Tag Archives: Laura Bruce

Stretching yourself: 3 ways to grow personally and professionally

Toastmasters International

Toastmasters International

I attended my first Toastmasters meeting last night, here in Inverness. I was warmly welcomed, and despite being asked to speak extemporaneously for one minute, I have to say, it was a very pleasant experience. Given the trepidation most people feel about speaking in public, I was surprised to find I wasn’t nervous at all.

In fact, I was so not nervous, that when they were looking for volunteers at the start of the meeting, I volunteered for one of the roles! In total, I got up to speak in front of the group three times last night. The first occasion was to introduce myself. The second was to give my “Table Topic” speech — an impromptu speech on a topic provided to you as you stand up (!), and finally, to present my Grammarian’s report.

And you know what? It went swimmingly. I was completely comfortable, despite the newness of the surroundings, and the fact I had never been to a Toastmasters meeting in my life.

And that made me wonder: is this group is a good fit for me? If you have no trouble getting up in front of a roomful of strangers and saying a few words — or worse, delivering an entire speech — should you belong to a group whose express purpose is to improve your confidence and public speaking?

I believe the answer is “yes”. Why? First, because even if you are comfortable with something, it doesn’t mean that you can’t improve. We all have areas that we are experienced at — let’s say, writing — but that we know we can continue to develop with practise.

Secondly, being comfortable with something probably means you have the skills and expertise to help to develop another’s ability.

And that’s what these groups are often about. If everyone was a pro, then no one would need the group. But because everyone’s skills are at a different level, it means that expertise can be shared within the group, so that even experienced speakers can continue to progress.

And that’s the thing — even though I was comfortable at the Toastmasters meeting, I know I can still learn a great deal from these people. Toastmasters isn’t just about public speaking — it’s a leadership development programme. And who can’t benefit from that?

And how did I come to that? By stepping inside my comfort zone. Paradoxical, but true: there is a lot to be gained from trying something that doesn’t terrify you.

So here are my 3 tips to continue your professional development:

  1. Try something you aren’t terrified of. Just because you are comfortable with something, doesn’t mean you can’t improve. Toastmasters provides a venue where people with a range of skills in public speaking can develop at their own pace, in a safe environment, with a proven format. That’s a goldmine waiting to be tapped.
  2. Remember that learning can happen even when you aren’t aware of it. Every time you do something, you get better at it. Incremental changes aren’t obvious, but think about it: I bet you are a much better typist now than you were even five years ago. That’s the power of repetition.
  3. Remember that there’s often more to it than meets the eye. Talented listeners at Toastmasters (like Gilda at last night’s meeting) are able to identify — and critique — the structure of a speech, something most of us wouldn’t have the first clue about!

Chairing a meeting may involve speaking in front of a group, but it is also an opportunity to become a more confident leader. People at a meeting you are chairing are like guests in your home: it’s your job to ensure they are comfortable, feel safe to speak up, and ultimately, benefit from having accepted your invitation. Toastmasters and groups like it provide an ideal opportunity to develop that expertise.

And so, to the Inverness “ToastMonsters” group, I say “thank you!” Thank you for the warm welcome, and thank you for providing me with an opportunity to develop a skill that is partly formed, but my no means at expert level. And for opening my eyes to an opportunity to develop a host of other skills I hadn’t considered. I will be seeing you folks again next time!

For those wanting to learn more, I have pasted some information below about Toastmasters: 

The Toastmasters Mission: A statement of shared values

Every Toastmasters club shares the same mission, clearly defined in the following mission statement:

We provide a supportive and positive learning experience in which members are empowered to develop communication and leadership skills, resulting in greater selfconfidence and personal growth.

Through this mission, each Toastmaster gains a clear understanding of the club’s purpose, and the organization as a whole benefits from a shared set of values and goals.

Click here (and see below) for more information: Toastmasters Britain and Ireland – Inverness Chapter

Inverness Toastmasters is one of the newest members of the Toastmasters International family.

We meet on the second and fourth Wednesday of the month at the Glen Mhor Hotel, on Ness Bank in the centre of Inverness. It’s just by the River Ness, more or less opposite the cathedral and close to Inverness Castle.

Our meetings are inclusive, educational and fun. They allow you to practice your communication and leadership skills in a friendly and supportive environment.

Come along and find out more!

Networking, anniversaries and people: thoughts on the Highland Spotlight Exhibition

Our company marked its 7th anniversary yesterday, and a busy day it was. We exhibited at Highland Spotlight, a trade show organised by Inverness Chamber of Commerce. It was a bustling day at the Drumossie Hotel, filled with more than 60 local companies.

I was reminded of the value of personal connections as I chatted with dozens of visitors and with the other exhibitors as the day progressed. You never can tell with whom you are going to connect.

Bruce PR stand at Highland Spotllight

Our stand at Highland Spotlight was unattended from 11:45am, but this didn’t stop us from making some valuable connections during lunch

I had the good fortune, during my scheduled early lunch in the atrium outside the exhibition space, to be asked by Mairi Macauly of New Start Highland, if she and her colleague could join me at my table.

Mairi and Isobel were able to tell me a lot about New Start Highland. I had already been acquainted with the charity, as a donor and as a customer of their furniture shop on Church Street in Inverness city centre.

Having worked with a number of social enterprises in Northern Ireland as well as in Canada, I find theirs a compelling sector, with innumerable opportunities for touching people’s lives in a profound way. We had an interesting and lively discussion, and in retrospect, it turned out to be a very productive business meeting, in addition to a very pleasant lunch.

And that’s the miracle of connecting with people. You never know who it is you are going to make a connection with, or ultimately, where that connection may lead. But you can be sure of one thing: if you don’t speak to people, the odds are good that you’ll not make those connections.

If there is one bit of advice I could impart, it would be to convince the chronically shy people in this world to do anything they can to get over that shyness. I was a very shy child, and somewhere along the way, my shyness started to fade. Perhaps it was working as a waitress during the summers in university, where my American guests were just so damn friendly and out-going, how could you not respond to them?

Whatever it was, I am grateful for it. Not being handicapped by shyness has done my career the world of good. I encourage anyone who is troubled by their fears of speaking to new people to look into skills to help them to cope more effectively. It will change your career, as well as your personal life, profoundly for the better.

6 things you need to know to create compelling content

David Sim from Open Brolly speaking about "Digital Story-telling"

David Sim from Open Brolly speaking about “Digital Story-telling”

In this brave new world of social media, content is king. Create content that is appreciated and shared, and you will be delighted with the results.

A few years back, a good friend married a talented and sociable lawyer (he’s in the States). I wasn’t surprised when she told me he had a weekly radio programme. He had a good personality for that. It was a call-in show, where people would ring in with their legal questions. He could answer pretty much anything that came up. The radio show was good publicity for his legal practise. It got his name out there, and helped bring business through the door.

Now, you might wonder: was his radio show marketing, or PR? Good question.

But the answer doesn’t matter. What matters is that Nick was generating content. It was old-fashioned content, broadcast on the radio. Today, he probably has a podcast. But the principles are the same: create interesting content and, if you are good at getting the word out, people will view it and share it.

Last night I was a guest speaker at Highland Social in Inverness. Started by Michelle Russell from Snow Marketing, Highland Social is a networking forum for social media professionals and those wanting to learn more. Each event has a few guest speakers sharing their experiences with social media and related topics like branding. [My topic was “PR in the age of Social Media”.] Two of last night’s speakers talked about how they had created content that had driven traffic to their sites, raised awareness of their brands, and ultimately, had a clear and positive impact on the bottom line.

Jen Tomatin

Jennifer Nicol from Tomatin Distillery speaking about the launch of Cu Bocan whiskey using social media

One was Jennifer Nicol from Tomatin Distillery. Jennifer recently launched a new whiskey on a shoestring budget using old-fashioned creativity and the wonder of social media. I’m not surprised her launch was a success. Her technique and content was brilliant.

Nick from Highland Bottle Shop told us about how he had grown his newly-opened beer and liquor store using social media. One successful example was a photo of a six-pack of beer, posted on Twitter and Facebook the day before Father’s Day, noting that if anyone else had forgotten Father’s Day, Highland Bottle Shop could help. Nick sold quite a few six-packs that day, and no doubt, make more than a few fathers happy.

But what about the rest of us? We’re don’t all sell sexy Highland whiskeys or charming microbrews from around the world. What should we be talking about?

David Sim from Open Brolly addressed this. His topic was “Digital Story-telling”. [That’s David in the photo at the top of this page.] David said that in the world of social media, there is so much out there you need to be creative to stand out. He gave some excellent examples to illustrate that we bond with people if the content of their stories connects with us on an emotional level. David had some statistics to show that some words are better triggers than others: “coffee” and “perfume” make a stronger connection, he noted, than “table” or “chair”. He said that these connections light up a particular part of our brain. It made me think that we must be “hard-wired” for story-telling.

As David explained, telling a compelling story is a wonderful way to connect with people — be  it in person at an event, or on your blog. He suggested that if we are interested in creating compelling content, we should look for episodes in our lives that have an emotional element to them.

And this morning, when I looked up the YouTube videos David had planned to share (network speed prevented this), as exemplars of “digital story-telling” I saw that these were indeed, great examples of how companies had pushed the boundaries and created compelling content for social media to promote their brands.

Coke’s “Happiness Machine” youtube video shows the surprising results of how a modified, personalised vending machine delivered “happiness” (and a pizza!) at a college campus in the States. And the Dollar Shave Club video uses direct-address and a moving camera to convince men that paying a premium to remove hair from their face is a silly idea and that they should try an alternative.

And that’s when I had an epiphany: we all have our own television network. Thanks to YouTube, iTunes, and a host of other channels, every one of us has the capacity to become a broadcaster — whether it’s analogous to radio, television or a newspaper, there is nothing to stop us from getting our messages out on our own channel. However, most of us — myself included — have barely scratched the surface of that potential.

So to that end, I would like to share 6 suggestions to help get you started on creating compelling content:

  1. Tell a story. Do you have something to say that has a surprising or poignant element? This will engage your readers. If you would be more comfortable with something less intimate, share insights or episodes from your business career. Was there someone who made a big impression on you? What about your first day at your first job? Tell that story.
  2. Use photos to help bring that story to life. The most popular tweets and Facebook posts are those with photos.
  3. If you haven’t got anything nice to say, complain articulately. There’s little I enjoy reading more than a well-crafted complaint. Surely I am not alone?
  4. Think about how video can be used to help tell a story. “Direct-address” to your hand-held is the new Cinéma vériténon?
  5. Once your content is complete, get it out there. If you don’t have a personal site, create a blog from one of the free sites like Google’s Blogger or the more user-friendly WordPress. Create a YouTube or Vimeo channel if your content is visual.
  6. Finally, go all-out to share it across your networks. Post about it on your Facebook, and share a link on Twitter. Whichever social network suits you, use this get it around.

Then sit back and wait. Measure your results using a link hosting service like bit.ly and see how you did! You may even want to conduct your own experiment, changing the key words in your blog title, and seeing if you get different or better results.

I can’t think of a better way to learn about the potential of social networking than by creating your own content, getting it out there and seeing what happens. Can you?

4 reasons not to fear social media

Social Media icons

Facebook, Google+, ways Twitter and Pinterest — what matters is that you start

For many businesses, coming to grips with new modes of communication can be more than a little challenging. Remember those fancy new phones with your all those buttons across the top and that LCD screen, the ones that could hold your voicemail messages? Remember how difficult they were when we first used them? But eventually you got the hang of it, and even discovered the “Do No Disturb” function!

In a world where Twitter and Facebook are a key part of customers’ lives, it’s crucial for a business to at least consider what role social media may play.

For many businesses, a website is as far into Buy the virtual world as they have ventured. For them,  this brave new world of social media may feel like 16 a bridge too far.

But it doesn’t have to be.

Here are 4 reasons why you don’t have to be afraid of social media.

1. Do you use Facebook? Yes? Well then, you already know about social media. Facebook is the most popular of all social networking sites. So, if you can do Facebook, you can probably stretch to Twitter! From there, it’s a simple skip over to LinkedIn, and before you know it, you are sharing things on Pinterest!

Don’t laugh — it’s easier than you might imagine to get the cheap nfl jerseys hang of these social media sites because. . .

2. There are loads of resources available to help you navigate this new territory. Bespoke products are available from from organisations like Hootsuite and Hubspot, and their tutorials and blogs can help point you in the right direction. For businesses with greater aspirations but lacking an in-house communications team, there are organisations available to lend a hand.

3. Millions of people use social media everyday. You may not think of it as “using social media” but if you are watching a YouTube video a friend emailed you a link to, or updating your Facebook status, that is social media in action.

4. It’s not rocket science. The key to social media is to understand what it can do. But that takes time, and understanding its potential will take some research. If you think social media may offer something you are looking to harness to grow your business, then you should spend cheap jerseys some time thinking about how you can integrate social media into what you already do.

Social media need wholesale jerseys not defeat you. Like your tax return, it simply requires a bit of time with the appropriate resources devoted to it. For a free consultation to discuss your needs, get in touch with us here. Let’s have a chat to see how Highland Social Media can help Hi? give your business cheap jerseys a competitive advantage in this challenging environment.

Established recently in Inverness, Highland Social Media helps businesses and organisations harness the power of social media to help business. achieve business objectives. Highland Social Media is Football the social media arm of Inverness-based public relations firm Bruce PR. To Organo get in touch, click here.

5 simple ways to network more effectively

Networking at an Inverness Chamber of Commerce event, that’s me in the cream jacket on the left.

Like it or not, networking is an important part of your job. Whether you’re an entrepreneur like me, or if you work for a large organisation, getting out and meeting people is important. You should regularly make time for it.

I happen to enjoy networking, but I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. Regardless, it’s in your best interest to try to become more comfortable in these kinds of situations.

Here are five simple tips to help you make the most of this opportunity:

  1. Bring business cards. It may seem obvious, but it’s remarkable how many people neglect to ensure they have enough to share around.
  2. Dress your best. It may be superficial, but your appearance says a lot about you and the company you represent. Take the time to make sure you are sending the best message.
  3. Speak to people! The purpose of attending these events is to broaden your social and business networks. Don’t just stand there speaking to people you already know. If you don’t make contact with new people, you may as well have stayed in the office. And remember that many of the people attending the event may also be shy — don’t let this stop you from introducing yourself and asking if they are enjoying themselves.
  4. Remember that people do business with people they know. It sounds simple enough, but you may not have considered it: the more people you know, the more successful your business is likely to be. Networking events are a tremendous opportunity not only to meet new people, but to get reacquainted with people you have met before. A networking event presents the ideal opportunity to develop your relationship with acquaintances.
  5. Follow up! After meeting new people at an event, follow up your initial contact by dropping them a line by email. You could even give them a ring! See if they are on Twitter, and if so, follow them with your business account.

Effective networking is not brain surgery. Like most things that make someone successful, the key is developing a few good habits, and sticking with them.

I must dash now, I want to make sure I look my best for this afternoon’s networking session.

5 ways Bruce Public Relations can help your business. Right now.

Laura Bruce from Bruce Public Relations speaking to a Highland audience about public relations in the age of social media

Laura Bruce from Bruce Public Relations speaking to a Highland audience about public relations in the age of social media

5 reasons to contact Bruce Public Relations:

1. You have just valuable new contract, and want to spread the word.

We would be delighted to get the word out. From announcing a new ship joining the fleet, to the awarding the contract for a multi-million pound hospital, to the opening of a new nursery, Bruce PR has helped clients of all sizes and shapes to share their good news. And we would be delighted to help you share yours.

2. You may soon be on the receiving end of some negative media coverage and you have no idea what to do.

Asking how you came to be in that unfortunate position isn’t going to help much at this point. What you need now is crisis management. And we have expertise in that. With clients in health care, transportation and chemical industries (to name a few), we appreciate that there is a lot that can go wrong. Machines malfunction, people make mistakes. What matters now is what you do about that. If you think this is the kind of help you need, get in touch with us — or another trusted and experienced firm — quickly. The sooner the better. You can thank us later.

3. Your business has grown to a certain point, but you would like to reach the next level.

We can help. In fact, this may be our favourite kind of work. Whilst our stock-in-trade is PR, what we are particularly good at is helping you to see your business with fresh eyes. With nearly twenty years experience helping businesses across dozens of sectors to achieve their objectives, we can often help you to find a new and better way of growing your business.

4. You have heard that this [Facebook / Twitter / LinkedIn / Insert name of next new channel] thing may be important for your business, but have no idea where to start.

Yes, we can help you with this as well. If social media is something you know you should start doing, we can help you to position your social networking within an overall communications strategy. However, if all you need are a few pointers to set you in the right direction, we can help you with that as well.

5. Your [daughter / nephew / computer technician ] did your company’s website five years ago, but it’s just not what you need today.

From copywriting to press releases to corporate brochures to instruction manuals, writing is something we simply love to do. And if it you would like some help updating your website, creating some fresh material for your blog, or helping create a user-friendly manual for your  product, please get in touch. We would be delighted to help. And if your website needs a makeover, we know some talented designers who can help steer you in the right direction. Together, we can ensure that your website is hitting the right note.

So there you have it. Five ways Bruce Public Relations can help your business. Right now.