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13 Resources for Writers

by Randall Craig on December 9, 2016

Filed in: Blog, Communication, Make It Happen Tipsheet, Presentations

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Do you wish that you could be more effective with the written word?   Have you always hated writing, from the first time your grade three teacher insisted you write two paragraphs on what you did during the summer?  Or maybe you enjoy the idea of writing, but you don’t enjoy the reality of writer’s block.

Written communication is core to so much: it is the expression of how one thinks and feels, the expression of an organization’s brand, and the primary mechanism to move others to commitment and action.  It is used in email,  newsletters, social media, proposals, reports, and so much more.

Here are 13 resources that can help you do better, grouped by category:

This week’s action plan:  This week, re-look at your writing:  how might you make it just a bit more effective?

Communications insight:  While writing is the basis of writing, it is also the basis of doing an excellent presentation.  This shouldn’t be a surprise, as critical and creative thinking underlie both: if you write well, you’ve probably done your thinking first.  (Test yourself: use these same ideas as you put together your next presentation.)

Note: The Make It Happen Tipsheet is also available by email. Go to to register.

Randall Craig

@RandallCraig (follow me)
:  Professional credentials site Web strategy, technology, and design
:  Interviews with the nation’s thought-leaders



One of the biggest drivers of efficiency (and cost-savings) over the last decade has been the growth of virtual team meetings. Who hasn’t received a request to join one, using a technology from Webex, Gotomeeting, Zoom, Skype, Google Hangouts, or one of the dozens of other systems that allow remote connection, screen sharing, and video.

Yet, despite their promise, virtual meetings do have their problems:

  • Disengagement:  Attendees are often distracted, splitting their attention with other activities while pretending to be present at the meeting. (Have you ever heard the click-click-click of others typing during the meeting?)
  • Technology gets in the way: Poor sound, plugins that don’t work, too-slow internet connections, and corporate firewalls can distract from the meeting itself.  (Or maybe everything was working, but the presenter was unfamiliar with the platform.)
  • Remote noise:  Often attendees “participate” remotely themselves… from Starbucks, while driving, walking the dog, etc. Beyond the issues of noise, many of these venues are not conducive to real participation as attention is divided, or they can’t refer to their notes.
  • Used for wrong purpose:  There are times when in-person meetings are better than their virtual cousins; examples include new staff orientation, project kick-offs, interactive workshops, and strategic planning meetings. Generally speaking, when the meeting objectives include building new relationships, require significant interaction, or are just too long, in-person is more effective.

With this as backdrop, here are 20 ways to improve the effectiveness of your virtual meetings:

  1. Put the meeting login information within the calendar and your meeting request.
  2. If a person is unfamiliar with the meeting platform, use the platform to have a one-on-one meeting with them beforehand, to make sure they are ready.
  3. If you aren’t that familiar with the technology yourself, do a dry run.
  4. Record the meeting if it is for training-oriented sessions, but be mindful that recording other types of meetings may stifle open conversation.
  5. Send out an agenda that requires each attendee to “own” a section.
  6. Require participants to do some preparation.
  7. Let participants know the materials they should have with them during the meeting.
  8. Speak to key participants about your expectations re participation.
  9. Share a Google document so that everyone can see the minutes and add back-channel comments live.
  10. Ask one of the participants to take minutes. They can even do it within the shared Google Doc.
  11. Start the meeting early, both to iron out the technology, and to allow for any pre-meeting conversations to take place.
  12. Use video so attendees can see each other.
  13. If you are using video conferencing, zoom in to the speaker so that that remote attendees can see who is actually speaking.
  14. Actively facilitate the meeting by pulling feedback from those who are quieter.
  15. Use a headset so that your hands can be free.
  16. If one participant’s line contains background noise, ask them to mute themselves when they are listening, and un-mute while talking.  If they can’t do this, do it for them.
  17. Use the chat functionality to encourage back-channel conversations.
  18. As the moderator, use chat functionality to prompt specific attendees to address an issue that is being discussed.
  19. Use online polling for straw polls and increased interactivity.
  20. Summarize the action points and next steps, gaining agreement.

Great virtual meetings are just like great in-person meetings – they only are effective if planned and executed well.

This week’s action plan:  While being “virtually effective” doesn’t sound like a compliment, it is.  At your next virtual meeting, choose 2-3 items from the above list; when you do, you will be more successful changing your attendees to participants.

Meetings Insight:  These tips aren’t just for virtual meetings: how many do you incorporate into EVERY one of your meetings?

Note: The Make It Happen Tipsheet is also available by email. Go to to register.

Randall Craig

@RandallCraig (follow me)
:  Professional credentials site
.com: Web strategy, technology, and development
:  Interviews with the nation’s thought-leaders


The Sharpest Point (2)

by Randall Craig July 8, 2016

Have you ever listened to a presentation, and felt the signal-to-noise ratio could have been improved?  Or have you ever delivered a critical presentation, and felt that you could have done better… but you were not precisely sure how? Too often we add debris into our presentations.  These are those filler words, unrelated sidebars, and administrative notes that […]

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14 great reads on building influence and impact

by Randall Craig January 22, 2016

Do your readers read beyond the first sentence or two?  And do they care enough about your ideas to actually act on them?  Writing is a critical engagement skill, so a small investment in time can make your words make a bigger impact. Here are 14 great reads that can increase your effectiveness – and your influence: Link Bait Headlines: […]

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Invite: Leveraging your digital investment – and your messaging

by Randall Craig January 15, 2016

Have you ever decided to try something new, just to see what would happen? Beyond the Tipsheet, every month for the last three years I have been delivering a new professional development webinar.  If you haven’t attended, then I encourage you to do so: it is 60 minutes of no-fluff “news you can use”, all focused on rethinking […]

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Ten webinar utilization strategies

by Randall Craig October 16, 2015

Many marketers use webinars as an important strategy, but given the large investment developing the content, finding (and registering) attendees, and the logistics of production, how can you maximize the return on your webinar investment? Here are ten ideas that can help: Include a clear and easy call to action near the end of webinar.  Information is nice, […]

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Choosing your Marketing Voice

by Randall Craig August 21, 2015

Have you ever considered why some emails resonate, and others seem just a bit off? While the general topic of copywriting has been handled here quite well, too often emails – especially ones that for part of a marketing automation sequence – fail because of one thing: voice. Consider these four examples: 1) Passive Voice […]

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Marketing Fluff: Increasing your value per word

by Randall Craig August 14, 2015

When you write, does everything that you put down on paper deliver exceptional value? Or is there a certain amount of low-value filler that invades your communications? There are three strategies that can significantly upgrade your value in the eyes of your audience: Target: right audience – right message: What is high value to one group […]

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11 killer copywriting techniques

by Randall Craig July 17, 2015

Here’s a question you don’t get asked every day: how much do you really know about writing?  And more particularly, the craft of copywriting?  Unless you do this for a living or had extensive training , the answer is likely not very much. Yet no matter your particular role or responsibilities, copywriting is an exceptionally important skill: it educates, […]

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Creative Time and Place

by Randall Craig October 3, 2014

How can you be your most creative? Google the topic and you will find millions of pages with an answer. Some will say you are “born” with it. Others will say it is a matter of following a process.  And others will claim it is a matter of using a secret sauce formula, which, when […]

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Delivering Engaging Webinars

by Randall Craig June 6, 2014

Have you ever listened to a webinar, and found your mind wandering?  Or perhaps you let the webinar play on while taking care of other more important activities on your computer?  While this is unfortunate, the question is whether that incredibly dull webinar presenter might actually be you.  And that the mind-wandering, computer-keyboard-clicking audience is […]

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Time for a Twitter Wall? (Part Two)

by Randall Craig October 11, 2013

Looking for the fine print on successfully using Twitter at your event?  Here is Part two:  [Read part one] 1) Choose a hashtag:  Choosing a unique hashtag is critical; if you choose one that another organization is using, then their comments will be mixed in with yours.  CAFE, for example, is an acronym for the […]

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Time for a Twitter Wall?

by Randall Craig October 4, 2013

Have you ever been responsible for a meeting and a conference, and you’ve thought to yourself – or you’ve been told – that it is time that your meeting incorporates Twitter?  Or the young keener in your office has assured you that doing so is actually quite easy – just set up a Twitter wall.  […]

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Social Attention Span

by Randall Craig August 10, 2012

How long is your attention span?  How long is the attention span of your clients, colleagues, or kids?  The conventional wisdom is that it is very short – 30 seconds – the length of a typical TV commercial.  Supposedly, the attention span of a Gen-Xer is even shorter. Thankfully, both of these urban legends are […]

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Viral Video Checklist

by Randall Craig May 25, 2012

You’ve created your own YouTube masterpiece, and after three weeks, it has 137 views.  While the number is gratifying, if you’re like many first-time content producers, you are probably wondering how to improve the viewership… beyond 10,000.  Or a million.  Or ten million. While there is no way to predict certain success, you can improve […]

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Audience Assumptions

by Randall Craig January 24, 2012

My recent trip to India has once again sensitized me to an assumption that writers and speakers too often make:  that everyone understands what you mean to say. Test yourself – what do the following three words mean?  Flyover, Subway, and Removalist. If you are in India, a Flyover is a local bridge that “flies […]

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All the world’s a stage

by Randall Craig December 13, 2011

…and all the men and women merely players.  Shakespeare may have said this in the 1600’s, but it is more true than ever today. Politicians, celebrities and others have always known that an audience was watching and judging. Today, different paparazzi watch and judge us – we call them followers, friends, and connections. We narcissistically […]

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Communal Literacy

by Randall Craig July 13, 2011

Chances are that you know how to drive, but cannot fix the engine. Eighty-five years ago, however, the answer would have been different. Motoring enthusiasts back in the 1930’s and 1940’s had to know the basics of automotive repair and troubleshooting, as the “newfangled” cars often broke down, needed constant tune-ups, and were not quite […]

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Pictures from the Masters

by Randall Craig July 5, 2011

Have you ever spent time looking at the European Masters – Rembrandt, Van Gogh, and the many others?  During their era, there were no newspapers, telephones, let alone an internet.  When a subject sat down to be painted, it was often for hours, not minutes.  And the resulting painting was designed to last well into […]

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A New York state of mind

by Randall Craig June 28, 2011

How would you describe a typical New Yorker?  More likely than not, you wouldn’t use the same words to describe someone from Los Angeles, or from a small mid-western town. People are a product of their environment, and often will take on the mindset, attitudes, and perspectives of where they are from.  (They also take […]

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