Friday, December 24, 2010

Happy Holidays to You and Yours from LaMothe Services, LLC

Every piece of the universe, even the tiniest little snow crystal, matters somehow. I have a place in the pattern, and so do you…Thinking of you this holiday season!-- T.A. Barron

Wishing everyone a wonderful holiday season!



Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Best of 2010 LaMothe Book Reviews:Surrogacy and Embryo, Sperm, & Egg Donation: What Were You Thinking?: Considering IVF & Third-Party Reproduction by Theresa M. Erickson

I was very excited to receive my copy of Surrogacy and Embryo, Sperm, & Egg Donation: What Were You Thinking?: Considering IVF & Third-Party Reproduction by Theresa M. Erickson. What I expected was a book filled with guidelines and tips for those who are venturing for the first time into the unknown territory of Third Party Family Building and I was not disappointed!

Education and research is key when considering any third party reproduction route and there are several books out on the market that can assist Intended Parents in making a sound decision. But along with reading books like Surrogacy and Embryo, Sperm, & Egg Donation: What Were You Thinking? visiting website's and researching all options, it is wise to surround oneself with seasoned professionals in the field of Assisted Reproductive Technology. Theresa Erickson is one of those highly sought after reproductive attorneys that can provide sound advice and guidance just as she provides in her books.
    
Surrogacy and Embryo, Sperm, & Egg Donation: What Were You Thinking? is divided into four 'fertility options' as stated in the title but there is so much more to be discovered here. With chapters on Disclosure, Reproductive Tourism, Agency vs Independent and Online Matching, Trust and Escrow Accounts, and much more, this book is a must read for any Intended or Recipient Parent considering working with a third party to build their family.

About the Author Theresa Erickson:

Theresa M. Erickson is one of the few attorneys in the United States who practices exclusively in reproductive and family formation law. The managing partner of Erickson Law, APLC, she is also the Founder and Chair of Conceptual Options, The Surrogacy and Egg Donation Center, and lives in San Diego, California.

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Best of 2010 LaMothe Book Reviews: One More Giraffe by Kim Noble

One More Giraffe by Kim Noble is such a sweet little book...and I do mean little...perfect for small hands and short for the easily distracted toddler. Nine pages, illustrated by Stephanie Gibson, bring home the struggles of two Giraffes who want to have their own family but no matter how hard they tried they just couldn't do it alone. Then a "lady giraffe" comes along and offers them a very special gift and from there, with the help of a kind doctor and a long wait, they have their family.


This book introduces the simple concept of egg donation to the very young and opens the door to the telling their own story.

I highly recommend any new parent via egg donation to have One More Giraffe by Kim Noble on their little ones book shelf.

Friday, December 17, 2010

The Best of 2010 LaMothe Book Reviews: Delivering Hope: The Exraordinary Journey of a Surrogate Mom by Pamela MacPhee

Delivering Hope: The Exraordinary Journey of a Surrogate Mom by Pamela MacPhee is truly inspiring. Although her story starts in 2000, little has changed within the surrogacy world especially for those carrying for their relatives. As Pam is telling her own story she is also sharing the very important steps needed to start and complete such a venture. She very candidly tells of her medical and psychological screenings, legal proceedings, the medications and embryo transfer as well as her relationship with her cousin and his wife plus other family and friends. Although not every woman who has ever experienced surrogacy has the same tale to tell, any reader will get an exceptional overview of all that surrogacy entails. Being a past Gestational Carrier myself (twice), I can honestly say that each surrogacy experience has it's own challenges and rewards!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Best of 2010 LaMothe Book Reviews:Why I'm So Special, A Book About Surrogacy by Carla Lewis-Long

If you are looking for a simplistic way to explain to your toddler about his or her birth from surrogacy,then Why I'm So Special, A Book About Surrogacy by Carla Lewis-Long is a great place to start. Approximately 40 pages long, Why I'm So Special focuses on a Mom and Dad who wanted a baby and after much trying they head for a doctor who tells them about surrogacy. Once the Mom and Dad meet their surrogate, Bonnie, the baby 'is put into Bonnie's tummy' and it starts to grow. With simple language and great illustrations, any toddler will come away with the feeling that he or she was already planned and Mom and Dad were able to make their dream come true by finding someone to help them. (In this case a Gestational Carrier)

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Best of 2010 LaMothe Book Reviews:Adopting: Sound Choices, Strong Families by Patricia Irwin Johnston

Adopting: Sound Choices, Strong Families by Patricia Irwin Johnston was published in 2008 and yet will remain timeless. This is a book that I would personally recommend for anyone who is wondering if adoption is even possible for their own unique circumstances. On a personal note, my own father was adopted in 1937 and knowing how he was found and accepted into his family and some of the struggles that my grandparents had back 'in the day' helps me relate to others considering adoption. Because Pat is living what she writes about, it makes this book easier to read and understand.


The introduction is the first place a reader learns what they are about to encounter between the covers of this thought provoking book (don't skip this!) and then you move onto the chapters....each and every one offering a tremendous amount of information but not in an overwhelming way. If you are a heterosexual couple, single or gay and are considering adoption to build your family then this is the FIRST book you should read. From Unraveling the Challenges for Family Building to a complete overview on adoption and finally how to make sound choices that fit your expectations (think financial, taxes, age of the child, open adoption, adoption services, home studies etc.) and the 'Real Thing'. These four parts bring all the important considerations to the reader in a way that is easy to understand with Pats personal thoughtful touch regarding infertility and adoption permeating each and every chapter. I also personally love the resource section at the end of each segment! So helpful! This is also a must read for professionals in the Infertility and Family Building Field.

About Patricia Irwin Johnston:

Patricia Irwin Johnston, MS, is an infertility and adoption educator and advocate with over 30 years of experience as both a volunteer (with local and national advocacy groups in the field) and as professional (publisher at Perspectives Press, Inc.) in the field of challenged family building. She is the author of several award-winning books (the most recent, Adopting: Sound Choices, Strong Families won the 2009 IPBA Benjamin Franklin Award as best self-help book) and has herself been given several awards, including being named a 2007 Angel in Adoption by the Congressional Coalition on Adoption. A member of an extended family directly touched through five generations by adoptions, Pat and her husband live in Indianapolis.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Best of 2010 LaMothe Book Reviews: Making Babies: The Definitive Guide to Improving Your Fertility and Reproductive Health by Jason Jackson N.D.

Some books that come to me in the mail don't hold much of a surprise for me. They are just what they seem, at least if you judge the book by it's cover. Making Babies: The Definitive Guide to Improving Your Fertility and Reproductive Health by Jason Jackson N.D. certainly has a lot more to offer then I expected. To start, Jason Jackson runs a successful Natural Medicine practice from Brisbane, Australia. He has lectured and consulted extensively on numerous health topics throughout Australia and overseas. Mr Jackson specializes in reproductive health and infertility and is recognized as one of Australia's leading Naturopaths in this area and is an authority in the field of Clinical Nutrition and Herbal Medicine.

The introduction is what really captured my attention: "Over the thousands of years that humans have been able to reproduce, it has been only the last fifty years or so in the industrialized world, with its nutrient-depleted foods, genetically engineered agriculture, chemical processing, drugs, radiation and pollution, that we are now observing massive impacts on our ability to bear offspring, particularly in affluent Western societies." The last fifty years?

With chapters on Male and Female Reproductive Overviews, Preparing for Conception, Stress and Fertility, and yes, Medically Assisted Reproductive Technology (which is considered 'Plan C') I found that Jason Jackson was very adept at covering everything that one would need to know to do just that, Make Babies.

What I was really happy about were the detailed black and white photos depicting not only the human anatomy but also of fibroids, PCOS, IVF Procedure and quite a few more that add value to each chapter.

I recommend Making Babies The Definitive Guide to Improving Your Fertility and Reproductive Health by Jason Jackson N.D. as a guide to your fertility wellness as well as a great infertility resource.

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Best of 2010 LaMothe Book Reviews: If at First You Don't Conceive: A Complete Guide to Infertility Dr. William Schoolcraft, MD, HCLD

If at First You Don't Conceive: A Complete Guide to Infertility from One of the Nation's Leading Clinics by Dr. William Schoolcraft, MD, HCLD, has been available since March 2010 but I have had the pleasure of receiving and reviewing an advanced copy and highly suggest that you order yours now!

There are two hundred and sixty five pages in If at First You Don't Conceive: A Complete Guide to Infertility from One of the Nation's Leading Clinics and each and everyone of them are worth reading. If you have just found out that you have a problem with fertility, this must be the first book you read. Not only does Dr. Schoolcraft talk about being your own best advocate he writes about the most common fertility challenges, the most common solutions for those challenges and covers the emotional challenges as well. I love the fact that he includes stories from his patient's which makes you feel connected to what this book is all about, validation, education, support and solutions.

If you are not familiar with Dr. WILLIAM SCHOOLCRAFT, MD, HCLD, he is a fertility specialist and researcher and is the director of the Colorado Center for Reproductive Medicine.

Friday, December 3, 2010

The Best of 2010 LaMothe Book Reviews: Birthing a Mother The Surrogate Body and the Pregnant Self By Dr. Elly Teman

Finally! A book that explores the relationship between surrogates (gestational carriers) and their Intended Mothers. Well written and full of real life examples, Dr. Teman draws on anthropological fieldwork among Jewish Israeli women and shares with her readers what many of us in the Third Party Family Building industry want all surrogates/carriers and their Intended Mothers to know: that being a Gestational Carrier has complex and varied emotions attached, not to the fetus but more likely to the intended mother and that, for the most part, the carrier is disassociated from the baby growing in her womb. Tamar, a surrogate, says it best "And that's why I say, I didn't just give birth to a baby, I gave birth to a mother." Shlomit, an Intended Mother also states, "I always say, my mother gave birth to me the first time, she gave me life. But my surrogate gave me life a second time."

Birthing a Mother is divided into four unique parts: Dividing, Connecting, Separating, and Redefining. The entire work here is brilliant and, as a past Gestational Carrier myself, I can relate to the many stories shared within each part quite easily. A reference of "a child through the mail" caught my attention and I thought about my first Intended Mother who, because of distance, was not a 'partner' in the pregnancy the way that she might have wanted. Perhaps she thought of her twins as mail order until I flew down to her so she could take part in the last few weeks of the pregnancy.

I am sure that Intended Parents will see their thoughts and fears reflected in Birthing a Mother The Surrogate Body and the Pregnant Self and be able to use this information learned to understand their own intimate relationship with their Gestational Carrier.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

December is The Best of the LaMothe Book Reviews! Lets Start with Budgeting for Infertility By Evelina Weidman Sterling & Angie Best-Boss

I am dedicating the month of December to the best of  my LaMothe Book Reviews for 2010. These are books that you should consider reading, buying for your professional library and promoting to your clients. If you have a book that you would like to recommend a book for a professional LaMothe Book Review please contact me at  mailto:info@LaMotheServices.com. 
Sharon


Budgeting for Infertility By Evelina Weidman Sterling & Angie Best-Boss : A LaMothe Book Review

Especially important in our current financial crisis, Budgeting for Infertility is a timely and accurate depiction of what it takes to pay for Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) to complete a family. I found this book not only assists with budgeting but also educating Intended Parents on all aspects of ART including treatment terms, how to choose a clinic, finding affordable fertility medications, understanding the financial options and even exploring adoption. I especially liked reading the comments from Intended Parents who know first hand what it's like to travel down the road of infertility treatments. I highly recommend this book for anyone starting out, or even in the middle of their own personal infertility journey. Well worth buying and passing along.

Synopsis

Having a baby can be one of the most wonderful times of your life -- but if you need help to conceive, it can swiftly become a staggeringly expensive undertaking. With the average cost of infertility treatments ranging from $35,000 to $85,000 in the United States (most of which is not covered by insurance companies), many women and couples find themselves having to make difficult choices about building their families.

Getting a grip on your finances is one of the few things you can do to regain control of this process. Infertility experts Evelina Weidman Sterling and Angie Best-Boss have created the ultimate guide to ensuring the most cost-effective care with the highest chances for success. With anecdotes, interviews, and advice from both doctors and patients, you can easily apply these specific money-saving strategies to your own unique situation.

Learn how to:

- Select a fertility clinic with a high rate of success

- Convince your insurance company to cover more of the costs

- Track down the most affordable fertility drugs

- Travel abroad for cheaper care or international surrogacy

- Avoid the scams and unnecessary expenses every step of the way

Personal and professional, Budgeting for Infertility is an invaluable resource that shows you how to pay for infertility treatment...and still have money in the bank for diapers and day care.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!!

LaMothe Services, LLC wishes you and yours a very Happy Thanksgiving!

For each new morning with its light,
For rest and shelter of the night,
For health and food, for love and friends,
For everything Thy goodness sends.

~Ralph Waldo Emerson



Monday, November 1, 2010

Important!! November is National Adoption Month

November is National Adoption Month, a month set aside each year to raise awareness about the adoption of children and youth from foster care. This year's National Adoption Month initiative targets adoption professionals by focusing on ways to recruit and retain parents for the 115,000 children and youth in foster care waiting for adoptive families.

Activities and celebrations are kicked off with a Presidential Proclamation, and while efforts made at the national level certainly help build awareness of adoption, participation in local programs, events, and activities by those of us with a direct connection to adoption can often be the most effective way to promote positive perceptions, debunk the myths, and draw attention to the tens of thousands of children in foster care who wait and hope for permanent families.

Along with the month long celebration is the very special Adoption Day. November 20, 2010, will mark the 11th National Adoption Day. It's a special day because thousands of adoptions are finalized in court rooms all across the United States.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Password Issues By Toby Grundtner

Nightmare -
Over the last few months I have been getting a lot of calls from people who have had their AOL/Yahoo/MSN and other accounts hacked into.

Whoever is hacking into the account is then changing the password so the real owner cannot get into it. Then the hackers start sending SPAM email to everyone in the owner's address book.

As you can imagine, it turns into a nightmare for the rightful owner of the account. Here are some tips to avoid this scenario:

1. Use Strong Passwords -

You wouldn't believe how many people tell me that their password is the word "password". This is one of the top 10 most popular passwords in the world. Other popular passwords are 123456, qwerty, abc123, letmein, monkey, myspace1, password1, link182 and (your first name). It would take a normal desktop PC mere seconds to crack these passwords. Choose something more complicated. How good is your password? Go to HowSecureIsMyPassword.net to find out. You'll be surprised.

2. Avoid the "Phishing" Net -

Phishing is the term for someone trying to gain access tour information through dishonest methods. "We need you to verify account info" and "Please log in to collect your reward" are just a few of the more popular ways hackers are getting your information. A bank, credit card company, etc will never ask you personal/sensitive information via email. DON'T FALL FOR IT! When in doubt, call your account holders directly.

3. Use Sentences to Make it Easy/Secure -

Use phrases to make it easy. "I Love My Canines Too Much!" could be made into a password of "ILMK9S2MCH!". According to HowSecureIsMyPassword.net it would take 12 thousand years to crack that password!

By following these steps you can keep all of your accounts safe and secure.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Tune IN!! On October 21, The Surrogacy Lawyer Radio will Interview Sharon LaMothe, Author of “Surrogacy Helps a Family Grow,” and Tracy Armato, Conceptual Options Program Director

The Surrogacy Lawyer Radio Program Presents “Talking about Surrogacy to the Children of Surrogates”

On October 21, The Surrogacy Lawyer Radio will interview Sharon LaMothe, author of “Surrogacy Helps a Family Grow,” and Tracy Armato, Conceptual Options Program Director

When a woman decides to become a surrogate mother, she will have many conversations: with members of the surrogacy agency team, the intended parents, the medical and legal professionals involved in her care and with her spouse or partner and other adult relatives and friends, to name a few. But one of the most important conversations she will have is with her children, so she can explain the surrogacy process to them.

On the Thursday, October 21 episode of The Surrogacy Lawyer: Your Guide to IVF and Third Party Reproduction, Theresa Erickson, Esq., will be discussing how surrogate mothers should talk to their children about their pregnancies for another family. Ms. Erickson will interview Sharon LaMothe, a former gestational surrogate and author of the upcoming book Surrogacy Helps a Family Grow, and Tracy Armato, program director of Conceptual Options, The Surrogacy and Egg Donation Center and past surrogate. This episode will air on at 11AM PST/2PM EST on Voice America.

Sharon LaMothe is currently the owner of Infertility Answers, Inc., and the creator of two blogs about third party reproduction. She also owns LaMothe Services, LLC, an assisted reproductive technology business solutions service. Tracy Armato is responsible for overseeing the daily operations of Conceptual Options. Having been a gestational surrogate, Tracy has viewed third party reproduction from both angles and is a key support figure for surrogates.

“As a surrogacy lawyer and owner of a surrogacy and egg donation agency, I am excited about this new tool to help surrogate mothers talk to their children about the amazing gift they are giving another set of parents,“ says attorney Erickson. “Having open and honest conversations about third party reproduction is essential, whether you are a surrogate or egg, sperm or embryo donor. I look forward to advancing the conversation about this important topic.”

About Theresa Erickson, Esq.

Ms. Erickson is the managing partner of Erickson Law and the founder and chair of Conceptual Options, The Surrogacy and Egg Donation Center. In addition, Ms. Erickson is the author of the newly released Surrogacy and Embryo, Sperm, & Egg Donation: What Were You Thinking? Erickson was motivated to write her second book so she could educate potential intended parents, as well as the women who become surrogates and egg donors, about what all parties need to know if they are going to become involved in third party reproduction.

Attorney Erickson is a globally recognized expert in this specialized area of law and is a board member of the American Fertility Association and the legal director of Parents Via Egg Donation. For more information, please visit www.ericksonlaw.net and www.conceptualoptions.com.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Remember! November is National Diabetes Awareness Month!

Because October is such a big month for Brest Cancer Awareness we sometimes are burned out by November! Don't let this happen to you! November is a great opportunity to share with your clients information about diabetes and how it affects fertility. For example:


Diabetes Commonly Occurs in Association with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)

Increased Susceptibility to Urinary and Genital Tract Infections

Elevated Blood Glucose Is Teratogenic To the Growing Fetus

High Blood Glucose Level Causes Accelerated Fetal Growth

Psychological and Physical Effects on Sex


Although the entire month of November is dedicated to National Diabetes Awareness Month, November 14th is World Diabetes Day.

I plan on sharing posts on my other Blogs, http://surrogacy101.blogspot.com and http://infertilityanswers.typepad.com/surrogacy_101 regarding Diabetes during the month of November and how it can affect fertility.

Sharon LaMothe

Sharon LaMothe of LaMothe Services and Infertility Answers to Attend the ASRM Meeting in Denver

The American Society of Reproductive Medicine is holding it's 66th annual meeting in Denver this month! I will be attending and arriving in Denver this Sunday the 24th and staying until Wednesday the 27th. I am thrilled to be attending the Opening Ceremony Sunday evening and networking with some of the most hard working and knowledgeable professionals in the Infertility Field. Some of the great seminars I will be attending include Open Vs Closed Gamete Donation, Wrinkled Parents; Medical, Ethical and Psychological Issues of Parenting at an Older Age, and Infertility as a Public Health Priority. There are so many opportunities to meet people that I have "friended" on Facebook or accepted into my network on LinkedIn. If you would like to meet with me, just send me an e-mail at SurroMatchFL@aol.com or give me a call at 727-458-8333.

As for MY clients that I consult with, know that I attend these events, meetings and seminars around the country so that I can share what I have learned with you through my blogs, posts, and conversations. In this time of social networking, spending hours online and answering e-mail, I believe that it is so important to have face-time with clients and other professionals in this ever growing field of infertility.

Please contact me if you plan to be attending the ASRM or visiting Seattle, WA where my offices are located. If you need my consulting services remember that our first conversation is free so that we can assess how best to use my expertise to help you reach your goals.

I hope to hear from you soon!

Sharon LaMothe

Monday, October 11, 2010

ASRM Congratulates IVF Pioneer and Nobel Prize Winner, Robert Edwards (as posted October 4th 2010)

ASRM released the following statement today (October 4th) when we learned that Professor Robert Edwards had been awarded the Nobel prize in physiology or medicine.

ASRM Congratulates IVF Pioneer and Nobel Prize Winner, Robert Edwards

Statement attributable to William Gibbons, MD President, American Society for Reproductive Medicine

"On behalf of our members and their patients, it is a thrill to extend our heartfelt congratulations to Professor Robert Edwards for his receipt of the Nobel Prize.

The development of In Vitro Fertilization truly revolutionized infertility care, allowing millions of patients to become parents. It also allowed us to further develop our understanding of human reproduction and development, leading further advances.

Professor Edwards and Doctor Steptoe tackled not only formidable scientific obstacles in order to make this advance, but worked in the face of significant social opposition as well. We are pleased the Nobel committee has chosen to recognize this very important work."

ASRM's affiliate, the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology publishes the latest assisted reproductive technology data on its website, www.sart.org.

And see, http://asrm.org/news/article.aspx?id=2512.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Breast Cancer Myths: Provided by the National Breast Cancer Foundation, Inc.

Don't let yourself be a victim of misinformation and the myths generated by fear.

BREAST CANCER MYTHS


The Myth
Finding a lump in your breast means you have breast cancer.

The Truth
If you discover a persistent lump in your breast or any changes in breast tissue, it is very important that you see a physician immediately. However, 8 out of 10 breast lumps are benign, or not cancerous. Sometimes women stay away from medical care because they fear what they might find. Take charge of your health by performing routine breast self-exams, establishing ongoing communication with your doctor, and scheduling regular mammograms.


The Myth: Men do not get breast cancer.
The Truth
Quite the contrary. Each year it is estimated that approximately 1,700 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer and 450 will die. While this percentage is still small, men should also give themselves regular breast self-exams and note any changes to their physicians.

The Myth
A mammogram can cause breast cancer to spread.

The Truth
A mammogram, or X-ray of the breast, is one of the best tools available for the early detection of breast cancer. It CANNOT cause cancer to spread, nor can the pressure put on the breast from the mammogram. Do not let tales of other people's experiences keep you from having a mammogram. Base your decision on your physician's recommendation and be sure to discuss any questions or concerns with your doctor.

The Myth
Having a family history of breast cancer means you will get it.

The Truth
While women who have a family history of breast cancer are in a higher risk group, most women who have breast cancer have no family history. If you have a mother, daughter, sister, or grandmother who had breast cancer, you should have a mammogram five years before the age of their diagnosis, or starting at age 35.

The Myth
Breast cancer is contagious.

The Truth
You cannot catch breast cancer or transfer it to someone else's body. Breast cancer is the result of uncontrolled cell growth in your own body.However, you can protect yourself by being aware of the risk factors and following an early detection plan.
The Myth
Knowing you have changes in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene can help you prevent breast cancer.

The Truth
While alterations in these genes in men and women can predispose an individual to an increased risk of breast cancer, only 5% to 10% of patients actually have this mutation. This is not an absolute correlation. Like your age or having a family history of breast cancer, it's a factor you just can't control. But you can let your physician know, perform regular breast self-exams, and focus on the fact your chances of not having this disease are greater than 90%.

The Myth
Antiperspirants and deodorants cause breast cancer.

The Truth
Researchers at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) are not aware of any conclusive evidence linking the use of underarm antiperspirants or deodorants and the subsequent development of breast cancer.

For more information, please visit:
http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/Risk/AP-Deo.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Using Social Media to Meet People by Chris Brogan (**Read Before Attending the ASRM Conference!)

We, in the Business of Infertility...or better said....The Business of Helping People Reach Their Dreams of Becoming Parents, are about to have one of our HUGE annual conferences in Denver. The American Society of Reproductive Medicine holds a conference each year that attracts thousands from the infertility industry and the reason it attracts thousands is due to the fact that everyone who is anyone attends. The majority of attendees are doctors, fertility clinic staff members, third party agency owners, pharmaceutical representatives, reproductive attorneys, psychologists or mental health professionals just to name a few. All want to learn, share, reconnect and network. But what happens the rest of the year? We use social media. But do we use it well enough?

Below is an article from Chris Brogan that may help you make the best use of your social networking before and after you attend the ASRM conference. ( October 23-27, 2010. Place: Colorado Convention Center, Denver, Colorado, USA)
 
I hope to see YOU there!
Sharon
 
Conferences, job interviews, parties, and other events that bring people together to meet for the first time can be tricky for some people. Or what about when you are looking for people that share your interests regardless of location. On one hand, you have people who are a little shy, and unsure what to say upon meeting someone for the first time. On the other, you have people who aren’t especially shy, but who don’t like meeting someone cold. Social media tools are perfect for this.


Before Events

If you’re going to an event, start checking around to see who’s attending. Look for an Upcoming entry or a Facebook group. Most modern conferences put these up as matter of course (and if you RUN a conference, consider this step). From there, see if you are already friends (social network definition) with any one. If not, consider friending them based on the fact you’re heading to the same event.

Other places to check for event communities are on Yahoo! Groups and Google Groups. You might have some other recommendations for this one, too.

Before Interviews, and Related to Events

Log into LinkedIN and see what you can find about your interviewer, people who work at the prospective new company, and other companies in the industry. It’s a way to build a picture of the landscape without relying on other people’s information. For instance, if the company you’re thinking of working at turns up zero results in a search on LinkedIN, it might mean that the culture is less forward-thinking or at least not social media equipped. If you look at a few profiles that come up in the search, and note that people are only there a year (two or three samples, maybe), then perhaps the place is big on competition, or maybe not really rewarding to long term employees.

Related to events, once you know someone’s going, see if you can find them in Facebook (maybe MySpace), LinkedIN, Twitter, and see if you can search out a blog by putting their name and blog in a Google search. Oh, and don’t forget Flickr.

Flickr is a PERFECT tool for searching out info on people. I’ve known some people who don’t use their headshot as an icon on any social network, but a little Flickr searching later, I realized I could point them out at an event. (By the way, if you don’t know this, that’s why I put LOTS of pictures of myself on my website. It’s because I want you to be able to find me at events. Not because I’m vain, though I guess you could argue that one, too).

Conversation Pieces

From here, once you find some shreds of this person or some people online, you’ve built yourself a means by which to seek out similar points of interest, tangential conversational topics, and maybe even potential business opportunities you can discuss, should the moment arise. That’s the beauty of social media and social networks. They let you better understand the people who participate.

If You Find NOTHING About People

That can be a conversation starter, too. “I didn’t find you on Facebook. What do you think of those social networks?” You can assume that the person isn’t especially convinced of the value of social networks and making media, but I wouldn’t lead outright with that. Maybe this person is a prolific blogger behind the firewall. Maybe they’re using an alias. It took me a little TOO long to connect Genuine on Twitter with Jim Turner of One By One Media. They were two different people in my head until spending some time at an event.

After Events

Stealing a page from Jeff Pulver (who is a MASTER at building community in the real world and online), after events is a great time to “plumb up” all the various social media connections. Get connected in Facebook, maybe LinkedIN, in Twitter, Flickr, and wherever else you tend to use. Consider reading their blog, adding it to your reader for a while. Make it a chance to learn more about the person now that you’re in their orbit. Do what Laura “Pistachio” Fitton does and invite them into your Twitter Village. The point is to get to know them now that you’ve met in person.

Reflect on YOUR Presence

Some people are debating the value of Facebook right now as a business platform. At the very baseline, fill out your profile. Give information that you wouldn’t mind your employer seeing. Not because you have to self-censor, but in this world where people use the tools that are available, your Facebook page and your Twitter stream and all these various artifacts you’re creating are available for people to search.

At the same time, once you get over the paralysis of the above, make sure you put enough of yourself into your profiles that people can get these conversational hooks to communicate with you at events. If you’re strictly business at your conference appearances, try to indicate that in your profile. The point is, once you realize that you can use these tools to build real world relationships, consider the effect in both directions (you finding them; them finding you).

First Moves Are Yours

The conversation itself is up to you, and no, I don’t tell you how to not be shy at an event directly (though one way you can do this is to find your way into circles of people on the periphery, and look for your conversational in). But with some of this prep out of the way ahead of time, you’ll find yourself a lot more prepared than when you used to show up at these events “cold.”

Monday, August 23, 2010

A Public Thank YOU for SMART ART XI

I had the pleasure to once again attend the SMART ART XI conference in Las Vegas from August 5-7 th and, as usual, it was a wonderfully educational experience. I was able to present at two luncheon round tables as well as attend all of the sessions. I want to publicly thank MERCK for their unrestricted educational grant to make this conference possible! It would be a shame to lose such a valuable asset (and we would have) if  MERCK hadn't stepped up to the plate with their funding! I also want to thank Letters and Sciences who is the sponsor of SMART ART (as they have each year) and to all of the staff that works so hard to make sure that everything runs smoothly. I want to send a special THANK YOU out to Sally Zahuta who is the program manager of Letters & Sciences.

I encourage anyone who wants to learn more about what is happening in the world of Assisted Reproduction, (legally, medically and psychologically) to take advantage of this wonderful opportunity when it comes around again next year!

I am already planning to attend!
With a Greatful Heart,
Sharon LaMothe

Friday, August 20, 2010

Blogger or Mind-Reader? Six Ways to Give Your Audience Exactly What It Wants by Skellie and ProBlogger

ProBlogger readers are absolutely spoilt when it comes to great articles about coming up with post ideas. But what about thinking up the post topics your audience has been craving?

In this post I’ll be outlining six strategies you can use to determine exactly what kind of posts your audience wants to see on your blog.

1. Listen to comments

One thing you might have noticed is that commenters will sometimes ask you to expand on a section of your post. Either they wanted more information on a specific point, a more thorough exploration of one of your ideas or a clear explanation of something that’s confused them. Instead of answering in comment form, you can turn your answer in a post (and use the answer to drive more traffic back to your original article.)

2. Listen to emails

Part of being a blogger is receiving and answering reader questions by email. These questions can be a great source of ideas for posts your audience is craving.

After receiving the tenth or so email on how I find and use great Flickr images in posts on my own blog, I decided to write a complete guide to the process after sensing it was something a lot of readers were interested in. The resulting post went on to become one of the most popular articles I’ve ever written!

Listening to reader emails can result in some fantastic post ideas.

3. Ask them

A fairly obvious option, but one I don’t see many bloggers explore. Ask your readers to submit ideas for posts they’d like to see on your blog. Do this every couple of months and you’ll have a list of ideas you can turn to when your well of inspiration runs dry. If you notice several ideas on the same topic or area you can bet that it’s something quite a few of your readers would like to see more of.

4. Turn wants and needs into post-topics

Grab a notebook, open to a new page and put a pen in one hand. Write down all the possible niche-related wants and needs of your target audience.

If your target audience is interested in debt elimination, for example, their wants and needs cloud might look like this:

To develop a workable budget and stick to it.

To spend less without sacrificing quality of life.

To find cheaper versions of the things they need.

To find new ways to make a bit of extra money.

To avoid getting into future debt.

To become debt-free as soon as possible.

To eliminate unnecessary expenses.

If we give each want/need its own space on the page, we can start to branch out post ideas from each one. Because each of these post ideas is based on something our target audience wants, we can almost guarantee that it will be useful to them.

5. What do you want?

You’d be hard pressed to find a baseball blogger who’s not into baseball, a copywriting blogger who’s not into copywriting, a travel blogger who doesn’t like travel, and so on. You are part of your target audience. The things you’d like to see someone else in your niche write may just be what your target audience is also searching for.

Expanding on this premise, you can use your own niche experiences, problems and triumphs as fodder for blog posts. If you struggle with something related to your niche on a daily basis, maybe your readers are struggling with it too? If you’re worked out a solution to a problem related to your niche — something you were experiencing — maybe your readers would find the solution truly useful themselves?

If there’s a skill you’ve always wanted to learn, a problem you’ve always wanted to solve or a resource list you’ve always hoped to see, stop waiting for someone else to use your good idea, execute it yourself and turn the result into a truly useful blog post.

6. Reverse engineer what worked

Look at your blog’s top ten most popular post. They’re examples of posts that your target audience truly wanted to read. You can build on their success by adapting the same format to new content.

Let’s say one of your most popular posts was a list of ways to make money with eBay. You could capitalize on the success of the first article by creating an updated version (25 More Ways to Make Money With eBay), or invert the format by taking the opposite tack (25 Ways to Guarantee You’ll Lose Money With eBay) and outlining don’ts rather than dos.

Another effective strategy is to apply the same post format and headline formula to a new subject. Your list of 10 Insane Firefox Extensions for Web Designers could be followed by a list of 10 Insane Firefox Extensions for Entrepreneurs, or Journalists, or anything/anyone you can imagine (as long as it’s of interest to your target audience).

The crux of this strategy lies in combining what has worked well previously with something fresh, new and interesting.

Points to review:

Find ideas in comments.


Find ideas in emails.


Ask your readers what they want.


Use your audience’s wants and needs as a springboard for post topics.


Find inspiration in your own wants and needs.


Transfer the best qualities of your most popular posts into something new.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Essence of Your Business Story by David Krueger MD

What's your promise?

The answer: Your brand.

Your brand is an organizer for everything you do, for every connection with potential clients and readers, including website, blog, articles. Your brand triggers meaning and connections; it carries its own value. Brand awareness is the link in the consumer's brain between the brand name and certain associations about the product or service.

What's the opposite of a brand?

The answer: Generic.

Our clients—and potential clients—consciously and unconsciously take notes on how we brand and value ourselves, charge what we're worth, and handle the business of coaching. How we handle this will determine if we have clients, and how successful we—and they—will be.

Brand, value, fees, and best practices constitute four of the greatest challenges for the business aspects for Professional Coaches. And it is crucial to present a model of professionalism as we work with clients and in every aspect of our business.

Neuroeconomic studies show that we make purchase decisions at the midbrain level due to the psychological impact and associations we have to a brand. These midbrain preferences and decisions occur seconds before the choice and action registers in the logical brain—the prefrontal cortex. Once your unconscious mind makes an emotional commitment to a “yes” or a “no” it sends the conscious mind on the mission to gather all the logical reasons to support that decision. This rationalization is called confirmation bias.

Whoever has the best story wins. Storytelling excellence is not something you just pick up along the way. It is an art, a craft, and a discipline to be mastered.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Join Me, Sharon LaMothe, at SMART ART XI in Las Vegas! There is Still Time!

Good news! Due to very recent cancellations, registration has reopened for additional nurses to attend the August 5-7 SMART ART XI CNE meeting. If you have colleagues and friends who had hoped to attend but thought missed the registration deadline, now is their opportunity to register. The registration website is www.123enroll.com/SMARTART.

Additional good news: the room block at the special negotiated rate has been extended through Monday July 26th. If you have not yet made hotel reservations, take advantage of these special rates and register by Monday July 26. A direct link... to reservations at the Renaissance Las Vegas Hotel is available on the registration website at www.123enroll.com/SMARTART. Enter the group code smasmaa to receive the discounted rate of $109 + tax. Reservations can also be made by calling toll free 800-750-0980 or locally 702-784-5700. Refer to the SMART ART Room Block. Book soon - after July 26, any remaining rooms in the SMART ART room block must be released.

Sharon LaMothe


Infertility Answers, Inc.

http://infertilityanswers.org/

LaMothe Services, LLC

http://lamotheservices.com/

727-458-8333

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Silent Words That Work By Will Craig


We live in a culture that supports the tennis-volley-approach to conversation: 'You say something, and quickly, I say something next.' This happens almost without pause or without us taking a breath.

We are all guilty of formulating what we are going to say next, even before the person speaking stops sharing their thoughts. What if the words you did not speak were more powerful than the words you did speak?

Here's a challenge for you: Get comfortable with being still. Don't be afraid of silence. When you get good at this, the quality of your coaching improves. Don't be afraid of the struggle your client may be going through during the silence in your coaching sessions.

Quiet moments provide the ideal environment for growth and insight. Silence is where some of the best growth happens and when some of the best insights appear that would have otherwise been missed during our chatter.

Without having to work very hard—and by just settling into the silence—your client can suddenly leap into a new frame of mind. Perhaps this is all they need to feel your time together has been well spent.

Silence is Golden

Building on this same idea, the "silent words" you say to yourself are extremely powerful. How might you benefit yourself and your clients with these strategies? This week, turn silence into gold!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

10 Ways to Get Your Comments Blocked or Deleted From Daily Blog Tips

Leaving comments on other blogs is one of the most efficient ways to promote your own blog, and to network with fellow readers and blog owners.

Given the rise of blog spam, however, getting your comments approved is not as easy as it sounds. Below you’ll find 10 ways to get your comments blocked or deleted (so yeah, avoid them if you can).

1. Use a keyword as your name

The field “Name” on the comment form refers to your name. It doesn’t refer to your blog name, and it certainly doesn’t refer to keyword you are trying to optimize for. Writing something like “John Doe – CarsBlog.com” is fine for most blog owners, but “Cheap Car Parts” would flag you as spam from miles away.

2. Use sensitive keywords in your comment

Even if you comment is a legitimate one, you should avoid using sensitive keywords like viagra, loans, and blackjack, because the spam filter of the blog will probably block your comment.

3. Use HTML to make your comment stand out

Sure, you want to make sure that people will read your comment and visit your blog after that, but don’t try to achieve that by using the bold or italic typefaces throughout your comment.

4. Write in capital letters

The same is true for writing in CAPITAL LETTERS. The analogy for this would be people trying to have a nice conversation while you come screaming at them with your thoughts on the issue. The blog owner will probably just delete your comment.

5. Write a one-line comment

Maybe you are in a hurry, maybe you just want to get a link back to your blog. Either way, if all you write is “Great post!” or “I will certainly try to use that information!”, there are good chances that your comment will be deleted.

6. Write a comment before reading the post

If it becomes clear to the blog owner that you wrote your comment without even reading or understanding his post, he’ll probably just delete it. Even if he approves your comment you’ll look a bit stupid, so make sure to read the post before commenting.

7. Include a link to a dubious page in your comment

Including a link to a related post inside your comment is usually fine. However, you should clarify where the link is pointing to. If the blog owner gets suspicious about the link he’ll probably just delete the whole comment to be on the safe side.

8. Include a second link to your site at the end of your comment

Most blog platforms allow you to include the URL of your website when leaving a comment, and that URL will be used to link your name to your site. Some people, however, like to reinforce that by signing-off their comments with their name and with a second link to their sites. Needless to say this practice makes the comment look spammy.

9. Use foul language in your comment

Expressing your opinion is fine, but don’t include foul language in your comment, even if you are upset or annoyed by something in the post. This is one of the quickest ways to get your comment deleted.

10. Attack the author or other commenters

Criticism is fine, and even appreciated by most bloggers. Personal attacks and confrontations, however, will only make you sound like a troll, reducing the chances of getting your comments approved.

What else would you add to this list?

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Where is the Care in Conventional Health Care? by Guest Blogger Dr. Christina Grant

My entire orientation to health and wellbeing is from a holistic perspective so it astounds me to see the majority of our population allowing themselves to be “treated” by a system run by insurance companies and pharmaceutical giants. These industry giants dictate scientific study and treatments geared toward the ultimate goal of selling us something, not healing us.

Our system of medicine is excellent in emergencies and immediate life-saving procedures. If there is an emergency, I want conventionally-trained doctors on my case. However, beyond emergencies, there is nothing done to heal the whole person or address the root cause of an ailment. We are separated into little parts, our humanity cast aside. The incredible power and influence of the mind, thoughts, beliefs, and emotions to make us sick, and help us heal, is ignored.

When we arrive at a hospital or doctor’s office we are most often viewed as a file folder, an insurance card, and someone who needs to be dealt with as fast as possible because there are just too many other important things to do, like get on to the next patient (i.e. bring in more money), make sure to avoid being sued for malpractice, and bill insurance.

My mother is in her 70’s now. She said when she went in for a physical exam the doctor seemed puzzled that she wasn’t on any prescription drugs - not that she would be, since she is in great health, exercises daily, and eats well. I wonder why a doctor would be surprised that a 70-something person is not on a drug. Is this because almost everyone over a certain age has multiple bottles of prescription pills sitting in their cabinets?

I would like to see more holistic-oriented doctors coming out of medical school. The training for doctors is heavy on left-brain proof and scientific method, very light on heart, intuition, and what it means to be in service to others: the human side of healing. To be more holistic would require a different orientation from doctors: less devotion to needing everything proven by linear, limited science before it can be acknowledged, and more of an open mind to the mysteries and complexities of how a human being can heal; less of a need to get rich while fostering a desire to serve and be a healer.

Our training in this society is to trust science and refute intuition and inner knowing. I understand this, being trained in the system myself. It is valuable to have facts and figures we can see and know. It was drummed into me that you don’t say a word about anything unless there have been studies to back it up. But I’ve learned in practice with real, live human beings the deeper value of keeping the heart open and engaged, the mind flexible to human mysteries – to keep active within the thought, “Although I am well-trained and understand the value of science, I don’t have all the answers and am willing to entertain the improbable.”

What we now call “alternative” medicine is traditional medicine, used far longer than the very recent advent of a multi-billion dollar industry with profits on the mind. (Note that Americans seem less healthy now than ever before.) Only lately has it begun to make its way into conventional medicine. Reiki, acupuncture, massage, prayer, and energy healing are inching their way in - thankfully so - to help patients get something deeper that can touch the core of who they are, where true healing exists.

In my community there are multitudes of holistic healing resources including medical doctors that are aware of holistic practices and utilize these resources with their patients. My own conventional medical doctor is holistic in his approach. His office is quiet, comfortable, and warm. Not overwhelmed by frenzy, nor the standard tacky medical office furniture, or white, stark walls and artificial light, the environment itself puts people at ease. I appreciate that he is very conscious of the fact that a real, live, human being has sat down in the chair next to him. He sits, leans back, relaxes, looks at the patient as if he has all the time in the world to listen. And that he does, with his heart. He is gentle, wise, and not the least bit arrogant, rushed, or too busy. He never gives the impression that he is on a higher plane. Consequently, he is revered in the community – a beloved figure.

One of the ways we can foster more doctors like this is to balance the male-dominated medical system (left-brain, linear) with the ancient, traditional healing arts of the feminine (right-brain, intuitive). And that is another subject for another day, because there is much to say about it. But keep it in mind. The only reason we’ve lost our connection to extremely powerful, nurturing, effective, and deeply healing practices is because we pushed the feminine underground. She’s on her way back, not to dominate, but to integrate. Meanwhile, seek out holistic, heart-centered practices to complement your healing the next time you have the need to see your doctor. You just might find the whole medical system works better for you when you have options and various healers devoted to your well-being.

Dr. Christina Grant is a holistic healer and spiritual counselor who helps people attain well-being, greater insight, and inner peace in their lives. Her writing is published nationwide. To send a message, schedule an appointment, or sign up for her e-newsletter, go to www.christinagrant.com.

Monday, June 21, 2010

10 Things Your Blog Doesn’t Need by Jill Smokler

Adding things to your newly created blog is pretty cool, right? But be careful, there are things that you’d better leave out. Below you’ll find 10 of them.

1. Auto-Music: Nobody, and I mean, nobody wants to hear it. I vow never to subject you to my love of Barry Gibbs and Barbara Streisand duets and implore you to extend the same courtesy to me. Please.

2. Animated Gifs: Sure, they were cool in the late 90s. Now? Not so impressive. Let’s leave them over at My Space where they belong.

3. Tiny Type: If I have to strain my eyes to read your post, I’m just not going to. No matter how good your blog is.

4. Comment Verification: Install a spam preventing plug-in. It will take care of the spam and save people the effort of typing out nonsense words, or even worse, solve math problems just to leave a comment. Even if you’re on Blogger and have to delete a spam comment or two every now and then, it’s a small sacrifice and courteous to your readers. And it will keep them coming back and commenting again.

5. Spelling & Grammar Errors: Proofread. And then proofread again. Preview your post before you publish it. Even have someone else glance at it. Of course, we all make mistakes, but do your best to publish a post free of obvious errors.

6. Badges of prizes and awards you won: Sure, they’re flattering when you start blogging, but if you’ve been around a while your sidebars will start looking like Boy Scout vests. Dedicate a separate page for them and clean up those sidebars. You’ll look no less popular, and the sidebar police will thank you.

7. Regurgitated Content: If you said something that bears repeating, link back to that original post. Your readers will know if you keep spitting out the same old content and Google frowns upon duplicate posts. It’s bad idea all around.

8. Flashy Backgrounds: Your blog is not the Vegas strip. Black backgrounds with flashing lights and neon colors are not only hideous and hard to read, but they also take away what people are really at your blog to see: Great content.

9. Lies: It may be tempting to make things up to gain more traffic, but don’t. You will be found out, and you will look like an idiot.

10. Plagiarism: The only worse thing than blatantly making stuff up? Stealing other people’s stuff. It’s pretty much the biggest no-no there is in blog-land. If you want to quote someone, go for it and link back to them. Otherwise, you’re history.

Jill Smokler blogs about parenting; the good, the bad and the scary at Scary Mommy. She can be found at on Twitter as @scarymommy.

Monday, June 14, 2010

6 Ways to be Kind to Your Readers from Bamboo Forest

Kindness can go a long way, regardless of what you are trying to accomplish. If you are trying to build a popular blog, well, you might wanna be kind to your readers, as this will improve the chances of them coming back and becoming part of your community. Below you’ll find 6 tips for this purpose.

1. Kill or shorten introductions. They are often unnecessary and can make your post longer but not better. Every time you find yourself writing an intro, ask yourself if it’s necessary for the reader to understand what you’re trying to say. If it’s not, then just cut to the chase.

2. Champion quality over quantity. Sometimes the obsession for a certain amount of posts begins to infiltrate our consciousness. People are reading our posts for what they have to say, not because you just wrote another one. So if you’re only capable of writing one good post a week, then stick with that. Your readers will respect you for it. This concept is especially important to observe when you consider the competition. Your posts have to compete with other A-listers in your niche. How’s a mediocre post going to do that?

3. Commit to having every post be entertaining. For example, I had a long blogging hiatus. While I could have written a post explaining to my audience that it’s going to be a while before I write another post, I concluded that would be the most boring post in the world.

That said, when you just have to get that informational post out there–make it as entertaining as humanly possible regardless of the boring nature of the subject. Humor can work well here.

4. Write clearly. The sign of a great writer is when their readers can start from the beginning of the page and get to the bottom without having to read any sentence twice. Do you have that kind of clarity and simplicity in your writing?

5. Keep your posts as short as possible. Blogging is not about us the authors–it’s aboutthem, the readers. So if you have a post that “requires” 1000 words, see if you can be extremely concise and get it down to 700. Or to put it another way,

“The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.”~Hans Hofmann

6. Step up your game. This isn’t the most conventional way to be kind to your readers, but blogging is highly competitive. Show your readers on a regular basis that your writing is getting more concise, more compelling as well as more entertaining. The best way to do this is to read more, write more and think more. Every few months your writing should not only get better, but it should also become more creative. You should be evolving all the time.

“You can raise the bar or you can wait for others to raise it, but it’s getting raised regardless” says Seth Godin.

What will you do this week to show more kindness to your readers?

About the Author: Bamboo Forest created Tick Tock Timer, an online timer that helps make bloggers ridiculously productive. He also writes for Pun Intended, a blog that’s hilarious and enlightened.

Monday, June 7, 2010

10 Ways to Convert Your Blog Visitors Into Dedicated Readers by Oleg Mokhov

Do you want your blog to grow, increase your readership and subscriber numbers, have your content constantly spread, and make more money? Then you need to convert your blog visitors into dedicated readers.

Visitors are those that stop by your blog, skim through an article or two, and then leave – never to return. Boo. They’re of no use.

But dedicated readers regularly read your blog, spread your articles, leave high-quality comments, and buy your products. Yay! More of these, please.

Your mission is to convert your blog visitors into dedicated readers.

What good is 1,000 visitors a day if most of them don’t return? Traffic figures alone might make you feel good, but it doesn’t get you any desired results.

It’s all about quality over quantity. 100 dedicated readers beats out 1,000 passer-by visitors.

Here are 10 ways to convert your blog visitors into dedicated readers:

1. Be Yourself

This is slap-in-the-forehead common sense. But some bloggers try to be someone they’re not just because that type of personality is successful.

Just be yourself. Not only is it easy when you don’t have to force an unnatural persona, but you’ll have a 100% genuine and desirable voice.

On my blog Lifebeat, I’m completely myself. And it’s so easy not having to worry about projecting a certain image. I just write how I talk. Very relaxed and informal. I keep it simple and to-the-point. I inject jokes and music references. I constantly share personal examples. And since I’m a huge anime fan, all my articles have anime images rather than Flickr or iStock Photo ones.

Are you funny? Be funny. Serious? Be serious. Angry? Be angry.

Just be yourself.

2. Put the Reader Experience First

What makes you return to a restaurant? Chances are it’s not just the food but the experience.

Great articles alone aren’t enough. You also need a great reader experience. If you want visitors to convert into dedicated readers, you need a website people want to regularly return to.

That means don’t do anything on your blog that’ll compromise the reader experience. Translation: don’t annoy your visitors.

Common offenders: too many popups, ads, social bookmarking buttons, and subscribe links.

Just look at some of the most successful blogs: Daily Blog Tips, Problogger, Copyblogger and so on. No popups, and very light ads, social bookmarking buttons, and subscribe links.

I designed Lifebeat to put the reader experience first. Very clean, very simple, and the content is at the forefront. There’s no popups, no ads, no anything that would detract from enjoying reading one of my articles.

If someone really wants to subscribe or share your article on Twitter, they’ll do it. Don’t annoy and turn them away, losing what could’ve become a dedicated reader.

3. Focus on Benefits to the Reader, Not Your Features

If you want dedicated readers, your blog should focus on what the benefit is to the visitor. Not just your thoughts and ideas but value to a visitor.

Answer the “so what” question for new visitors: what’s in it for them? Why should they care?

Instead of putting the spotlight on what features my blog has, I focus on the benefit to visitors: helping you maximize your life. Ideas and strategies to help you do more of what you love and are passionate about. Not only do I state it in the About page and anywhere else, but that’s the focus I have for each article I write: how can I help and provide value to you, the reader.
Visitors care what you can do for them (benefits), not what thoughts and ideas you have (features). Focus on benefits, not features.

4. Write for Humans, Not Search Engines

Who reads your blog? People. So write for them.

Some bloggers make the mistake of writing articles solely based on highly-searched keywords. That results in nothing-new, unremarkable traffic bait. They might get search engine traffic, but very few visitors will be converted into readers.

The best search engine optimization is amazing content. Not website tweaks. Not a WordPress plugin. Not meta whozawhutsit. But amazing content.

If people like your articles, they’ll share it on social media, blogs, email, and even word of mouth. You’ll get higher-quality links, too, since it’s interested people linking to you. And, as Daniel here or Darren of Problogger and Brian of Copyblogger will tell you, high-quality backlinks are the ultimate SEO.

Now, optimizing for search engines can help with search traffic. And if you find a keyword phrase that happens to fit what you were going to write about anyway, go ahead and use it.

I don’t consider searched keywords when writing an article. Only once I have an idea down, I’d use the Google keywords tool to see if there’s a wording for the topic that people use most often. If not, I don’t worry about it at all. I never once let keywords dictate what I’ll write.

But put your message first – don’t compromise it. Make search engine considerations a distant second to writing what you have to say.

Write for people first, optimize for search engine traffic later.

5. Be Consistent

Choose a posting schedule and stick to it no matter what. Build a cache of articles or schedule your posts if needed.

I clearly state that I post a new article on Lifebeat every Monday and Thursday. I’ve stuck to that schedule ever since I started and haven’t missed a day yet.

Consistent readers need consistent updates to return to. Provide it for them.

They’ll know when to expect a new article, just like how people regularly check in to their favorite webcomics and news sites on certain days.

6. Make It Easy for Visitors to Subscribe

The more you have to work to get something, the less likely you’ll take the time to get it. Right? Don’t even try to deny it. That’s why iTunes is killing it in music sales: it couldn’t be easier to find and download a tune.

Be like iTunes on your blog. Make it clear and simple for visitors to be able to subscribe via email and RSS feed. Remove as many doors for your visitors as possible.

A visitor who subscribes is much more likely to convert into a dedicated reader. This is because your visitors can read your latest articles from the convenience of their email inbox or RSS feed reader. Your stuff is sent to them, so even after they forget about your blog they’ll still get your new articles, increasing the chance of them reading regularly (and maybe even sharing or buying your stuff).

Putting an RSS and mail icon in a sidebar isn’t enough. Make the subscribe option on your blog as non-cryptic and easy as possible.

Only a small percentage of your visitors will actually know what what an RSS or mail icon mean. Spell it out for the rest of your visitors, including why they should subscribe (it saves them time and energy because new content is delivered directly to them).

And people love free stuff, so don’t forget to mention that visitors can subscribe for free. Magazine subscriptions still have some thinking that subscribing to anything means paying.
I have a simple design on Lifebeat, so the subscribe buttons are in plain sight and clearly marked. I also explain in a short sentence what it means to subscribe and why a visitor should do it… and of course I mention that it’s free.

7. Be Remarkable

Be unique. Be great. Amplify yourself.

Don’t try to be the best in some field where you could never dominate. Instead, do what Seth Godin says: create your own category and dominate it. Analyze and figure out your unique traits, then crank them up to a 10.

People aren’t going to be interested in yet another productivity, personal finance, time management, self improvement, or whatever blog that says nothing new. Use #3 (Be Yourself) and amplify your unique traits.

I’m a writer, electronic musician, and adventurer who’s following his unconventional passion in life via non-conforming means. I never followed societal rules and found my own way. I also have child-like curiosity, not limiting myself to how I “should” act – an eternal kid in an adult’s world. I combine all of those traits and more into what I hope is an always-improving remarkable voice that can offer something interesting, something fresh, something game-changing and disruptive.

Would you return to a blog that bores you or doesn’t excite you? Of course not. So be interesting to read, and visitors will start converting into dedicated readers.
           
8. Talk With Your Visitors

It really is that simple: talk with your visitors. Reply to their comments and emails, send thank-you notes if they leave a comment or subscribe, or whatever else.

Use what works best for you (and doesn’t compromise your personal style – remember, be yourself). Email, comments, Twitter, whatever. But use at least one method of communication, so that visitors can form a relationship with you and feel like they’re reading from someone they know (or know that they can contact, at least).

I’ve never been comfortable on social networks and instant messenger, but blog comments and email have been natural for me. So I focus on posting and responding to comments and sending and replying to emails as my forms of communication with my visitors and readers. I also try to regularly send out thank-you emails.

People regularly return to something that they’ve formed a relationship or connection with. Think about it: you care way more about what your friends are doing than strangers.

9. Be Unconventional

Say something new that gets people thinking, motivated, and/or take action.

If you piss them off, that’s great too – there’s no such thing as bad publicity, and controversy gets visitors interested (just ask Seth Godin, Tim Ferriss, or Steve Pavlina).

I’m constantly pushing myself to get out of my comfort zone and become even less self-conscious by writing about unconventional topics (or at least an unconventional perspective on something). Heck, even I would get bored of my own writing if I played it safe.

If your article is no different from the latest blurbs that day, your visitors will treat it at such: a quick skim-through and then move on.

Get visitors thinking and talking and you increase the chance of them coming back for more (and maybe even bringing some friends along).

10. Have Fun

A blog isn’t a cubicle job, so just have fun.

People want to enjoy what they consume. If you have fun writing an article, chances are people will have fun reading it. And people tend to return and consume more of what’s fun and enjoyable.

I have so much fun writing and making music on Lifebeat it should be illegal. Like, I’ll be writing an article or creating a new tune or mix, and an alarm will sound. Woo woo woo! It’s the fun alarm: someone’s having way too much fun.

Have fun, and your blog will be fun – and visitors will start converting into dedicated readers.

Maximize Your Blog Visitors

Maximize your blog visitors by converting them into dedicated readers using these 10 ways.
Your blog to grow, your readership and subscriber numbers will increase, your content will be constantly spread, and you’ll make more money from more products sold. Now who doesn’t want all that?

Have these 10 ways helped you convert your blog visitors into dedicated readers? What other ways have worked for you?

Oleg Mokhov is a writer, musician, and adventurer who explores unconventional life-maximizing ideas and makes energizing electronic dance music at Lifebeat. You can read more about maximizing your own life in his Life Maximization Guide.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life by Will Craig

One of the biggest challenges of being self-employed is actually being alone in your business. You are alone with your thoughts for the majority of time and, sometimes, to your own detriment.

You can change your life by changing your thoughts. Here's what we mean: Everything in this world once started with a single thought. Look around you right now. Everything in the room-including this computer screen-was once just a thought in someone's head.

Our Thoughts Create

Endowed with this gift, we are able to mold our own lives and create our destiny. Our lives today are the direct result of our past and present thoughts, feelings, words, emotions, and desires. Any time we don't like something in our lives, we can acknowledge that our past thoughts might have had something to do with this.

Once we understand that we have created everything in our life, good and bad, we realize that we also have the power to change anything in our life by merely changing our thoughts.

Thought Is Energy

When we think a thought, it is projected into the universe at a certain rate of vibration. (Hang in there, this gets a little esoteric). Thoughts are also magnetic and attract energy of the same vibration. This is the universal 'Law of Attraction'. Chose your thoughts well. 'Like attracts like.'

In 1937, Napoleon Hill stated in his famous book, Think and Grow Rich, that 'thoughts are things' and that 'whatever the mind of man can conceive and believe, he will achieve.' You are an achiever. Think well and you will grow rich.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Remove Negative Feedback from Organic Search Engine Results by Brandon Leibowitz

There are many reasons that you may want to manage your online reputation. What do we mean by online reputation?

Since the internet has become interactive, meaning customers can interact with website owners; you must be weary of negative feedback and do everything in your power to manage your reputation on the organic search engine results. One post from an irate customer can tarnish your online business.

Everyone has seen the "Rip off Reports" about shady business on the web. Well anyone can post a Rip off Report about your company.

These posts tend to rank high in the search engines because this is an authoritative site. This can be bad if your business has a rip off report rating. Now whenever someone searches for your company website, the negative report will show up on the search results, usually in the top three results. This is detrimental and can have huge consequences.

There are a number of other ways a negative report about your business can hurt you. What about a Better Business Bureau low rating, Yelp reviews, negative forum posts, Craig's List posts, etc. all get indexed within the search engines quickly and tend to rank high.

If these sites did not rank so high organically in the search engines then it would not be such a problem, but since they are authority sites they tend to dominate the organic search results.

The consequences of having negative reviews means that customers will be weary to shop from your store or to do business with you. They may even tell friends, family, or coworkers not to shop at your store due to a bad experience or negative reviews.

Would you want to buy from a store without positive rankings? I think not. So why would anyone else on the web buy from a site that has received negative feedback.

A good way to check if your site has any negative reviews is to type in different variation of your website/ company name in Google, Yahoo, and Bing. Scroll through the first three pages to see if anything bad sticks out. If something does, then you must take corrective action immediately to thwart these sites.

Now that you are aware of negative feedback and the impact it can have on your business you may be wondering what you can do to avoid this.

The simplest and easiest solution is to personally manage any complaints against you company and ensure that angry customer problems are resolved. Unfortunately, sometimes this is not possible and the customer is angry and wants to do everything in their power to spread the word about your service. This means you have to fight back, by building or promoting existing pages for those specific keywords that are bringing up the negative feedback.

You can create new sites and make sure they are tailored around specific keywords that bring up negative feedback about your site. Promote these new sites by building links and adding the new sites to directories and other authoritative websites.

The other solution is to review the sites just below the negative feedback and try to push those sites up the rankings. This can be achieved by promoting and building back links to these sites. In time these sites will surpass the negative results and dominate the search results.

These methods should help remove any negative feedback or remarks about you or your company from showing up on the search results.

Remember that this is an ongoing process and the negative feedback will start to reappear if you do not continue to monitor the new sites that replaced the negative feedback. This will show your customers that you truly care for them and will increase sales, revenue, and ultimately your business's bottom line.

About the Author: Brandon Leibowitz is a professional internet marketer. He has been involved in search engine optimization and marketing consulting with over five years of industry knowledge. Read news, tips, tricks, and anything else related to search engines in his SEO and SEM Blog.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

10 Tips to Manage Criticism by Edward Khoo

Oh sure, you think you nailed that site architecture and that home page reads like pure poetry, right? After all, you wrote it. But that’s the problem. You wrote it. You designed the graphics. You created the keyword list based on those finely-honed intuitive instincts so it must be perfect. It’s your baby.

Fact: you aren’t always right. Fact: some of your ideas just aren’t practical. Fact: a second, third and even a fourth opinion improves even the best-thought-out plan – if you’re willing to listen and learn.

1. Just because you fall short doesn’t mean you failed.

Easy to say, but not necessarily easy to live with. No one likes criticism. No one likes to admit that there’s a better solution, but the fact is, there are always better solutions. Criticism is a tool. It provides different perspectives. It identifies steps that you missed during the first round.

Learn from others. Just because you get push-back from a new client doesn’t mean the client got it right and you got it wrong. It simply means the client has a different point of view – one from which you just might learn a thing or two.

2. Open mind, closed mouth.

This is going to come as a shock but you won’t get it right every time. Ok you’re good, but you aren’t perfect.

You also aren’t a mind reader. Be prepared to revise your thinking and to look at your professional and personal life from a different point of view. Keep an open mind when listening to criticism. And don’t defend your baby. There are a lot of ways to get it right. Acquiring knowledge from others is the best way to learn. It’s real-world, real-time learning, not something you picked up in a school classroom 10 years ago.

3. Become a stakeholder but don’t drive your stake through the heart.

You know, the only way to kill a vampire is to drive a wooden stake through the undead monster’s heart. And you may occasionally run in to a client or colleague that tries your patience to the point where driving a stake through the “idiot’s” heart sounds like a reasonable solution.

Okay, first, it’s not a solution. In fact, your negative reaction to criticism, regardless of the source, will only make a problem worse. It’s important to remember that things like site design, graphics and site text are 100% subjective and sometimes you won’t be 100% spot on.
Take a position. Become a stakeholder in any project or undertaking but don’t cling to your POV with your last breath. There are a million ways to get it right and listening to some constructive criticism from a client, a co-worker, family member or friend may actually move that undertaking in another direction. A better direction.

4. Consider the source.

Who's criticizing? Does that person have authority? Is she better versed in the topic? Is he the one with the checkbook?

Clients want things done a certain way – even if you know they’re dead wrong in their approach. As a knowledgeable professional, you have an obligation to point out flaws in the client’s thinking. However, once you’ve pointed out the flaw and the client still wants it done his way, you’ve done your job. You provided the best consultation you could, you provided the road map to success, but if the guy with the checkbook wants black text against a black background – even after you’ve explained why that’s a problem – you’ve done your job.

5. Learn from anyone and everyone.

There will always be someone who disagrees with your point of view, your suggestions, your designs and your expertise. No problem.

Confident people learn from anyone simply by listening. You don’t have to accept the point of view. Your free will remains in tact. Your opinions remain unchanged.
The key is to have confidence in your abilities, professional and otherwise. With self-confidence, criticism isn’t a threat. It’s a useful tool.

Learn by listening. The more perspectives you see, the better equipped you become when similar circumstances come up next month or 10 years from now.

6. How’s your self-image doing?

Don’t take it personally.

Development is a process, a strategy, a goal or objective, but it’s not about you. Keep your self-image strong and you’ll keep you self-esteem in place.

Emotional intelligence (EQ) is an asset that’s often more important than intellectual intelligence (IQ). Accept criticism and learn from it. The result is a collaboration that delivers the positive outcomes from which all stakeholders benefit.

7. Not all criticism is constructive.

We’ve all met people, or have dealt with clients, who are mean-spirited – men and women who actually enjoy tearing your concepts to shreds. So be it.

Consider the source of the criticism. Consider the value of the criticism. Consider the benefits derived from the criticism. Never stop learning, even from those who are totally clueless. There may be a pearl of wisdom in what these mean-spirited people have to say.

Find those pearls and use them. Learn from them – even if the intent of their criticism is to undermine your efforts. Keeping silent in the face of criticism isn’t easy but it is beneficial to you, the client, the project, the objective.
Accept what you can’t change. It’ll save a lot of sleepless nights, hassles and headaches – especially when you realize that the source of the criticism doesn’t have the experience and knowledge you have.

8. Learn to let go.

You have an idea or concept, a design or strategy that you know is perfect. Okay, maybe it is, but don’t marry yourself to any one way of doing things. Learn to let go. Learn to keep an open mind.

You’ll be a better person for your efforts. Even better, you’ll learn to be a quality service provider when you can let go of that perfect concept and follow a different path. There are lots of ways to achieve success.

9. Recognize your own limitations.

Each of us has different strengths. Each of us has different limitations (weaknesses). Take pride in your strengths and use them to your advantage and to the advantage of your clients, your family and friends.

Accept your limitations and learn from others to lessen the negative impact personal limitations have on your professional career or the growth of your client base.

10. A closed mind never welcomes criticism.

Too bad. If you close your mind to new ideas, differing opinions or points of view, you don’t grow. You don’t get better. You don’t learn.
Criticism is about managing your emotions. It’s also about learning how people think, determining their needs and meeting those needs. Always put the needs of others before your own needs. It makes you a better human being and a better business owner, whether you’re a one-man company working out of a spare room at home or the CEO of a multi-national conglomerate.

Welcome criticism. Even mean-spirited criticism. In the end, you’ll learn. You’ll become a better human being and a better service provider. Think of criticism as a lesson from which you can become better at whatever it is you do.

The development of emotional intelligence isn’t something that’s taught in school. It’s something we learn by living, working with a variety of personalities and adapting to the needs of others.

To grow your business or to grow as a human being, recognize criticism as a positive, not a negative, in your daily routine.

In the end, you come out ahead. In the end, your business prospers.

In the end, you win.


This guest article was written by Edward Khoo, a full time blogger from Malaysia. Follow him @squall768.