After a couple of years, I am finally getting out of an […]

 

Leaving Jawbone UP3 for Fitbit Charge HR [Review] and more...



Leaving Jawbone UP3 for Fitbit Charge HR [Review]

After a couple of years, I am finally getting out of an abusive consumer relationship with Jawbone and hoping that Fitbit will treat me better. But honestly, it’s not without regret.

I feel like a girl who fell for the good-looking, fast-talking bad boy full of promises, ultimately all broken, and who finally realized that it’s probably just better to settle for the ho-hum guy who isn’t particularly exciting, but is at least reliable. But I still wish it didn’t have to be this way.

Why I Loved Jawbone UP — and Took So Long To Give It Up

I am not some on-trend fashion plate (going gray/white in 2014 is the only possible exception). But I do need to dress up regularly for public speaking gigs, church, and the occasional fancy night out with the husband.

And if I am going to wear anything on my body 24/7, then I want it to look like jewelry.

That’s where Jawbone’s UP line has always crushed the competition.

Here they are side by side:

Fitibit Charge HR and Jawbone UP3

The Fitbit Charge HR is massive and clunky compared to the Jawbone UP3.

 

And the clasp is just PLAIN BIG AND UGLY.

My original Jawbone UP band (the thin black rubber bangle with the silver tipped cover) was repeatedly mistaken for actual jewelry. I did not, and still don’t, want to wear something that looks like a sports band.

But I went through two of the UPs, both of them ultimately dying in less than a year, the last one in March 2014 (when I was getting in tons of steps at DisneyWorld no less — grrrr).  The battery stopped charging on both of them.

So I stopped wearing a tracker for the rest of 2014, knowing that a new line was coming out. I jumped on the UP3 pre-order as soon as it was announced back in early November 2014. I thought I’d be wearing it for the inevitable re-commitment to fitness on January 1, 2015.

I really, really wanted the more sophisticated sleep tracking and the heart rate monitoring the UP3 promised.

I am super sensitive to sleep quality and quantity. I feel terrible physically, mentally, and emotionally when I don’t get enough sleep, and I wanted to learn more about my sleep habits. The UP3 reports on the amount of time spent in light, deep, and REM sleep.

I also have low blood pressure, which has a significant effect on my ability to push hard when exercising. If my heart rate goes too high (especially when it’s hot, or I’m dehydrated), my blood pressure tanks and I can pass out. Even if I don’t actually pass out, getting close creates dizziness, nausea, and lactic acid buildup that means I’m achy for a couple of days. Bottom line: I need to monitor myself to push my fitness, but in a safe way, and a heart rate monitor helps. I have a chest strap heart rate monitor, but it’s uncomfortable, so I don’t use it. I love gadgets, but I’m not committed enough to my fitness to wear something that’s uncomfortable.

I knew going into the pre-order that UP3 would only measure resting heart rate at first (again, mine is on low end) but wanted desperately to believe the promise that they’d add exercise monitoring “soon.”

I really thought that the UP3 was going to be perfect for me — the health tracking I really wanted in something that looked good enough to wear all the time. And for the record, I don’t want a phone on my wrist, and don’t really even care about the time-keeping.

Then the excuses slowly came out, followed by more promises.

When Jawbone offered a free UP Move as consolation for shipping delays in late December, I took it, along with the promises that the UP3 would come out in “very early 2015.”

 

I wore a purple UP Move in a black strap, which I have since given to my daughter. It looks much more appropriate on a 12-year-old's wrist. (And is still working by the way.)

I wore a purple UP Move in a black strap, which I have since given to my daughter. It looks much more appropriate on a 12-year-old’s wrist. (And is still working by the way.)

 

I started wearing the Move on a bracelet, even though it looked really goofy (NOT the clean stylish look I was hoping for). And waited, and waited, googling for updates every few weeks.

I work in marketing. Jawbone’s customer communications about the delay are some of the worst I have ever seen. Completely pathetic. And yet, I was hooked on the promise.

Fast forward another FOUR MONTHS LATER, and oh glorious day, the UP3 arrived on April 30, after very well-publicized production delays because of waterproofing problems — which I did not care about in the least. I’m not a huge swimmer or bath taker, so who cares. I wish they would have just sent me the “splash proof” version they ended up releasing way back when.

And less than 6 weeks later, my UP3 was totally dead.

In early June, after using the UP3 for about a month, I noticed the battery life was getting worse and worse. From day 1, after a full charge, it would last maybe 5 days, even though it was advertised for longer. But even that started creeping down to 4 days, then 2 days, then less than a day. I would charge it first thing in the morning, and wake up the very next morning to find the thing had stop tracking and died in the middle of the night.

Then it wouldn’t even charge at all. And yes I tried everything Jawbone suggests and some other suggestions I found online. I plugged it into two different computers and three different chargers. It was dead.

I submitted a support ticket on the morning of Tuesday, June 9, asking for a replacement.

But later that day, I decided to look at this objectively, and concluded that Jawbone is full of shit, plain and simple, and their products are crap. I desperately wanted to believe they could deliver on their sweet promises, but they haven’t, at least for not more than a few short months at a time in my case. They suck.

I ordered the Fitbit Charge HR, and it arrived Thursday, June 11.

What I Like about FitBit and What I Still Miss about Jawbone

I’ve been wearing the Fitbit Charge HR for almost two weeks now. Here’s how I feel about it.

I do like the Fitbit on-wrist data. That was one thing I actually liked about the UP Move. You had to learn what all the flashing lights meant, but once you got the hang of it, it was easy. With the UP3, you have to look at your phone, or try to decipher a series of vibrations on your wrist, which I never really figured out. A few little button clicks and I get steps, current heart rate, and more on the Fitbit. I didn’t think this would matter to me since I have my phone with me anyway, but it’s nice.

The Fitbit app is just fine. Everyone raves about the UP app and it is nice. But after wearing an UP product for a couple of years, the advice was getting stale. I don’t really miss it. And guess what, the Fitbit app is just fine. It’s not nearly as horrible or ugly as people make it out to be (I think it may have undergone a recent makeover).

I stopped using MyFitnessPal to track food and am using the native Fitbit database. Tracking diet in Jawbone was never that great, and I had moved over to MyFitnessPal and integrated it with Jawbone. I decided to just use the Fitbit app alone, and I like the way that the total calorie budget gets adjusted up or down during the day based on activity.

The Fitbit sleep tracking is just OK. I really liked the Jawbone sleep tracking, but honestly, I’m not sure how trustworthy it was. Fitbit’s technology isn’t as robust, but I am using the “number of times restless” that Fitbit tracks as an indicator of how soundly I am sleeping.

I do miss the mood and commenting in the Jawbone app. The thing I miss most about the Jawbone app is that you can easily track your mood and add comments throughout the day. I am wearing this tracker in large part to see how things like sleep and exercise affect my quality of life (like my mood), but I can’t track that in the Fitbit app. I can do it on the website, but that’s really inconvenient. Why not in the app itself?

The Fitbit heart rate monitoring is working great. I’ve worked out a few times and also checked my heart rate when I was stressed out and am starting to learn what different heart rates feel like. I also really like how the Fitbit app charts out when you are in Fat Burning, Cardio, and Peak Zones. If only I could add comments to those peaks and valleys!

I do miss the inactivity alert. UP will vibrate after you have been inactive for an amount of time you set. Since I work at my desk and can often get focused on something and sit for hours, I really liked that little reminder.

I was fine with no one else I knew using UP. I know that’s probably weird to many of you, but I’m not a bandwagon person, and the last thing in my life that I need right now is more group accountability. The whole social challenge / peer pressure part of the Fitbit community is a MAJOR downside for me. I know that’s a huge motivator for many Fitbit users, but I really couldn’t care less. It’s just not my thing. I’m doing this for myself. I will not be friending a lot of people. Maybe no one.

The Fitbit green flashing LED lights are annoying. When I am in bed, because I often sleep with my hands up near my face, and the band is not flat against my skin, the green LED lights that measure heart rate will often flash in my eyes. Not a deal breaker, but they are very bright in a dark room. I usually just push it up higher on my arm, so it has full skin contact and gets blocked out.

I still hate the way the Fitbit Charge HR looks and pine for the lower profile UP3. It’s a big clunky ugly black strap on my wrist.

UP products blend in with jewelry.

It’s fairly easy to disguise Jawbone products with other jewelry.

But that doesn't really work with something this wide.

But that doesn’t really work with something this wide.

With a little online searching, I did find an Etsy store that offers fitness tracker charms and other ways to hide the band.

I’m currently wearing this charm when I want to dress it up a bit, and I’ve ordered others:

The charm makes it tolerable, but this thing is still ugly at its core.

The charm makes it tolerable, but this thing is still ugly at its core.

Should I Bring the UP3 Back to Life?

I submitted my help ticket about the UP3 dying on June 9. Five days later, on June 14, Jawbone responded offering a firmware update.

I replied that I didn’t really understand how I could do a firmware update on a totally dead product.

Then I threw the band across the room in frustration.

And then I picked it back up and attempted to charge it one more time. And the little light came on. Huh.

So, it’s now back to life — only after many failed attempts to charge previously and after violence on my part.

I don’t know what to do next. I haven’t installed the firmware update and not sure I will at this point. I feel like I am getting sucked back in by the bad boyfriend AGAIN.

The UP app is still on my phone, reminding me everyday that I haven’t synced recently. But I’m keeping it there to track the kid’s sleep and steps with the Move.

I guess I could sell the UP3, but I don’t want to pass this lousy relationship on to someone else.

Maybe when I hear that Jawbone has finally turned on 24/7 heart rate monitoring and followed through on all the other whiz-bang promises it’s made, and hear from real users about it, I’ll let myself get sucked back in.

But for now, I think I’ll just walk away, cram the UP3 in a drawer, and stick with the ugly but reliable Fitbit. It’s growing on me.

 

 

       
 

Book Binge: 7 Books I am Reading Now

When I get too busy, the first thing to go (unfortunately, unconsciously) is reading. So when I realize that’s happened, and it’s been a while since I made time to read a book, I binge. At this time of year, when I am planning for the next year, I often binge on books that nourish the entrepreneurial part of me.

Here are seven books I am reading now. I can’t really vouch for them since I haven’t finished them. But they all started as sample downloads on the Kindle and have all now been purchased in full.

If you want to read with me, I’m including Amazon links.

The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook: A Comprehensive Toolkit for Leading with Trust

Why I’m reading it: I expect mentoring/coaching clients to be a growing part of my consulting business and am interested in building my knowledge and skills in this area.

Humble Inquiry: The Gentle Art of Asking Instead of Telling

Why I’m reading it: Same reason as above, hope it makes me a better coach/mentor.

Unlabel: Selling You Without Selling Out

Why I’m reading it: My company is built largely on my personal brand. I’ve hated most personal branding books, but am really enjoying Marc Ecko’s writing style (although I will admit I’d never heard of his clothing brand before the book).

The Year Without Pants: WordPress.com and the Future of Work

Why I’m reading it: Love WordPress, working in virtual teams, and memoir.

Double Double: How to Double Your Revenue and Profit in 3 Years or Less

Why I’m reading it: I could use a little help focusing on a growth strategy for Nonprofit Marketing Guide.com.

Manage Your Day-to-Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus, and Sharpen Your Creative Mind

Why I’m reading it: I’m a fan of 99U and have enjoyed some of Scott Belsky’s other stuff, like Making Ideas Happen. Kristina and I are reading this together to see if we can learn anything about how we work together as a company.

The Circle

Why I’m reading it: This one work of fiction on the list is by Dave Eggers, one of my favorite authors, and it’s about a social media/online media company that monopolizes the Internet (and therefore the world, I take it). So given that my company works online and depends on companies like Google and Facebook, it definitely has a work angle.

Let me know if you plan on reading any of these, and what you reading right now.

       
 

The Five Times I've Leaned In Hardest

Despite some of the predictable criticisms of Sheryl Sandburg’s Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, I personally found a lot of value in it, which inspired me to share my story.

To me, Lean In is really about going for it, in every way, no matter how you define your “it” – an empowering message that I think many people are missing.  Leaning in is being fearless about your future and ambitious about your goals, but without over-planning yourself into a bind that ends up holding you back. Much of Sheryl’s success, and my own too, is about being nimble and trusting your instincts, even when it scares you to death and you aren’t exactly sure what you are doing or where you are headed. As one of my favorite DMB songs goes, “If you hold on tight to what you think is your thing, you may find you’re missing all the rest.”

I am sharing what leaning in has looked like for me in very specific ways. These are the five biggest decisions I’ve made in the last fifteen years that I believe have had a direct impact on my professional success, some of which are very personal and that I have never discussed before publicly.

Leaning In #1: Starting My Own Business & Picking the Right Man

The first time I really leaned in was deciding to move from northern California to Washington DC in 1998 to be with my then-boyfriend, now-husband Edgar and to start my own business as a copywriter for environmental organizations. That’s where EcoScribe Communications comes from, the domain I still use for my email today.

Before then, I held government and nonprofit jobs and thought that I would always work as some sort of public servant like everyone else in my family (dad, uncles and grandpa were in the Air Force; aunt was a librarian; grandma was a nurse; another uncle worked for a state legislature . . .)  I wasn’t the first in my family to go to college, but I was the first to start my own business, and that was a little scary for everyone.  Edgar agreed to support me for six months while I tried to make it work. The business took off, and he didn’t have to — which brings me to one of my favorite chapters in the book, about picking the right partner.

It may seem a bit retro to give marriage advice in what’s really a career book, but Sheryl is pragmatic and right on about this. Maybe it helped that we were professional colleagues before we started dating, but Edgar has always treated me like nothing but a full partner in our relationship. He would probably say that I demanded nothing less from the start, and that was part of what we found attractive in each other.

While I’ll admit that it was much tougher when our girls were itty-bitty and so much more physically dependent on me than him, I have never doubted his ability or will to parent our children. The man also loves to garden and cook and will clean house as much as I do (and more in the kitchen). We both have to travel away from our home offices for work, and the logistics of doing that with two kids is challenging, but we work it out together.

There is simply no way that I could have leaned in professionally if Edgar hadn’t leaned in as a husband and father. If you want to have both a family and a career, picking the right partner who will be there for you and your children in every way – and be willing to share in the daily exhaustion —  is just as important to your professional life in the long-run as your education or early work experience. Edgar is my second husband, but I got it right this time.

Leaning In #2: Making a Difficult Family Decision

That’s not to say that we haven’t had our difficult moments.  In late 2001, six months after getting married, we moved from DC to Edgar’s hometown in North Carolina in large part to help take care of his mom, Jo Ann. We’d already moved her into an assisted living center earlier that year after some falls and early signs of Alzheimer’s. We bought the family home place from her, and moved in to start our life there. The assisted living center was only a five-minute drive away, but Jo Ann felt like she was in exile, and she assumed that our moving to North Carolina meant we would let her come back home and live with us. Edgar, being such a good son, wanted to find a way to let her do that.

But I was adamantly opposed to it, and in retrospect, this was the second time I really leaned in. I was running my consulting business, which had grown well beyond environmental copywriting at that point, fairly sure but not certain that I could continue to make it work from rural North Carolina (I made sure I could get broadband Internet at the house before agreeing to live in it). We also wanted to start our family, and I got pregnant just a few months after moving.

Jo Ann was a bold and independent woman in her own right. We bonded early over teasing Edgar about something, which he did not particularly enjoy. I hated seeing her feel so trapped. I felt like a selfish wife and terrible daughter-in-law, but the mother-to-be and business woman in me knew there was simply no way that I could run the business, have my first baby, and take care of Jo Ann all in the same house, at the same time, while still adjusting to a new life in a small town with few friends.

Jo Ann cried often about wanting to come home and my chest still hurts when I think about Edgar telling her, “Not right now, Mom, maybe when you get better,” knowing she wouldn’t get any better. She passed away suddenly in February 2003, when our first born was three months old.  I still believe we made the right decision, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t agonizing.

Leaning In #3: Hiring a Nanny

Fast forward to late 2005, with baby girl #2 on the way, when we decided to hire a nanny. Ava was a pretty easy-going baby, and I didn’t hire any help at all until she was almost six months old. But now she was three, and with a newborn on the way, I knew that I wanted to keep working full-time, and that I needed steady, reliable help.

Until then, we had made due with a series of college students helping with babysitting a few hours a day. We didn’t have the luxury of an extended family of caregivers who would keep the kids for free like many of the families in our small town. If we weren’t with the kids, with very few exceptions, we had to pay someone to be with them.

We hired Shirley, a woman in her 50’s, who treated this as her real job, unlike the students before her. For six years, she worked anywhere from 20-35 hours a week for us. It wasn’t much more expensive than daycare for two, and since I had a home office, I wanted them to be around. The girls are now 7 and 10, so we’ve since scaled back her hours significantly, but I trust Shirley with my children’s lives and they love her like family.

Hiring a nanny and paying the nanny taxes – like any form of decent child care —  is not cheap, and that’s a huge societal problem that holds women back. But once again, Sheryl’s wisdom is spot on: paying for high-quality child care when your children are small is an investment in your future earning potential. Until the United States gets its act together on affordable child care, you’ll have to make the decision about paying for care or doing it yourself.

Hiring help allows you to keep growing professionally, rather than hitting the pause button on your career for several years. If you want to hit pause and stop working to take care of your children full-time, good for you. But I didn’t. I had a great husband, but to really lean in, I had to have a great nanny too. It was well worth the financial sacrifice to get us through the toddler years.

Leaning In #4: Starting Over, Almost from Scratch

Now comes the big one, where if I leaned in any harder, I would have fallen over and cracked my skull wide open.

Early in 2007, I decided to end a retainer contract with my longest running and biggest client that was worth about $75,000 a year. After almost nine years of serving as their de facto communications director, I was miserable working for this organization. When you wake up hating your job every day, and you work for yourself, you have no one to blame but yourself. I knew I had to make a change, no matter how drastic. I just couldn’t take it anymore. I talked about the financial implications, which were huge, with Edgar, and told him I was sure I could get more clients to make up the difference, but that it might take a little while. He told me he trusted me, and I should do what I needed to do.

I bought the domain NonprofitMarketingGuide.com on January 27, 2007, not exactly sure what I was going to do with it.

Over the next several months, I picked up several new, small clients and also invested more time in several e-commerce sites I had started in 2005, including one called Writing911.com, where I sold business writing tips, and another called NonprofitAnnualReports.net, where I sold an e-book on writing annual reports, which was a mainstay of my copywriting client work. (I have since shut down both.) I had also started blogging about nonprofit communications in late 2006.

By the end of 2007, I decided to transition my business from mostly consulting with a little bit of training to mostly training with a little bit of consulting. Affordable webinar technology was coming online and I started experimenting with webinars at the end of 2007.

By the spring of 2008, I was all in, launching a paid webinar series at NonprofitMarketingGuide.com.  That fall, I met Katya Andresen in person, and in our hour-long conversation, she convinced me that I could write a book and offered to introduce me to both her publisher and her book agent, who within a few months became my publisher and agent too. I signed my book deal with Jossey-Bass/Wiley & Sons days before my 40th birthday, in March 2009.  The Nonprofit Marketing Guide: High-Impact, Low-Cost Ways to Build Support for Your Good Cause was published in June 2010.

Leaning In #5: Taking on Serious Debt

The online training business, as well as my paid in-person speaking schedule, continued to grow. But so did our credit card debt.

I financed everything that happened, from dumping my biggest client to starting a new training business to taking the time to write the book, on six different credit cards. Everything that required cash — the mortgages, car payments, the nanny — was taken care of, but a lot of regular living expenses like groceries and diapers, and all of my business expenses, went on credit cards. Those monthly expenses didn’t get paid off immediately.

This whole time, Edgar had a job he loved, albeit at a nonprofit salary, so the hole in our finances was one created mostly by my decisions to lean in  — to change my business strategy and to hire a nearly full-time nanny. And while we do not live extravagantly – we drive old cars and 95% of my wardrobe is from Old Navy, Marshall’s and Kohl’s — we didn’t live within our means either.  We like to eat and drink well and to take an annual beach vacation, which we never missed despite the growing debt.

By the summer of 2010, the combined credit card debt for our family and my business expenses was over $80,000. And as a sole proprietor, it’s really all the same. Trust me, I wasn’t happy about it. I broke down in tears several times. We attempted to sell some farmland we own, which has its own mortgage payment, to relieve some of the pressure. But given the recession, the land didn’t sell (which we are actually grateful for now, in hindsight).

But I never once thought that I needed to give up on what I was doing or that I had made some terrible mistake. I always knew that at some point, these investments in my business — and trust in myself — would create some kind of breakthrough. I knew it. If I hadn’t leaned it, I would have lived a bitter life full of regret. I believe that to my core.

I knew it was a big risk. Everywhere I turned — the media, family, friends, even church — it seemed that someone was preaching about the perils of credit card debt and how stupid people were to rack up those kinds of liabilities.

I just sat there nodding quietly, knowing I was doing the exact opposite of what everyone said was the right thing to do. I felt constantly judged by people who didn’t even know they were judging me. The dialogue that came out of my mouth (“Oh, yes, that is so terrible that these people have charged so much to their credit cards! So irresponsible! So short-sighted!”) was in complete conflict with the one in my head (“I am trying to make some shit happen here. Back off, bitches. It’s going to work out.”)

I didn’t call it “leaning in” at the time, but that’s exactly what I was doing those four years — leaning in, and hard.

And it worked.

Registrations for webinars, paid speaking gigs, consulting clients – it all starting flowing in, the phone starting ringing with strangers practically begging to work with me, and by the end of 2010, the tide turned. My income went way up, and the debt went down. By the end of 2011, it was under $60,000. With both kids in school, we needed the nanny a lot less. I hired my sister, Kristina, half-time in 2012, allowing the business to grow even faster.  I created some new offerings and business partnerships, and by the summer of 2012, the debt was under $40,000. By the end of 2012, it was completely paid off.  Ta-da! It took more than four years to build up that debt and about half that to pay it off.

Leaning In Worked for Me

At the beginning of 2013, I hired Kristina full-time to help me keep the business growing. My second book will come out in August. I am more happy and relaxed and excited about the future than I have been in a decade. Leaning in all these years means that I now have a successful business that supports my family and my sister’s. And my credit rating is excellent.

At times, it has been incredibly stressful. Pregnancy and parenting toddlers were just as tough on me mentally and physically as transforming my business, and it was all happening at the same time. I don’t want to minimize the stress of those years and or the anxiety the debt created – it was significant. My path has demanded a lot of hard, hard work. If I didn’t have naturally low blood pressure, it might have killed me.

But my marriage and my kids are no worse for wear. In fact, I think we are all better for the experience. My daughters see a strong mother and a strong father who are a unified team in every way that really matters. They see their parents work very hard and care deeply about the world around them, but they also see incredible love for them and for each other.  I know I feel stronger and more confident in myself at age 44 than I ever thought I would. I am five months older than Sheryl Sandburg, and while I am not the billionaire grown-up in the room at Facebook like she is, I can say that I do actually feel like a grown-up now.

I have no idea when I will need to lean in again as hard as I did during these five times, but I have no doubt that I will again someday. I don’t know exactly what I’ll be doing five months from now, let alone five years. Maybe it will all go to hell. But I don’t think so, and so for now, I’m going to sit back and relax a bit, so I’ll be ready to lean in again when the time comes.

My path is not your path. But I will tell you this: Trust your instincts. Decide what you want. Make it happen. Step up, and lean in.

 

 

 

 

 

 

       
 

Apps I Use at Conferences

It’s Spring Conference Season, which means I am on the road a lot again, mostly as a speaker, but also as a conference attendee.

I try to make the most out of the conferences I attend by strategically using the apps on my smartphone.  I have a Samsung Galaxy S3 at the moment — which I LOVE — and all links in this post are to the  Google Play Store.

Top Three Apps I Use at Conferences All the Time

Hootsuite/Twitter

Each conference should have a hashtag, and individual sessions probably have their own too. Set up and save searches so you can open the conference streams quickly. Hootsuite makes it very easy to do this. For example, say there are two sessions you really want to go to at the same time. Pick one and watch the other via the hashtag. If the other one seems more interesting,  vote with your feet and change sessions. I also tell people that if they want to connect with me onsite, use Twitter during the conference rather than calling or emailing me. I’m much more likely to see a message quickly that way.

Evernote

I am too slow at taking notes live on my phone or tablet, and often don’t want to schlep the laptop to sessions. My solution is taking notes the old fashioned way with a pen and notebook, which is also a good excuse for buying blank books, which I love, love, love. So I take notes by hand, but at the close of each session or at the end of the day, I snap pictures of the pages and save them into Evernote. As long as I am not too sloppy, Evernote can read my handwriting, so my notes are searchable.

Sidenote: I do have a Livescribe pen, and have tried to record sessions while notetaking, which is nice, but the Livescribe pen is too fat and really does hurt my hand, so I have stopped using it.  Loss of the audio isn’t that big a deal because I can record on the phone if I really need it.

TripIt

This is more about getting there and back rather than the conference itself, but I love TripIt for organizing all of my travel confirmations. TripIt told me to rebook a flight because the odds of a missed connection were suddenly very high, while I was on my way to the airport. Made the call from the car and rebooked my flight, saving immense amounts of stress that would have ensued at the airport otherwise.

Three Apps I Am Trying for the First Time at #13NTC

I am heading to the Nonprofit Technology Conference this week as both an attendee and speaker. I’ve installed three new-to-me apps on my phone for a trial by fire. I will let you know whether I keep them on there after #13NTC.

SoundCloud

I will be doing a series of audio interviews using SoundCloud. I will try to record in SoundCloud itself because I like the interface, but even if I end up using another recording app, I will probably still store files there.

Sidenote: Here is a test I did of the iRig Mic Cast with my Galaxy S3 using SoundCloud:

 

Evernote Hello 

My goal with this app is to return home and remember who I talked to about what. I end up having lots of great conversations with people and then completely forgetting them after the conference. The Android version is apparently much less useful than the iPhone version, but I will give Hello a shot as a way to remember people who I meet as I go, snapping a picture of them or their business card and making a few quick notes about our conversations.

CamCard

CamCard is a business card reader that will dump information directly into your Contacts. Again, I end up collecting tons of business cards from people I meet and then they sit in a pile in my office until I recycle them years later. I hope this will eliminate the pile entirely.

Here’s another post you might like:

10 Mobile Apps No Conference Attendee Should Be Without (Social Media Examiner)

What apps do you use most while attending conferences?

       
 

What's a Hook and How to Find It

I write so much better and faster when I can identify the hook of the article or story early. When I mentioned this on a webinar recently, someone asked, “But what is a hook and how do you know it when you see it?

Good question!

Think of the hook as, well, the thing you hook your thinking on as you write the article. Or the thing that will hook your reader into going past the first sentence or two. It’s like the organizing principle that you write around. Or the most important point. Or the one-liner that you think everyone will want to tweet. It’s what snags both you and the readers into the piece.

You may know that you have to write about a certain topic, but until you find your hook, you’ll just be rambling.

Here are some common hooks . . .

A good question. Questions that many people have are great hooks. It’s the hook I used to draft this blog post!

A dramatic situation. If you are telling a story that grabs your reader, they’ll want to hang on to see how it is resolved.

An interesting character. If a person in the story is interesting, because the reader can relate to him or her or because the person is very different from the reader, that can work as a hook.

A quote that says it all. Sometimes a direct quote from someone you interviewed really gets to the crux or heart of the matter and you can use that as your hook.

The format itself. People love Top Ten Lists, how-to articles, and Q & A interviews. These formats themselves are good hooks because of their popularity.

A surprising stat. A startling statistic can work as a hook too.

A funny situation. Humor is a great hook, especially if people can relate to it in their own lives.

What hooks do you use in your writing?

 This post first appeared on my Nonprofit Communications Blog.

       
 
 
   
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