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For many people, presenting in front of others is not an easyPresentation thing to do. Unless you are a confident natural, it can be just that bit too easy to overelaborate, go off topic, bury important points in superfluous fluff and generally lose your audience.

The aim with a presentation is to engage the interest of those seated in front of you and have them pay attention to what is being said. You don’t want them slumped in their chairs and thinking to themselves: ‘Will this ever finish?’

To help avoid such audience ennui, I’ve put together 10 tried and tested tips that can help you successfully reach out to your audience. These pointers will ensure that your presentation goes with a bang.

1. Practice: practice until you are totally comfortable with what you are going to be talking about. You will then only have to glance at the slide or the screen to remind yourself of the key points. You can then expand upon these facing your audience.

2. Open strongly: How you start your presentation will influence its overall impact. You should aim to capture your audience’s attention straight away. If you can captivate them early on, you stand a good chance of holding their attention throughout.

3. Use the ‘B’ key: Consider the ‘B’ key when you go off topic or want to fully bring your audience’s attention back to you. Pressing the ‘B’ key when using PowerPoint will make the screen go blank. Pressing it again will restore the slide. Using it can have a powerful effect.

4. Keep it short: The temptation when speaking on a topic is to show you have done your research by creating a long-winded presentation. This will likely turn people off, as attention spans are short. Instead, cut down on the amount of discursive talking you do by framing the key points or messages.

5. Maintain good eye contact: In conjunction with the first point, knowing your topic well should mean that you are able to maintain good eye contact with your audience. You will lose your audience if you are constantly looking down or away from them. Good eye contact should involve you looking around at different audience members as you elaborate on the key points.

6. Use fewer slides: Using a large number of slides and copious amounts of text is another off-putter. Keep things concise and simple – you should be able to expand on a few bullet points. The presentation should not be just about what you have on the screen.

7. Tell a story: It can help if you plan your presentation as a story. Giving it a structure such as a beginning, middle and end, will assist with the narrative flow. It will take the audience on a journey and can make what you say a whole lot more interesting.

8. Add images: Using eye-catching images can greatly help you express what you are trying to explain. Remember, a picture is worth a thousand words.

9. Inject a bit of humour: A little bit of well-placed humour while you’re presenting will help you and the audience to relax. It will create an atmosphere of informality and help to break down barriers. Presentations should be fun.

10. Encourage questions: Allowing your audience to ask questions throughout your presentation increases the level of interactivity and is more likely to keep them engaged. Encourage them at the beginning to stop you if they feel the need to ask something. When they do, don’t forget that ‘B’ key!

Dieting is a phenomenon that has become embeddedHealthy eating 3 in our collective psyche as being an essential part of the way we should live in the modern world. The promotion of slimness and healthiness is a ubiquitous feature in glossy magazines that disingenuously feature airbrushed models alongside articles promoting whatever dietary fad is currently in vogue. These pieces cause a huge amount of pressure for people to lose weight, with some critics blaming the obsession with dieting as being behind a rise in eating disorders. At the very least, these lifestyle articles have helped promote what is now a culturally accepted norm – we need to watch what we eat.

So how much truth is contained in these articles? Is there a supreme diet that is better than all the others? It is hardly surprising that we are confused. One day a particular type of food is bad for us, the next day it is being hailed as a ‘superfood’ that possesses a vast array of health benefits. The information we are given in these media articles can at times seem completely contradictory.

I would suggest that it is important to realise that the primary function of these dietary features is to sell magazines, not to provide valuable information relating to nutrition. I would also say that if we really want to know what we should and shouldn’t be eating, we need to look at more scholarly pieces that are the result of serious research and peer review. The conclusions from these articles carry much more weight than lifestyle text that has been designed to create interest and shift magazine copies.

In one such in-depth study, Yale colleagues Dr. David Katz and Stephanie Meller compared the major diets of the day; Low carbohydrate, low fat, low glycaemic, Mediterranean, mixed/balanced, Paleolithic, vegan and elements of other regimes. They published their findings in a paper titled: ‘Can We Say What Diet Is Best for Health?’ which appeared in the scientific journal Annual Review.

The authors’ findings were that, despite the pervasiveness of diets in the media, no one was clearly the best. This, they said, was because “There have been no rigorous, long-term studies comparing contenders for best diet laurels using methodology that precludes bias and confounding.” They concluded by saying that that “A diet of minimally processed foods, close to nature, predominantly plants, is decisively associated with health promotion and disease prevention.”

So there you have it. The best diet according to rigorous scientific study summed up in a single, tidy sentence. Happy eating!

Late February 2013, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Islamic Financebin Rashid al Maktoum, UAE Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, launched a new initiative aimed at transforming Dubai into being the global centre of Islamic sukuk (bonds). The strategy was part of his bigger vision for Dubai to become an international capital for Islamic economy, with plans for Islamic finance products such as sukuk, re-takaful (Islamic insurance products), an Islamic digital economy, Islamic financial services regulation, sharia best governance promotion, halal parks and Dubai halal certification for meat products. With these aims, Dubai intends to compete directly with London and other financial centres to secure the title of global capital for Islamic economy.

Islamic finance, which is based on principles that forbid interest and pure monetary speculation, is growing increasingly important around the world, although its profile remains much smaller than conventional finance. Dubai has been one of the pioneers of Islamic finance, with Dubai Islamic Bank (DIB) having the distinction of being the world’s first Islamic bank.

In December 2013, the Dubai Islamic Economy Development Centre was established to lead the transformation of Dubai. The key objectives of the centre are to promote Dubai regionally and globally as a main centre for Shariah-compliant goods and financial and non-financial services. 2013 saw the centre launch the annual Islamic Economy Awards which seek to recognise innovative world-class business initiatives and ideas that are sharia-compliant and contribute to the social and economic welfare of the Muslim population. On June 21, 2014, the second year of the awards was announced.

Many supporters of Dubai’s Islamic economy initiative believe that the strengths of the emirate make it the ideal place to be the global capital for Islamic economy. Dubai’s location sees it as a regional hub for Asia and a convenient destination for Africa. The emirate is more accessible than Malaysia (Asia’s leader of Islamic finance) from Europe. The blend of Eastern and Western cultures in Dubai is ideal for Islamic economy that is not just limited to Muslim consumers or Muslim-owned companies. Dubai is attractive for companies setting-up and operating Islamic focused products and services products because it has a globally-recognised judiciary system. Its high standard of support services that the Islamic economy requires – such as banks, brokers, accounting firms and law firms – are already in place in the country.

For public relations in particular, the push of Islamic economy by Dubai offers up considerable food for thought. On a global-level, we can expect to see more PR activity by other cities competing for the title, as each location tries to differentiate itself, sell its USP and attempts to secure the title of global capital for this form of finance. It is a near certainty that Dubai will use PR and marketing to showcase its Islamic economy pedigree and credentials and to announce new initiatives.

The push will also require Dubai communications professionals to formulate their strategies within the confines of Islamic finance. We need to better understand this new and growing group of stakeholders important to the Islamic economy – i.e. those who will purchase Islamic financial products and Islamic insurance services, or buy halal meat products soon to be certified by Dubai. A whole new understanding is required of their purchasing needs, habits, priorities and preferences and we need to be able to tailor communication to reach all Islamic economy stakeholders. We will have to develop new messages appropriate to reach these audiences and determine the media – both traditional and social – that are appropriate for PR around Islamic economy.

It is not uncommon for a PR professional to prepare a detailed andGirl on phone well-researched pitch for a feature on behalf of a client, only for the media to give it a big thumbs down. So how can you reword, repackage and re-sell your client’s idea to get coverage? Here are four tips to help you make your feature article more interesting to editors:

• The most common reason content is rejected is because it’s overly self-promotional and written in an obviously slanted, marketing way. When your pitch isn’t working, this should be the first thing you should address. Rework it with a critical editor’s eye. Take out the subjective and be more objective. Getting your client’s brand name, product or service out there is the name of the game. Coverage with a lack of promotion is still coverage and arguably has even greater value than a piece that reads like an advertorial. This is because with an advertorial, readers can detect they are being sold to. Less is sometimes more.

• Managing your client’s expectations is essential when reworking a pitch. They might think that their carpet cleaner is the most exciting development on earth, but that doesn’t mean everyone else will. Take some time to figure out how you can make your content more exciting, perhaps by adding topical information to make it catchier. If there is some development already in the news relating to the industry, use this to position your client as a leading market commentator offering a knowledgeable and seasoned perspective.

• Consider adding charts, graphs, pictures, and multimedia to your text. An editor will appreciate visual elements when it’s time to publish, so get ahead by crafting your content around something that is visually compelling and adds another dimension to the written word.

• Some of my most successful pitches have come from offering the editor a selection of by-line angles that they can pick and choose from. This way, instead of trying to force-feed them, you’re offering them a number of choices that allows them more flexibility. This form of consideration can help establish a mutually beneficial relationship – which, along with getting your client coverage, is exactly what you are aiming to achieve!

Good luck with reworking your pitch!

We all know that the Holy Month of RamadanRamadan is a time of reflection where working hours are reduced to allow time for family, social & religious activities and rest. But we can’t ignore the fact that it also carries some interesting PR opportunities that allow us to enhance messaging, reach out to our target audiences during a special time, and bond with clients, journalists and business associates.

In order to make the most of Ramadan from a professional perspective, here are a few recommendations for PR agencies and professionals:

Revolve your PR activity around Ramadan and its values: For example, intensify CSR and community-oriented activities, or participate in a local government initiative where other players will also be involved. This will lend you credibility through being genuine.

Identify publication supplements: As a special season, Ramadan will see many newspapers and magazines dedicating supplements or pages for the Holy Month. Get in touch with them early to identify relevant opportunities for your clients. Make sure also that you supply information on time.

Ensure quality rather than quantity: Aim to consolidate your clients’ messaging and stick to one or two key message points so as not to bombard the audience, especially at a time when so many other brands will be talking loudly, but futilely. Unless you’re a rice or Arabic sweets company, it’s best not to deliberately intensify communications during this time!

Be aware that one media event will suffice: Ramadan is generally characterised by plenty of Iftar and Suhoor media invitations where PR agencies compete for the media’s time and attention. With half the media wanting to attend and socialise outside work, the other half prefer to stay at home with family. Others are simply double-booked between two Ramadan tents on the same day… with the tents usually at opposite ends of the town! It is a good idea to therefore limit the number of gatherings to just one time in the month. Invite only your closest media contacts for a cosy meal to catch up on clients’ latest news, their own news, and generic industry happenings. They will appreciate the gesture to talk work in a relaxed and informal setting without wasting too much of their time.

Finally and most importantly, enjoy this special month that comes by once a year. It is a time when we are meant to rethink our ways and simplify… not overcomplicate!

Most marketers benefit from public relations activities to Product launchincrease awareness of their company or brand. PR is still a key channel for all marketing initiatives and campaigns. Yes, there has been a social media revolution that is bypassing traditional media to reach audiences, but in order to get full value and to maximise reach, we should view these digital platforms as adjuncts to effective PR campaigns, not alternatives.

However, we do need to be aware that there is a right time and wrong time to undertake PR. The 10 points below look at what PR professionals and marketers need to consider before launching initiatives involving new products and services:

1. Make sure your products and services are actually available before you start a PR campaign. You don’t want to upset any reporters by wasting their time.

2. Ensure your products have been tested before you invite reporters to review them. There is nothing more embarrassing when something doesn’t appear to work.

3. Know the competition’s offerings. You will come across as knowledgeable if you can point out the advantage of your piece of kit over that from your rivals.

4. If possible, find a real-life case study that highlights the benefits of the products and services you are promoting before speaking to reporters.

5. Make sure you are topical – tying your product or service to a current issue or development makes it more relevant to a reporter.

6. When it comes to launch day, make sure everything has been well rehearsed and put in place so that there are no glitches.

7. Ensure you have all the necessary authority approvals for your product or service before it hits the market. You don’t want to incur a hefty fine or product recall.

8. Approach the media when you know that your messages will spread to the right audiences through the right channels to maximise your reach.

9. Make sure you have your strategy in place before your launch. If you don’t have a clear strategy and messaging, it is better to postpone your PR campaign.

10. Remember that reporters are your friends and not adversaries to be hoodwinked. Politeness and respect for what they do will help foster a good relationship, which can influence results.

Ever since the start of the new millennium, Dubai has seeminglyDubai Police Supercars been involved in an endless cycle of impressive accomplishments designed to amaze the world… one marvel at a time. The city’s spectacular list of achievements include Ski Dubai, the region’s largest indoor ski slope; Palm Jumeirah, the artificial archipelago featuring the Middle East’s first monorail; Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building; Dubai Metro, the world’s longest fully automated train network… and so on.

The first question that might pop into mind is: “why?” as asked by 60 Minutes’ correspondent Steve Croft in his interview with HH Sheikh Mohamed Bin Rashid in 2007. His Highness replied: “Why not?”

In my modest opinion, I believe that Dubai is one of the world’s strongest brands, as strong as household names such as Coca Cola, Apple and Microsoft. These are organisations whose brand equity can’t be valued in mere monetary terms alone.

The masterminds behind the Dubai government’s PR strategy cleverly calculate each activity’s image impact and ROI. Take, for example, the city’s recently acquired fleet of police supercars, which included such high performance vehicles as a Lamborghini Aventador, Ferrari FF, Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG, Bentley Continental GT and Aston Martin 77. The combined value of the fleet amounts to several million dirhams – a figure that could be considered a huge outlay for state law enforcement vehicles that, if we are to be honest, are a more than a little impractical. However, when viewed in the context of global PR, the stunt is one that has continued to keep Dubai’s name on the word stage, creating a new ‘wow’ factor to be added to its list of achievements. Excuse the pun, but PR activities such as this supercar exercise this have a great deal of mileage, with the value of the coverage and air time generated likely worth 100 times more than the cost of the police-liveried performance machines. Marketeers; look, listen and learn!

In my career to date, I estimate that I must have attended moreMeetings than two thousand meetings. Over the years, I have received some criticism about my performance within them. I’ve been told that sometimes I talk too much, that I have a tendency to overelaboration, or that I talk when I should be listening. I view these comments as constructive and have taken them on board to help me improve how I conduct myself when I am required to meet with other people in a professional context.

Studies have revealed that meetings are not necessarily conducive to productivity. In fact, it has been shown that up to one third of meetings are a waste of time. But despite this research being out there, we still schedule and attend meetings as if they are an essential component of doing business. Thanks to this ingrained attitude, it doesn’t look like we will be conducting business free of meetings anytime soon.

Because the status quo of holding regular meetings is something that is not likely to change in the foreseeable future, I have put together eight tips that I believe enhance the effectiveness of formal professional interactions.

1. Be prepared and be on time

Make sure you arrive on time and that you are fully prepared for the meeting ahead. If you can, arrive 15-20 minutes early, as this will give you time to settle in, become acquainted with the surroundings and gather your thoughts. If you are a PR professional and attending a client meeting, arriving early shows your eagerness to work and service your client.

2. Introduce yourself properly

Approach the person or people you are meeting and introduce yourself with confidence. Make sure everyone knows who you are and what your designation is. If you are introducing others, start with the person who is most senior first.

3. Have a clear agenda

This will help you to have a constructive and time-effective meeting. A clear agenda will make it easier for you to focus on what is important and keep everyone on track without talking about non-essential issues. A discursive conversation that takes in many non-relevant aspects will only serve to dilute the main points you had intended to discuss.

4. Sit appropriately

If it’s a sit-down meeting, you should adjust your chair so that you are at equal height with everyone else at the table. Avoid slouching. You need to be taken seriously and sitting up straight is a sign of confidence and assertiveness.

5. Make sure you are heard

When it is your turn to say something, you should speak loudly enough so that everyone can hear you. Talking softly can give an impression of a lack of confidence and generate an overall negative image that will affect the impact of your address or message.

6. Understand the speaking rules

It is not polite to interrupt others – always try to listen first and then answer in turn. In some meetings, you may have to interrupt at some point in order to be heard. If this is the case, make sure you do so politely and preface your interjection with “Excuse me for interrupting…” or similar. Politeness helps maintain a positive atmosphere that will go a long way to ensuring a productive meeting.

7. Keep your mobile out of sight

Professionals often place their phones on the table during meetings. Don’t do this. Even if silenced, your phone can be a source of distraction, especially if it lights up with incoming calls or messages. If your phone pulls you away from the agenda, even momentarily, your inattention can be perceived as rudeness and a failure to be fully engaged. Instead, keep your phone in your pocket and on vibrate mode. If you are awaiting an important call that cannot be avoided, inform your meeting colleagues of the situation before you start so that they are prepared. When the call comes in, ask politely to be excused and leave the room to take it when it comes in.

8. Don’t save all your questions for the end

Finally, make sure that you ask your questions at appropriate times throughout the course of the meeting. Avoid saving up a multitude of enquires that you fire out just as everyone is getting ready to leave. It may not be exactly impolite, but it certainly won’t endear you to your meeting colleagues who have other business to attend to.

As a final note, I want to say that as much as we may feel that meetings are unnecessary a lot of the time, they are still important forums that place you in front of clients, coworkers and bosses. They will be judging you from your performance within them. Conducting yourself professionally, politely and with consideration will help create a positive lasting impression.

Business development needs to be Growing your businessa fundamental aspect of any commercial organisation’s operations if it is to grow. Although it can feel like an overwhelming task, if your company is to expand, it is vital that you have a clear strategy in place to create new revenue. Not only that, but you need to tie this strategy to the calendar, as companies have specific times of the year when they receive their marketing budgets, with their planning and execution of activities being carried out accordingly.

There are numerous reasons why companies don’t pursue growth opportunities, with the typical excuses from managers and others with business development responsibilities including…

“…But I’m doing great with my existing clients”

“…It’s all very well, but I haven’t really got the time”

“…It’s on my mind… I’ll get to it eventually”

These excuses will stifle the growth of an organisation and confirm an attitude that may even affect relationships with existing clients. This is because companies who actively engage in business development tend to be more dynamic, have a more positive outlook and offer a better quality of service all round.
Here are ten key points that can help you drive your all-important business development strategy:

1. Know where you currently stand and where you want to get to. Be realistic, but also be ambitious.

2. Remember that there are clients out there who need your expertise. You should be confident with your pitch because you are offering a great service.

3. If you have a current business development strategy, plot the growth of your company over the years. Let the findings motivate you to hone your strategy and achieve even greater heights.

4. Study the market and establish the areas where most of your revenue is generated. Use this to look for similar opportunities and target new business.

5. Know your strengths. Use your credentials to distinguish yourself from the competition. Focus on the practices and services that you are most qualified for and experienced at delivering…

6. …but also be prepared to venture out of your comfort zone and tap into other opportunities. These can give you valuable experience in a new discipline, providing you with a lucrative new direction when your performance within it takes off.

7. Seek positioning and investment. Identify industries and potential clients where you can leverage your expertise and be perceived as a leader in your field.

8. Decide on what role you want your new clients to satisfy. Create a long-term vision for those who will be able to maximise your income, seek mutual growth and expansion, and can offer substantial remuneration.

9. Be on the look-out for new networking opportunities and carry this mindset with you at all times. Business development should never be a 9-5 proposition, but one that is 24/7.

10. Positive contacts and cross-references are key. These endorsers are already familiar with your background and can be supporters and influencers on your road to successful business development.

Good luck with growing your business!

One of the most commonly expressed criticisms about press releasesNewspaper lies is that they often bend the truth. Quotes are invented, uncomfortable statistics avoided, and a generally positive sheen is placed on every aspect of the story. Hand-in-hand with this cynicism is a perception that ‘hard news’ written by journalists for their newspapers is superior, with such pieces containing a higher degree of veracity than those that come from the pen of a PR professional.

But the pressure to be first with news can lead to some journalists writing factual pieces to cut corners, with the result that a news piece is released that has a level of truthfulness far below that of any positively spun press release. This phenomenon can be seen with even the most popular papers that have high circulation figures – papers where one should quite rightfully expect strict editorial standards.

One particular piece that was written for the UK’s Daily Mail is an interesting case. The article in question appeared in the Internet version of the paper, the MailOnline, which is the most visited newspaper website in the world. As of January 2014, the site had over 189.5 million visitors per month, with 11.7 million visitors each day.

In 2011, the paper was covering the appeal of a young woman’s conviction for murder. The initial trial had received a great amount of global media attention and the appeal verdict was being similarly keenly awaited around the world. In order to be first out on the wires, the Daily Mail journalist covering the court case had prepared two versions of their story, one for a guilty verdict and one for not guilty. In the initial confusion of the verdict coming in (not guilty), the paper sent out the wrong version of their release. The article, published on October 3 2011, was live for 90 seconds, after which it was replaced with the article reporting the correct outcome.

A subsequent UK Press Complaints Commission (PCC) report expressed concern over what had happened, both with the incorrect verdict going out and with additional elements of the reporting. These elements included quotes attributed to the prosecutors apparently reacting to the guilty verdict and the description of the reaction in the courtroom to the news. The news piece had stated that the defendant had “sank into her chair sobbing uncontrollably while her family and friends hugged each other in tears.” There were also other invented reactions of significant people in the case that were reported as fact.

The newspaper apologised for its mistake, published the correct verdict in print the following day and subsequently changed its practices regarding such ‘set and hold’ stories. The PCC recognised that the newspaper had acted swiftly and proportionately to correct the breach and acknowledged that the story had only been live for a short period of time. However, it remained “particularly concerned” about other aspects of the report, most particularly the fictitious account of what had happened in the courtroom. It stated that the attempt to present contemporaneous reporting of events in such a manner was “clearly not acceptable.”

The reason why I am including this little vignette as a blog? I guess it’s because I just wanted to show that it’s not always the PR professional who deserves bad press.

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