Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Do what you are “best at” for happiness and fulfillment

Photo by Liz Cezat.
The end of a year and beginning of a New Year is often a time of reflection and resolutions. When thinking about what to write for this special blog post, I had no inspirational magic bullet. Yet, lately I’ve been thinking about Ed King and his practical yet profound advice to small business owners such as myself.
King is a retired Wayne State University Small Business adviser who remains a mentor and champion for multitudes of small business owners. I took an evening course of his and it has guided me for years. During the course, he insisted that we, as entrepreneurs, spend the majority of our time at work doing what we are best at. He used an example: Dr. Michael DeBakey, the famed heart surgeon who invented a device that led to the heart-lung machine, which paved the way for open-heart surgery, and who was a pioneer in heart transplantation – to name a few of his Texas-sized accomplishments.

What King found most impressive about the late Dr. DeBakey was that he went into surgery and only performed the portion of the surgery that he did best. He had directed other surgeons – associates or residents - to do other parts of the surgery, such as opening and closing the surgical site. This permitted Dr. DeBakey to perform thousands more surgeries. In the process, he saved many lives.
In the business world, King related this example to that of a coffee shop owner who worked best in her coffee shop interacting with customers and creating new coffee blends. Over time, she became immersed in the ancillary tasks, such as running errands and schlepping big bags of coffee beans. As a result, the business suffered and she wasn’t finding personal fulfillment either. The reason: she wasn’t doing what she was best at. She needed to direct her employees to do the heavy lifting so she could spend the bulk of her time interacting with customers and making great coffee.
Think about how this relates to you and your life. Are you doing the things that you are "best at" in your work world – whether you own a business or work as a director, manager or employee? If you’re not doing what you love to do and do well, think about transitioning in the next year to work that you love. It might even mean reorganizing your work to spend more time doing what you like and delegating what you aren’t so good at – preferably to someone who is good at the task and enjoys doing it. See the win-win here?
What I love to do and do best is to write, conduct interviews and do the project management – whether it’s for print, the web or presentations. This versatile skill set is well suited to marketing, public relations, fund raising and sales. This year, I’ve discovered it’s also good for sharing knowledge with others by being a trainer. I plan to do more training in the New Year.
In recent months, I’ve been working with a collaborative team on an Internet project. There’s a real need for a good writer who can organize a website, write snappy headlines and succinct copy, and keep tabs on all the moving parts and the people – working together to create new programs. The driving force for me is not only to work with creative professionals who are doing what they are “best at,” it’s also knowing how the end product will be used.
What I’m discovering is that maybe it’s not enough to do what you are “best at” but also to find the reason behind your desire for using that skill. You might find that there is a person or people behind your drive - because that’s often the true motivator for wanting to use one’s best talents to bring new things to light.
For Dr. DeBakey, it was saving patients' lives. For the coffee shop owner, it was sharing her knowledge and love of coffee with customers. For Ed King, it was helping business owners become successful. For me, it’s about communicating effectively to inspire, teach, influence and motivate people to take actions that will either improve their lives or the lives of others.
As we roll into a New Year, I have a sense of pride about my professional skills and my ability to deploy these skills to make a good living. Here’s something for you to think about: if you are doing work that you love, how can you make it even better? If you’re not doing what you love, isn’t it time to head in that direction?   

Thursday, October 31, 2013

How to get new donors to support your major initiative

Bring your fundraising goals down to earth through
targeted communication. Photo by Liz Cezat.

Before you try to convince new donors to embrace and support a major initiative, you will need to find out something about their beliefs. If you are making a presentation, you may want to invite people from certain work places, clubs or neighborhoods, based on a scale of attributes that closely match your existing donors. Think of cloning the persona of your most avid donors. If you are planning a letter request,  target the message in a manner that explores the initiative fully and also points out how this initiative speaks to the new donors' interests.

Let’s say a fundraising professional needs to raise $5 million to name an endowed chair at the engineering school of a leading university. That professional knows to address the topic of a new endowed chair. Yet, he or she must adroitly weave in the core message, "What’s in it for the funder?" Because the funder or donor needs to be moved to make a generous donation for  this program.
You, as a fundraising professional, could proceed to talk about how the endowed chair will improve the faculty’s ability to teach because they will have new tools and technology to do research and be better equipped to teach their courses online or in the classroom. That same endowed chair will benefit students because it will provide funds for the university to upgrade their science laboratories. For donors, funding such a chair will enable them to feel empowered about advancing the level of education at the university, plus it will mean a more educated workforce for the businesses that these donors own or operate. The answer to the core message is: "Take ownership in this educational advancement."

As a fundraising professional, you need to provide descriptive details about how this new program will impact not only the university but also the larger community. Create a vision through your words and phrases to make it desirable to new donors. Illustrate through technological advances and personal touch-points how it will improve the standard of living in a community they care about. While the technological advances of the initiative provide a macro overview,  the personal touch points can make a connection with a micro view. 

The tone of your message - for print or in presentations - is vital to the success of your campaign. Striking the right balance between the appeal and making it appealing can elevate your website copy, newsletters, brochures and annual reports for a dynamic impact. The right approach can ensure the success of your fundraising goals for a university, health care system or a community-based nonprofit. 

I have expertise in crafting fundraising appeals for case statements, marketing materials and community relations/PR. Plus, my writing is supported by professional graphic design. I welcome your questions to help you achieve greater success in your campaign.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Punctuation – when to use a semi-colon

While discussing punctuation isn’t a sexy topic, knowing how to apply commas, exclamation points (hint: rarely), single quotes or double quotes, and the ever challenging semi-colon can make your copy read better. It also lends a halo effect to your topic. The wrong punctuation casts a shadow over your writing and confuses readers.
Don’t feel bad if you don’t know all the proper grammar - it is easy to learn. As a journalism student, I got my wake-up call while working as an intern at the former Dearborn Press and Guide newspaper. The society editor (Remember those ladies who liked to lunch and knew everyone in town?) told me that my copy was full of errors. Being a young, impetuous writer, I thought that correcting poor grammar was the job of an editor. But from that point forward, I started to pay more attention to the nuances of the English language – learning how to spell words correctly and how to punctuate. My guides were “The Associated Press Stylebook” and “The Elements of Style” by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White.
Correct punctuation isn't as riveting as spring flowers
on a cactus, but it still makes a great impression. (Photo: Liz Cezat)
The best way to learn how to punctuate a sentence correctly is to read books or esteemed news magazines: “The Economist,” “Time,” and the “New York Times” to cite some of the best. You can no longer rely on newspaper articles since they cut the editing staff. I hate to call them out, but The Huffington Post has “shake your head” poor editing. Often times, when reading an article in HP or another online news source, you may need to change a “by” to a “my” because it appeared correct in spell-check (good technical cross-check) but neither the writer nor the editor bothered to proofread and correct the error.
Mistakes will be made; no doubt about it. But learning from your grammatical errors will build your knowledge base. I was working on editing the resume of a University of Michigan graduate and she didn’t know some basic grammar. I said to her, “Look, you need to commit this to memory. You can’t keep making the same mistakes.” Smart, educated people need to learn the basic grammar rules and apply them. 
After all this harping about getting it right, I’m going to provide five tips to keep you as sharp as an exclamation point.
1.     Commas – use them in a series (Example: She needed bananas, walnuts and flour for the bread recipe.) A comma is needed before “and” if the sequence of items is followed by  another sequence. (Example: He wanted to buy an umbrella, boots and a raincoat, and he also needed to get books, pencils and a calculator for his daughter.) Also use a comma if the sentence could be confusing without it or you want readers to pause. (Example: It was a fun, tasteful and successful event, and one that our supporters will surely remember.)
2.     Use of single quotes – Consider them to be interior quotes that are used within a quoted sentence. Example: Sue said, “I am so excited about the new iPhone that I told my father, ‘I would pay $1,000 for it.’” (Here, I ended with the standard quote mark after the single quote so it actually looks like three quote marks. If it was an indirect quote, it could be stated: “I am so excited about the new iPhone that I told my father I would pay $1,000 for it.”)
3.     The apostrophe (‘) – Use this for all contractions: they are= they’re; it is=it’s; we are=we’re; you have=you’ve; you are=you’re (… there are many more examples)
4.     Semi-colon – When two sentences are closely linked together, you can either make it two sentences or one sentence, joined by a semi-colon. It also signals the end of a series of items or a sequence of name/title attributions. (Example: He gave written copies of the report to Michael Mulligan, VP of Finance; Carol Spasek, Chief Information Officer; and Dick Black, VP of Human Resources.) (Example: The audits were impeccably completed; not a decimal point was out of place. It could also read: The audits were impeccably completed. Not a decimal point was out of place.)
5.   Exclamation point – Typically let the words do the talking (Joy. Peace. Love. These values are all that we need to be happy.) Compare that to: (Joy! Peace! Love! These values are all that we need to be happy.) It sounds hyper, doesn’t it? If you feel like you must use an exclamation point, use it only when it adds emphasis. (Example: Lucy’s gift of a trip around the world made her parents so excited!) Basically, it’s a once in a lifetime event to use an exclamation point. Only slightly kidding.
This blog post is only intended to cover the most common errors and bring some levity to the topic.
There are many online grammar sites that address the thousands of usage questions in more detail. Here is a sampling:

Commonly confused words (great guide, with examples of usage too):  http://grammar.about.com/od/words/a/UsageGlossary.htm


When to use commas: http://www.grammarbook.com/punctuation/commas.asp.
I welcome your stories about how improving your grammar has made a difference in your career.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Listening opens the doors to enriched communication

Having a conversation is one of the best ways to connect with others. The person speaking taps into what’s on their mind, turns it into words and phrases, and lets it roll off their tongue – into the air, hovering just outside their lips for someone close by to hear. Sometimes, their words may be projected into a larger space so a group of people can hear. For an even larger audience, a microphone may be used to amplify those words. Once expended, the message is received by the listener.

That’s where things can get messy. Here are some reasons why:
  1. I kind of get it, but I don’t hear too well. I smile my biggest smile, like I totally get it. (Unfortunately, the speaker just told me that his beloved Aunt Edna has died.)
  2. I am listening but also thinking about the lavish Greek salad with grilled shrimp I’m going to eat for lunch so I nod like I’m listening. Half of me is listening; the other half is already out to lunch.
  3. I let their words enter my brain but don't make an effort to fully understand what they are saying. I'm really not interested. (Happens a lot with sales pitches.)
  4. Finally they are finished … now it’s my turn to talk – about something totally unrelated to what they said.

What you really want the listener to think and do is the following: I get it. I am in synchrony with you, the speaker, whose words fall like golden petals onto my receptive ears. I even ask a follow-up question about what was said.

Networking provides a good setting to practice
listening skills. Photo by Liz Cezat.

Which of these methods of listening do you normally use? We are all guilty of using poor listening techniques at one time or another. However, to really get the most out of our relationships – whether they are professional, personal or even a casual conversation with someone we’ve never met before – we need to focus on what’s being said. It’s a direct connection when the speaker gets a response to their message … rather than having you, the listener, simply interject what was lingering in your mind as you semi-listened to what they were saying.

It sounds so simple, yet it is hard to do. You don’t just listen with your ears, you also listen with your heart and your mind.

If you listen with your mind, you often have a ready response because you start focusing on that topic and bring to mind all that you already know about it. You prepare to formulate your comments – often as the speaker is still talking. If you know a lot about the topic, you might even interrupt the speaker with your vast knowledge; so excited are you to share and convince.

If you listen with your heart, you let the speaker’s message enter your being. You absorb it. You process it. Only then can you react to it. If you meld it with some touching experience that you’ve had, then you can begin to empathize with the speaker. That connection can be truly profound and even life changing.

Certain messages need to be listened to with the mind only, the heart only or a combination of the two. It’s a skill – one that you can learn to develop. This skill will broaden your capacity for compassion. It will provide greater understanding of problems that – at initial probing – have no solutions. By cultivating an environment of enriched communication, you and the most important people in your life can reach an extraordinarily fertile field of connectivity. When you reach this level of communication, it can be euphoric.

By being fully receptive to what is being said, you are practicing one of the highest forms of communication. This can be a springboard toward reaching greater goals. Imagine how this can improve just one aspect of your life. The best news is that you don’t have to be born with the gift of being a great communicator. You can learn how to do it.

Check out our seminars on better communication, customized to your workplace or association. Call (734) 416-5915 or send an e-mail inquiry from our “Contact us” page.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Do you get cold feet when you have to make a cold call?

How often do you need to pick up the phone and call someone you don’t know to ask either for funds, a big favor or new business?
Unless you are super outgoing and love to reach out to strangers, this part of the job description can be a huge challenge.
The first step is to engage with the person you are calling as a fellow human being rather than a name to be talked to and then checked off your list. Find out something about them.  A quick check on LinkedIn or “goggling” their name will get you some basic information to build on.
As the owner of a marketing communications firm, I often need to
make cold calls to line up projects such as this e-mail seminar.

If you need to call a lot of people, write a script that will guide your request. In your script, tell them who you are and the name of your firm/organization. Then, spend about one minute telling them why you are calling. Pause. Tell them what you want from them. Is it a donation? A favor? Their business?
You need to substantiate this “ask.” What’s in it for them? How will it solve their problem? How will helping your organization be something they will be honored to do?
Don’t read your script, rather “act it out” with a smile. Your fresh approach will be most welcome. If you rehearse it enough, it becomes natural. If it doesn’t sound natural, rewrite it. Try to get an engaging element in your request that really piques their interest.
If it’s a prospecting call, what problem can you solve for them? If you are calling on the same type of client, such as a manufacturer or bank, ask key questions, germane to their industry, to determine if they are a good prospect for your services. Mention some ways in which your services can address their problem. Close by offering to send more information via e-mail, scheduling an appointment or sending a proposal.
If you are calling to raise funds, you must convey to this individual why he/she or their company should give to your organization. Help the prospective donor visualize your request by making the solution come alive. For example, if your organization builds homes, talk about much independence a family gains when they can move out of a shelter and into their own home.
Typically development officers and small business owners make their own calls. However, professional service companies do well to identify a knowledgeable, upbeat member of their staff to make the calls and schedule a good time for a partner or “rainmaker” to follow-up either by phone or a visit. The staff person should make the calls on the day that the partner/rainmaker is in, on the off chance that the connection can be made by phone right then.
For high-level contacts, lawyers, accountants and other professional service providers can make the connection first via e-mail or LinkedIn to gauge their interest. After some exchange of e-mails, tell the contact you want to talk by phone and schedule a time. 
With websites and social media, an initial meeting often isn't needed to get an affirmative answer to your request. Although, for high-value requests, scheduling an appointment often establishes a greater level of trust and is a good start to a working relationship. 
Everyone is busy; so if you need to call multiple times to reach an individual, don’t be deterred. Be pleasantly persistent, and you’ll succeed more times than not in getting the job, contract or donation.
Happy dialing. I’m interested to hear about your results.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Press checks help ensure a quality brochure/annual report

When doing a major piece, such as a high-end brochure, annual report or sustainability report, you want to make sure that the exceptional artwork of the piece is maintained throughout the print process. To do so requires a press check. As the project manager of a range of marketing tools, this is a service that I provide and strongly recommend for high-end print pieces.
My marketing pieces are not advertising oriented. They typically contain articles, profiles and news about the organization, and are illustrated with photos. They don’t require a flashy, high-gloss finish – which is more common in advertising.
Choice of paper is very important. I often spec a matte sheet (paper) because it’s not as reflective as a gloss, yet has a non-gloss coating that holds the ink better than an uncoated sheet, which is more porous and prone to ink saturation.  Whenever possible, I ask to see samples of a report or brochure printed on the stock that I am considering.
Many printers can also provide a mock-up of the book using the specified sheet. While it’s just plain paper, it gives you a sense of the heft of the piece and the ease of turning pages. How does it feel to your fingers? Is it crisp and solid? Or is it soft or flimsy and hard to turn the pages? The feel of the paper matters; it’s comparable to the choice of fabric in a dress or pair of pants. It’s the foundation of the print piece.
Getting back to the press check. The printer typically provides digital output of the book and strives to match the color. However, the proof often looks better than the print run. Why is that? Well, the proof has a slick finish that makes the color pop. Because the proof is a digital print, the ink lies on top of the paper and is not created by a dot pattern, which is inherent in offset printing. In the latter process, the ink soaks into the paper so the colors may not be as vibrant.
Here’s what I look for at a press check:
• Color match – Did the printer capture the true color of the piece? If not, ask for more runs as they adjust the colors. Of the 4-color process (CMYK, which stands for cyan (blue), magenta, yellow and black), the printer can pump up the red or tone down the yellow for example.
• Look closely at the faces in the photos. Does the color hold here? If people look either like ghosts or are too red-faced, adjustments need to be made.
• When the design originates on the left page and ends on the right page, check to see the color hue matches across the spread.  These sheets won’t print next to each other, so you’ll have to find the opposing page on the print run to check. It may be on a later print run.
• Check the page numbers. Are they still there? Sometimes, with layering, they get covered up and no one notices until the book is printed.
• Watch for hickeys – blobs and any dust or marks – that are embedded in the sheets. They are especially noticeable on reversed-out sections or dark areas. Usually these hickeys are from dust getting into the equipment or flawed plates or rollers. The printer needs to clean or fix the equipment before printing more sheets.
• Look at the type. It’s too late to proof read, but scan the headlines and peruse the copy to make sure the paragraphs are intact and no copy has disappeared. In the rare event that you catch a typo, it’s best to fix the file and reprint the sheet.
• If you are viewing a sheet that has aqueous coating – a water-based film that holds in the ink and adds a sheen – make sure the coating has been evenly applied and there are no spots or gaps. Same goes for varnish.
• Look at the edges of the sheet. Do the bleeds go far enough near the printer’s cut marks? If not, you’ll have a gap in ink coverage. This can be fixed at this stage.
• Are there any overlapping boxes that block out text, graphics or photos? Look closely at layered components to make sure all the layers are showing up.
• Make sure the sheets are not crinkled or otherwise damaged.
Much can be done at a press check to ensure that a quality piece is produced. For bigger pieces, I make sure to conduct a press check on the cover and at least one inside spread. Feel free to add your comments about quality concerns for your organization or surprises at press time.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

At the crossroads

Being a business owner is a lonely profession at times. When it’s busy, it’s a breeze. Just do the work. When it’s time to get new business or change direction, I often freeze. I don’t like making cold calls – although I’m getting better at it. Networking tends to be an effort that generates business down the road – sometimes way down the road.

A road in northwest Washington state. Photo by Liz Cezat
What’s a business owner to do? There’s LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. While I have landed a few projects from those venues, I find social media to be more valuable in terms of learning new information; forming new ideas; connecting to new friends, associates or clients; and just having fun by posting and viewing people’s comments. I like to read inspirational blogs and quotes for a motivational kick.
Before change can take root, it seems like chaos must first occur. It’s time to implement my second quarter strategy, which is to add some training engagements while continuing to write for business and nonprofits. For this service, I will start contacting human resource departments, associations and nonprofits. I aim to expand my base of work rather than shift it entirely. I love to work with my graphic designers on annual reports, newsletters, brochures and websites for business and nonprofits. But, it’s vital to get out of the office and interact with others.
I’m reviving my seminar/training offerings with a session on “How to write better e-mails.” My expertise comes from being a communicator and writer. I want to share my knowledge with employees and others who have difficulty writing e-mails. Next week, I am meeting with a prospective client who has been talking with me about this program for about a year now. I trust that we will move forward.
Then, I need to set up my new iMac, upgrade the software and get ready to ride a speedy machine. That will be a beauty.
I find that envisioning my desired result is often the “kick in the pants” that is needed to move forward and try new things. Wish me luck – which is another way of saying, “Do the hard work of focusing. Take the right action steps. Make great people connections. And, above all, stay confident and positive.”
“The business of small business is no easy feat.” You can quote me on that.
Feel free to add your comments about how you handle being at the crossroads and deciding what action steps to take.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Social media offers multi-dimensional personas

Photo by Liz Cezat, taken at the Heidelberg Project.

Will the real Jim McDonald please stand up? Jim might be a wise guy on Facebook; a thoughtful father on Twitter and a rock and roll fanatic on Pinterest. Of course, the advertisers are soaking up this multi-dimensional man for all the ads they can show him wherever he goes online.
In real life, Jim is a shy guy. Yet, the Internet and social media allow him to amplify his voice, and thus, his personality. This is the new age of social interaction. Don’t be surprised if the person you are following online appears totally different and even subdued in person. There’s the buffer of the screen (whether it’s on a computer, smart phone, iPad or the next electronic invention) and commentators don’t have to face the person they are talking to – unless they’re on Skype.
Reading comments to news articles written by the “average Joe” is like walking on a landmine field. You never know when it’s going to get explosive and you might be hurt (psychologically) by a commentator. Reviewers to New York Times posts tend to be articulate, intelligent and kind. Those responding to Yahoo news tend to be the Wild West types, where anything goes and the meaner and nastier you can be, the better (in their minds anyway).
With all the traces of comments you can leave online, it’s a bonus when you can stay true to your personality and values. Being a fake online can have repercussions offline too. What if you do meet the person that you bullied in an online comment string? Are you going to apologize or punch him out?
Sharing your thoughts online is a good thing because it opens up the conversation to multitudes of others. It draws in people who are attracted to your comments, your values, and your vision. Just be careful what you write. Think to yourself, “Would I say this if I was looking directly into the eyes of my online recipient?”

Monday, February 25, 2013

Referrals are welcome

Repeat customers and referrals are at the heart of a healthy business operation. When was the last time you recommended a restaurant to a friend? Maybe you were happy with a car wash and told a neighbor, who now frequents the same place. When someone compliments your suit, shoes or coat, you might even tell them where you bought those items, unprompted. So much business is spread by word of mouth.
Owners of businesses can’t be in all the right networking places at the right time, but building up referral sources is imperative for a professional service firm.
Recently my accountant passed away. Unfortunately, no provision had been made to complete my taxes. It was time to go looking for another accountant. Being a small business, I didn’t need a powerhouse accounting firm but I did need someone local who could get the taxes done on time. An added value would be someone who could provide financial expertise to help my business thrive.
I decided to call on an accountant who is a friend of the family. I was disappointed to learn that she wasn’t available to do my taxes. I asked her if she knew of anyone else. She told me about a CPA in Livonia, who shares an office with two others and is very competent. In fact, my source said that she often refers prospective clients to this CPA when her clientele gets too full. Her vote of confidence was reassuring. It was also a big relief because I didn’t have to keep looking. My new CPA is gaining a new customer without even having to knock on my door or make a cold call. Given that scenario, you see how important a good referral can be.
That’s why we welcome your referrals. My team at Cezat Creative Resources and I can manage your print or web project from concept to completion. We are to the print/web/presentation process what an event planner is to a wedding, conference or fundraising event.  We make your job easier by handling all the details and ensuring that deadlines are met and budgets are adhered to.
Referrals can take small business to new places. Photo by Liz Cezat.
We offer complete project management – writing, design, photography, printing/mailing, and posting online – for timely communication. Our newsletters, brochures, annual reports, websites and presentations are designed to keep your audiences informed, inspired and loyal to your organization/firm. I also offer social media – posting and blog content.

We can help you:

• sell professional services
• raise funds for a nonprofit organization
• boost loyalty from alumni and/or association members
• prepare for a capital campaign
• engage your key supporters.

If you are pleased with the services that you have received from Cezat Creative Resources, please tell your associates about us when they go looking for a small yet smart business to take on an important project that involves marketing, fundraising or B2B sales.
If you have questions, comments or want to discuss a project, please contact Liz Cezat at 734.416.5915 or send an e-mail. Thank you for helping us get the word out.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Bloom where you’re planted

I just learned today that my accountant Bob has died. I knew he was sick but I didn’t know that it was life-threatening. He was my age. He leaves behind a wife and three adult children. I also have three adult children and a loving boyfriend (and a former spouse). We both run – or did run – our own businesses. There were lots of similarities.
Photo by Liz Cezat, Mt. Ranier wildflowers.
Bob always had a smile and encouragement for me and my business through its ups and downs. He thought small business was pretty cool. I would get discouraged easier than he did when times got tough. I’m persistent and hard-working but am also impatient and, at times, pessimistic.
His passing makes me realize how fleeting life is. How we don’t know for sure how much time we really have. Although I think that I will live well into my 90s, I have no crystal ball to tell me if this is true.
The past few years – with a fragile economy – have been hard on my business. I fear that the craft that I love – interviewing, writing, sharing stories, informing audiences, and producing publications and marketing materials – is no longer valued. That’s also a death.

In the midst of death, it’s doubly important to make the most of life. I’ve been guilty of wishing that I was somewhere else doing something else. The desire to thrive is all encompassing. Bob’s death does motivate me to flourish once again with a new focus.
For starters, I will try to live with more optimism and gratitude. Life is only lived once; days wasted on despair don’t come back as a do-over. Whether it’s a long life or a shorter life … I want to make the most of each and every day. 
Most of you who read this don't know Bob, but you probably do know someone whose life ended much too soon. It is these individuals  - ordinary yet extraordinary - who have such an impact on us. Their passing often is a "wake-up call" for us to pay more attention to how we live our lives.
God bless you Bob. May you rest in peace, knowing that you have inspired me and others through your kindness, your commitment to your loving family, and your work ethic. Bob’s world – his sphere of family, friends, community and business - won’t be the same without him and that is a profound loss.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Writing and flow can make your speech transformative

Good writing is the linchpin of a presentation. As a Toastmaster, I hear a lot of speeches. The good ones have a beginning, middle and end. The bad ones take the listeners along a path that leads to a fog – they don’t know where the speech is going.
Near hits are those that have a great opening, good solid points, descriptive examples and personal stories that connect, but at the point of wrapping up the speech – the speaker veers onto a tangent before ending it.
Why did the speaker throw in this extraneous element? When writing, your speech should have a  flow to it. Do the points you are making lead logically from one to another? Do your real-life examples support a point or are you just adding them for comic relief? Everything that goes into a presentation – facts, examples, humor and statistics – needs to support the message you want to impart.
A good speech is like a river, it takes the audience on a journey.
Photo by Liz Cezat; Virgin River, Zion National Park
When writing a speech, if it appears that you have too much stuff in the form of a double ending or content that doesn’t flow, you need to closely examine the extraneous elements. If an element is indeed a supporting point of the speech, put it where it belongs. Maybe it needs to go toward the front of your presentation or in the middle. It if doesn’t fit anywhere, cut it out. Think of great films and how many scenes are left on the cutting room floor.
Now, picture a river with a strong current. You want to take your audience in at one point (set the stage), and then have them travel with you along that river – learning and ideally being entertained as they go. At the end, put them on solid ground with new knowledge gained. Give your speech legs – take-away points the audience can either act on or reflect upon.
It’s true that the audience forgets much of what is said in a speech, but if you can create a good flow to your speech and have an ending that wraps up the most important points, the audience will be delighted not only with the presentation but with you as an expert.
Exceptional speeches stick with audiences for years because they’ve imparted new knowledge. Your words can motivate your audience or inspire them to change a behavior or viewpoint. With a bit more attention to content and flow, your speeches can be transformative.
If you need a professional speech writer, please contact me at info@cezatcreative.com

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

After the speech ... lead with the news

Get more mileage out of speeches by writing them "news style" for newsletters and press releases. (Photo by Liz Cezat)

Leading with the news is one of the best ways to get a reader’s attention. When it comes to reporting on an executive’s speech, many corporate publications and association newsletters write a lead only telling who spoke and where they spoke – rather than what was said.  Then, the writer may throw in a bunch of background information, such as the audience included members of an ad hoc committee that is working on shoring up quality standards in the industry. (ho hum).
Who wants to sift through a bunch of corporate-speak before getting to the meat of the article? If written news style (typically how journalists write for print media and corporate newsletters), the lead sentences should contain the elements of “who, what, when and where” – “why” is optional.  
The “what” would be the most important take-away from the speech. Any good speech typically has one to three main points that the speaker wants the audience to know. The other main points can be elaborated on further down in the article. But they too should come before a wordy explanation of what the ad hoc committee does.
Think of an inverted pyramid, with the most important information at the widest point (or at the beginning of an article), supported by details as you read on. The very end of the article – the tip of the pyramid – should contain the background information that is nice to have but not essential to the story. That way, if readers don’t finish the article, they still have the main take-away points.
The beauty of using a freelance writer, such as myself, is that I know how to structure the article (or press release) to get the key concepts across in an informative and engaging manner. Too often, the staff writer may actually only be wearing that hat in addition to performing HR functions. Or, the staff writer may be too immersed in industry jargon to deliver the news from the speech in a fresh, reader-friendly manner.
Take a look at your company's press releases regarding speeches and see what approach is taken. Is it "corporate speak" or news style?

Monday, January 7, 2013

Find bigger donors through social media

It’s no secret that fundraisers keep dossiers on people of high net worth when they are cultivating them for a major gift. To speed up the time frame between collecting information and getting to the “ask,” it pays to link-up with or follow some high net worth individuals online.

Many high net worth individuals have staff or assistants who do their social networking for them. You may need to go the circuitous route: follow their companies, their spokespeople or their foundations. Chances are they don't have a Facebook page but check anyway. Some may be on LinkedIn. Their foundations or companies likely have a Twitter account. These high net worth individuals can be tracked online in some fashion.

For universities, alumni are a major group of supporters. If you are a fundraiser at a college, join your organization’s alumni group on LinkedIn. Glean information from alumni about their allegiance to their alma mater, find out how many received scholarships and frame a question about whether they would support a student through a scholarship. Make the initial “ask” in a conversational manner rather than a formal request. Then follow-up with a phone call, e-mail or personal visit. Don’t put someone on the spot on a visible communication stream.

On Twitter, search for: family foundation, CEOs, and board of directors. These categories could produce some surprising new sources of donors or advisers who work with high net worth individuals.

Get creative about finding your supporters online. Do you follow prospective supporters and funders? Have you made a successful “ask” of someone who you met on social media? Share your story.

A potential donor inquires about supporting the Heidelberg Project in Detroit. (Photo by Liz Cezat.)

Friday, January 4, 2013

13 ways to make life better in 2013

Irma Thomas, Soul Queen of New Orleans, performed rousing spirituals at Noel Night in Detroit. Photo by Liz Cezat.
These “daily living tips” can apply to both your personal and professional life. I’m a bit rusty practicing some of these, but know they have the power to keep me grounded and also soar. I debated about whether to put this on my professional or personal blog, but decided on the former to give you a sense of who I am aside from being a writer and marketing consultant.
May this be a great year for you and those you are closest to. Here are my top 13 tips:
1.     Love. It’s the most important thing in life.
2.     Fix things that are broken. (Your relationship. Your car. Your computer. Your house. Your clothing. Your skis. You get the picture.) The more things are left broken, the harder they are to repair or replace – cost-wise and psychologically.
3.     Find your strengths and skills and apply them daily. It will give you a sense of accomplishment.
4.     Eat vegetables. It helps ward off disease.
5.     Find a sport or exercise that you like and do it regularly. I’ve been swimming three miles a week for nearly 30 years. A woman that I met at the fitness center has been running 20 miles a week for 25 years. Your exercise regimen doesn’t have to impress anyone, it just needs to make you feel good & stay fit.
6.     Pay attention to your money. I’m reading Suze Orman books so I don’t fear money management.
7.     When things get rough for you, help someone else. Let people know you are having a setback, so they can give you some support.
8.     Smile at a stranger. It will make you feel better, especially if they smile back.
9.     Motivate one another. A compliment. An attaboy. It empowers us to do our best. I’m writing this blog post because I was inspired by Scott Frangos, who gave me an endorsement for social media on LinkedIn.
10. Organize your office, your home, your closets, your car. You can find things faster and get rid of things that bog down your life.
11.  Plan something.  A party. A vacation. Lunch with a business associate. A seminar. It gives you something to look forward to.
12. Don’t over think anything. Perform an action that puts into practice what you are thinking.
13. Find a spiritual outlet. For me, it’s God. But it’s also nature. I pray the rosary for those who are sick or in need of prayers.
Let me know what you think of these and feel free to add some of your own.