all facing this in today’s world.

Social is not just getting together with other people, there’s a whole lot of selling going on.

People can’t seem to get a cup of coffee together or sit down to chug a few beers without getting distracted by a lot of stuff, mostly our gadgets.

So, we’re inundated and we’re distracted. We can’t seem to focus very much on one thing for long. Everything is pulling at us, and mostly, in different directions.

Is it any wonder then that yours may just be one more email/proposal/call/tweet in a long list of others? How are you to stand out?

It’s about them, not you.

Here are some strategies that work.

The whole world is not your audience
It need not be and you shouldn’t feel bad about it. You need to spend time figuring out who your audience is and then honing your message to them and increasing the value you can bring. Let go of the notion you need to appeal to everyone.

Give before you get
In a world where most are clamouring for you to read/do/buy something specific from them, you will be a breath of fresh air when all you want to do is share what you’ve got/learnt/heard/understood/discovered. No strings attached. Mean it.

Make it about them, not you
People want to be understood. They feel special and honoured when what they’ve read speaks to them in a personal way. That can only happen if you understand who you are writing to and why. That can only happen when it’s not about you at all.

It’s about them, not you.

What do you find has worked well for you? What makes people open your mail or respond to your proposals? Please share your thoughts in the comments, as I too want to learn from you.

I run the VerticalDistinct platform to support both Human Resource and Technology professionals. I blog on the entrepreneurial journey. I also write for Women of HR and post on LinkedIn. Let’s connect, let’s learn from each other. Let me know how I can support you.

Why Marketing Involves Focused Repetition

Marketing campaigns take time and much effort. You can throw money at it but that’s no guarantee of success. We’ve seen the viral effects of good, cost-effective campaigns that resonate. But a critical ingredient of any good #marketing plan involves the idea that there is focused and consistent repetition of key messages. A connection is drawn and then strengthened between the #brand and the cause or message.

Why, you might ask, should one repeat what has already been articulated?

It’s a busy and distracted time we live in. Not everyone is clued in or on the exact same path you are on, at the same time you are.  Repetition ensures your messages get through to as many people as possible.

When you talk consistently about a topic, you build not just awareness about the issues you raise but you showcase your passion and interest. When you share insight, advice or compelling tips, when you help others, you build awareness about your #expertise.

When you reach out and enlarge your network, when you explore new platforms, you create new opportunities for yourself and for others who are of like mind. These new connections may try to find out more about you, they may read about your work. Or they may not, which is once again, good reason for your key messages to be repeated.

A solid piece of advice I once received : if you want someone to think something specifically or to come to a specific conclusion, spell it out. Don’t leave it to chance or supposition.

Say what you may consider to be obvious to others. Articulate the conclusions you have come to as well as how you’ve connected the dots.

Conversely, think about what conclusions people are likely to come to, consequent to the messages you send out. Think about the impact of what you say as much as the things you don’t say.

Any message worth its weight is worth repeating, over and over.

Drive awareness and simultaneously,  educate.
Build credibility, build expertise, build community, build a following.

I run the VerticalDistinct platform to support both Human Resource and Technology professionals. I now blog on the entrepreneurial journey, which will still include posts on mindfulness, growth and habits. I contribute posts regularly to Women of HR and post on LinkedIn. Let’s connect, let’s talk, let’s learn from each other. Let me know how I can support you.

Message Failure

How many times have you sent a message and it was read the wrong way?

How many times have you tried to communicate one thing only to have the person listening vehemently deny that message is indeed coming across? Perhaps you’re shocked, angry or just plain frustrated.

You could blame them. After all, you know what you are trying to say, don’t you?
Or you could make your point. On deaf ears.

You could try to repeat your message in a different way.
You could come back again, at another time.
You could get someone else involved, to mediate, to step in, to oversee.
You could shout louder.

You could resign yourself to the fact that the two roads shall not meet.
You could pause and take stock.You could see things the way they see it.
You could simply let go.

Tips for Being a Successful Speaker on a Panel Session

A few years ago, I wrote a post about what it takes to be a good moderator on a panel session. While the stars of any panel session are the guests featured, the lynchpin is the moderator.

I had not realised the critical nature of that role until I took on the task of becoming one. Doing background research on the role, I soon realised how important the moderator is to the success of the show.

Bottom line, people are watching a show and they need to be entertained as much as they need to be educated.

Yes, the show… because that’s exactly what it is. It’s a more engaging format, there are more players (and therefore, more interesting things to develop?) and there’s repartee. Bottom line, people are watching a show and they need to be entertained as much as they need to be educated.

Content ineffectively delivered just will not cut it.

It will be good to read that post if only to guide you as to your expectations of what your moderator needs to do both in the lead-up to the session and at the session itself.

This post, however, is about how to wow your audience at your panel session.

  1. Prepare for your session

This should not come as a surprise. Too often, I have seen guests who come on these sessions who have no idea who else will be on the session, much less what the topic for discussion is. Which means that they are either going to fly by the seat of their pants or they’ve prepared some standard spiel to deliver to all and sundry. Boring.

  1. Connect with the other guests before the session

Where possible, if the panel session is a few sessions into the conference, it is the perfect opportunity to get a feel for the audience, the other speakers and the event vibe. If you are early enough to catch one or two sessions prior to yours as well as have the chance to mingle during the breaks, it will give you an opportunity to connect with your audience and hear the kind of conversations they are having.

This is priceless in helping you adjust the comments you plan to make during your session. You are, after all, going for a tailored approach and these temperature checks are therefore important.

  1. Be true to yourself

One of the most important tips is to be real. Don’t plan to tell jokes if that’s not your style. Just be yourself, but better. Demand more of who you really are and ensure you shine when you are up on that platform.

  1. Aim to ask questions

Sometimes, the audience is not necessarily looking for your answers. Answers make sense when it’s delivered well and when the audience feels it resonates with them… that there’s an affinity between what you say and what they are going through.

Sometimes, the audience may be more intrigued by the kind of questions that you pose instead. So come prepared to ask a few pertinent questions. The kind of questions that will keep them thinking long after your session has ended.

  1. Get interesting facts, figures or anecdotes that will intrigue or be of value

When you plan your session, be prepared to craft a story. People love stories. Weave the facts and figures into a beautiful, compelling narrative. It will captivate.

  1. Come prepared to network offline and online

Having been to so many conferences and seminars through the years, I can safely say that many people are not really good at networking. They forget their business cards, they hang nervously at the coffee station, they skulk in corners avoiding the crowds. Networking is not about exchanging business cards. It’s about getting to know the other person and having no agenda. Sure, you have a business or you have your products. But you are not here to push them to strangers!

When you add the infinite number of ways we connect via social media and apps, you’ll see that many are more confortable posting updates, connecting with new people online than they are in person. It’s easier and you can switch it off anytime.

Face to face is much harder. But it can also be much easier. It’s really about changing your mindset about what’s involved and what you have to gain from what you undertake.

Not only should you welcome the opportunity to meet new people at these events (and what that may bring to your life), you should follow up your meetings online once the event is over. Reach out to them on LinkedIn, drop them an email, remind them about what you talked about… connect.

Keep the connection alive, offer to help, find ways to keep in touch by keeping up to date with what they do. With the wealth of information at our fingertips now, it’s not a hard ask.

  1. Practise beforehand

Practice makes perfect. Tape yourself and play it back. Over and over. It gives you a chance to see you as others perceive you.

  • Are you speaking too fast?
  • Is your pitch too high?
  • How is your body language – open or closed?
  • Do you appear defensive/too serious/stiff?
  • Do you sound nervous or unsure?
  • Are you looking at the audience, at the ceiling or down at the floor? Are you making eye contact?
  • Do you project your voice?
  1. Use notes

If you’re doing this for the first time, notes help. They point you to where you need to go… they are a quick way to refresh your thoughts. Paper is unsightly and also hard to manage when sitting on a comfy sofa chair. So, cue cards that fit neatly in your palm and are sturdy to touch, are a much better option.

  1. Get the low down on the logistics

When you know exactly how things will happen, you breathe easier.

  • Do you have your own mic? Ensure it or it’s death to the session;
  • Find out whether everyone has a bottle of water; if not, bring one from the refreshments counter;
  • Will there be a platform where the session takes place – do you enter from the front or side?
  • Do you wait till the MC announces you or are you to be seated before the session starts?
  • Do you introduce yourself or are you introduced?
  • Have you given them your profile details as you would like to be introduced?
  • Are all the guest speakers here – is anyone late or has anyone cancelled? Is there a plan for a late cancellation – what is the time allocation going to be like?
  • How will the session transpire? Will there be time for allocation for opening remarks by each guest and if so, for how long?
  • Will there be questions from the floor at the end or are they taken as and when they come?
  • What happens when the session ends – do you leave the stage or do you wait for some congratulary remarks or memento?
  1. Be a clear voice

Stand for something. Don’t waste your time on politeness and deference. This is not to be confused with being rude or arrogant. The whole reason you accepted this invitation is because you wanted to be noticed. You wanted the platform. Once you are given the platform, make full use of the opportunity. Make no glib remarks. Don’t seek to reconfirm what others have said. Further, if you don’t have the answers (there are times you will not have the answers to all the questions), then be prepared to ask the right questions that you feel the audience needs to focus on.

Keep clear of ordinary.

Without any sort of guidance, you will be going in blind. And that, in itself, is an indication that the panel session will likely not hit the desired mark.

  1. Adjust your message depending on the size of the panel

The idea here is that when there are too many people on the panel, it is a much harder job for you to make any impression. The combination of too short a session, the time it takes for all the guests to warm up in their roles and how vocal each guest will be means you have to strive harder when there are too many guests on board.

With many guests, you have less time; so, you need to ensure your messages are short and punchy. You also need to focus on your one primary message so that you can do all you can to drive that point home with the relevant supporting arguments.

  1. Ensure you are briefed beforehand

A good moderator and/or conference organiser will ensure, once you are confirmed for a panel session, that :

  • a detailed agenda is provided;
  • that you have received all the questions that will be for discussion;
  • indication of the size and composition of the audience is given;
  • you are introduced to the other speakers and guest panelists;
  • you are briefed on what to expect in terms of how the session will run and how you are expected to contribute.

Without any sort of guidance, you will be going in blind. And that, in itself, is an indication that the panel session will likely not hit the desired mark.

  1. Don’t pitch

It’s not the place for it. Enough said.

  1. Focus on providing solutions

Let your one guiding rule be that you are here to help people figure their way out of problems. Your job is to help them identify the right problems they need to focus on and provide possible solutions to consider (in as much as your experience allows for this). Your job is also to help them think about the right sort of issues they need to consider. Bring as much practical focus to your input as you can. Leave theory out.

  1. It’s a conversation

Don’t present slides. Don’t prepare a presentation.

This is far from exhaustive, but I would be happy to hear from you if you’ve got more to add to this list. If you can get these elements right, you are well and truly on your way to making impact.

Why You Should Embrace Public Speaking

Public speaking is hard. The fear is understandable and real. And the truth is, wherever you turn, you are likely to meet far more people afraid of public speaking than otherwise.

Raj Kumar referred to, in The Art of Speaking Eloquently, a point made by Patricia Fripp :

“All speaking outside our home is public speaking, there is no such thing as private speaking”.


You, therefore, have two options. Hide below a rock and never explore the occasion to shine. Or brace yourself and do the unthinkable. Put yourself out there, raise your hand and get yourself a speaking spot.


  1. Increase your visibility

Chances are high that you seek more visibility whether in terms of where you stand in your company, as against your peers, in terms of how your business leaders view you, in terms of the dream job you’ve been vying or the project you’ve been working to get yourself involved in. Whether such visibility is for yourself or your own business, public speaking offers a chance to establish your personal branding in a more concrete, visceral manner.

It’s possible that, in your first few attempts, you may flop or worse still, be tepid. In fact, you don’t start usually with polish and pizzazz. But you must realise that you fail forward. You achieve success one painful step at a time. And every single step taken is worth its weight in gold.

  1. Helps you build character

You are effectively standing up to your fears and dealing with it head on. That is no small feat and when you’ve succeeded, this will be an internal marker that you will come back to, time and again, to help you figure out your limitations, strengths and mindset. It will help you push yourself further and do things you previously thought unimaginable.

  1. Learn to think on your feet

They don’t teach this much in school and you learn this the hard way once you enter the corporate world. Anything you can do that helps you develop critical thinking and thinking on your feet will be of immense value both in your personal and professional life. The quicker you start down this road, the better!

  1. Establish your voice and be an influencer

Everyone has the opportunity to become both student and teacher. With some exception, it is not always necessary for you to get a teaching qualification, in order to teach. We learn, at every step of the way and we learn when we open our hearts and minds to the lessons before us. If we pick up good ideas and can share them, they will be of benefit and real value to many who are at different stages of similar journeys. And so, as you learn, you teach, you share, you influence.

  1. Improve your communication skills

Even though you have been learning language and the art of communication, from the day you were born, you would not baulk at the idea that your communication skills could use some help, that communication is a lot harder to put into practice than people make it out to be.

The fact is that communication can sometimes be quite the minefield. You’re using words, body language and emotion. There’s nuances, slight twists in body language, the inflection at the end of a sentence – all these can either support what you are saying or betray your true meaning!

Practise, practise, practise. Practise quicker, practise more.

  1. Broaden your circle

Speaking is also a wonderful way of broadening your circle.

So if you are new to this and want to make your first tentative steps, I’d suggest that a good warm up, but perhaps equally effective, is to accept the guest panellist role at a conference. The choice of conference, the reputation of the conference organisers, the other guest panelists as well as the topic itself are all worthy of consideration in making a decision on whether to accept the invitation to be a guest panellist.

But once you’ve accepted the invitation, your work has begun.

In my next post, I will share tips on what to do once you’ve landed your spot on a panel session.

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