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Professional Website, v. 4.0

Professional Website, v. 4.0

A tour of the fourth iteration of my professional website.

Welcome to my new website! 

A website represents your home on the web. It’s where people come to learn more information about you and where you have the opportunity to convey the image and message you want to the world.

I really loved my old website, but I needed a change. It felt dated (it was three and half years old) and as the third iteration of my original website, it no longer conveyed the image and message I want to convey to the world.

6 Podcast Interview Tips That Will Make You Shine

Podcast Interview TipsHave you ever been interviewed on a podcast? In this post, I offer tips that will help you prepare for your next podcast interview.


6 Tips For Your Next Podcast Interview

1. Research the podcast and its host

If you want to thrive during your next interview, take an hour or two to research the host and listen to their show.

Knowing the format of the podcast and the background and interests of its host can help relieve pre-interview anxiety about what the host may ask you.

Most podcast hosts seek conversationalists. If you take the time to research the show and host, you will glean information you can use to engage the host in conversation.

Pro Tip: Most podcast hosts do not send questions in advance of an interview.

2. Provide value for the audience

Your primary function as a podcast guest is to provide value for the audience.

Hosts invite guests because they believe the guest can provide their audience with valuable information and unique insights. Honor this by reviewing the information you have been asked to talk about and by researching the show you will appear on.

Pro Tip: Podcasters listen to podcasts and they talk to each other.

If you perform well as an interviewee, you will not only provide value for the show’s audience, but you will pique the interest of other podcasters who might want you to appear on their show. Good interviews often beget more interview opportunities.


3. Respond to questions and converse as if the audience were in the room

Imacon Color Scanner

The next time you tune in to Terry Gross or another experienced radio interviewer, listen to how they speak and ask questions.

They speak as though their audience is in the room taking part in the conversation.

For example, seasoned interviewers don't often say "Listeners, in her book about George Washington's favorite foods, Janet describes how Washington preferred corn-based hoe cakes to buckwheat pancakes."

They say "In her book about George Washington's favorite foods, Janet describes how Washington preferred corn-based hoe cakes to buckwheat pancakes."

Or, "As you may know, Janet describes how George Washington preferred corn-based hoe cakes to buckwheat pancakes."

Imagine you are speaking in front a live audience during your interview; picture them in front of you.

Pro Tip: When you include listeners in the conversation, you will draw in your audience and they will be more interested in what you have to say.


4. Watch where you hold your phone during a telephone interview

Hold the receiver of your phone so it sits on or near your jaw line, not in front of your mouth.

This placement will help cut down on heavy breath sounds and the "popping" produced by the hard sounds of Ps, Cs, CHs, Ks, and Ts.


5. Be aware of background noise; don't fidget

Ideally, you will participate in your interview in a quiet room. While in said room, remember that leaning back in your chair, typing on your keyboard, and other types of movement and fidgeting produce sound that your phone may pick up.

Pro Tip: Be sure not to lean on your phone if it is a wireless handset. Leaning may cause you to press buttons while you talk, which the audience will hear.


6. Learn how to use Skype and consider investing in a decent microphone

If you plan on appearing as a podcast guest, learn how to use Skype. Most podcasters conduct their interviews through that service.

Audio-Technica-ATR2100Also, consider investing in a decent microphone.

Many podcasters love the [simpleazon-link asin="B004QJOZS4" locale="us"]Audio-Technica ATR2100[/simpleazon-link]. This versatile mic sounds great and Amazon periodically places it on sale for about $30.

Regardless of what mic you purchase, don't skimp! Purchase a [simpleazon-link asin="B0002GXF8Q" locale="us"]pop filter[/simpleazon-link] and [simpleazon-link asin="B00YOQZQUU" locale="us"]table-top stand[/simpleazon-link] to go with it.

The pop filter (foam cover or mesh screen for your mic) will soften the popping sounds made by hard letters. The stand will help ensure that you keep the mic at a consistent distance from your mouth and that you don't fidget with and drop it during your interview.

Pro Tip: There are over 250,000 podcasts. Opportunities to participate in podcast interviews increase every day.



The above techniques represent best practices. If followed, they will help you sound great and come across as a professional-sounding guest that any podcaster would like to have appear on their show.

Interviews often beget other interviews. Make the most of each opportunity.


Perfectly Practical Tips for Using Twitter

Twitter_logo_blueJointly authored by Liz Covart and Joseph Adelman Twitter is a deceptively simple tool. With just 140 characters to work with, it can seem at times like it takes barely any work at all to come up with a tweet. There's not much room to say anything, right? But trying to say something meaningful in 140 characters is an art, and takes practice and consideration.

From our conversations, we have realized that most of the guides to using Twitter focus primarily in generating a follower base and otherwise building an audience. That's worthwhile, of course, but it means that there is room for something that discusses how to craft an individual tweet, including how to use links, hashtags, and other tools in tweets.

We hope this guide will prove helpful for individual Twitter novices, but also for classes and other group projects where not everyone knows or understands how to write tweets.


Twitter Anatomy

To begin, here are some of the basic mechanics of how Twitter works:

  • Tweets can be no more than 140 characters, including spaces and punctuation as well as any links or images you include.
  • If you tweet from Twitter, the service will automatically shorten the URL you wish to share down to 24 characters. All you need to do is cut or copy the URL you want to share from your browser and paste it into your new tweet box in Twitter. [1]
  • After you use a shortened link, you will have approximately 118 characters left for your tweet.
  • Twitter will automatically embed any image you attach to a tweet; the link Twitter creates takes up 23 characters. Twitter allows users to add up to 4 images to each tweet. After your first image, additional photos do not count against your character limit.
  • You also want to leave 10-40 characters free, if possible, as research shows tweets with less than 140 characters receive more engagement.[2]
  • You can use a hashtag to link your tweet to others on a similar topic. Hashtags are the words with # in front of them. They let users know that a tweet is part of a larger conversation by defining either the audience or topic the tweet addresses. For example, a tweet with #Twitterstorians is a tweet for historians on Twitter. #AmRev denotes a tweet about the American Revolution. See the History Hashtags list for a comprehensive list of history hashtags.
  • You can include other feeds in your tweet by including the handle, which begins with @. However, you should avoid beginning a tweet with the @-symbol, because only people who follow both accounts will be able to see the tweet.
  • For more advanced users, you can use a third-party app to schedule tweets. See Liz's post on Twitter strategies for details.
  • You can reply to your own tweet to create a chain that Twitter will display to your readers.
  • Attribution is important. Anytime you share someone else’s blog post, news article, or video, you want to create a tweet that attributes the content to that user.


How to Create a Tweet

Here's an example of a real tweet that Liz created to share a blog post about a Twitter hashtag.

A few weeks ago, Megan Kate Nelson published “#FollowWomenWednesday” on her blog Historista. The post discusses how social media users share content generated by men more often than they share content authored by women. Megan created the hashtag #FollowWomenWednesday as a way to help call attention to this bias. I found this post intriguing and wanted to share it.

When I create a tweet, I use the headline the author created, craft my own headline, state a reaction to the post, or pose a provocative question about the information contained in the post I want to share.

In the above example, I created the following tweet: “What a Great Idea! #FollowWomenWednesday @megankatenelson #Twitterstorians #Acwri http://histry.us/1Nx6TTS.”

The tweet offers my thoughts on the post, Megan’s headline, her Twitter handle, a link to her post, and hashtags for audiences I think might also be interested in her article, i.e. fellow historians (#Twitterstorians) and academic writers (#acwri).

Whenever possible you want to include the Twitter handle of the source or person who created the content (i.e. @megankatenelson, @thejuntoblog). Perform a quick Google Search of “Name of Blogger or Blog Twitter” If the blogger or source does not list their Twitter handle on their blog.


Tweet Anatomy

My tweet for Megan’s article is 108 characters; 81 characters for my note about the blog post and 23 characters for a shortened link to the article. As tweets with images share more often than text-only tweets, I add an image when possible. In the above example, I dragged and dropped the image Megan included in her post onto my desktop and then clicked the “add photos” icon and selected the image to add it to my tweet. My final tweet contains 128 characters.

Example Tweet

We hope this post has given you an idea of how Twitter works at the level of an individual tweet. It's a fun way to interact with other people, whether in a professional or personal setting, and once you're comfortable with the format writing tweets comes much more naturally. ___________________________

[1] If you prefer, you can also sign-up for a URL link shortening service like bit.ly. The advantage to a service like bit.ly is you can track how many times people clicked on the link you shared. Additionally, you can purchase a custom short URL of 8-10 characters and use it as your shortened URL. For example, Liz purchased a custom short URL so all the links she tweets look something like this: http://histry.us/1234abc

[2] Research shows 100 characters to be the ideal length for a tweet. Additionally, some third-party Twitter apps still add  users’ handles and ‘RT’ before your original tweet when they retweet you. Leaving at least 10 characters free should ensure that these third-party apps will tweet you whole message when retweeted.


How I Select Guests for Ben Franklin’s World

ben_franklins_worldBelieve it or not (I can’t), Ben Franklin’s World will celebrate its first birthday on October 7, 2015. The podcast started as an experiment to answer questions: Could a podcast help historians restore history to the forefront of the public mind? Were non-historians interested in learning more about high-quality, well-researched history?

The experiment soft launched on October 7, 2014 when I posted the first 4 episodes on benfranklinsworld.com. On December 2, 2014, the show hard launched in iTunes.  By February 2015, listener engagement and statistics for the podcast indicated that the answer to my questions was “yes.”

Today, Ben Franklin's World has released 47 episodes. Listeners have downloaded the show more than 295,000 times.

Over the next several weeks, I intend to share lessons I have learned about podcasting, interviewing, and being a digital historian.

In this post, I will answer a question I get asked a lot: How do I select guest historians for the show?

Guest Historians: The Early Days

The first guest historians on Ben Franklin's World represent historians I either knew and/or who had books I wanted to read or historic sites I wanted to learn more about. I also asked historians who worked on topics that my "podcast avatar" wanted to explore.

A "podcast avatar" assists podcasters like an "ideal reader" helps writers. In both cases, a fictional person stands in for the ideal audience member a podcaster or writer wants to reach.

Janet Watkins

I created an avatar who is hard to please: Janet Watkins. Janet isn't into history. She's a 22-year-old pre-med student at SUNY-Buffalo. She wants to fill her schedule with math and science courses, but she ended up in a history course that assigns Ben Franklin's World episodes because SUNY requires all students to take several Liberal Arts classes before they graduate. Janet is a good student so she decides to brace herself for the inevitable: another boring history course that discusses dead white men. As an African American woman, she long ago grew tired of how her primary and secondary school history courses always seemed to focus on the lives of elite, white men.

My challenge: How do I reach Janet and change her mind about history? How can I show her that the study of history has as much value as the study of science and math?

Janet is fictional, but I still like to think that if I have done my job right, Janet (or someone like her) will get caught in the student clinic supply closet listening to Ben Franklin’s World when she is at her work-study job.


The Ben Franklin's World Audience

Janet Watkins has been a helpful podcast avatar. She has, and does, serve me well. However, I find I need to use her a bit less these days as Ben Franklin's World has an audience.

Ben Franklin's World listeners reach out several times a week to tell me what they want to know more about. They have given me a lengthy list of subjects, but their most requested topic: Everyday life.

Ben Franklin's World Listeners

Today, I try to make every decision about whom to invite as a guest or which pitches to accept with the Ben Franklin's World audience in mind. If I am interested in a book or historic site, but can’t get a clear read on how the audience might feel about it, I think about my podcast avatar and whether she would be interested in an episode about the topic.

I also think about geography and period. I take a liberal view of what periods and geographies constitute "Ben Franklin's world." In essence, the podcast covers the first half of a college-level United States History survey course. I start my survey before 1492 and discuss the peoples and nations who inhabited or interacted with the North American continent until about 1865.

Listener engagement increases when Ben Franklin's World investigates the history of a listener's home region. To this end, I plan to include more North American regions in 2016.

Finally, I would be remiss if I didn't acknowledge the role my own historical interests play in my decision-making process. My interests play a role, but I couldn't tell you how much of a role they play. I am sure they played a greater role during the first few months of the show than they do now. Today, when I find a topic that interests me, I compare it to my listener requests list and to my geographic and period needs. If I am on the fence, I think about my avatar. I try not to let my interests supersede those of the audience.



Listeners, podcast avatar, period and geography, these are the people and aspects I consider when I invite a guests on the show. If you would like more information about being a guest please check out the show's guest information page.



Twitter Strategies for Historians

hOW TO bUILD yOUR hISTORIAN'S pLATFORM Do you have a Twitter strategy?

In this post, you will discover easy tactics you can use to increase awareness about history and your research and build your historian’s platform with Twitter.


Twitter Strategies

The are three strategies when it comes to Twitter: Conversation, Content Curation, and Spam Marketing.

I employ conversation and content curation as part of my Twitter strategy.



The conversation strategy involves tweeting when you want to have a conversation.

Users who follow this strategy log onto Twitter when they have time. They scan their timeline (the feed of everyone you follow), curated lists (lists you create with like users; I created a list of “historians”), or favorite hashtags (conversation topics) to see what conversations people are having and whether they want to contribute their thoughts. Sometimes conversational users start a conversation by tweeting a message or question.

Participating in conversations makes Twitter fun. However, conversations represent only half the power of Twitter.


Content Curation

Feedly at WorkDo you like discovering interesting blog posts, news stories, or information about new exhibits, events, or places to visit or eat?

Many Twitter users do, which is why becoming a content curator can help you build a following on Twitter.

A content curator finds interesting information to share and shares it.

I am a content curator.

Every morning I log into Feedly, an app that allows you to find, subscribe to, view, organize, and share blog content, news articles, and YouTube videos. The app displays the headlines for all of the internet content I subscribe to within categorized lists. As I eat breakfast, I scan article headlines. When I find an interesting title, I click on it so Feedly opens the full article in a new internet browser tab. I skim the full article and decide if I want to read and/or share it. If I want to share it, I create and schedule a tweet for the article (more on scheduling tweets below).


Spam Marketing

I do not recommend this strategy, but it exists. Some Twitter users create accounts for the sole purpose of tweeting ads for their product or service.


How to Tweet When You Aren’t On Twitter

If you follow me on Twitter (@lizcovart), you have likely noticed that I tweet a lot and if you really pay attention to my feed you know that I tweet the same articles 2, and sometimes 3, times per day.

TwitterIn fact, I tweet at least once per hour; I tweet 2 or 3 times per hour when my followers are most active.

With all of this tweeting you may be surprised to learn that most days I check Twitter 2 or 3 times per day for a total of 10-15 minutes.

Would you like to know the secret of how you can use Twitter all the time and yet only spend 10-15 minutes actively using the platform?

My secret: I use a scheduling service to schedule my tweets.

There are many services you can use either for free or for a monthly or annual fee. They include Buffer, Edgar, SproutSocial, HootSuite, and Social Oomph. I have used two of these services.


Buffer QueueBuffer allows you to schedule up to 10 tweets for free at times you choose. You must join Buffer's "Awesome Plan" to schedule more than 10 tweets. The Awesome plan costs $102 per year, or $10 per month, and it allows you to schedule an unlimited number of tweets.

At first, 10 tweets per day proved enough. As I followed more blogs and befriended more bloggers, 10 tweets became inadequate. I upgraded to the unlimited tweet plan within 4 months.

Buffer's Awesome plan enabled me to schedule tweets on a 24-hour schedule, which allowed me to reach new audiences. It also permitted me to schedule tweets multiple times per day.

I used Buffer for 18 months and the service worked great until I started podcasting and needed a more robust service to share my episodes evenly.



Edgar Categories

I love Edgar. Edgar uses a calendar and category queues to share your content evenly. Unlike Buffer, Edgar stores all of the content you put into your queues for continued use.

When you sign-up for Edgar, the platform invites you to create content queues or categories. Categories represent the topics of the content you like to share.

After you create your category queues, you fill them with content. I used a feature called “bulk upload” to upload blog and podcast tweets from a spreadsheet into the appropriate categories; I add content to my “history” queue every morning.

Before you can put Edgar to work, you have to create a content calendar. A content calendar is a schedule of when you want content from each queue to tweet.

Edgar Content Calendar or Tweet Schedule

With calendar and content in place, Edgar will tweet what you want, when you want.

What I love about Edgar is that once the software tweets a preloaded tweet, it moves that tweet to the bottom of the queue. Edgar will tweet your content again once it shares all of your other preloaded tweets.

Edgar saves me time and ensures that all my podcast episodes share evenly. Additionally, Edgar has made it easy for me to share and call attention to old blog content, much of which is "evergreen" or information that is always good.


Final Thoughts

I love Twitter and have found it to be a powerful tool to practice digital public history. Admittedly, not everyone needs a $49 per month scheduling service to build their historian’s platform with Twitter. I use the service to promote my podcast and history. I am also willing to make this investment because Twitter is a large component of how I work as digital public historian.

Although I use a scheduling service, I do not abuse it like many internet marketers do. I limit my scheduled tweets to 1-3 time per hour, I tweet two articles that other people wrote before I tweet a Ben Franklin’s World episode or a blog post I wrote. I also pause my scheduling service when I go on vacation or live-tweet conferences.

More on how to tweet a conference in my next post.