Trends in Prepared Speeches for a New Generation

Recently I had the privilege to be a judge at Pompano Beach High School. I participated in the Prepared Speech contest which is organized by Business Professionals of America (BPA). This is my second year as a judge for this competition and it is always fun to listen to the topics which the students deliver.

I am an active member (and previous Board of Directors member) of my local Toastmasters International club, Power Speakers. Every Tuesday we deliver, listen and evaluate speeches. The speeches are both prepared and extemporaneous. I have also been a judge in several of the Toastmasters competitions as well.

Business Professionals of America LogoThe Business Professionals of America facilitates students demonstrating their career skills at regional, state and national conferences in competitive events. They held their local competition on Nov. 3, 2017, and the top 3 winners go on to compete at the state level. The competitors were all in high school, we did not know anything about them, not age, gender, ethnicity, not even their name or title of the speech until they walked into the room. We were informed to use a rubric to grade the speech performance on such items as preparation, delivery, subject matter, vocal projection, etc…

The most interesting fact that I noticed through the 4 hours that we judged the competition was the topic of the speeches. We had 11 speakers total, and while they all told very different stories, they could be categorized as follows:

1 Leadership
1 Digital Marketing
3 Work ethics
6 Entrepreneurship

11 Total Speeches

While 11 random speeches are by no way statistically significant, I do think it was interesting to see the very common thread on subject matter, especially for entrepreneurship. Some of the speeches touched on education and college (these were high schoolers), but they ultimately focused on the idea and inspiration that comes from the feeling of being successful on your own terms.

It was a morning well spent and I am looking forward to judging again next year.

The winners were awarded medals on November 15th and will prepare for the State Leadership Conference in Orlando in February. There they will compete against the winners from other regions throughout the state of Florida.

TheBusiness Professionals of America events that require judges are: interview skills, advanced interview skills, computer animation team, network design team, entrepreneurship, parliamentary procedures team, extemporaneous speech, prepared speech, financial analyst team, presentation management individual/team, global marketing team, human resource management, small business management team.

If you are interested in participating, please contact me.

Image created by Freepik

4 skills to be a successful web designer

After 20 years in the web industry, you go through many different types of projects and you learn a thing or two about what makes a successful web design project. We all know what is really important but that is not necessarily where we spend our time. Below is a breakdown of the skills needed to be a successful web designer:

  1. Documentation – Creating a proper business requirements document (BRD), Scope Of Work (SOW), Sitemap & Wireframes are critical to a successful project and should never be overlooked. This is the ‘blueprint’ for your masterpiece. These documents create the guidelines or you to design and build.
  2. Design – Layout, color, spacing, font styles, along with your photoshop skills and image manipulation can set you apart from your competition
  3. Code – You must be a master of HTML, CSS and javascript. Some additional coding doesn’t hurt either (maybe some PHP, Python, Ruby, or even .NET can be helpful for larger projects)
  4. Communication – Knowing how to communicate with your customers is critical. You may have an excellent and efficient way to coordinate with your team on Slack or in Basecamp, but if you have trouble getting your message across to your client via email, telephone or even (god forbid) in person, you can have a big problem on your plate no matter how talented you are in the other 3 areas.

Even with all 4 of these skills mastered, after 20 years in the internet industry, this is how I spend my time on any average day…

web design skills chart

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SEO site audit for UFES Case Study – part 1

I began working with my friend to assist with some SEO on a website for his business that had recently been redesigned. We emailed on October 8, 2017, and set up a phone call for the following afternoon. This gave me some time to review the site quickly in a few tools and run some preliminary reports to start an SEO site audit.

Start with an SEO site Audit

Since I have an account with Agency Analytics, my first step was to just set up a quick campaign for https://www.unitedfinalexpenseservices.com/ and use their Site Audit tool.

UFES SEO SIte Audit

While the site audit tool was running, we decided to look into some of the basics and make sure that the website was optimized and ready for a competitive marketing campaign.

Basics that we checked:

  1. Properly installed WordPress theme and configuration – Yes
  2. SEO friendly URLs (Permalinks in WordPress) – Yes
  3. Google Analytics Installed – Yes
  4. URL verified with Google Search Console (formerly Webmaster Tools) – No
  5. Sitemap XML file created and submitted to Search Console – No
  6. Sitemap HTML file created and linked in the navigation – No

Items 1-3 are fairly self-explanatory and were configured correctly so I won’t go into much detail. We just made sure that our account was listed in Google Analytics as a user so we had access to his data. Setting up users is quite easy but can be confusing with all of the overwhelming options. Never give your Google account information to an agency, make sure that you always have the keys to your account. You can read how to setup users in Google Analytics here.

Proper URL structure submission

For item #4, although Google Search Console was set up, it was not configured for their new web address which uses www and https. We added the new domain and verified it through Search Console and then added us as a user (similar to what was done in Google Analytics). Again, never give your account information out to anyone.

Too many SEO plugins

For item #5, we noticed that there was an XML sitemap submitted to the old site in Google Search Console, but since we just added a new one (with the correct https and www) we needed to add it again. We also noticed that the old one only added the pages sitemap (page-sitemap.xml) and not the full index. This would mean that everything posted on the blog, would not be submitted to Search Console. This is definitely not optimal. We submitted the full index to get all content into google (https://www.unitedfinalexpenseservices.com/sitemap_index.xml). While going through this process, we noticed that there were several redundant plugins installed. All in One SEO Pack, Yoast SEO and Google XML sitemaps were 3 plugins that perform some similar functions. We prefer to use Yoast SEO, primarily because we are familiar with it and we like the tools it has for grading the SEO of your posts and pages, plus it has an XML sitemap creator built into the plugin. We uninstalled All in One SEO Pack and Google XML sitemaps and cleaned up the dashboard just a little bit.

Help Google and users find your content

Lastly, for #6, we noticed that there was no sitemap HTML file. Many years ago, a sitemap was very useful for finding content on your website. While site search has gotten much better (and WordPress does a fine job with this) we still like to have an HTML sitemap. 2 reasons we like HTML sitemaps are that they are good for old-timers who look for them and secondly since it dynamically links to all of the content on your site, once a spider, like the google bot, finds the page it can then find every other page on your website with one click, regardless of how deep the pages may go in your link structure. We used the simple sitemap plugin and just added a small shortcode to the newly created page and then linked to it from the footer navigation.

SEO site audit complete and ready to review

By this time, the site audit was complete and we are ready to review and work on some of the technical items which may not be so obvious. We will discuss the initial SEO site audit and our process over forward in the next few weeks.

These 6 items were some of the initial basics that we ran through while the website audit was running. After this, we went into researching H1 tags, Title tags, internal and external links which we will discuss in part 2. Later we will discuss keyword research, backlinks, content creation strategy and more.

Back from my cruise and didn’t go overboard

After 3 days on Royal Caribbean’s Enchantment of the Seas, I was sure I had gained at least 5 pounds. So much food and drink, without any trips to the onboard gym, was a sure fire way to kill my weight goals. However, I guess taking the stairs instead of the elevator must have paid off because my first day back I weighed in at 205 lbs. I did a solid workout on Tuesday and ate well (not great, but not terrible either) and was 203 lbs. Wednesday morning. Now that I have passed this test, 200 is looking good !

Setting New Health Goals

Last year I was in the best health I can remember. I was probably in better shape physically then I had been in at least 20 years. Maybe even longer, considering that in my 20’s I had a few vices that were more harmful which no longer affect me.
Since July 2016, I have slowly let myself enjoy some of the pleasures of food and drink a bit more than I should. As I get older, it becomes more difficult to maintain a healthy body weight and strong heart. I still exercise daily, which is critical, even if not with the intensity that I should, but my diet needs a reboot.

Back in December 2016, I realized that I had gained some weight. While not drastic I was 210 lbs. At 6’2″ this is not a critical weight by any means, but I am rather slim and lean. My weight goes to my belly and chin. I decided, during the holidays, that I wanted to get back to a reasonable 200 lbs. (Yeah right).

So the holiday season passes and I still hover at 210. I have actually stayed in this range for the entire spring, even going to 213 lbs. at the tipping point.

I am currently at 205 lbs. and have stayed consistently here for the last 3 weeks (between 203 lbs. and 206 lbs.) I have now decided that my goal is a healthy 195 lbs. and I plan to be there in 2 weeks. I know it can be done with some quick diet changes. Wish me luck and I will keep you posted.

Photo credit from Freepik