Nick Exposito

Marketing & New Business Coordinator

10 Writing “Rules” That Are Okay to Break

Don’t begin a sentence with a “but” or “and”. Don’t ever write in passive voice. Never start a sentence with “because”. How many of you have ever heard these writing “rules” from a teacher or authority figure? My guess is all of you.

I recently attended a writing seminar hosted by Association Media & Publishing (AM&P) and the topic was “Back to the Basics: Writing for Associations.” Leslie O’Flahavan led this fun and interactive workshop, and she gave great insight on why it is okay to go ahead and BREAK all of those writing “rules” and get them out of your head.

Here are the 10 writing rules Leslie says can be broken:

  1. Don’t begin a sentence with “but” or “and”.
  2. Don’t end a sentence with a preposition.
  3. Don’t begin a sentence with “because”.
  4. Don’t write a one-sentence paragraph.
  5. Don’t use contractions in business writing.
  6. Don’t use “they” as a singular pronoun.
  7. Don’t split an infinitive.
  8. Don’t write a fragment.
  9. Don’t begin a sentence with “however” or “therefore”.
  10. Don’t write in passive voice. Ever.

When writing for your organization, all of these rules can be broken. Yes, all of them. Thanks to blogging and social media, a more casual and informal writing tone is now not only accepted but often expected. So live on the wild side and break rules a little bit! Just be careful that u don’t go 2 crazy w/ it. ;)

What other writing “rules” do you think need to be broken from time to time?

Alex Pineda

Creative Director

The Inflection Point

As I write this, I’m currently watching the live event of Apple’s latest iPhone 8 event. They just announced an update to the Apple TV set top box, with support for 4K, because, according to Tim Cook, “TV is at an “inflection point” with the mainstream adoption of 4K.”

This made me ponder the implication of this term “inflection point”. By definition, in math terms, it’s “a point of a curve at which a change in the direction of curvature occurs.”  In Tim Cook’s reference, it’s when a technology reaches a certain critical mass in terms of how many people use it, hence Apple’s new product.

In larger, cultural terms, an inflection point represents a fundamental change in how people live, do business, communicate.  On the NY Times website, there is a video of all the things the iPhone “destroyed”, in terms of how it disrupted whole industries, and changed how we interact with each other:

The list of disruptions engendered by the rise of mobile technology is enormous, including the taxi industry, alarm clocks, cameras, etc. Every organization is faced with the potential of disruption, with the inflection point. The key is to anticipate this disruption, and embrace it, to evolve, rather than die. History is littered with industries and companies that could not embrace change and fell by the wayside.

Since I’ve been with Matrix Group (1999), there have been a huge number of inflection points, both culturally and technologically. Every time there is a major fundamental change, we’ve had to adapt our design process, business practices, and offerings to clients. From desktop to mobile, cloud computing, content management systems, these new technologies have all had huge impacts on our business, and how we help our clients.

Some of the new potential inflection points include the internet of things, virtual reality, screen less experiences etc.  As a company that designs interactive experiences for our clients, it’s imperative that we stay on top of these changes, embrace these changes, and think about how we can apply these inflection points to help our clients evolve and thrive, and not die.

Janna Marks

Web Producer

9 Tips for Holding a Successful Training Session

Holding a training session can be tough. You have to give your audience all of the information they need in a limited time frame, without overwhelming them or, let’s be honest, putting them to sleep. It can be quite the task and balancing act.

At Matrix Group, we conduct a lot of training. Over the years I’ve held hundreds of trainings and MatrixMaxx product demos. While my sessions aren’t always 100% flawless, I like to think that I’ve gotten pretty good at holding a successful training session.

Recently, I gave some of our staff a training session on giving training sessions. Here are the 9 top tips that I shared with the Matrix Group staff on how to make your training sessions successful:

  1. Know your material – This one may seem obvious, but be well prepared and don’t try to wing it. Make a quick bulleted list for yourself of the key points that you want to cover, and, if you do the same training regularly, it might be worth your time to create a standard presentation template that gets customized for each individual training.
  2. Know the audience’s goals – Ask yourself: What are they trying to get out of this training or demo? What information is the most important and useful to them? Do they want an overview, or a deep dive into one or two areas?
  3. Learn about the organization(s) you are talking to – Ask them questions about how they currently do certain things ahead of time, so you can better prepare. Also, be sure to know about any unique customizations the client(s) may have in place when holding a software training.
  4. Prepare sample data – It often goes a long way for the client to see data like their own. Note a couple of examples that illustrate your points, and populate some sample data where necessary.
  5. Slow down – Don’t be afraid of a little silence and don’t rush through the material. You may know the information like the back of your hand, but your audience doesn’t, so make sure you are giving them enough time to let things sink in.
  6. Practice – A little practice makes a big impact, especially if you are conducting a training on or using new material. Formulate a plan for what information you are going to cover, go over your examples and illustrations and think about what you are going to say for each one, then practice, practice, practice.
  7. Speak clearly – Try to avoid “ums” and “ahs”. The previous two tips will also help you to do this. Also, if you are giving a training remotely, keep in mind that conference phone lines tend to muddle things, so take extra care to enunciate.
  8. Periodically prompt for questions – Before changing topics, ask if there are any questions. This gives the more shy audience members an opportunity to ask questions.
  9. Be clear on who will be taking notes – It can be hard to take notes while also conducting a training, without breaking the flow of your presentation. If you have someone else from your organization helping out with the training, be clear about who will be responsible for note taking ahead of time.

As with anything, practice really does make perfect. But hopefully with these tips you’ll be able to knock any training session out of the park, whether it’s your first or your 50th.

Have any other tips for how to ensure that your training sessions are successful? I’m all ears!

Nick Exposito

Marketing & New Business Coordinator

Our Favorite Video Editing Tools: Final Cut Pro & iMovie

It’s no secret that video is one of the hottest marketing trends and tools right now. If you haven’t taken the leap into video creation for your organization, now is certainly the time!

Video creation can seem like an overwhelming task at first thought, but good news! If you have a smartphone (who doesn’t these days?) and the right video editing software, you can create pretty great video content. Sure, your videos may not be super bowl ad worthy, but you’ll be surprised at the quality of content you can produce with the right tools.

Two of our favorite editing tools are iMovie and Final Cut Pro, which are both Apple products. While they are a bit of an apples-and-oranges comparison – one is a more basic, budget friendly option and the other is more full-featured and an investment – they are both great tools to get the job done, depending on your needs.

Here’s a little background on each editor, and the advantages of each:

iMovie

This is a great program for beginner video editors to use to learn the ropes. We love it for it’s ease of use and basic editing features – it has enough tools to get the job done, but none of the more complex editing options that often intimidate beginners. Since it’s an Apple product, you can seamlessly bring in different Apple programs to the application such as iTunes, Garageband, Photos, etc.

We also love that it:

  • Makes it easy to jump back and forth between scenes
  • Is very simple to change the audio over a video clip
  • Gives you the ability to fix shaky/unsteady video
  • Is available on all Apple devices, so you can make edits on your video from anywhere

The biggest advantage of iMovie is that it’s free! A great way to get some exposure to video editing, without an initial investment.

Final Cut Pro

This is a signature video editing software, and includes more advanced features and capabilities. With a modern and sleek design, Final Cut also makes the experience for the editor more exciting while remaining pretty easy to use.

Some of our favorite features include:

  • The magnetic timeline, which makes it easier to produce your project. It automatically snaps multiple clips into place and gives you the ability to move the clips around the timeline quickly and easily.
  • Multi-Channel Audio that allows use different audio channels to make the sound of the video high-quality.
  • Compound clips option, that keeps you from worrying about gaps when you add videos together, and it transitions the video smoothly.

There is a cost associated with Final Cut Pro – right now it’s priced at $299 – but we believe it’s one of the best video editors on the market and worth every penny.

For most of our video editing needs here at Matrix Group, such as the Matrix Minute video series, we use Final Cut Pro. But we also love using iMovie to quickly edit and post videos to social media that are more timely.

There are many other video editing programs out there, but these are by far our favorites. And remember, if you ever need any video help, we’re here for you!

Have to dabbled in video editing? What’s your platform of choice?

Dave Hoernig

Director of Software Engineering

What is a Canonical URL and Why Should I Care?

A canonical URL or “canonical link” is an HTML element that helps search engines avoid the appearance of duplicate content. It does this by identifying a preferred version of a web page. Using canonical URLs improves your site’s SEO and makes searching the site easier for your visitors. The canonical link appears in the head section of a web page and looks like this:

<link rel=”canonical” href=”http://www.yoursite.com/page-path/page-title/” />

How it works

Imagine you’re throwing a party at your home and you provide directions to your guests. (I recognize that nowadays people will just plug your address into their navigator, but my father refuses to use such technology and still prefers written directions and paper maps.) Knowing that your guests will be coming from different starting points, you provide a different set of directions whether they are coming from the north, east, south, or west. Each set of directions presents a differt route, but each ends up at your house.

Now consider that you publish a news story to your website, and your website allows your visitors different paths to get to news stories. One path may be to navigate to a menu choice “News” and click the link to your story. Another might be to click a link from a section titled “Latest News” on your home page. A third might be that your visitor navigated to some other page and saw the link to your news story in a side bar of related content. This could result in three different URLs:

No matter how visitors navigate to your news story, they will end up reading the same content, even if the URL and the appearance of the web page around the storyare different based on how they got there. Likewise, the different directions you offer your party guests will result in them all arriving at your home regardless of which route they took. The directions you provided your guests are like your web pages and your home address is like the canonical URL! There are different ways to get there, but only one home. Following through with the news story example, each of the pages above should have the same canonical URL. It might look like this:

<link rel=”canonical” href=”http://www.yoursite.com/news/archives/story-title/” />

Search engines crawl through links on your site just like humans only [very much] faster. That means that Google will find all three paths to your news story just as visitors will. Should it show all three results? No, instead when it sees the canonical URL – common to all three pages – Google presents that one. In doing so, Google avoids the appearance of duplicate content and your website visitors are not confused by multiple links to the same story. That’s why canonical URLs are important.

Historical footnote

The canonical link element was introduced in 2009 by consensus among the major search engines Google, Yahoo! and Bing. It was formally added as an HTML standard in 2012 and is now an expected feature of all modern content management systems.