Friday, March 29, 2013

Spring Writing Conferences

Spring is a great time to get out of your home office and into a conference hall! There are some great perennial conferences coming up, as well as some brand-new additions to the field. Here's four we're looking forward to.

On April 5–7 is the Writer's Digest Conference East in New York City, covering a variety of topics related to writing and publishing. The first day is entirely devoted to self-publishing, everything from design and legal issues to agents and marketing. The rest of the weekend includes sessions like "Pitch Perfect," "Writing in the Digital Era," and "How to Become a Regular Contributor at Any Publication."

Ghostwriters Unite!, the first conference of its kind, will see ghosts from around the world gather in Long Beach, California, from May 3–5 to discuss everything from fee standards, ethical boundaries, problem clients, and bylines. Panel topics include "Finding Clients," "Negotiating Fees," and "Ghostwriting for Celebrities."

Speechwriters will gather in London from May 15–17 for the European Speechwriter Network Conference. The organization has invited a diverse group of speechwriters to speak about their work and the lessons they've learned. Topics of discussion will include how to write for international audiences and whether writing for men and women is different.

It's almost time for the annual BookExpo America, which will be held May 30–June 1 at the Javits Center in New York City. The massive three-day trade fair will showcase booths and exhibits by all the major and minor book publishers from the U.S. and abroad. There will also be breakout sessions on variety of industry topics, including "uPublishu at BEA" on self-publishing, "BEA Bloggers Conference," and many, many more.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Why a CEO Should Never Deliver a TED-Style Talk

By David Murray 

CEOs don’t want to look too polished, because they think they’ll be branded as shallow.

A speechwriter friend of mine at a Fortune 100 company complained that CEOs all recognize that the TED Talk is The Way to Communicate. But then they refuse to do TED-style delivery. He recognized that part of the reason is because TED Talks take a ton of time and energy to prepare for.

“Practice when you feel like it,” advises recent TED Talker Nilofer Merchant.

And, even when you don’t feel like it. At least two weeks out from a big talk, start to deliver the talk with notes and ultimately without them. Memorize where possible. I say it to myself 15 minutes every day. And once right before bed. Then I get a full night of restful sleep so that some part of my brain commits it to memory. At one week out, I’ve moved to keywords on Post-it notes. By five days out, I am no longer looking at any notes. I usually wake up the full week before a talk with it playing in my mind. You want it in there, even though it won’t actually be the talk that’ll come out that day. There is the talk you plan on giving and the talk that you give. If you are great at performance and memorization, it’s quite possible for those to be one and the same. But the more important thing to happen is for you to know what you came to say and know it well.

Now, what CEO is going to sweat a speech like that?

But a more fundamental problem is: What CEO wants to be thought of—by investors, employees and maybe most importantly, by CEO peers—as someone so focused on public performance? And thus not focused on analysis, deal-making and decision-making that we expect CEOs to be thoroughly absorbed in at all times?

And that self-conscious CEO has a point. Aside from Steve Jobs, whose performances we saw as the spearhead of the company’s new product sales, wouldn’t you harbor some suspicion about the vanity and greater ambition of a CEO who delivered a perfect TED Talk?

Not that there isn’t a mile of middle ground between TED perfection and the typical CEO speech. And not that TED Talks don’t model many of the tools—economy, focus, storytelling, personalization—that we urge our clients to use. But if TED is actually not the ideal in executive communication, then let’s not punish ourselves and our clients by pretending it is.

David Murray, who has covered speechwriting and executive communication for nearly two decades, is editor of Vital Speeches of the Day. This post originally appeared on the VSOTD blog.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Around the Word: Book Discovery

Book Discovery. How do readers decide what book to read next? This process, known as "book discovery," is the latest buzz phrase in the online book marketing world. Every day there seems to be a new article or blog post debating the merits of various websites hoping to woo visitors with their book recommendations or browsing tools. This trend is growing so quickly that Publishing Perspectives is already asking if the book discoverability bubble is ready to pop. Trying to make sense of it all? A recent article on Forbes clearly lays out the online book market, customer habits, and book discovery options.

Decisions, Decisions. With so many websites trying to find the sweet spot of book discovery, there are lots of options to explore. Most people are familiar with Amazon's recommendations. But if you're looking for a more tailored experience, many book discovery websites are trying to more carefully cater to customer preferences. Bookish, launched earlier this year, is "an exercise in big data" as CEO Ardy Khazaei explains. The site will use everything from genres and authors to editorial themes and reviews to make its recommendations. Then there's Goodreads, probably the most well known and established book discovery tool, which crowdsources peer recommendations and reviews to make its selections.  Looking for something a little more exclusive? Riffle is a new invite-only book discovery site that's been compared to Pinterest. It's powered through a Facebook app that allows users to share books with friends, create lists, and see industry experts' curated pages. Still hungry for more book discovery options? Check out The Nudge List, Amazon's Shelfari, or Rabble, a Rotten Tomatoes–like website with expert reviews that is set to launch in April.

Word of Mouth. Even with all these options, the real-world experience of getting book recommendations from friends still reigns supreme. A recent Goodreads survey found that "trusted friend" remains the top reason respondents decided to read a book, followed by "everyone talking about it" and "book club." Another study, conducted by Codex Group, underscores just how far online book discovery has to go: only 7 percent of frequent online book buyers said they actually "discovered" the last book they purchased on the internet. Why can't book discovery websites seem to break through? The New Republic's Hillary Kelly has a thoughtful take: "Data has no imagination. When it comes to book recommendations, attempts to sort or streamline or mathematize them necessarily dehumanizes the process. The very nature of the endeavor, much like digesting Ulysses, requires an infinitely more complex machine: the human brain."