Help me plan my itinerary for the Boston Globe Travel Show

Are you thinking about traveling this year or already have a trip planned? Do you have any questions, but don’t know whom to ask?

I may be able to help.

Next weekend, I will attend a favorite event — The Boston Globe Travel Show. During the travel trade and press portion, I’ll have the chance to visit with travel and tourism representatives from around the world during speed networking sessions.

So, if you have any specific questions you’d like me to ask, I’m happy to do so on your behalf. Just let me know by Thursday, Feb. 5.

Not surprisingly, I already have the cruise lines and Canada/New England on my list. I now need to narrow down my other choices — so I’m taking requests on the following:

  • Aruba resorts
    • Amsterdam Manor Beach Resort
    • Bucuti & Tara Beach Resorts
    • Brickell Bay Beach Club & Spa
    • Hyatt Regency
    • Radisson Aruba Resort, Casino & Spa
  • Tourism Boards
    • Azores
    • India
    • Malaysia
  • Tour operators
    • Collette (Asia/Pacific, Africa/Europe)
    • HanaTour USA (Asia/Pacific)
    • Flash Tour USA (Asia/Pacific)
    • Infinite Safari Adventures (Africa)
    • Yampu Tours (Asia/Pacific)

Which would you select? Please respond in the comment section or through private messaging and include your question, if you have one. (Serious inquiries only, please.) I can’t promise to get to all of these sessions, yet I can promise to ask your questions during the ones I end up attending.

Happy travels,

Lisa

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A New Focus

Earlier this year, I began the process of narrowing the focus of Lisa Plotnick Editorial to a single industry – cruise travel. With the support and guidance of friends, family, and mentors (including the faculty of the Emerson College Department of Professional Studies and my new employer), the conversion is now complete.

Carnival Glory approaches Boston. (c) Lisa Plotnick and NauticalNotebook.com

Carnival Glory approaches Boston. (c) Lisa Plotnick and NauticalNotebook.com

Bear with me while I do some shameless self-promotion.

What sets me apart?

  • Objectivity. I am not affiliated with any cruise lines, travel agencies, or other travel providers.
  • Cruise experience. My history as a cruise passenger includes more than 30 cruises to three continents in the past 24 years, enabling me to make observations through the eyes of a cruise traveler.
  • Travel experience. So far, I have visited 32 U.S. states, 7 Canadian provinces and one Canadian territory, 32 countries, and 4 continents. So far…
  • Editorial experience. The skills I use in my career as a writer in the financial services industry — research, copyediting, developmental editing, and news reporting — have proven to be transferable to the travel industry.
  • Longevity. I began publishing cruise reviews and port reviews in 1998.
  • Digital communication. Through my tenure at Sealetter.com (2000-2005), I was among the early columnists of a Web-only magazine.

While I have not abandoned the retirement income industry – as if that could ever happen – I look forward to taking the business in a new direction. I hope you will join me on the journey.

When the Copyeditor is Wrong: My Take on “Word Crimes”

Unless you were living under a rock (figuratively, not literally), chances are you saw the new music video “Word Crimes,” a parody by “Weird Al” Yankovic in which he laments the decline of proper grammar in today’s society. The video, set to the melody of Robin Thicke’s hit song “Blurred Lines,” illustrates several pet peeves of grammarians – such as less vs. fewer, possessives vs. contractions, and the misunderstood “I could care less.”

I watched “Word Crimes” with great joy. And, about one minute into the video, I found something questionable. As nearly every copyeditor knows, the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary is in its eleventh edition. So, why did the video show a mock-up of the Merriam-Webster logo that noted a twenty-seventh edition? Was it creative license, I pondered?

Several hours after I posted my observation on my Facebook page, I learned from a reader – who was kind enough to contact me privately (thank you!) – that it was not an error. It turns out that Mr. Yankovic places the number 27 in his videos as an inside joke – a way to say hello to his fans.

In other words, the copyeditor was wrong.

Copyeditors are not perfect. As we check for proper syntax, confirm that the punctuation conveys the intended meaning, and verify facts, it is inevitable that we will miss something. And, we almost always have questions for the author if we believe something needs clarification.

So, we are back to the quandary of the dictionary’s edition number in the video. This is a perfect example of the importance of querying. In this case, as my fact-checking of dictionary editions did not provide an answer, I would add a comment to the draft stating, “Please confirm that this should be twenty-seventh edition.”

The example also illustrates the value of an editor who knows your field – and knows it well. Had I known of the connection, the query may have read, “Just checking that the 27 is Al’s calling card.” As this involves less time for the copyeditor, it would also reduce costs incurred by the writer or publisher (assuming an hourly rate of pay).

Finally, to those wondering, the use of quotation marks in the name “Weird Al” Yankovic does not contradict his disdain for using the punctuation for emphasis. They are perfectly acceptable when used as part of a nickname. How do I know this? I know where to look for the answer.

Year in review: Business books of 2013

I love to read, although I don’t get to enjoy this hobby as much as I’d like. So far in 2013, I’ve read 30 books, including 10 that were released in 2013. Below, I summarize the subset in the business or professional development genres. Books are listed alphabetically by author. The rating scale runs from one star (don’t bother) to five stars (a must-read).

1. Contagious: Why Things Catch On, Jonah Berger, Simon & Schuster.  *****

In this quick and engaging read, author Jonah Berger opines on the subject of viral communications in a way that spans multiple industries, thereby making the material appreciable to an audience beyond the usual business community.  This approach, along with clear writing, made this my favorite business book of the year.

2. David and Goliath, Malcolm Gladwell, Little, Brown and Company. ***

My three-star assessment of this book has nothing to do with the writing itself, which is superb; rather, I did not find the examples compelling enough to make the case. Yet, the theories presented by Malcom Gladwell are interesting and thought-provoking, as always, and are definitely worth the read for renewed perspective.

3. What You’re Really Meant to Do, Robert Steven Kaplan, Harvard Business School Publishing.  **

If you’re looking for a quick read on how to maximize your potential at work, this book may be for you. The author provides an introspective road map for recognizing, understanding, and using your traits and values to reach your definition of success. However, there is very little discussion on how to handle the unavoidable bumps in the road, and the book suffers for its lack of depth in this area.

4. Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, Sheryl Sandberg, Knopf.  ***

Although this was a decent book, it didn’t resonate with me. Much of the advice is not new — I have “leaned in” for years and have had a successful career because of it. And, the adage “it’s not what you know but who you know” remains an underlying theme of the book. Even so, it’s a well-researched analysis of the role of gender in the workplace.

5. The First 90 Days (Updated and Expanded): Critical Success Strategies for New Leaders at All Levels, Michael D. Watkins, Harvard Business Review Press.  ****

This 2013 re-release is a decent read, particularly the early sections on onboarding. As a freelancer, I am often in the onboarding stage, so this book has been helpful in managing those expectations. An added bonus, however, was the theme of continual onboarding; that is, adapting to changes in the workplace.. For that reason, this is a book I will consult often. (For those so inclined, a mobile app is available for additional charge; I have not downloaded it.)

6. Financial Blogging; How to Write Powerful Posts That Attract Clients, Susan B. Weiner, CFA, CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.  *****

This was the book that was most helpful to me as a research writer-turned blogger. Soon after following Ms. Weiner’s advice, traffic to my blog increased considerably, and my level of apprehension decreased.  Today’s entry, in fact, was developed with the aid of the worksheets and checklists provided in the book.

What were some of your favorite business books of 2013? And, what is on your wish list for 2014?

5 ways retirement planning is like an NBA game

photo(6)Teamwork, timing, and execution are all part of retirement planning. And, as I observed last night, they are also important elements of a National Basketball Association (NBA) game.

Yes, it’s time for another of my analogies. This time, I was inspired by a game between the Boston Celtics and Orlando Magic, which the Celtics won by a score of 120-105.

The common features I noted were as follows.

  1.  Players are on both offense and defense. Granted, last night’s final score shows that both teams were somewhat short on defense. Still, staying one step ahead of potential obstacles is an important strategy. In retirement planning, this may be in the form of a contingency fund or low-risk investments. Handling the defense well may enable one to take more risks on the offense.
  2. Keep your eye on the clock. Although real-life retirement planning does not come in 24-second spurts, the execution of a plan should be undertaken as soon as possible. Use this time wisely; every moment counts. And, keep in mind that the window of opportunity may be cut short by an unplanned event.
  3. Rebound, rebound, rebound. If you make a mistake, there’s a chance to catch it immediately and try again. Don’t let one missed opportunity derail your run toward retirement.
  4. Understand the risk-reward trade-off. A three-pointer can be exciting; yet, just as in real life, rewards are not as easy as they look. Sometimes, it’s worth it to take a little longer to reach a more likely, but smaller, result. Sometimes, it’s not. That’s why investors should consult their advisors, as the latter have the skills to handle a variety of situations that may arise.
  5. Saving the most important for last, teamwork leads to strong results. In last night’s game, four of the five Boston starters scored at least 16 points each, and the team combined for 28 assists. Yet, not all of the teamwork is on the court. Even before the game, plans are developed, analyzed, and explained by expert advisors. Good coaching—or advising—continues throughout the length of the game, and provides expert ways to refocus as needed.

This is just a short list of comparisons I jotted down last evening. Please feel free to add to this list by using the comment box. (And, for those wondering, the photo was taken from the first row of section 303 in Boston’s TD Garden.)

Reasons to look beyond your industry when marketing your business

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhen evaluating marketing strategy and tactics, executives need to emerge from their silos and seek out and draw analogies from other industries. My latest example of this inter-industry inspirational technique was a set of case studies in my marketing class, where students presented service-related issues encountered by a company or industry. By happenstance, both presentations made last week focused on firms that, following high-profile negative incidents, launched marketing campaigns that sought to bring consumers back to basics. According to the presenters, Carnival Cruise Lines refocused on onboard fun while JetBlue emphasized customer service.

Immediately, I saw applicability to the retirement income industry, particularly the variable annuity industry.

In early 2010, while working at Cerulli Associates, I authored a research report called Evaluating Your Variable Annuity Product Line. Among the findings were that, in the wake of the financial crisis, the industry had entered a period of “stabilization and rationalization” and a return to basics would emerge gradually in the years ahead. These findings met with some controversy, as the prevailing belief was that, despite data to the contrary, the presence of comprehensive guaranteed lifetime withdrawal benefits (GLWBs) increased sales. Yet, let’s fast-forward three-and-a-half years: many insurance companies reduced benefit levels or increased the costs, some discontinued the GLWB, and some firms exited the business altogether.

That said, the annuity industry—primarily the fixed annuity industry, however—has started to return to basics with the introduction of the deferred income annuity (DIA), a lifetime annuity variation that provides an income stream that commences a couple of decades from the time of purchase. Beacon Research estimates that sales of fixed annuity market DIAs have increased during each of the past six quarters, culminating in a 40% increase during second quarter 2013. At the same time, however, several insurers continue to tweak VAs by offering new products in which both parties share any losses the policies might incur. While this makes the VA more palatable (to both consumers and insurers), it is also a complex notion, yet one can argue that it is a way to preserve the traditional function of the GLWB.

While it is too soon to measure the impact of Carnival’s September 2013 campaign, my classmate related that JetBlue had success with its You Above All™ campaign in 2010. Nostalgia? Perhaps. Yet it also showed how companies can, or can hope, to rebound from a disruptive event by returning to their roots.

Intimidated by blogging? This book can help.

Just as there are different kinds of music, there are different kinds of writing. That is what I told myself when I, a seasoned writer of 100-page research reports in the financial services industry, felt intimidated when attempting to blog. How could I convey my thoughts in fewer than 300 words and keep readers informed and engaged at the same time?

Thankfully, Susan Weiner came to the rescue with Financial Blogging: How to Write Powerful Posts That Attract Clients (Susan B. Weiner, CFA ~ Published 2013 by CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform). The techniques presented in this book can pertain to many kinds of writing, yet were key in helping me focus on this new world of blogging. Especially useful were the worksheets on mind-mapping, blog post preparation, topic brainstorming (I no longer struggle with titles), and the blog post review checklist. Although I consider myself adept in using social media, the tips in Chapter 9, Promoting Your Blog, gave me greater — and actionable — insights to improve my online presence.

I recommend Ms. Weiner’s book very highly to all who want to — or who need to — maximize their blogging potential. Writers of all levels, from novice to long-timer, will find this a most useful reference.