Ten secrets of successful speakers

You know the mwa-mwa-mwa sound the Peanuts kids hear when adults talk to them? That’s the same sound audiences begin to hear in their heads around the ten-minute mark of most speeches and presentations. Here are ten secrets that keep the trombones at bay.

  1. Figure out what you want the audience to know and do as a result of your presentation. That’s what your speech is about. Stay focused.
  2. Don’t overwhelm your audience with too much information. They’ll turn you off. Humans only remember a max of four things at a time anyway.
  3. Do NOT read from a script. If you can read it from sheets of paper or PowerPoint slides, so can your audience. At home. In a chair. With a drink. And a sandwich.
  4. No matter how good you are at improvising or how many times you’ve said the same thing, do NOT wing your presentation. If you do, you are likely to meander off point and your credibility and message will disappear.
  5. Avoid death by PowerPoint. Check out videos on YouTube about what not to do and watch presentations by Steve Jobs to learn what to do. Keep your slides simple. Use images. And PLEASE limit words and bullet points.
  6. People remember what they see. Not what they hear. Select your images carefully.
  7. Don’t lecture. Have a conversation with your audience. Tune into them and respond to their reactions. Consider signing up with Toastmasters.
  8. Never assume your audience knows what you’re talking about. Always define your terms, especially ROI, efficacy, net profit, silo, verticals, align, productivity, flat, goals, space, onboarding, next level, drive results, zero-sum game and other business bingo phrases. They will tune you out if you don’t.
  9. If you ask for questions and there aren’t any, be gracious. You put your audience on the defensive and look lame at the same time if you say something like “Surely SOMEONE has a question.” Have a closing sentence handy, thank everyone and sit down.
  10. Don’t know an answer? Don’t ever make something up, lie or sidestep. Say you don’t know and you’ll get back to them or give them a real reason why you can’t answer at this time. This is always true. It’s imperative if anyone from the media is there.

11-13. And here are three more – do your audience analysis, use a cordless mike and don’t move around so much that you make people seasick.

NOTE: Many thanks to Veronica Apostolico at Smith & Nephew whose article on LinkedIn’s Speechwriters and Executive Communicators Forum inspired me to write this.


Four steps to start or refresh your business

A potential client contacted me with two business ideas. He thought one could be a nonprofit, but he didn’t know anything about IRS Letters of Determination or any other rules. The other idea was really about revitalizing his current business. I said he needed to do a lot more research, made some suggestions and sent him this summary of our conversation.

Step One. Start with this one-page business plan that I adapted from $100 Start Up. Use no more than two sentences to answer each question. Use a pencil so you can change your answers as you talk to industry experts, potential customers and other business people. Ask them to be totally honest with you. Even if you already have a business, this is an important exercise.

  1. What product, service or idea do you want to sell?
  2. Who will buy it? (Who’s your primary customer?) NOTE–Your customers and end users may be completely different people.)
  3. How does your business idea help people? (What’s in it for them? What pain does it take away? Why should they care?)
  4. Who’s your competition? (Believe me, you have competition.)
  5. What makes you different than your competition? (This is usually the hardest question to answer.)
  6. What will you charge?
  7. How will you get paid?
  8. How else could you make money from this?
  9. How will your customers find out about your business?
  10. What could you do to increase referrals?
  11. How will you know when you’re successful? Number of customers? Net income? Achieved world peace?
  12. What are your major problems and/or challenges?
  13. Proposed ideas to overcome #12

 Step Two. Use plain everyday English. Try to avoid utilize, prioritize, unique, solution, drive results, maximize, leverage, world-class, global leader, strategic, mission-critical, paradigm, end of the day, impact as a verb, helmed, penned, best practices, and other business bingo terms.

 Step Three. Make an appointment at your local Small Business Administration office and take your answers with you. Almost all SBA services are free. The ones that aren’t are very low cost. Make sure to spend some time at the SBA site. Write down any questions you’re bound to have and take that list with you, too.

 Step Four. Contact me when you’re ready. (I intuited that this particular potential client didn’t have the money to hire me to do this beginning work for him.)

What’s wrong with this picture? Apostrophe s.


More than one computer is computers, not computer’s. Same goes for most things you’re offering more than one of unless you sell deer. Wrong punctuation calls everything about you into question. “Know your ABCs” is right. ABC’s and FAQ’s are wrong. However, “Mind your P’s and Q’s” and “She got straight A’s” are right. However, if people had paid attention in school, I’d be living on a heating grate. Contact me — especially if you don’t know what’s wrong with this picture. I’ll make sure your punctuation is as good as you are.

Want to get published? Do these first.

I invited one of my writing coach clients to attend the January 2016 meeting of my writers group, IWOC, Independent Writers of Chicago. The topic was “How to Write, Publish, and Market Your Book.” My client and I are working on her memoir. I knew the meeting would be useful for her. It was also extremely helpful to me.

The presenters were Jim Kepler, principal of Adams Press and longtime IWOC member, and Kim Bookless, self-publishing consultant. Their suggestions were confirming and practical. I’ve already stolen – I mean – incorporated the new ones into my coaching practice.

However, two of Jim’s recommendations were so terrific, I had to share them immediately:

  • Discover your category. Let’s assume you already have a super idea, which is actually pre-step one. Perhaps you’ve already started writing your book. Maybe you’re even in the rewrite phase, poor thing. Wherever you are in the process (and I’m thinking the earlier the better if possible), Jim suggests that you spend time wandering around a major bookstore to see where your book would be categorized. Examine those books. (You might want to take a look at the categories and books on Amazon.) It’s possible that your category might change as you proceed. You might have to go back to the bookstore a few times. I know, it’s a hardship.
  • Write the descriptive blurb for the back cover. When a book is published, there’s usually a teaser of some kind on the back cover that’s meant to encourage you to buy the book, such as a cliffhanger synopsis or some juicy promise to the reader. Write that. However, remember that it’s almost certain to change as you write – and rewrite – your book. Probably many times, in fact. But it will give you an idea of what your book is about – for now, anyway – and who it’s for – again, for now.

These two suggestions from Jim are especially brilliant. So much so that I wish I had thought of them. And, by the way, they only sound easy.

Nancy’s proposal template

I specialize in marketing communications, which is about helping clients reach the right people and convincing those people to buy my clients’ services or products, support their ideas, give them money or attend their events. I use this proposal template when I have to submit a proposal for my company or when I’m preparing a proposal for a client. It forces me to focus on what prospects really care about:
• Results, results, results
• How much it’s going to cost
• How long it’s going to take
• How much inconvenience, downtime and staff disruption they’re going to have to put up with
• Reassurance that my client or my company is the right choice

It’s absolutely crucial to always look at the proposal from the prospect’s point of view. Whenever you recommend something, ask “So what?” i.e. What’s the benefit to the prospect? Why should the prospect care – and pay for it? How does it solve the prospect’s problem? What’s in it for the prospect?

Remember that the proposal is probably going to be reviewed by a few people, many of whom have no idea who you are, what you do, what they need, and why they should pay you. Avoid jargon and business bingo lingo, i.e. drive results, take the company to the next level, best practices, aligned, grow the company, etc. (I’m old enough to remember paradigm shift, granular, space, and end of the day.)

Unless you’re responding to a formal request or proposal or have to use a specific corporate format, keep the proposal SHORT — one to two pages. Three if absolutely necessary. This length works for assignments up to $50,000. I’ve used it successfully for projects with huge budgets and when I had no idea about budget – which is often the case. You can add attachments, such as team profiles, references, whatever. But don’t go crazy.

In defense of brevity — People, especially business people, do not have the time or inclination to wade through pages of information they don’t care about. Get to the point. Also, the longer and more detailed your proposal is, the more people are going to have to review it – and put in their two cents. All that delays getting your proposal signed and your first check deposited.

Resist detailed descriptions of how you’re going to get prospects the results they want. They don’t care about your fabulous processes, methodology or state-of-the-art tools. They just want to be reassured you have good ones and know how to use them.

Here’s my favorite example of too much information: Going into detail about your processes is like explaining how an internal combustion engine works when all someone wants to know is how to start the car.

Unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all template. Every proposal still has to be tailored to each potential client.

However, there is a conventional proposal structure. And some information can be standardized and dropped in and modified as needed or added as attachments.

Layout and tone
Your proposal is a marketing piece and tells the prospect and the people who are going to sign your check a lot about you, how well you understand what they need and how easy it’s going to be to work with you.
• Your proposal needs to be friendly, conversational, professional and SHORT.
• Put the proposal on your letterhead
• Date it
• Use a simple and universally accepted font, such as Arial, Helvetica or Times New Roman, in 11 or 12 point
• Use the business address block format
• Number the pages and put a reminder that this is a proposal from you in the footer
• Use regular 1 inch margins, single space, block paragraphs, white space
• Have someone else proofread
• Keep it short and to the point
• You probably don’t need a table of contents
• Remember there’s only ONE space between sentences, not two. This is not typing class.

Use the person’s first name if your relationship allows it. Think of this as a letter of agreement between colleagues.

Section 1 – Background
Set the stage in one or two SHORT paragraphs. This is your opportunity to show the potential client that you listened closely and understand what results he/she wants/needs and why.
• This is a summary of whatever conversations you have had with the potential client.
• Be as personal and friendly as possible. If you can. start it off with something like “It was so good to meet/talk with you…”
• Let the prospect know you (and your team) are excited to work with him/her/the company.
• Use the potential client’s words.
• Say something about what makes the prospect’s company or organization special.
• Mention what’s going on that’s causing the prospect to seek help at this time, i.e. market or leadership changes, shift in business environment, merger, expansion, event, etc.
• State the results you and the prospect have decided on in a bulleted list.
• “To achieve these results, I/we propose a xx-phase approach.” Use a bulleted list in order of what needs to be done first, second, etc. Do NOT go into detail here. You will describe each phase BRIEFLY as a separate item in the statement of work section.
• You might also have some additional ideas that have come to you as you’ve been working on the proposal. Weave them in here and in the statement of work section.

Section 2 – About me/you/my client
Describe why you are the best choice to help the prospect. This can be a standardized one or two SHORT paragraph statement about who you are, what you do, what makes you special, and where they can get more information, which should be your website. The content could be from your website’s home and about pages, your business plan, etc.

Section 3 – Statement of work
Here’s where you focus on each work phase you mentioned in Section 1. Each phase needs to be self-contained and complete in itself. Ideally, each phase builds on the one before it. This gives clients with limited resources or reluctance to commit fully the opportunity to hire you one phase at a time. It breaks down the entire process into smaller chunks and helps clients see how the different work phases relate to and depend on one another. It also gives you a natural break to be paid. Here’s a typical phase outline:
Phase X: Use the same words you used in Section 1 for the title of each separate work phase
• State the results you will achieve.
• Briefly describe what you (and your team) will do and why. Don’t go into too much detail.
• List any deliverables for each phase. Briefly explain why the prospect needs to pay you for deliverables whose benefits are less obvious, such as a work plan. (Deliverables are tangible items such as products, reports, programs, materials, content, services, etc. you “deliver” (give) to your client by a certain date as a required part of a project.)

Section 4 – Client responsibilities
List and describe what you require from the client. For example:
• Tangible support from leadership
• Introduction by leadership to employees
• Assignment of a reliable point person with regular and emergency contact information
• Approval process
• Timely response and turn around
• Authorization to contact and access to key personnel for interviews, surveys, etc.
• Schedule availability of personnel
• Provide relevant documents
• With the assurance that you will get approval from the client in advance, the client pays the costs and makes arrangements related to meeting facilities, A/V support, meals for training presentations, transportation, etc. Never ever pay for anything like this up-front to be reimbursed.
• With the assurance that you will get approval from the client in advance, the client pays for photography, media buys, wire services, e-newsletter fees, printing, etc. Never ever pay for anything like this up-front to be reimbursed.

Part 5 – Timeline
Make a note in the proposal that this is as estimated timeline for planning purposes only. Actual timing will depend on how well the project stays on schedule.
• Estimate timeline ranges by phase. Note if some phases can be conducted simultaneously.

Part 6 – Pricing and terms
Ideally you should have an idea about budget ahead of time. But in our fast moving, make-a-living world, you often can’t get as much information as you need – especially about budget – and you have to write a proposal anyway. I’ve written, submitted and won proposals without much information.
• I’ve often had to leave out budgets because I had no idea at all what they were. Sometimes I never find out except by accident.
• The concept and expected results captured the potential client’s imagination.
• In many instances, the proposal at least got me started working with the client.

Price by phase
• Mini-maxi with BRIEF explanations
• How payments will be made and when, invoicing, expenses
• If there are outside fees such as photography, e-newsletter fees, wire services, evaluation tools, meeting facilities, transportation, etc., estimate them.

Ideally, you may be able to have the client agree to your terms and conditions. Some clients will have their own that you have to agree to. Read these very carefully. Pay attention to:
• Cancellation/Termination of contract
• Change orders
• Intellectual property
• Late payment penalty
• Assure confidentiality.

Part 7 – Conclusion
Write a warm, friendly conclusion. It should be a recap of sorts. Mention again how much you’re looking forward to working with the prospect. Mention the attachments to the proposal if there are any. Include how to contact you directly if there are any questions. Add that if the proposal is acceptable as is, please sign below.

Part 8 – Signatures
You or your client should sign and date the proposal before you send it. I use this setup.

For Nancy Solomon & Associates Inc./client/you:


Please print


For (prospect’s company, name, etc. and, upon signing, the client)


Please print


Three basic business questions you MUST answer

The answers to three basic questions should form the foundation of your marketing communications plan — and very possibly your entire business. They are incredibly tough for most people to answer:

1. What do you, your business or organization do? I mean REALLY do.
2. How do (or will) people, i.e. customers, benefit from what you do? In other words, what pain do you take away from your customers? Or what problem do you solve for them? Or what’s in it for them, i.e. what do they get out of doing business with you?
3. Why should someone choose YOUR product, service or idea? What makes you, your product, service or idea different or better than your competition?

I struggle with these questions myself. I know and admire a lot of talented writers who do what I do. So why do people hire me instead of them? What’s my special sauce? What makes me different?

If my clients don’t tell me, I ask them. For example, I might ask them for a LinkedIn recommendation. If you have a sales team, they probably have valuable information for you. And you can also hire someone like me to ask for you.

What I’ve found out is that my clients:

* Like the quality of my work without having to pay high prices
* Know I’ll work nights and weekends to get the job done
* Trust that I’ll always tell them the truth
* Count on me to protect them and keep them from doing something that might be a bad idea or (gasp) grammatically incorrect
* Know I make complex ideas easy to understand
* Think I’m a hoot

What you find out will help you update your marketing and business plans, make sure you’re delivering what your clients want, and refine your message. You’ll learn about things that need to be fixed or can be capitalized on. AND you’ve reminded your clients how much they like doing business with you, which really comes in handy.

Six ways to save money

OK, you’ve finally decided to create/update your website/brochure/business card/sales sheet/whatever. Maybe you’ve already contacted someone like me – or even me – to help you.

You can save a lot of time – and therefore money – by answering the following initial questions before your next meeting/phone call/Skype session/email exchange with your copywriter.

1. What do you need and why?
2. Who do you want to reach and why?
3. What do you want people to do?
4. What do they need to know to do it?
5. How soon do you need it?
6. What’s your budget?

There will be more questions, believe me. But start with these.

It’s OK to start a sentence with And, But or So

I remember Mrs. Bishop, my third grade teacher, telling the class that we could not, under any circumstance, ever start a sentence with “and,” “but” or “so.”

Mrs. Bishop was a good teacher, but she was wrong about this. And so was everyone else’s third grade teacher.

No one seems to know how this prohibition against conjunctions began. But it’s completely incorrect.

If you need a more accepted source, check the Chicago Manual of Style. But if your boss insists that her or his third grade teacher was right no matter how much proof you provide, don’t push it.

Worried about ending a sentence with a preposition?

There are 150 prepositions in the English language and my fifth grade teacher, Miss Tryon, made us memorize most of them.

For those who didn’t have a Miss Tryon in school, some of the more familiar prepositions are with, on, in, at, to, about, of, under, below, above, against, before, after, behind and across.

Back in the day — the 17th and 18th centuries — some scholars tried to make English conform to the rules of Latin. It didn’t work and was abandoned. However, the bogus idea that sentences must never end with any of the prepositions lived on.

Winston Churchill said something like this on the subject — “This is the sort of bloody nonsense up with which I will not put.”

Here are some examples from the Oxford Dictionary:
• This is the restaurant I told you about. vs. This is the restaurant about which I told you.
• Martin persuaded Lucy that there was nothing to be frightened of. vs. Martin persuaded Lucy that there was nothing of which to be frightened.
• Who were you talking to? vs. To whom were you talking?
• He wondered where she had come from. vs. He wondered from where she had come.

And here’s a story credited to reddit:

A woman was sitting in an Atlanta airport coffee shop as she waited for her flight back to Connecticut when a friendly Southern belle sat down next to her.

‘Where y’all goin’ to?’ asked the Southern belle.

The first woman sniffed and said, “I don’t answer people who end their sentences with prepositions.”

The Southern belle replied, ‘Where y’all goin’ to, bitch?”

How to Get Something Done


The Women in Leadership conferences began with the question, “What could we accomplish if the women of influence in Oklahoma City worked together to make a difference for other women?” The answer is, “A lot.”

But first the women needed to get to know one another.

To that end, Donna Miller founded the Senior Executive Women’s Networking Group in 2008. SEWNG’s first event was lunch at the Governor’s Mansion with First Lady Kim Henry. (Donna won the lunch at an auction at Keystone, her kids’ school.)

Debbie Fleming, a vice president of a public utility and an early member of SEWNG, was one of the 14 women at lunch. “It was the first time many of us had ever met,” says Debbie.

“It’s probably difficult for younger women to imagine our lack of connection to one another at that time,” Debbie continues. “But most of us were pioneers. We were often the first women to sit at the executive table.”

Donna and Debbie agreed that women in leadership needed to develop a social network. They needed a safe place where they could discuss important issues outside their organizations with people they respected and knew they could trust.

Debbie hosted the next event at her home. An executive chef taught 25 women, including Dr. Barbara Crandall, how to create holiday hors d’oeuvres. Barbara saw a natural tie-in with Oklahoma City University’s Meinders School of Business, where she was a professor of management.

Barbara set up and attended a meeting with Donna, Debbie and Meinders Director of Communications (and multiple hat-wearer) Melissa Cory. “We talked about possible speakers, topics and how the University could – and should – participate,” recalls Melissa.

moon-paintingMarian Moon, who had recently retired as a senior leader in the energy industry, also hosted an event in her home. While the women talked about their lives, careers and key crossroads, Susan Morrison, an artist in residence for the State of Oklahoma, created a painting representing the major themes she heard.

The camaraderie increased with each SEWNG social event. The women created bonds, developed friendships, enjoyed networking and built trust as they learned how to pair wines, attended a Thunder game, took a preview tour of the Philharmonic Show House and picked the brain of an Internet guru.

“As women used to multitasking, we soon wanted to expand our efforts beyond socializing,” remembers Debbie. “We wanted to take on a cause to give us purpose and energy.”

The result? The First Annual Women in Leadership: Powerhouse Workshop & Panel was held at the Meinders School of Business in 2010.

The conference has been remarkable from the beginning. The topics are relevant. The conversations are candid and truthful. The atmosphere is intimate and trusting. The speakers talk openly about their successes and their failures, what they’ve learned and mistakes they’ve made. No one gets talked to or lectured at.

Meinders students attend the conference for free and submit essays to win $500 cash prizes. They benefit from learning about real-world experiences and from interacting with leaders they may never have met otherwise.

“Anyone can ask a question,” observes Martha Burger. “They will always get an honest answer.”

Now retired, Martha was a senior executive of an energy company when she joined the conference planning committee in 2011.

The benefits go well beyond the conference. It’s a win-win for everyone.

“The Women in Leadership conference helps us become better versions of ourselves,” notes Debbie. “We all have causes we’re passionate about. The conference and the relationships we’ve developed help us help other women and our community in meaningful ways.”

For example, Donna is an active member of the YWCA board. She has enlisted women in leadership positions to support the Y’s mission of eliminating racism and empowering women. “One in four adult women will be a victim of domestic violence,” cites Donna. “I truly believe that domestic violence and its impact on children is the root cause of most of society’s ills.”

Martha is a trustee of Oklahoma City University and a graduate of Meinders, which she says has been “a hidden gem” for far too long. “The conference is one of the reasons Meinders is being recognized as the important community, business and educational asset it is.”

The speakers, sponsors and organizers consider the conference a way to give back to the community, nurture students, recruit talent and promote their companies and institutions. It has given many women the opportunity to discover their voices. Employers also value the training and leadership development the conference provides.

SEWNG and its members have been absorbed into the fabric of the conference. They work on the organizing committee, suggest speakers and topics and solicit sponsorships. Martha and Lisa Putt, one of the core members of the planning team, have hosted the reception for presenters and sponsors the evening before the conference for several years.

Looking to the future, the conference organizers are investigating how to keep the intimacy and trust as the conference continues to grow and how to maintain relevance, especially for younger women leaders.

Not to worry. As we know, anything is possible when women work together to achieve a common goal.



Should you establish a medical marijuana dispensary?

RESULTS: This article transformed a local pharmacist into a national subject matter expert and a medical cannabis dispensary owner.

PROBLEM: Illinois became the twentieth state to legalize medical marijuana in August 2013. My client wanted to apply for a medical cannabis dispensary license and asked me to place, research and ghostwrite an article to establish his credibility.

SOLUTION: I convinced Drug Topics, a trade journal, to accept an article about medical marijuana as an excellent entrepreneurial opportunity for pharmacists. Their training, experience and mindset are perfect prerequisites for this new industry. The article I wrote was published online and in print under my client’s name in the December 2013 issue of Drug Topics — and published in Drug Topics’ sister publications. I suggested and arranged for my client to take a fact-finding trip to Colorado, where he formed some useful professional ties. I taught him how to use the article with the media, professional associations, elected and appointed officials and other influencers, which generated extensive media coverage and speaking dates. I prepared his presentations for professional presentations and public hearings and created his initial website.
… see the entire article


Women in Leadership

RESULTS: This article encouraged a new crop of women business leaders to become involved in helping other women — and also recognized the original and ongoing contributions of the founders.

PROBLEM: Donna Miller, a leading human resources professional, and I have worked together for years. She and a few other powerful women in Oklahoma organized what became an annual leadership conference. I wrote and edited welcome letters, seminar descriptions, speaker bios and ads for the conference programs. For the fifth anniversary, Donna asked me to write a history of the conference.

SOLUTION: I interviewed the original movers and shakers. Each woman talked about how the experiences around putting the conferences together had benefitted and changed them personally and professionally. They talked about having a safe environment for them to get to know — and trust — one another. That’s the purpose of the conference after all and became the theme of the article I wrote.
… see the entire article

Should you establish a medical marijuana dispensary?

December 13, 2013
Joseph Friedman. Published in Drug Topics and Modern Medicine}

I know the exact moment my inner entrepreneur roared into life. It was Sunday evening, Oct. 21, 2012. I was watching a segment on 60 Minutes about the medical marijuana industry in Colorado.

I’ve been interested in the medicinal benefits of botanicals since learning about them in pharmacy school. So I paid attention when California became the first state to legalize the medical use of cannabis in 1996. I continued to take notice as more states passed medical marijuana legislation.

However, the 60 Minutes segment inspired me to turn my interest into a business. I decided to apply for one of 60 licenses to open and operate a medical marijuana dispensary in my home state of Illinois as soon as they become available in 2014.

That was my first step into an exciting new industry.

Many other steps had preceded it. I’m a registered pharmacist with an MBA and more than 15 years of pharmacy and business experience. I’ve held senior director of pharmacy positions with major procurement and distribution companies. I have a passion for sales, marketing, negotiations, business development, and relationship management, and have used my entrepreneurial spirit to create new business lines, call centers, retail outlets, and services — all for other people.

I decided those days were over.

Industry challenges

Opening any new business, even in a mature industry, is complicated. However, opening a medical marijuana dispensary in a brand-new industry with significant challenges goes beyond complicated. Here are a few reasons:

  • Even in states that have legalized medical marijuana, licensed and registered medical marijuana growers, distributors, and patients are breaking federal laws under the Controlled Substances Act every day.
  • Because of warnings from the U.S. Justice Department, banks are reluctant to open bank accounts for or lend money to legal medical marijuana businesses.
  • By enforcing section 280E of the tax code, the IRS denies legal medical marijuana companies the ability to take standard business deductions on their federal taxes. It’s difficult to find investors for companies that can be audited and taxed out of existence.
  • There are no consistent standards, rules, or regulations for any aspect of the medical marijuana business. The conditions it can be used for, the amount of drug a patient can possess, where it can be cultivated – these considerations and more vary wildly from state to state.
  • Beginners should expect to go to more meetings and hearings than they could ever imagine with people and agencies they never heard of before. This business requires networking on steroids.
  • Many of the cultivators (i.e., suppliers) are less than reliable.
  • There are legions of people who claim to know how to help business owners and who are more than happy to take their money. Very few people actually know anything and are able to provide good counsel. Finding them is a bear.

A growing industry

In spite of substantial roadblocks, state legislatures continue to pass laws legalizing medical marijuana. They want — and need — the tax revenue and jobs.

Forbes estimates that the medical marijuana market was worth $1.7 billion in 2011 and expects it to be a $9 billion industry. That doesn’t count revenue from recreational use.

There may be more than 2.4 million medical marijuana patients currently registered in the United States. Forbes suggests that there may be 24.8 million potential patients.


Obvious candidates

The more I learn about the circumstances and challenges connected with dispensing medical marijuana, the more convinced I am that pharmacists are the best candidates to own and operate dispensaries.

We have the training, skills, experience, and patient-focused mindset. We are accustomed to adhering to regulations. We already know how to protect children, create a safe and secure environment, deal with difficult suppliers, maintain quality and inventory controls, educate patients, comply with rules and laws, and more.

In Connecticut, patients can obtain medical marijuana legally only from dispensaries licensed by the state, and only licensed pharmacists can apply for and obtain a dispensary license. The Connecticut statute also reclassified marijuana as a schedule II substance.

Whether other states and their regulatory agencies use Connecticut as a guide or not, they should at least enlist pharmacists to help them develop rules, standards, and practices.

The National Association of Specialty Pharmacy, NASP, has established a task force to explore — and help its members capitalize on — the opportunities offered by medical marijuana. Certification and insurance reimbursement are two of the items on the task force’s extensive agenda.

Some history

Marijuana in various forms has been used for medicinal, religious, and ceremonial purposes — and probably for recreational purposes as well — for thousands of years.

Marijuana is thought to have been cultivated since the dawn of agriculture 10,000 years ago. The pharmacopeia of Chinese Emperor Shen Nung, who lived circa 2,700 B.C., recommends marijuana use to treat more than 100 ailments.

Colonial Americans were ordered by the king of England to raise marijuana for export. George Washington grew marijuana at Mount Vernon.

In the United States, the criminalization of marijuana began in the 1930s. Recreational use had skyrocketed during Prohibition, during the years 1920 to 1933. Although opposed by the American Medical Association, Congress passed the Marijuana Tax Act in 1937. Possession of marijuana for recreational use became illegal for the first time, and an excise tax was imposed on cannabis for medical and industrial uses.

The U.S. Supreme Court declared the 1937 law unconstitutional in 1969. The government countered by passing the Controlled Substances Act in 1970, claiming that marijuana has no medicinal applications, is unsafe, and has a high potential for abuse.

Marijuana was thereby declared a schedule I substance. Doctors are not allowed to prescribe marijuana; they can only “suggest” it. Pharmacists endanger their licenses if they have marijuana on site.

However, as of October 2013, medical marijuana is legal in 20 states and Washington D.C., and more states are considering legalization. Washington and Colorado have already legalized its recreational use.

Classification challenges

People have been challenging the classification of marijuana for years. In August 2013, Sanjay Gupta, a respected neurosurgeon, chief medical correspondent for the CNN media network, and 60 Minutes correspondent, joined their ranks.

In an essay for CNN, Dr. Gupta publicly apologized for his previous opposition to medical marijuana. He explained that his research has proved to him that there never had been any scientific basis for the government’s claims. He went on to say that he was sorry for his part in helping the government mislead the American people for decades.

Gupta stated that many clinical studies have established that marijuana has “very legitimate medical applications” and “doesn’t have a high potential for abuse. In fact, sometimes marijuana is the only thing that works.”

Medical benefits

Reliable scientific studies by reputable organizations and universities have proven over and over again that marijuana can:

  • Alleviate chronic pain, especially nerve pain caused by diabetes, amputation, HIV, AIDS, multiple sclerosis, and hepatitis.
  • Lower intra-ocular eye pressure caused by glaucoma.
  • Relax muscle tension, decreasing muscle spasms and reducing shaking caused by multiple sclerosis and other neuromuscular disorders.
  • Act as an anti-nausea and anti-vomiting agent, especially for people receiving chemotherapy.
  • Stimulate the appetites of people with AIDS, cancer, and eating disorders.
  • Relieve acute anxiety, insomnia, and other sleep disorders.

Researchers continue to discover and confirm additional medicinal uses for marijuana. For example, marijuana may have properties that enable it to starve cancer tumors.

Catch-up needed

A recent Gallup poll showed that 58% of Americans believe that marijuana use should be legal. The federal government’s resistance to public sentiment and scientific proof is crumbling slowly.

On August 29, 2013, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the Department of Justice would no longer enforce federal marijuana laws in states where marijuana use by adults is legal. Although he directed this statement to Washington and Colorado, it is seen as a major policy shift.

At the same time, Holder warned that states must have — and enforce — “robust controls and procedures” or face the risk of renewed federal enforcement. For example, states must prevent marijuana distribution to minors, ensure that criminals and gangs do not receive revenue from marijuana sales, and prevent marijuana from being sent to other states where it is not legal.

A 2010 memo sent by the IRS reminded the members of Congress that section 280E makes no exception for “medically necessary marijuana.” Congress needs to amend the code and exempt medical marijuana – at least in states that have legalized it. That action would finally allow legal and licensed medical marijuana companies to deduct standard business expenses on their federal taxes.

So far, all such bills submitted to Congress have died in committee.

The vision

I have no idea whether I will be granted a license to open a medical marijuana dispensary in Illinois. But that doesn’t stop me from imagining my one-of-a-kind, state-of-the-art dispensary.

My dispensary will be welcoming, patient-focused, and safe, and will be in strict compliance with all rules and regulations. It will offer various forms of medical cannabis, along with ancillary services and homeopathic remedies. There will be a comfortable seating area dedicated to patient and community education. There will be written material and touch screens to help patients access the latest information.

If your inner entrepreneur is clamoring to be set free, consider establishing a medical marijuana dispensary. It’s a challenging and exhilarating new field — and a perfect choice for pharmacists.



Hype Inc.

RESULTS: As a creator of beautiful and effective websites, trade show materials and many other communications, hype finally has its own website. It’s pretty old, but it still works.

PROBLEM: Daniel Stein, the art director and founder of Denver-based hype, and I worked together for years. His business is so successful that he never had time to create a website for his company. But then, Dan had an unlisted phone number when we first met, too.

SOLUTION: Dan and I forced ourselves to create this website. I wrote the content and set the tone. I also wrote and edited many of the pieces featured in the “work” section.

Healing Foundations

RESULTS: Healing Foundations has been able to add new content to its website as its business has expanded, just as we planned. The owners have maintained the welcoming and straightforward tone I established.

PROBLEM: A brand-new acutherapy center, Healing Foundations needed a website that would launch at the same time as it opened for business. The content needed to appeal to an educated 20 to 45 demographic in Roscoe Village, one of Chicago’s up and coming neighborhoods. The target market is curious about Oriental medicine but turned off by anything too woo-woo.

SOLUTION: I worked closely with the owners to plan the website, set the tone and make sure it could expand as needed. I wrote the content to be straight forward, informative, friendly and professional.


Other websites

A lot of my content and tone is still present in many other websites that I wrote originally and that have been updated since by the companies’ internal teams. These include Sysmex USA, Miner Enterprises, Gayety’s Chocolates, Fidelitone, MyFinancialAdvice, Griffith Laboratories, Advent Oil and Gas, PursePower, PDI Medical, Purple Monkey Studios and Evans Food Products.


new-trier-cover-1New Trier Performing Arts
RESULTS: This brochure helped increased participation in New Trier High School’s extracurricular performing arts programs and and set a new graphic standard for communications with students and their parents.

PROBLEM: The Performing Arts Department needed a good looking brochure to attract students to join its programs. There wasn’t much money or time. We would have to repurpose whatever we could find.

SOLUTION: With the help of the Performing Arts Coordinator, I collected existing photographs, selected quotes from students and rewrote program descriptions.


colorado-brochure-interiorColorado Association of School-Based Health Care
RESULTS: A successful campaign that included brochures, e-newsletters, news releases and lobbying convinced the Colorado legislature to fund school-based health clinics for the very first time.

PROBLEM: School-based health clinics provide low-cost and good medical and mental health services for economically struggling families. Most school districts are strapped for cash and need additional funding to support these clinics. Although hospitals often help set up the clinics, they usually don’t stay around as a funding source. The logical place to turn to is the state government. However, most state legislatures resist funding school-based health clinics. Many legislators represent rural areas and tend to think the clinics only serve the urban poor.

SOLUTION: We set up a campaign to let the legislature know that clinics are cheaper than emergency rooms and fill a healthcare void for poor children and their parents in underserved rural communities. I specifically included a chart to show the counties that currently had school-based health clinics and the services they provided. The chart showed that the counties served were overwhelmingly rural — and white.


Other brochures
I write a variety of brochures from one pagers that fold down into self mailers to multipage corporate extravaganzas. Clients include KN Energy, Murrayhill Company, Braddock Financial, KN Power Company, US West and others.



RESULTS: TopNews, a full-color email newsletter, went beyond increasing sales, which was its original purpose. It also generated positive media coverage, solidified relationships with the members’ executives, and increased employee participation. It was a major factor in Topco’s Retailer of the Year Award from Private Label magazine.

PROBLEM: Topco Associates is an multibillion dollar food industry cooperative. It provides private label food, merchandise and equipment to regional supermarkets, food service companies and wholesalers. The operating committee, Topco’s governing group, wanted the company to create and distribute an electronic newsletter to promote and expand sales.

SOLUTION: Topco hired me. I interviewed the members of the operating committee to make sure I included their expectations. I developed, named, directed the design and created ever-expanding distribution lists. I managed the project from start to email  distribution every week, including gathering news and images and writing the newsletter. The distribution lists included the members’ senior executives and their employees, industry media and Topco employees.  

See a sample newsletter

Other newsletters
I’m an old hand at creating, writing, editing and distributing online and print newsletters. My clients include KN Energy, Mountain Bell, Colorado Association of School-Based Health Care, ICOM, Chaparral Energy and many others. In a half-day class I developed and taught, each adult student created an individual electronic newsletter using Constant Contact.  I won an award from the Advertising Federation for The Noodle, the employee newsletter my colleague Karen Valliant and I created for NDL/Polk.

news releases

Walmart Canada and Wholesome Goodness

Midwest Agricultural Museum
midwest-agOther releases
I write, distribute and generate media coverage for many of my clients. Recent Chicagoland media relations and publicity clients include TheatreBAM Chicago, Cook County Clerk David Orr and Topco Associates, which was featured in trade journals and The Wall Street Journal.




Rose Medical Center: Hospital to Home


AAEP: Celebrating 50 Years: It’s All About the Horse


Mar-Tek Industries


direct mail and email marketing

email-1Here’s the content for the LC 200 email:

(Email subject line)
We go the distance. Up to 28 meters.

(body copy)
Now it’s even easier to measure lengths up to 92 feet.

HEIDENHAIN offers the new LC 200 long-length linear scale. As good as the popular LB 382 long-length incremental linear is — the LC 200 is even better.

It’s better for – most especially – for gantry-style machines and linear motor applications. The majority interface is Fanuc.

Download FREE product information today. Find out if the LC 200 from HEIDENHAIN is the best encoder for your application.

• The new LC 200 is an absolute linear encoder. It knows exactly where it is – ON STARTUP — without a reference run.
• The flat surface makes the LC 200 scratch resistant.
• The LC 200’s bearings ride on an even surface, eliminating position errors.
• The LC 200’s super fast acceleration is perfect for linear motor applications – the latest trend in the industry. It’s ideal for waterjet machining, large machine tools, aerospace, windmill blade milling and large five-axis machining applications.
• The LC 200’s advanced sealing technology provides extra protection against contamination and defends against damage from corrosive agents.
• The LB 382 and the LC 200 are both assembled on the machine from components. And both are easy to install.

Download the FREE product information.

LC 200 Product Brochure
LB 382 Product Brochure

Questions? Want more information? Ready to order? Contact HEIDENHAIN at 800-559-6307.

RESULTS: This 6×9, double-sided and inexpensive postcard successfully launched a brand new company.

PROBLEM: A brand new company, Rocky Mountain Shutters, had limited marketing money, no logo and rather drab but free product images.

SOLUTION: I featured the benefits — an unusually fast turn-around for a good product at a low price — on both sides of an oversized postcard. The graphic designer I selected created the company logo and photoshopped in all that glorious sunlight. The postcard was inexpensive to produce, offered a free estimate and has an elegant look and feel. Best of all, it worked. The card was reprinted many, many times and mailed to lists of new home owners in specific ZIP Codes.


speeches and presentations

speech-1Executive speeches
RESULTS: Three of the many speeches I wrote for Sol Trujillo, president of US West, were reprinted in the prestigious Vital Speeches of the Day. They helped build and reinforce his reputation as a major international business leader. The speeches also attracted extensive media attention.

PROBLEM: Sol Trujillo was the president and CEO of US West, one of the seven Baby Bells created from the breakup of AT&T. He had begun his career as a forecaster for AT&T, moved through the ranks and, although extremely talented and smart, was relatively unknown in the industry.

SOLUTION: Sandra Sanchez spearheaded the executive communications campaign that greatly expanded Sol Trujillo’s standing within the business and Hispanic communities. I freelanced for Sandy. I conducted thorough audience audits, massaged the message points and wrote speeches that resonated with their audiences.

Other speeches and presentations
I’ve been writing speeches and presentations for executives and subject matter experts for a long time. The audiences range from employees and conference attendees to the media, legislators and major influencers. I know my training and experience as an educator, theater professional and public speaker help me create speeches and presentations that keep listeners engaged and encourage them to take action.

human resources projects

AT&T Broadband
hr-1RESULT: AT&T’s call centers continued to operate without interruption while 200 call centers were closed and 20 ramped up.

PROBLEM: AT&T needed to close 200 call centers nationwide and open 20 regional centers. Some people would lose their jobs. Others would be offered jobs in the new centers. New people would be hired. Under the law, there are stringent reporting requirements and timelines. The call centers needed to continue to function productively in the midst of turbulent change. This was a massive undertaking and the human resources staff needed as much help as it could get — and to buy into using it.

SOLUTION: Donna Miller was the director of organizational design and effectiveness for AT&T Broadband. She hired me as the writer and editor for a small team of other freelancers. Our task was to create a comprehensive toolkit for AT&T Broadband’s human resources staff to use. The resulting 277-page toolkit lived online, could be customized and was downloadable. It provided the company’s national human resources staff with information and assistance based on best practices and experience. We conducted weekly conference calls with up to 35 HR professionals to make sure we were on the right track and to ensure their participation. The toolkit was easy to understand. It included the business rationale, worksheets, samples of letters, legal guidelines, scripts for group and individual employee meetings, retention ideas, etc.

US West
quick-startRESULT: The orientation program significantly improved retention.

PROBLEM: US West, the Baby Bell for 14 states, hired 6,000 new management (i.e. nonunion) employees a year. Many left after six months. Donna Miller was a director of human resources at US West. She determined that a lack-luster orientation program was a major culprit.

SOLUTION: Donna originally hired me to create a booklet that would introduce the company to new hires. She had seen a presentation for European investors I had developed for Sol Trujillo, the company’s president. I found a prospectus developed by one of the brokerages that underwrote US West stock to develop the overview. Within a few weeks, I became the sole copywriter for just about every part of the $100,000 on-boarding program, which included:
* Welcoming videos by each senior executive
* Brochures with tear-out checklists for managers and new hires
* Intranet resources, instruction video and booklet
* Benefits manual
* A mentoring program
* Inserts for mouse pads
* PowerPoint presentations and scripts
* A diversity video
* An innovative take a boss, peer and subordinate to lunch program

I also trained senior executives to deliver the presentations at the orientations. The executives practiced with their staff – many of whom said they wished the program had been available when they first joined the company.

The day-and-a-half orientation program was held twice a month in Denver and simulcast to the company’s other locations. The material was adapted for new union hires. I updated the program quarterly for four years — until US WEST was purchased by Qwest.

Other human resources projects

I really like HR and employee relations projects. I’ve researched and written succession planning bios, hundreds of job descriptions, interface copy to make PeopleSoft coherent, employee communications about benefits, management changes, how to avoid expensive and brand destroying lawsuits, and more.


Sandra Sanchez, Director, Office of the Undersecretary, US Department of Transportation

Nancy’s personality and broad knowledge set her apart. She’s reliable and professional and helped me create a first-rate executive communications organization. I recommend her in a heartbeat. She’s enthusiastic, brilliant, funny and honest.

Barbara Ford, Family Therapist

You will spend whatever time it takes to make a project as perfect as you can without cutting corners. You study a situation until you understand what the client really wants, and then you figure out the best way to make that possible. I always end up with the best damn product I could afford – and that takes my organization up many professional notches.

Linda Watson, Principal, Watson Interior Design

I have gotten jobs from the website and printed materials Nancy wrote for me. Because of her copy, clients know what to expect from me and how we will work together. I hire Nancy whenever I’m faced with a new marketing challenge. Her ideas are fresh. Her approach is unexpected and effective. She simplifies concepts so easily that you want to say, “Why didn’t I think of that?” But, of course, her ability to do that is one of the reasons you hired her.

Don Eastburn, Principal, Don Eastburn & Associates

You are a killer writer, very creative with a talent to communicate. You’re able to put highly technical information into laymen’s language. Your copy is engaging and to the point. You always work within my budgets and you make me look good.

Karen Valliant, Marketing Communications Professional

I’ve never found another person who has your ability to distill an idea to its simplest form and then describe it as elegantly as you do. Your writing is easy to understand and always beautiful. I also enjoy the collaborative process with you, and I think you are a great creative partner. I would hire you again in a heartbeat.

Donna Miller, President, Executive Resource Center

I trust you. I know I can absolutely count on you. You always deliver a high quality job, and I get more than I paid for. I ask for A and you give me A, B and C. You’re willing to work long hours and do whatever it takes to get the job done. You partner with me so I can meet my deadline. You’re a good writer, highly capable, highly talented. You have excellent project management skills, so you can run the project. You don’t need a lot of direction. You’re off and running with basic information.

Rebecca Christy, Co-founder, Healing Foundations

Nancy is incredibly patient and focused. I felt safe saying anything to her. She digs in her heels until she figures out everything she needs to know. She’s not afraid to talk to anyone, has a kind and gracious manner and makes everything sound positive. With Nancy’s help, our message is presented eloquently and clearly.

Gary Carpenter, Executive Director, National Reining Horse Association

I hired you and kept hiring and recommending you because you have a very flexible writing style that you tailor to create just the right voice for any piece. You are not only very talented but also very adaptable. I mostly used your writing services, which is only the tip of the Solomon iceberg.

Lisa Alzarez, Co-founder, Healing Foundations

You helped me clarify my business objectives and presented my work professionally. You’re smart, energetic, warm, enthusiastic, savvy, funny and easy to talk to.

Beth Cohen, Patient Advocate

Nancy listened to me and asked the right questions. She created exactly what I was looking for. The quality of her work made me look smart and very professional. Nancy’s a great writer, extremely creative, intelligent and outspoken. She’s dedicated to meeting her client’s needs and becomes a partner in the process.