Should we drop virtual meetings?

Thanks to social websites and online networking organisations, virtual meetings are increasing and whilst online networking can be advantageous, should they really be replacing face-to-face get-togethers?

Copywriter's conference by Speechwriter's GuildThere’s still a lot of mileage to be gained when we get out of the office to make connections with other business people. Conferences and seminars are a good way to do that and, I have to say, that chatting with fellow copywriters and marketers over lunch, at the copywriter’s conference on 19th April, was very enjoyable.

So, do you go to conferences to meet others?

In today’s guest post Megan explains why she thinks attending conferences, even social media conferences, is a worthwhile activity.

Blogging and Social Media Conferences: Should You Attend?

by Megan Totka

As a small business owner or employee, particularly those that are based in the virtual world, how important do you think it is to attend in-person conferences or meetings?

Personally, I think industry conferences can still play a big role in the successful development of a small business or brand. While digital networking certainly plays a large role in building your company, sometimes in-person face time still can’t be trumped. There’s something to be said for meeting people, as often faces and personalities can be more memorable than websites or Facebook pages.

Conferences or meetings also often draw big names from the blogging and social media world. Hearing what they have to say about their area of expertise can really be beneficial, particularly if you are looking to expand into a new aspect of writing, branding, blogging, or marketing. Most speakers will also host question and answer sessions, where you can ask specific questions about your business or website. Check out who the keynote speaker will be before you go, also.

Social media, blogging, and marketing conferences are popping up all over the United States and throughout the world. You are likely going to be able to find one close to you, no matter what your location is. Here are some perks of attending one of these conferences:

  • Meeting people in your industry – people from all different types of businesses attend blogging/social media/marketing conferences. You are likely to run into people who are in the same type of industry as you, or a kind of business that is complimentary to yours. Making connections with others is always a good idea – you never know when you could use their expertise or contacts.
  • Getting advice from experts – as I mentioned earlier, many big names in blogging and social media attend these conferences. Some will give talks, some will host question and answer sessions, and some may even make themselves available for questions privately at some point during the conference. Sometimes a good old fashioned conversation is all it takes to get your creative juices flowing; you never know what kinds of ideas you might be inspired by.
  • Get your name out there – attending conferences and meeting people is a great way to get your name on the mind of others. Be sure to focus on making worthwhile business connections so your efforts are worthwhile.  Letting people know that you are out there in the web world is important when it comes to getting people to hear what you are talking (or writing) about. If people like you and what you have to say, they are more likely to pass your name along to friends, family, and colleagues.

As with many things in business, appearance is still a factor. If you do decide to attend an industry conference, make sure that you are professional. This includes being prepared with business cards, dressing professionally, and of course, being on your best behavior.

While social media/blogging/marketing conferences are likely to be more casual than your typical business meeting, it’s still important to make a good first impression. Make sure you leave your ripped jeans at home, and opt for a trendy business-casual look. Having business cards that stand out, or a digital card is also a good idea.

Conferences can be a great way to learn more about all kinds of topics. I found a great list of just a few that sound really interesting (and I may attend the one that is near me!). A quick Google search turned up tons of results for others, as well. Check out the list I found here.

Megan Totka is the Chief Editor for She specializes on the topic of small business tips and resources. helps small businesses grow their business on the web and facilitates connectivity between local businesses and more than 7,000 Chambers of Commerce worldwide.


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photo files too big for your blog?

Google likes pictures. So including pictures in your blog posts is a good way to get noticed by Google. Be careful – big picture files can take a long time to load and your reader may get bored and leave.

Of course you can use online stock photos , that are already optimised for quick-loading on websites, to make your post more visually appealing (see Stimulating your post… for info on getting copyright free images).

But if you want to use photos you’ve taken yourself with your digital camera, there is a good chance the file will be very large – maybe more than 1 Mbyte – which could slow your website to the speed of thick treacle pooling off a spoon.

Now, if you have a graphics program and you know how to use it, you can open your photo file and reduce the size to be more web-friendly.

An Easy To Use FREE Online Photo Adjuster

Actually it is an editor that gives you a huge amount of easy to use features, including adjusting brightness, adjusting contrast and adding rounded edge frames – as well as reducing the actual file size.

Let me give you an example:

I was sent a picture when Kelly, my PA, nominated me for the Langtry Manor Employer of the Year Venus Award. It was a reasonable file size… just 324Kb but the proportions were too large to include in this post.

So I popped over to PicMonkey to reduce the size. I altered the physical size from 946×576 to 300×183 (I only set the width, the height was adjusted automatically) and, whilst I was there I decided to add my photo – to show who was nominated ;). The actual file size reduced from 324kb to a miserly – but quick to load – 36.6Kb.

All it took was a few clicks and it was done. Here’s the result:

Thanks Must Go To…

I didn’t know about this brilliant resource until a few weeks ago. And I have to thank Angela Wills who also took the trouble to record a 4.5 minute video showing how to use the website, it’s not difficult but it is nice to be able to see how it is done.

You can see Angela’s post and video on Free Image Resizer

Hope you find this FREE tool as useful as I have!

~ Carol Bentley


(Note to self: must use more pictures!)

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liven up your writing

This is for anyone who writes to gain new customers and sales, oh.. that’s me!

I’m always looking for ways to invigorate my writing in ways that connect with my readers. So this article hit the hot spot for me, does it inspire you?

Quick survey:

Which sentence in each pair gives you a clearer picture of what’s happening?

  • He ran hurriedly from the table.
  • He bolted from the table.
  • Natural pain relievers move more quickly through your bloodstream than synthetic ones.
  • Natural pain relievers surge through your bloodstream faster than synthetic ones.
  • The marauding gang overtook the defenders.
  • The marauding gang overwhelmed the defenders.

Not much doubt, is there? The second sentences are more visual than the first. You can picture what’s happening easier because of one small part of the better sentences.

The verb.

Revisiting seventh grade English: The verb is “a word that expresses action, being, or state of being.” Ho hum. I much prefer Karen Elizabeth Gordon’s description. This author of numerous, entertaining, and offbeat grammar books calls them “the heartbeat of a sentence.”

Verbs bring life to your writing. They — not adverbs — are what really paint that all-important picture for your reader.

The Master of Horror on the horror of weak verbs …

A little bit of English review again. Adverbs are the words we attach to verbs to describe how someone is doing something: Run hurriedly … move quickly … yell loudly.

Adverbs often — but not always — end in “-ly.” (And not all -ly words are adverbs.) We were taught by our teachers to dress up our writing with these words. But here’s what Stephen King says about them …

“The adverb is not your friend … With adverbs, the writer usually tells us he or she is afraid he/she isn’t expressing himself/herself clearly, that he or she is not getting the point or the picture across.”

Stephen King
On Writing

It’s natural to use adverbs when you’re writing. If there’s one editing lesson I could imbue all my readers with, it’s this. Do not edit while you write. So if it’s natural for you to use adverbs in your first draft as it is for me, by all means use them. Eliminate them in your rewrites and edits.

But don’t eliminate them simply by deleting them. Eliminate your need to use them by examining the verb you’re using. Make your verbs strong.

Stephen King’s example: “He closed the door firmly” vs. “He slammed the door.”

You hear “slam” in your mind’s ear. “Close firmly” not as much.

My examples: “He ran hurriedly …” vs. “He bolted …” Bolted conveys not only the image of the man leaving in a hurry, but it also carries a sense of urgency the adverb doesn’t have.

Not all verbs are created equal …

Look at the third example we started with. Neither of those sentences contains an adverb. “Overtook” isn’t bad, but “overwhelmed” is clearly the stronger choice. “Overtook” gives the picture of the gang catching up with the defenders. “Overwhelmed” paints a picture of the gang climbing over the bodies of the defenders.

Here’s the strategy: First, go through your copy and find adverbs. Eliminate them and replace the weak verbs they were bolstering. Then go back over the copy. This time, examine other verbs and replace weak ones with stronger, more active ones.

What is your clue that a verb you’re using might be weak? The first verbs that come to mind while writing are the ones we use every day. Because of that, they’ve lost much of their impact. Look for less common verbs to replace the common ones.

Say “XYZ Corporation will annihilate its competition in the 3rd quarter” rather than “XYZ Corporation will kill its competition in the 3rd quarter.”

Coming to grips with ‘-ing’ …

I’m guilty of weakening my verbs by using their ‘-ing’ form. Oops, like there. I could have (and should have) said “I use weak verbs when I use the ‘-ing’ form.”

It’s just how I write — the first time through. When you use the ‘-ing’ form, you add length to the verb, which can weaken its impact. And you often need to add more words to the sentence, as you can see in my example. In copywriting, you don’t want to skimp on words, but your every word must be necessary.

Hacking out the ‘-ing’ form helps eliminate unnecessary words and strengthens your copy.

All of them?

Should you eradicate all your adverbs? Should you abolish the ‘-ing’ form to your rhetorical wastebasket?

Not at all. Adverbs and the ‘-ing’ form of the verb have their place. The trick is to make sure you use the strongest verbs you can and avoid the ‘-ing’ form of verbs where it counts most.

Where’s that?

In copywriting, it’s where you paint your picture of the reader’s life as the product has changed it. Or where you describe the product’s benefits. Or where you describe what the reader might lose by ignoring the opportunity you’re giving him.

When you need to make the biggest impression, that’s when you wear your fanciest clothing.

Will Newman

This article appears courtesy of American Writers & Artists Inc.’s (AWAI) The Golden Thread, a free newsletter that delivers original, no-nonsense advice on the best wealth careers, lifestyle careers and work-at-home careers available. For a complimentary subscription, visit

Even when you write from one business person to another, remember they are still people and your description of what your offer – service or product – does for them needs to have an impact that persuades them to buy.

I think Will’s tips will be very handy, don’t you?

~ Carol Bentley


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Procrastination? You can achieve in spite of it.. really!

I know – that seems like the daftest statement you’ve ever read.

And – as a self-confessed procrastinator – I’m inclined to agree with you.

But when I read this article in an e-newsletter I get, the 5-minute rule seemed like a great way to achieve in spite of a my lifetime habit of procrastinating.

What do you think?

The Power of Out-Thinking Your Flaws

As strange as it sounds, just knowing you’re a procrastinator is a step in the right direction. Because admitting it is the first step to building your business around it…

So you can succeed in spite of this flaw.

Notice I said: “in spite of.” In other words: You don’t have to stop being a procrastinator to build a successful business. <

Now I’m sure it would certainly help your business if you could suddenly wake up tomorrow and never procrastinate again.

But let’s be realistic here. As a life-long procrastinator myself, I can tell you the odds of that happening are slim to none.

So why not build your business around your procrastination? Why not build your business in a way that you’ll succeed regardless of whether you ever cure your procrastination or not?

I can tell you: It’s certainly possible.

I’ve built three multi-million dollar businesses as a procrastinator. How did I do that? Rather than wasting years trying to get over my procrastination, I designed my businesses so I could procrastinate all I wanted and still grow my businesses.

In other words: I worked around this flaw, not on it. And you can do the same.

Let Me Give You An Example…

When I built my Business Growth System (“BGS”) coaching program, I knew I was likely to procrastinate. So rather than agonizing on building an online program for months and wasting a lot of time on how I could design this program, I set up live calls with my first 25 coaching clients.

On those calls, I coached my clients live. Then I recorded the calls, got them transcribed, and later transformed these recordings and transcriptions into my BGS program. By giving myself a live audience, I had a positive constraint that ensured I would get this program done.

For you, you could do the same by setting up a series of live webinars that later become the content for your next product, your next book, or other project. By having a live audience at a set time and date, it forces you to show up and work.

Most importantly, it doesn’t allow you to procrastinate.

That’s just one way to think your way around your procrastination.

Truth be told: I have a dozen or so strategies like this so my procrastination doesn’t get in my way. Let me give you one more right now…

When In Doubt: Use the Five-Minute Rule

This is a self-starter strategy that I’ve used for many years, as a way to out-think my own procrastination.

I realized a long time ago that even when I really need to get something done, it doesn’t help to ask myself, “Do I feel like doing this?” Because no matter what’s going on, the answer is always going to be “no.”

So rather than constantly procrastinating, I made a promise to myself that I would spend five to 10 minutes focusing on whatever that task happens to be.

It may even be something I enjoy, like writing in my journal or getting on the elliptical machine. It doesn’t matter. I still may procrastinate.

So even if I REALLY don’t want to start a project, I spend five to 10 minutes starting it. Then after five or 10 minutes, I ask myself: “Is my head really into this? Am I really on a roll here?” If I am, I keep going on the project.

If I’m not mentally present, I stop. I call an audible “five minute rule” and I move onto something equally pressing.

I encourage you to try this strategy. If you find yourself procrastinating on a certain task, give yourself 5 to 10 minutes and focus on ONLY that task.

After five minutes, you may find you’re already on a roll. And if not, you can always move onto another project. But at least you won’t waste time NOT doing.

Keep in mind: There are always ways to succeed in spite of your flaws. Rather than spending time trying to cure them – think around them.

To higher profits and beyond,
Rich Schefren
Strategic Profits

P.S. Technically, you can out-think any flaw that may be holding back your business. That includes perfectionism, lack of clarity, being overwhelmed, distractions etc.

To prove this is possible, my team and I sat down a year ago to brainstorm all the high-level strategies we use to out-think our own flaws.

We recorded that brainstorm. It became an 11-video series that shows you how to out-think some of the worst flaws that may be stopping you from the kind of success you want. For more on this video series, check out my video

Thanks for this Rich and for giving permission to share with my readers.

~ Carol Bentley


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Are your emails mobile friendly?

When you send an email… do you know what the person you are emailing is using to read it? Are they at their desk with a computer or are they mobile, using their phone or tablet to check their emails? Does it matter?

Megan’s post this month highlights some issues your emails may have when opened on one of these devices… here’s what she’s got to say…

Email Marketing and Mobile Devices

by Megan Totka

While browsing for blog ideas this week, I came across an interesting article that discusses the opening of email on mobile devices. Now personally, I open my email almost obsessively on my phone and iPad. I like to respond to emails quickly, and having them available on my phone or iPad makes it so that I can check them virtually any time and anywhere. I very seldom sit down at a desktop or laptop computer unless I am working. My mobile devices are my connection to the Internet.

The article, published by MarketingLand, discusses a report published by Knotice, which is a digital-marketing firm. The company used a sample of five hundred million emails that were sent by 11 different industries. The study showed that in the latter half of 2012, 41 percent of emails were opened on mobile devices. This is an increase from 27 percent in 2011 and 13 percent in 2010. Knotice is projecting that by the end of 2013, 50 percent or more of commercial emails will be opened on tablets or smart phones. That is a huge number!

The report went even further by breaking down which types of devices were used to open these emails. Apple leads the way with 21.5 percent of users opening email on their iPhone and 11.4 percent on their iPads. Phones and tablets with the Android OS come in far behind, with 6 percent of phone email opens and 0.5 percent for tablets.

These figures should be a strong consideration for small business owners when it comes to email marketing. Here are some easy tips on how to optimize your email marketing for mobile devices:

  • Keep it simple. Large, splashy images will not register well on mobile devices. They may appear shrunken or just not load at all. Keep image files small if at all possible. To make emails easy for you and your readers, try to send plain text emails.  This will help with formatting across multiple devices, especially mobile.
  • Be informative. Try to put as much information in your email as possible while still being concise. This is a great practice to get your email opened and to continue getting it opened.  When on a mobile device (phones in particular) a user may not want to click through to a website because it is not optimized for a mobile environment. By putting all the information in the email, the message will better resonate with readers.
  • Consider dedicating more resources to email marketing. Clearly, people are being reached via email. So it’s a good idea to use email marketing as much as possible. There are many services that are free or inexpensive for sending mass emails.

Email marketing for mobile devices is definitely on the upswing. If you want to keep your small business current, it’s important to keep this trend in mind. It can be very useful for small businesses as email marketing is not terribly expensive and can be designed by you or a member of your company. In my opinion, eventually most if not all internet browsing and email reading will be done from mobile devices. It’s best to jump on this wagon now, that way you will be prepared for the future.

Megan Totka is the Chief Editor for She specializes on the topic of small business tips and resources. helps small businesses grow their business on the web and facilitates connectivity between local businesses and more than 7,000 Chambers of Commerce worldwide.

Where do you read your emails? Have you ever considered if the emails you send can be easily viewed on mobile devices?

~ Carol Bentley

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Inviting writers & marketers: keynote speaker announcement

After running a popular breakout session in last year’s ‘Words That Sell’ conference, hosted by the UK Speechwriter’s Guild & A Thousand Monkeys (a writing agency), I was asked by the organisers to be one of the main Keynote Speakers at this year’s event.

The conference is being held on Friday 19th April in Bournemouth.

You Are Invited

Although this conference is targeted at fledgling and experienced copywriters, as well as anyone involved in the marketing profession, I think it is a great opportunity for anyone responsible for promoting their business to gain a wonderful insight to the art of persuasive writing in all its forms.

Want to get inspiration from the go-to experts copywriters and marketers follow?

You can – take a look at ‘Who Needs Copywriters?‘ and check the wide range of speakers and the topics they are covering.

The early-bird booking rate gives you £101 saving on places reserved before 20 March.

You get a further 40% discount when you enter the discount code CarolBentley in the promotion code box on the checkout page.

In total, that’s a massive 76.2% discount on the normal delegate rate!

Why Attend?

Writing dynamic, persuasive copy is even more crucial – especially with the explosion in digital and social media.

Apart from the main presentations you also get to choose from breakout sessions on additional topics, such as How To Break Creative Deadlock.

Last year the room was buzzing with conversations as people exchanged ideas and discussed the gems shared by the inspiring speakers. And this year I’m sure it will be just as energising.

Why not join us? Reserve your place at ‘Who Needs Copywriters?‘ and make a point of saying “Hello” to me.

I look forward to meeting you there.

~ Carol Bentley

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stimulating your blog or website

In the post ‘How Important are Visuals in Online Marketing?‘ Megan explained how using images and colour can make your blog or website vibrant and more engaging for your visitors… but where do you get those graphics from?

If you grab a picture off the Internet you could be opening yourself up to a hugely expensive lawsuit if the copyright holder decides to sue you.

So how can you find colourful images without putting yourself at risk?

You can buy royalty free images from websites such as Fotolia and iStockPhoto. Their images have licenses for commercial as well as non-profit use.

But if you want to use a lot of images, perhaps in blogs or video clips you are creating, then even with their cost effective solutions it can become expensive.

That’s when finding images that are free to use can be a huge help. You can get these under the Creative Commons License.

Don Crowther explains more about finding these free and legal pictures on his blog. Take a look at How to find pictures online – scroll down to the comments from other readers for additional suggestions on where to find pictures and license-free music for videos.

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