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Benefits of Podcasting for Coaches

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“Podcasting is a method of publishing files via the Internet, allowing users to subscribe to a feed to receive new files automatically. It became popular in late 2004, largely for downloading audio files onto a portable audio player or personal computer.” (Wikipedia)

How Podcasting works?

Podcast uses RSS protocols in order to transfer files over the web. Really Simple Syndication (RSS) is an internet protocol which allows web syndication between varied websites – the retrieval of small files which correspond to a section of a website every time that section is updated. Thus, a podcast is quite simply a media file which is syndicated through RSS protocols.

In practical terms, each time a new podcast (such as a radio show) is published over the web, thousands, if not millions of feed aggregators “pull” that media file. This process ensures the content is constantly up-to-date. It is like having a personal research assistant who spends the whole day checking for updates over the web, downloading that information, and putting it together in one central stage.

How can coaches benefit from Podcasting?

There are many benefits for Coaches in using podcasting, particularly when it comes to education and professional development. Coaches can benefit from publishing podcasts if they currently host a radio show, conduct regular teleconferences, or provide information through media over the web (audio, video, etc). Using podcast, they can have access to a global audience (and if they are able to provide quality content, receive top listings on search directories).

Coaches will also derive benefit from learning through podcasts. In a nutshell, podcasting provides the opportunity of accessing compiled, up-to-date and relevant content with little or no effort. Using an mp3 player such as an iPod, coaches can receive regular podcasts on selected topics and listen to it while driving, running, going for a walk or riding a bike. For busy individuals, it creates an unprecedented opportunity to learn and develop coaching knowledge.

How do I start?

It is a simple process, which can be depicted in the following steps:

1. Get an mp3 player: an iPod or any similar player will do the job. Preferably focus on the memory requirements, such as 20 GB or more. This way, you can subscribe to as many podcasts as you want, without worrying about space (and also keep all your songs in the same device).

Note: Alternatively to an mp3 player, you may want to listen to your podcast from your PC or laptop. However, it gives you less flexibility in terms of where and when you will be able to access the content.

2. Download a feed aggregator: Feed aggregators are computer programs which ‘pull’ the feeds directly from its source and organise them on an easy-to-navigate interface. In other words, it is the software which will grab the content you choose from a variety of sites on the web, as soon as the content is published. Aggregators save your time to research and check for updates on the web.

Note: Most aggregators can be downloaded for free over the web. They can also be web-based or computer-based. For more information, visit the Wikipedia page on Aggregators.

3. Select your podcasts: Once you have your aggregator, you may begin to search for appropriate podcasts. Podcast directories such as http://www.podcast.net/ are an option for online access to free resources. iTunes (for iPod users) also has a database of thousands of podcasts, some which are paid and some which are not.

Note: Because podcast feeds are updated automatically, you may subscribe to as many podcasts as you want and, if you don’t find the time to keep up with the updates, you can listen to it later. You can also pause and re-play podcasts anytime.

Now that you have your system set-up, you only have to listen and learn. When you’re listening to your mp3, alternate your music tracks with your selected podcasts. It makes learning (and being up-to-date with the industry) an easy, practical and enjoyable task (and you will become the cool, technology savvy person too).

Benefits of VoIP for Coaches

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“Voice over Internet Protocol, also called VoIP, IP Telephony, Internet telephony, Broadband telephony, Broadband Phone and Voice over Broadband is the routing of voice conversations over the Internet or through any other IP-based network.

Protocols used to carry voice signals over the IP network are commonly referred to as Voice over IP or VoIP protocols. They may be viewed as commercial realizations of the experimental Network Voice Protocol (1973) invented for the ARPANET. Voice over IP traffic can be deployed on any IP network, including those lacking a connection to the rest of the Internet, for instance on a local area network.” (Wikipedia)

Why VoIP?

In general, transmitting voice data (phone services) is a costly process for professionals. Companies (and individuals) which rely on phone conversations with customers, suppliers and staff end up paying high costs for the line and services. VoIP brings a solution: it uses the internet as a data transmission platform – vastly decreasing the cost of calls and phone communication. Nowadays VoIP service providers offer a wide range of services, and some of the advantages include:

  • FREE calls from PC to PC from anywhere in the World.
  • Low cost calls from PC to other networks (regular phones, mobile phones, etc).
  • The ability to record voice messages, re-route calls to a VoIP phone and easier line access.
  • Mobility allows users to make and receive calls from anywhere in the world.

Decreasing Costs, Improving Communication

Many life coaches make constant use of phone services to network with other professionals, contact prospective clients and even conduct coaching sessions. For those who spend considerable time in an office or in front of a computer, using VoIP programs such as Skype can become a very effective way to conduct business. How? With simple but great benefits such as:

  • The ability to communicate with clients from anywhere in the world in individual or group sessions (yes, VoIP softwares allow for tele-conferences and even video-conferences).
  • You can receive messages, re-route calls, set-up voice message banks, and much more.
  • Very low costs comparing to normal PSTN services. FREE calls when using direct connection (both sides are connected through a VoIP program).

How to Start Using it

It is extremely easy to start using VoIP technology – in fact, most people reading this article will already have the necessary apparatus to start today. What are these? Simply a PC, headphones (with a microphone), a VoIP enabled software (we recommend Skype) and a reasonably fast internet connection (ADSL, Broadband, or other).

Once you have ensured the your connection is appropriate, your computer can host the program, and the program is running… you’re ready to decrease your call costs CONSIDERABLY, whilst enabling yourself to improve the level of communication with clients, prospective clients and business associates. Also, you’ll be able to conduct coaching sessions or brainstorm with other professionals using teleconferencing tools. It’s simply up to you.

To download Skype – click Here.
To find more information about VoIP, visit the Wikipedia page.

Benefits of Blogs for Coaches

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Yep – Blogs are on a hype. You’ve probably heard of them, you may have even seen some, or, at a more advanced side of the spectrum – you may have even written a comment, created a blog for yourself, or interacted with bloggers in some other way. But do you know how powerful a blog can be? And even more – do you know how powerful a blog can be for a coach??

Coaches – listen up! Blogs are good for you. As we’ve previously written, blogs can be defined as a kind of self-sustaining site: you don’t need an ISP (Internet Service Provider) to host one (at least not directly); you don’t need a programmer to keep it up-to-date and looking good; and you also do not need more-than-average technical knowledge about computers, the internet or HTML.

Most blogs are free of charge, with some of the more intricate and better designed ones charging relatively low annual membership fees. A vast range of interactive, useful and practical tools (from publishing to management tools) have also been designed by several programmers – and almost all of them are available for free and are very easy to download and/or implement.

Coaching, Marketing and Blogging

The most important benefit of using blogs is in marketing. As a coach, you’ll need to market your services efficiently in order to acquire a good base clientele – and from that move forward to other clients through a mix of networking and direct marketing. The best ways to market your services as a coach are: (a) using education-based marketing (for more information about this type of marketing, visit our ‘Professional Development Centre’ category) and; (b) obtaining exposure and recognition in the niche market. Blogging tackles both needs with a single act, and a very efficient one.

With a blog you are able to post articles, tips and any other valuable content you can offer. Such process elicits value to your coaching services, allowing your prospective clients to realise your potential as a coach and, furthermore, visualise themselves in a coaching relationship with you. You will be able to provide a much more personal communication interface to your prospective clients, making them comfortable about the decision of whether or not to engage in a coaching relationship with you. And the best part is that you are able to achieve this with very low costs (no print, design or other related costs – although we would recommend that you use other medias to market your services as a complement to your blog). You can create a blog and constantly post content without spending anything but your own time.

On the exposure side of things, maintaining a blog with good content and reasonably up-to-date (that would require an average of 2 to 5 posts per week) will get you rating points in blog and web search engines – which in turn would increase the traffic to your site. The more people access it, and post comments – the more exposure your coaching brand will receive (with networking opportunities highly likely to increase). Blog tools also allow you to link with other blogs, and this process is one of the most effective ways to drive traffic to your blog, and also improve positioning in search engines.

Coaching, Learning and Blogging

So far we have discussed the primary benefit of blogging: marketing to your clients and improving networking and exposure. However, there is another benefit in blogging which is intrinsically related to your coaching career – learning and professional development.

First, you can use RSS-compatible technologies to receive selected content in your own pre-defined strucuture (you can do that without blogs, but the more you are involved in the ‘blogosphere’ – the better content you are likely to discover). This is a very efficient way of acquiring knowledge through the internet.

Second, you may use your blog (and others) to open discussions about any particular coaching topics: if you have the right networking, you will benefit from the insights and knowledge of dozens, or perhaps hundreds of other professionals.

Third, in order to keep your blog up-to-date you will need to ‘force yourself’ to keep writing quality content. This exercise will improve both your writing skills and your general knowledge of coaching theories, approaches, relationships (and whatever else you may write about).

In such a flexible and responsive environment, the opportunities are endless…

When Potential Becomes Reality

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Do you remember the last time you finally arrived at a decision to do or change something in your life, only to recognise a few months later that you have done nothing (or very little) towards turning that decision into reality? Yes, most of us know that feeling of frustration, helplessness and under-minded ego when yet again, we for some reason, let ourselves down.

At the same time, most of us know someone who just seems to achieve whatever they set their minds to in all areas of their life. We must wonder, “What is it they do, have or are that makes them different from me”? Although there is no universal answer to this question, as a Life Coach, I often find that the main differences between the two groups of people are not their personality traits, intelligence or their social status, but the way they approach the goal at hand.

The key to success for many people seems to be their motivation to achieve their goals, and, just as importantly, their commitment and persistence to reach the final destination. I can now hear you say, “Easy said, not as easily done”. That is true, but fortunately, just as with many other things in our lives, goal setting is a skill which can be learned, and with repeated practice and a supportive environment, we can all start reaching our goals rather then just talking about them.

Research suggests that one of the most common reasons we do not achieve what we strive for in our lives is because we fail to plan and consequently put strategies into place. We need to realise that it sometimes takes weeks, months or even years to arrive at the point of a decision to take action; yet, we often expect things to happen by themselves, without any obstacles with our 21st century “ASAP” timelines. It is often simply a lack of planning and our irrational expectations that can set us up for failure.

“So what can we do to start achieving our goals?” A great start would be to run a reality check on our current situation to find out whether we have the necessary resources to achieve our goal. For example, do we have enough information, finance and time available to successfully launch into action? Ask yourself: “How does my current life have to change in order to start moving towards the goal?” and/or, “Am I willing to make those changes in my life for this price?”

All those questions need to be considered carefully to gain greater awareness of the impact, both positive and negative, that our proposed plan will have on us. Furthermore, change in our lives will often affect the lives of others, and therefore, we need to consider the consequences of our actions on those around us; their support will be a crucial factor on our journey to success.

Once we have laid down the appropriate foundation, it is time to think about the ‘size’ of our goal, how we feel about it, and consider whether we need to break it down to a few smaller, more manageable sub-goals. Those smaller victories (when we achieve the sub-goals) should keep us motivated and focused on our journey towards the main goal. Moreover, having these sub-goals as check points on our road to success creates clarification: it helps us better understand who we are and how to get from one milestone to the next.

By creating strategies, we map out each step needed to get us closer to our goal, and establish the timeframe needed to reach each of these steps. For instance, it can be a phone call to the bank to open a new savings account for a long deserved holiday, then reducing three cups of coffees per day to one a day, making savings of $1,825 across 12 months as a result! It may happen that our original strategies do not produce the desired results, and that is OK. Instead of seeing our overall plan as a failure, we need to pinpoint the fault in our strategy and appropriately address it. Moreover, keeping an honest journal of our actions and their results helps us to keep track of our progress against our mapped out strategy.

Motivation, commitment and persistence all have a common underlying attribute – they can be achieved only by our positive outlook on our adventure and the ups and downs of it. Even though things may not always go according to plan, every one of us has a choice to perceive the situation as a lesson and adjust our plan of action accordingly. This is when the support of our family and friends is particularly important; they can help us to realise our strengths and past achievements when our current frame of mind may not let us remember ourselves.

The most rewarding part of this whole helping process is that as our skills, abilities and achievements grow they will have a positive impact on the lives of our family, friends and people in our greater environment. For those who may feel that they currently do not have that supportive environment around them, think again. Could finding that supportive environment be your first goal to be accomplished?

That is exactly what I did, because assisting my clients to become more focused, empowered and aligned with their purpose makes me also part of that positive and inspiring environment where a person’s potential can become their reality. You also have a choice – a choice to live a comfortable life of unrealised potential or a choice to become a person who dares to challenge the fear of the unknown and live a life where ‘if only’ is obsolete. What will it be? As the saying goes:” A life lived in fear is a life half lived”.

Author: Igor Bilek

The Coach’s Guide to Developing a Blog

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A Blog or Weblog is described as an online diary. Modern blogs have derived from early online diaries in which people would keep accounts of their personal lives. Practically, a Blog is more like a ‘self-sustaining’ website which allows people with little or no programming skills to develop their own pages – and keep them updated at will.

In previous editions we’ve exposed several benefits of blogging for coaches, particularly when it comes to marketing. In this edition, we include an extensive guide to assist you develop your own successful weblog. Are you ready to jump-start into the Blogosphere?

Developing Your Blog

The Blogosphere has become a popular context for written, visual and audio communications. Blog platforms, web-based software, widgets, publishing tools, directories, and many other technological resources have backed up the infusion of millions of new Blogs – and encouraged anyone step into “an almost boundary-less” environment. Developing a Blog became as easy as making a pizza.

Choosing a Platform

The first step in developing a Blog is to choose which platform you are going to use. There are several platforms available, each with particular qualities and weaknesses. Following are 6 selected platforms that provide the necessary tools to get you started on the right foot:

Tip: choose your platform according to your ease with technology (e.g. HTML coding), the tools available, the hosting format (whether it is a stand-alone or hosted platform), and planned structure of your Blog.

Design and Structure

Most Blog platforms offer professionally looking templates. You should choose a template that fits your business’ image, but also, allows your content to be placed in a well structured manner. For branding purposes, we recommend you hire a designer to develop a unique banner (it could be a similar design to your website if you have one). This will add a notch of professionalism and help people remember where they are navigating.

You will also need to consider categories, post style, RSS feeds, links, archiving, and more. Following are some guidelines:

  • Create meaningful and concise categories to place your content: these play an important role in how attractive and professional your Blog will look.
  • Include interesting links and ensure they open ‘in a new page’: you don’t want to direct your visitors away from your Blog.
  • Have one or more RSS feeds and allow users to easily access the URL for syndication. Usually, the best option is to link it to an RSS logo or image.
  • Don’t add too much information on the side bars: you want your readers to focus on your Blog’s posts more than on the supporting information. Some blogs look more like link directories than anything else.
  • Let your readers know how they can contact you via the Blog (e.g. email form, link to your email address, etc). Also ensure that navigation is made easy and that your Blog doesn’t look polluted with information.

Widgets and Tools

The blogosphere’s popularity amongst internet users has been followed by the ongoing development of new tools and services known as ‘blog widgets’. Such tools can be easily accessed and most blog platforms offer them as free embedded services. Should professional bloggers use them to improve the quality of their blogs?

Yes – but with reservation. It is important to remember that when it comes to blogs, content is king. Although widgets may look good in your page, they are only tools which should facilitate your reader’s experience, whether it is by helping them find particular topics within your blog or the web, share information or communicate with others.

Following are common and useful Blog tools, or widgets, which can help improve your reader experience and get your Blog’s functionality up-to-date:

  • Search: Enable search mechanisms in your Blog. Most Blog platforms provide these as easy-to-install widgets at no cost. This function will allow your readers to quickly find content, thus improving the efficiency of your message. Tip: Blogbar is a free search engine widget that allows your readers to search any keyword within your Blog, the Web or the Blogosphere. The widget is provided in several different languages and it comes in a variety of colours and shapes. It is a great tool to assist your readers search keywords over the Internet.
  • Email Subscriptions: Have a newsletter or email launch with notifications to your readers. Each time you publish a new post, you can notify your readership and encourage them to comment. Tip: Feedburner provides a range of services for bloggers, many of them highly useful. An email subscription widget from Feedburner allows your readers to subscribe to email updates from your Blog. You can format this email the way you want it, and adjust the frequency and time it is sent out.
  • Bookmarking and Content Dissemination: There are many ways to get your Blog content out there. You could register in a variety of Blog directories; allow readers to bookmark your posts; syndicate your content via RSS feeds; create podcasts of your posts; and so on. Tip: Register your blog in directories such as Technorati, Google Blog Search or Blog Top Sites and link them back to your Blog. Use AddThis to easily bookmark your Blog posts using a variety of services such as Del.icio.us, Digg, Technorati, Google Bookmarks, and others.

Maintaining Your Blog

When considering your Blog’s content, make sure you consider your niche. If you are planning to develop a Blog to increase your profile, your content should reflect how you position yourself to your prospects. Therefore, write content that matters to them. Here are some guidelines to improve your blog writing:

  • Write a minimum of 3-5 times a week
  • Check and answer comments as much as you can
  • Write unique content
  • Write ‘How-to’, ‘Top 10′, ‘Ask the Expert’ kind of articles and posts
  • Write Case Studies on topics of your expertise
  • Use videos, images and audio when appropriate
  • Write industry news and updates to your target audience

When it comes to Blog writing, part of your homework is to avoid pitfalls of blogging communication. Here’s a list of things you should never do, or avoid as much as you can:

  • Promote criticism towards other Bloggers or writers
  • Write controversial posts without basis or evidence
  • Focus on form instead of content
  • Breach copyrights or steal content
  • Write opinionated posts about religion, sex, and other controversial topics
  • Self-promote in excess, including too many advertisements

Direct Communication

If you are willing to spend some extra time with your readers, whether you want to get to know them better, conduct marketing research, or lead a TeleClass – there are several tools which you can take benefit from. Following are three great tools which will get your contact with your readers to a next level:

  • Instant Communication: Meebo Me provides an IM window in your page for instant communication with readers, and you can customize the colours, shape, size and location of your widget.
  • Do-it-yourself research: Vizu Pools is a widget that allows you to create a public pool and publish it on your blog. Your public pool can direct readers to your Blog, whilst your widget can help you find out what your readers have to say about…well…anything you want to ask! It can be a very useful tool to discover which products or services your readers would like to have developed – or what content they would like to see published.
  • TeleConferences: With knowledge, a headphone with microphone, a reasonably good PC, and Skype – you can use the Skypecasts widget on your Blog. This widget allows you to conduct teleconferences, teleseminars, group conversations, or any combination of these, easily and at no cost. It’s an invaluable tool for coaching bloggers who like to use education-based marketing.

Keeping It Up

The Blogosphere is a fast-paced environment. To keep your Blog up-to-date with technological advances, you need to keep an eye on what’s going on with the Blogosphere. Subscribing to a couple of eZines and RSS feeds from specialist Bloggers will do the job.

Meanwhile, keep looking for options to leverage your content. Developing educational products such as eBooks or TeleConferences is a great way to promote your business through your Blog. These products will assist you engage your readership and position yourself as an expert. Don’t forget to also link your Blog to your current website and other profile pages such as Find A Coach.

Finally, keep in mind that the objective of your Blog is to get your business out there. If you play it right, you could attract ongoing ‘traffic’ into your coaching business – but you will need to convert this traffic into sales. Having an efficient sales process will help you achieve that (you can learn all you need about building your coaching business at the CoachIQ Coaching Club community).