Key Advice Blog

Archive for August 2011

Plain language and social media may appear to have a lot in common. They promote conciseness, usability and targeting messages to your audiences. But is there more than just a communications bond between them?

Plain Language spent the early part of this century doing what it did best – print content. But, the movement is gaining momentum when it comes to content we put on websites, in blogs, and on social media platforms. CommonCraft’s Social Media in Plain Language videos have shown great SEO and popularity – although they could benefit from an updated sequel version. However, while many of us continue to use print to get our plain language message across – the power of video (done well) and other social media platforms can’t be ignored.

Emerging Technologies Librarian is just one site blogging about the new Plain Language Medical iPhone App. It takes medical terms and translates them into plain language at the click of a button. This demonstrates how the power of plain language and social media can really have a cultural impact on critical communications. How long before other sectors follow?

Perhaps the biggest stumbling block for achieving a stronger connection is the bad publicity plain language government plans get – promising plain language, but not delivering. Social Media Strategery blogger Steve Raddick, gives a history of US government attempts to get beyond stage one. City of Calgary Alderwoman Druh Farrell has council support for reviving their earlier plain language commitment, which Literacy Alberta executive director Janet Lane whole-heartedly supported via their Facebook Page.  The movement may seem slow, but once it gets to the next stage, it will be brilliant.

The power is in the synergy of the two: using plain language on social media platforms and social media platforms to promote plain language. Both will help us move both to ‘higher ground’.

Check Out: International Plain Language Day plans on Facebook.

Plain Language on websites, apps, platforms is all about usability. The Plain Language movement – which has been active around the globe for some time now – traditionally focused on the print medium. But, over the last few years a number of resources have popped up that target online communications. Here are three articles and three links to help you successfully integrate plain language into your online projects.

The web technology has moved on from websites to apps and mobile platforms. ClickZ recently ran an article by Melinda Krueger – ‘Jakob Nielsen on Usability for Mobile Sites and Apps. Nielsen said the technology must be easy to touch and manipulate – as users are most often multi-tasking. And, short is not good enough – content must be ‘ultra-short’. Melinda’s article is a good overview, and a good place to build a plain language web assessment plan from.

If you are starting out on a website, or want to see if yours meets plain language guidelines, take a look at the PlainLanguage.gov site’s Planning a Plain Language Website section. They demonstrate what they recommend – so you can have a textual and a visual guide.

On the Results for Canadians blog, Laura’s recent article ‘Measuring plain language on the web’ highlights important aspects, and provides excellent links. Yes, it’s all about  users being able to ‘find, understand and act’ when on a website, but she recommends testing for ‘findability’ as well as usability.

A Google search for plain language on the Web turned up a few resources, with many published before 2,000. Let’s get website plain language back on the table. We need to move faster to keep up with technology.

Key Resources

Book: Plain Language Websites, Plain Language Wizardry.

LinkedIn Plain Language Advocates Group – discussing the creation of Plain Language Day.

PLAIN – Plain Language Association INternational

After joining Iris Meck Communications Inc providing event media support and follow-up – print, video, podcast, web, e-news – and having organized a few events myself – there are some behind the scenes tips that can help you achieve success and have people talking positively about the service you provided.

1. Treat every attendee as a valued customer

The registration area is your front door. Welcome people in personally. Help them feel comfortable – find their name tag, the event room, the facilities. Make the registration area streamlined, facilitating flow through to the event itself. Direct people to any support or promotional tools you are handing out. The best way to achieve all this is to be organized: arrive well ahead of the opening time, have the area clean and staffed and have your own name tag on so people know who you are. Be at the registration area as the event ends. You can gain valuable event feedback directly and indirectly.

2. Speakers and hosts are your VIPs

VIPs should have one person assigned to them. Know their travel, meal and presentation technical needs. Ensure they receive information before the event, have all needs assessed well before their presentation and have post-event travel arrangements in place – like a ride or a taxi to the airport. Escort them to their presentation room, ensure they have the tech support they need and introduce them to key hosts and guests at the event. Always get their permission for quoting, filming or posting their information online. Ask if a copy of their presentation is available for the media. Follow up with a personal gift and thank-you after the event.

3.  Making the most of the media opportunities

Today’s media are busy, inundated with emails and have to feed info into a variety of platforms. Invite the media well ahead of time so they can put your event in their diary. Send them a newsworthy release ahead of the event – include links to social media sites, websites, videos and podcasts, and photos. In the pre-event reminder email provide the schedule of the whole event, and indicate clearly who they can contact to set up interviews and get at-event assistance. Have media-specific folders with key information at the registration desk. Provide all media with your prompt post event news release – and include or provide links to video, podcast and photographic resources. Follow up on the media coverage after the event to track for yourself and your client – in print, on websites, search Twitter and Facebook for mentions, set up a Google alert.

4. Expect the unexpected

No matter how many boxes you ticked, how many meetings you’ve had, something will always go wrong. Brainstorm with your team before the event things that might happen and how you will deal with them. Know your facility coordinator on a first name basis – and find out who’s supporting you each day of the event. Have key phone numbers in your cell phone. Check the tech support – are they on duty, accessible all day. Be prepared for delays in arrivals, last-minute schedule changes for key guests, food and drink issues, special needs. Have a trouble-shooter on the team who can track, deal with and make post event recommendations on all the challenges you faced.

5. Post Event Brainstorm

Within two days of the event, pull the whole team together – a representative of the client, your team, an attendee – and give the event organization a thorough evaluation. Don’t hang on to what went wrong – rather – brainstorm ideas on how to make the next one event even better. Document and implement.

A successful event is a feather in your hat. Wear it proudly. But remember, each event is unique and requires your full attention from start to finish.

Event Education.com


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