#Fairies, #Myths, & #Magic 2018 AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT GUEST POSTS: “Poems of Nature & Life,” by Khor Hui-Min

I am excited to announce that I have finally published my first poetry book on 27 April 2018. It’s called Poems of Nature & Life and available in paperback and Kindle ebook format on most Amazon sites. You can see it at Amazon UK and Amazon US, to name just a few.

After I published it, I did my first ever guest post at Colleen Chesebro ~ The Fairy Whisperer’s blog. It was fun to write the guest post. Here it is. Hope you like it. 🙂

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Welcome to my author spotlight guest posts where I introduce you to independent authors from various genres from around the globe. You never know. You might meet your new favorite author!

My guest today is Khor Hui-Min. We met through Twitter and share a love of poetry. I always marvel at how our blogs allow us to connect with people from all over the world. Khor lives in Malaysia and her blog is called Project Prose. She also writes about meditation, and the environment, all things dear to my heart.

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Poet & Author, Khor Hui-Min

Khor Hui Min thinks of life as a continuous learning process and believes in a healthy balance between work and life. She is a freelance writer, who is active in publishing poems and short stories. She moonlights as a face painter for the Malaysian Nature Society and also enjoys creating and carving pottery. She has a Bachelor of Computer Science and Master of Science (Environmental Science). You can read more of her writing at https://projectprose.wordpress.com/ and https://huiminskitchen.wordpress.com/

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Meet Khor Hui-Min:

I have always loved to write. In my student days, I would write perhaps one poem a year. But in 2014, I attended a writing workshop by author Zen Cho at the Cooler Lumpur Festival, entitled ‘Inspiration, Influence, and Interaction’. I wrote a poem as an assignment at the end of the workshop.

Something in me changed. I decided that I would start a writing blog, and post something once a week. It turned out that when I sat down to write, what invariable came out was poetry. I wrote poetry every week. To find inspiration to keep the momentum going, I searched on the Internet for writing prompts, and those have been very helpful, even if the prompt was just a single word. I would challenge myself to think of something to write, anything. What came out was, of course, poetry.

I also liked to read about stories of myths, legends, and magic finding them very interesting. They are a source of inspiration to me too. That was how I came across Colleen’s blog, which I follow with interest. I also follow her on Twitter.

“I told myself that at the rate I’m going, in a few years’ time, I would have enough material to produce a book.”

In 2017, I took a leap of faith – I quit my editorial job in the educational publishing industry to become a self-employed writer. For a few months, busy with my new direction, I forgot about my intention to publish. But in April 2018, as the dust settled, my dream of publishing surfaced again. It just so happened that a friend in a writers group had published with Kindle in Amazon.com, so I asked her how to do it, and she patiently answered all my questions.

So, I published on 27 April 2018. The book has a collection of 53 poems, mainly focusing on nature and life. Nature has always been the No.1 inspiration for me, and it is reflected in my poems and articles. I also write poems on life.

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I have always wondered why there are so many unhappy poems out there – people write poetry on heartbreak, general unhappiness, and as an outlet to vent their frustration and dissatisfaction. I, on the other hand, like to write happy, positive and uplifting poetry. There is so much negativity in the world. Why add to it?

Instead, I want to bring more light and joy into the world instead. When people are down, they can pick up my book, flip to a random page, and read something that makes them feel better.

Here is a poem about forest folk from the book, which I hope you will like.

MOON DANCE

Dancing, twirling, in the moonlight
Skirts of petals, shimmering bright
Light as air; fluttering, gliding
Pleasant laughter like bells, tinkling
Twirling round in a ring, so wide
Graceful and lively, side by side
Dancing and singing, with delight
Pretty elves and nymphs, what a sight
Springtime homage to mother moon
So alluring; makes young hearts swoon

© Khor Hui Min, 20 May 2015

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Here’s how to find Khor Hui-Min:

Facebook at Khor Hui Min

Twitter at @MinKhor

Blogs: projectprose.wordpress.com and huiminskitchen.wordpress.com

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Poems of Nature & Life is available in paperback and Kindle ebook format from Amazon.

You can see the paperback version here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1980944490

And you can see the ebook version here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07CPBLK63

bluebird morning Thanks for stopping by to meet Khor Hui-Min. I look forward to reviewing her debut poetry novel, “Poems of Nature & Life.” ❤

 

via #Fairies, #Myths, & #Magic 2018 AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT GUEST POSTS: “Poems of Nature & Life,” by Khor Hui-Min

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Simple Steps for Meditation at Home

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I first started meditation when I attended my first yoga class actually, because the first 10-15 mins of yoga class will be a simple meditation exercise to help students to calm down, relax, and centre themselves before the yoga practice starts. Then, we will end the yoga class with Savasana, also known as the corpse pose, which is essentially lying down meditation. I attended my first yoga class on 26 September 2006.

As I attended yoga class after yoga class, I then began to view the entire yoga class as meditation in motion, where I only concentrated on each yoga pose and the breath, not thinking of anything else.

The first meditation retreat I attended was a 7-day Buddhist meditation retreat on a mountain top in Chiang Mai, under the guidance of the honorable Ajahn Suthep in August 2007.

From time to time, when I tell friends that I meditate at home, they ask me how do I do it on my own. So, I thought that I should write a blog post about it.

Meditation at Home: What to Keep in Mind

  1. It is not about how long you can meditate, or if you can meditate for hours. It is whether you can relax, clear your mind (not chasing your thoughts round and round in your head), and remain in the here and now. If you can do this, even a 10-15 min meditation session once or twice a day is good enough.
  2. Have a quiet space where you can meditate every day. If possible, do not meditate on your bed. Find a serene spot somewhere else to designate as your meditation space. Make sure the space is bright (e.g. where sunlight can shine on it through a window) and air can flow freely.
  3. You do not need to sit cross-legged on the floor to meditate. Sitting on a chair with both feet planted firmly on the ground is also fine. Meditating while standing is also fine, but if you have issues with balance or dizziness, then it is better to sit down.

Simple Steps to Meditate at Home

  1. Wear comfortable clothing, i.e. loose or stretchable clothing.
  2. Make sure there are no distractions during the time you are going to meditate, i.e. no children running around, and no family members requiring your attention.
  3. Put on some relaxing music that you like, but not too relaxing until you can fall asleep. For example, I like to listen to the sounds of nature, such as bird song and the sounds of flowing water.
  4. Sit down comfortably. You can sit down on a firm cushion, cross-legged on the floor, or a comfortable chair. Make sure your back is straight and not leaning against a wall (when you are too comfortable leaning against a wall, you might doze off).
  5. Start a breathing exercise. Inhale slowly and deeply, counting from 1 to 4. Imagine you are breathing into your tummy first, bringing all the air deep inside, then when your tummy is full, then only you fill the air upwards, into your lungs. Focus on this breathing style – do it properly.
  6. Then, exhale slowly, counting from 1 to 4. Let out the air slowly, and at the end, squeeze your tummy slightly with your abdominal muscles to make sure all the air comes out.
  7. Repeat the inhale and exhale, counting from 1 to 4 each, until you feel relaxed and comfortable.
  8. Then, you start to extend the count. Inhale 1-4. Then exhale 1-6. When you are comfortable with this, extend it some more.
  9. Inhale 1-4, then exhale 1-8. This will help you slow down your heart beat and relax further.
  10. Next, you try to add on. Inhale 1-4, hold your breath 1-4, then exhale 1-8. Always focus on your breathing and counting. This will prevent you from getting distracted by assorted thoughts.
  11. If you are comfortable with this inhale 1-4, hold 1-4, then exhale 1-8, then you can extend it further. If you feel this is the maximum length of breath you can take, then just remain at this count.
  12. Usually, I extend it to inhale 1-10, hold 1-4, and exhale 1-20.
  13. You can do this as long as you like. It can be 10 mins, 15 mins, or longer.
  14. When you want to come out of your meditation, just breathe normally again.
  15. Move your fingers and toes. Then, move your arms and stretch out your legs.
  16. Open your eyes. Make sure you are fully awake and alert before standing up. If not, you might lose your balance and fall down. Never stand up immediately after ending your meditation.

Some people like to light a small candle or tea light and place it in front of them to focus on. Although I do not do that, you can try it, if you fancy it.

If you find yourself running away with your thoughts at any time, bring your attention and focus back to the counting and the breathing.

When is the Best Time to Meditate?

You can meditate at any time of the day. However, if you can choose when to meditate, morning will be ideal. Meditation will be beneficial to help you relax and calm down especially when you feel tired, stressed, frustrated or angry.

As a suggestion, it would be good if you can meditate for 10 mins in the morning before you leave the house, and 10 mins in the evening to relax yourself after returning home or before going to sleep.

Where Can You Meditate?

You can meditate anywhere. However, never meditate while you are driving, because it is dangerous. Also, please avoid from meditating in the toilet, because that is where you release waste.

If you are a passenger in a car, you can meditate. If you are commuting somewhere, sitting down in a bus, train or LRT, you can also meditate. If you are waiting for someone to arrive for an appointment, you can also meditate. You can even meditate sitting on your office chair during lunch break.

What Kind of Music is Suitable for Meditation?

I like soothing music and the sounds of nature, such as bird song and the sound of flowing music. Here are some examples from YouTube:

 

Nonetheless, if you like to listen to some other type of music while you meditate, feel free to try it. As long as the music is not too loud or distracting, you can use it. You can also listen to prayers or chanting while you meditate. I like Om Mani Padme Hum by Imee Ooi.

What are the Benefits of Regular Meditation?

Regular meditation will help you to de-stress and relax. It will help you to remain calm, even during stressful busy periods at work. You will not get angry and frustrated as easily as before. Lastly, you will enjoy a calmer existence and feel more peaceful.

I hope you find these meditation tips and steps useful. Happy meditating!

 

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Earth Month X MAPFEST 2018

The Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) Selangor Branch’s Photogroup is participating in the Earth Month at Publika, Kuala Lumpur by holding an exhibition from Friday, 23 March to Friday, 6 April 2018. The exhibition features 72 curated images by 16 photographers that highlight the beauty of nature, as well as the problems that plague our environment today. The organising committee curated 6 of my photos for the exhibition.

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A photo taken of me with 2 of my flower photos on display. Left: Gerbera daisies. Right: Purple water lily.

 

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The other 4 of my photos on display

The exhibition is located next to Paparich in Circle, Level A3, Block A. It is right at the entrance where cars drop people off to walk in.

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The exhibition panels on the right of the entrance

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The exhibition panels on the left of the entrance, next to Paparich

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A little card placed next to my photos

 

 

 

 

Do come to visit the photo exhibition if you are coming to Publika. There will be other activities held in conjunction with Earth Month here as well.

 

 

 

 

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5 Tips to Maintain Productivity While Working Remotely

009_aMost of us were brought up conditioned to work in a 9-to-5 (or nowadays 9-to-9) job, with a structured work place, deadlines to chase and a boss (or bosses) to answer to. Well, that was what I did for about 17 years, till one day I decided that I needed another kind of working style, a new environment and a new direction, and working for yet another publishing house or advertising agency was not the answer. That was when I made the life-changing decision to become self-employed.

In the current digital age, traditional office jobs are not the only viable option now, and there are more choices for people to experiment with. These days, I work with clients whom I have only meet once (or never at all), and all dealings are mostly done through email and Whatsapp messages. My articles are submitted through email and so are my invoices.

In my long hours working at home, I did think about the obstacles people face working on their own, because I have heard and read so much about these issues over the years. I realised that besides the top priority of being able to find enough clients to ensure a steady stream of work, and hence, a steady stream of income, is the issue of self-management. Because now, I have become my own boss, and so there is no one to tell me to hurry up or breathe down my neck to get the work done. I realised that some people failed at working on their own mainly due to the inability to management themselves, rather than not being able to do the actual work. So, I would like to share my personal strategies for maintaining productivity on a day-to-day basis, and hope this will benefit other people too.

Tip #1: Set a Routine

For days when you do not have appointments outside, set a general routine to follow. First of all, try to wake up around the same time every day (so that your circadian cycle does not get messed up). Then, you should have breakfast, so that your body has the necessary fuel to function properly. After that, you can start work. Try to focus and keep distractions away. Try not to skip meals, and make sure you get enough sleep at night. Also, exercising regularly is important to stay healthy, so you should schedule in time for exercise at least 3 times a week.

I personally wake up around 7.30-8.00am, and go for a 1-hour swim. Then, I make myself a healthy breakfast. After that, I do some house chores. Before I start work, I have a short meditation session to centre myself. I usually also prepare my own simple but healthy lunch and dinner.

Tip #2: Prioritise

Prepare a weekly priority list and a daily priority list. Always do the first item on the list first, because it is the most important one. After you complete one, you move on to the next item on the list, and the next, and so on.

Every time you tick off an item on the list, you will feel happy and productive that you are making progress on your work.

Tip #3: Keep Track

Keep track of all your clients and projects. The simplest form of record keeping would probably be a spreadsheet file. I have one MS Excel file for clients, because my work is usually not project based. I have one tab per client, and on each tab, I have columns for description of work, when I submitted each article, how much I billed the client, and when I submitted the invoice. Every time you complete a piece of work, you should update your records. I also have a separate spreadsheet for keeping track of accounts (i.e. payments collected and payments pending), for tax purposes.

You should also find out how your clients’ finance department works, so that you know how much time they will need to process your invoice. If adequate time has passed, but you have still not received your payment, then you can send a polite reminder.

Tip #4: Schedule in Rest Time

Make a point to schedule in rest time and rest days. Try to get 6-8 hours of quality sleep every night. Adequate sleep can keep your body from falling sick and help you to focus better during the daytime.

If you work 7 days a week, it is a sure-fire way to burn yourself out. Pick 1-2 days to take off per week. If you had to rush work for a client over a weekend, then you can take a weekday off after that.

Tip #5: Keep in Touch

When you work from home, you spend long hours on your own, and people do not see you. Make it a point to keep in touch with people – not only clients (of course), but keep in touch with your family and friends. Human contact and human interaction is important, because humans are social creatures. Having a group of family and friends that you always stay in touch with also doubles up as a support group. These are the people you can call when you have an emergency or need some help.

At the end of the day, working on your own or working remotely is a test of self-discipline and self-management. Whether you can succeed will depend on how well you can keep yourself on track, focus and prioritise, in order to achieve your targets and goals.

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Celebrating Hari Moyang (Ancestors’ Day) with the Mah Meri Indigenous People

I have heard of the Mah Meri indigenous people a few years ago, but never had the opportunity to visit them. So when my travel blogger friend Kathleen Poon of Kat Pergi Mana asked me to join her on an outing to visit the Mah Meri on the day they celebrate Hari Moyang (Ancestors’ Day), I said yes.

The indigenous peoples, known locally as Orang Asli or Orang Asal, are divided into three main groups in Malaysia, according to their language, lifestyle, dwellings, facial features and skin colour. These three main groups, namely the Negrito, Senoi and Proto Malay, are further divided into 18 tribes, each group consisting of six tribes (as shown in the following figure).

Indigenous Peoples of Malaysia

The indigenous peoples of Malaysia are well-known for their handicrafts, and among them, the Mah Meri and Jah Hut are famous for their figure and mask wood carvings.

About the Mah Meri

‘Mah Meri’ means ‘forest people’ or ‘people who live in the forest’. ‘Mah’ refers to ‘people’, while ‘Meri’ refers to ‘forest’. Similar to most of the other tribes, the Mah Meri originally lived in the forest.

According to their elders, the Mah Meri originated from Johor Lama, also known as Kota Linggi. However, researchers are of the opinion that the Mah Meri are not originally from Malaysia. They belong to the Senoi, who are believed to come from Cambodia and Vietnam. Genetic research has so far classified the Mah Meri community as descendants of the Mongoloid people.

In terms of religion, the Mah Meri are animists. The Mah Meri depend on the forest and the sea for their livelihood, and their spiritual life closely revolves around them. This is expressed in their figurines, which are intimately connected to their ancestors and the natural environment. The Mah Meri believe that there are two forms, the good and the bad. Therefore, various ceremonies are conducted as a sign of respect and to appease the spirits or unseen beings, believed to be responsible for structuring as well as meting out punishment on their lives.

Two of the most important ceremonies of the Mah Meri are the Hari Moyang (Ancestors’ Day) and Puja Pantai (Beach Ceremony). We are very fortunate that the Mah Meri has allowed visitors to see and participate in these two ceremonies.

Hari Moyang

Directly translated as Ancestors’ Day, Hari Moyang is one of the most important and biggest festivals celebrated by the Mah Meri community living in Carey Island, Klang. The Mah Meri explained that this festival is celebrated 30 days after Chinese New Year, because they also observe the lunar calendar.

Hari Moyang is celebrated in three locations, which are the house of Moyang Gadeng (who looks after the central part of the village), Moyang Amai (who looks after the areas on the fringes of the village), and Moyang Keteng (who looks after the areas at the northernmost parameters of the village). For the Mah Meri who live near the coast, this ceremony will be conducted on the beach and called Puja Pantai.

Moyang in the context of the Mah Meri refer to their ancestors and also their natural environment. The ancestors who are supposed to be present at Hari Moyang are Moyang Getah, Moyang Melur, Moyang Tok Naning, Moyang Bojos, and Moyang Tok Pekong Cina.

These ancestors are believed to protect the community’s happiness and are also capable of punishment. Thus, the Mah Meri believe in revering and appeasing them. The Mah Meri’s famous statuettes, carved in the form of figurines and masks, are closely connected to their ancestors and environment, and the statuettes’ names are derived from the more famous ancestors.

Here are photos from the Hari Moyang Festival in the form of a slide show:

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I followed the Mah Meri’s customs and received blessings at the Rumah Moyang, and left a Bunga Moyang on the giant cone in front of the building to pay my respects to the ancestors.

Mask Carvings

The Mah Meri’s mask carvings are inspired by their spiritual beliefs and the natural environment, and display their artistic and abstract imagination. The carvings are based mainly on myths and legends.

Here are some of the interesting and enigmatic large masks hanging outside the walls of the Mah Meri Museum in the Mah Meri Cultural Village, Carey Island:

 

The masks are used in ritual dancing when worshiping their ancestors’ spirits. The masks are worn to represent the ancestors, who are believed to have extraordinary powers, and also believed to have been outstanding public figures during their  lifetimes. The following are photos of some of the prominent masks inside the museum.

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Moyang Ketam Impai

 

 

 

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Moyang Jabang

 

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Moyang Tumpang

 

 

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Moyang Tanjung

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Moyang Bojos

Figurines

Here are some of my favourite figurines from the Mah Meri Museum.

The story of Moyang Puting Beliong revolves around a family with seven children. The youngest daughter became the spirit of a cyclone (puting beliong).

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Moyang Puting Beliong

The story of Moyang Buaya was about a grieving man who vowed to become a crocodile when his brother disappeared in the river.

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Moyang Buaya

The origin of Moyang Pelandok was quite sinister and rooted in meting out punishment. A man was cursed into become Moyang Pelandok because he was always lying.

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Moyang Pelandok

The legend of Moyang Sempuar revolved around a story of doom and gloom – a man drowned in the sea because he was taken by Moyang Sempuar.

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Moyang Sempuar

The legend of Moyang Galak is somewhat similar to the story line of some of today’s horror movies. It was about the story of a child disturbed by Moyang Galak.

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Moyang Galak

Meanwhile, on a positive note, Moyang Sauh is the guardian of fishermen who ensures that their anchor will never get stuck.

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Moyang Sauh

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Moyang Udang

I have collated photos of the more interesting and captivating carvings from the Mah Meri Museum and Mah Meri Cultural Village in the form of a slide show:

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Special 3D Origami

I was really touched that the Mah Meri let us view and participate in their festival, and I truly enjoyed the cultural experience. I found their masks, attire and intricate 3D origami particularly interesting.

Their origami is environmentally friendly and 100% biodegrable because they are made from Nipah palm (Nypa fruticans) leaves.

After the Hari Moyang ceremony, we were given the opportunity to learn how to make some of the basic origami.

Here are some of the 3D origami that I liked the most, which reminded me of hanging mobiles:

All in all, I had a lovely time with the Mah Meri community at their Hari Moyang Festival. Before we left, the villagers provided us with a hearty lunch as well, after which our group went back to Kuala Lumpur in the LokaLocal van.

I would love to come back again the following year, and will be looking forward to experiencing next year’s Puja Pantai.

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Learning about Landing Pages & Conversion Optimisation

I got up bright and early to go all the way to Komune at UOA Corporate Tower, Vertical, Bangsar South today to attend the Landing Pages & Conversion Optimisation seminar by GetResponse. I attended their Marketing Summit late last year, the first-ever marketing event I have attended in fact, and enjoyed myself, so I was looking forward to this seminar. I was not disappointed. I left the venue with new nuggets of information and learnt new stuff about landing pages and such.

What is a Landing Page?

Well, most people think that a Landing Page is the same thing as a Homepage, but that’s incorrect. A Homepage is the first page, a general page, that people arrive at when they visit your website, but a Landing Page is strictly constructed for one purpose only, such as to promote a seminar, or promote a sales event.

What Makes a Good Landing Page?

A landing page leads to only ONE action. You have to be specific on this landing page. It has to have a good headline, that is relevant, specific and benefit oriented. It is important to use simple and straightforward language that is free from jargon in the content. You have to clearly state what you are offering, and if possible, have some positive testimonials.

A good landing page has short text, but is interesting, and states the benefits of whatever you are offering clearly. A good high-quality image (also referred to as a ‘hero image’) that is relevant and attractive, will make a lot of difference too. A suitable video might be helpful, but the visitor might not click on the video to play it, so it is better to have an image rather than a video. Any form fields must be short and straight to the point. You should only ask the visitor for essential info, such as name and email.

Keep all important info ABOVE THE FOLD. This means that the visitor can see all the most important info once he or she arrives at the landing page, WITHOUT needing to scroll down the page.

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In a good landing page, all the most important information – title, date, time, organiser, price and button to click to register – are all visible without needing to scroll down the page.

It is important to note that people want to know what they can get, or how you can help them. Therefore, always state benefits, not solutions, and not features.

Also, it will be good to use Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) to keep your text relevant, and make your landing page easier to find.

Your landing page has to be easy to view and read. Important factors to take into account:

  • Legibility is crucial – use a font that is easy to read. And a reasonably large font size, say font size 16.
  • Do not use contrasting colours, as they can strain the eyes.
  • Avoid large blocks of text. Break up your text into smaller pieces with subheadings and sections.
  • Make the page clean and uncluttered.
  • Images should not fill up the entire landing page. And only use a relevant image.
  • Consider the audience when you select images. For example, since we are in Malaysia, choose images with Asian people in them. Moreover, images featuring real people have the best desired outcome.
  • In the body text, use bullet points, where possible.
  • All images should have captions.
  • Incorporate relevant keywords into the text.
  • Be user-centric – use ‘you’ instead of ‘we’ or ‘I’.
  • Have a benefit-oriented headline (sell benefits instead of features)
  • Have only ONE Call To Action (CTA). Do not attempt to cram too many things into the landing page.

Last but not least, if you have an advertisement promoting your event/product/service, make sure the advertisement matches to the landing page. Do not advertise one thing, then when the user clicks it but arrives at the landing page only to find you are selling something else. The user will get very irritated.

How Do You Get Testimonials?

You can get testimonials by asking questions. You can ask suitable questions, even on your website, and compile good answers for use as testimonials.

Listing brands that you supply your products or services to will also improve your reputation.

How to Design Landing Pages for Mobile

Consider that 80% of users use mobiles, and about 60% consume information on their mobiles.

Important factors to consider when designing landing pages for mobiles:

  • Do not put important stuff below the fold.
  • Do not put videos above the fold, because the users might not play them – it is a hit or miss.
  • Research has shown that about 50% of people use smart phones with their right hand only. So, anything important must be easy to reach with the right thumb. Do not put anything important on the top-left corner.
  • Long and detailed forms do not convert well in mobile. Only ask for essential info. If you require more info, you can send the user an email.

Nowadays, there are ready to use templates online, where you can drag and drop objects and other things. GetResponse offers this option.

A/B Testing

You can have 2 versions of the same landing page, then test them to see which performs better. For example, you can ask 15 people to try landing page A, and another 15 people to try landing page B.

Mellissa, the head of GetResponse Malaysia, gave a good example. Through A/B testing, GetResponse has found that when they compared an event listed on the GetResponse website vs. the same event listed in FB (social media) then linked to EventBrite registration page, the EventBrite page had a 50% conversion rate. So, the conclusion is that they should just use the EventBrite event page and drop the event page on the GetResponse website.

You can also test words used with A/B testing, such as ‘sign up’ vs. ‘register’. Another thing you can test is the colour of buttons, but avoid from using colours that are hard for colour-blind people to differentiate. Forms and form fields (i.e. 3 vs. 4 form fields) can also be tested.

Landing Pages are Important

In this digital age, never underestimate the importance of a landing page in promoting your event/product/service, because it might lead to substantial sales conversion if designed and written well.

 

 

 

 

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Nature Thru The Lens

In June 2017, I participated in my first ever nature photography exhibition, with 23 other photographers from the Malaysian Nature Society Selangor Branch’s Photogroup. It was a very exciting time for us, and we were very happy with the quality of our printed photos and the classy venue at Whitebox, Publika.

My article about this inaugural Photogroup exhibition was published in the Malaysian Naturalist Vol 71-1 (Sept-Nov 2017), on pages 43 to 45. You can see the scanned pages here:

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Back cover

Back cover

There is talk of making this exhibition a biennial event, and I look forward to participating in the next one. ❤ ❤ ❤

 

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Strategy 101 with Joescher Chee

I attended my first ever strategy workshop on 4 January 2018. I felt my afternoon was well spent, listening to Joescher Chee sharing his knowledge, wisdom and insights. Unlike many people who lived their lives mechanically or in a haze from dawn till dusk, birth till death, Joescher got his wake-up call early in life. At 17, after a death-defying experience, he asked himself if his life mattered and what his purpose in life was. From then on, he changed his life profoundly and embarked on a meaningful life to become better and to help others as well.

In 2018, Joescher Chee has come very far in life. He is the Founder and CEO of Global Strategy Advisory, Co-Founder of Strategy Masterclass for CEOs and Entrepreneurs, an international speaker, and a branding expert who consulted over 200 brands across 23 industries.

Joescher Chee

Joescher Chee

So, what is strategy? Most people have vague ideas of what strategy is supposed to be, but Joescher demystified the term easily. He explained strategy as ‘the blueprint to get you from point A to B’. In business, there are various types of strategies. For example, business strategy is what drives your business, while brand strategy is what should your brand stand for. Marketing and communication strategy is how to reach out to customers, whereas advertising strategy involves how and where to advertise.

So, why is strategy important to a company? Usually, companies only notice the symptoms of a lack of strategy, which include stalling shares, falling market share, losing money, reducing margins, declining productivity, being stuck in the status quo, and diminishing employee morale. However, Joescher explained that these are just the fruits or outcomes of trouble related to a lack of strategy, which is the root of the problem. In order to fix the symptoms, we must first address the root cause.

Through his many years of consulting, Joescher noticed that companies normally fail because of 3 main reasons – no blueprint (strategy), wrong blueprint, or cannot execute the blueprint.

“Most companies in Asia are very good in execution, but they execute the wrong strategy,” said Joescher. “No good customer or supplier will want to jump into a ship that is lost.”

“If you don’t have a strategy, you don’t have a direction, you are lost,” he elaborated. “If your company doesn’t have a strategy, it simply won’t get you to the destination.”

On the other hand, if you have a strategy, you will have clarity, control, certainty and confidence. You will have a structured approach to smart growth and a clear road map to achieve breakthrough performance.

In the strategy workshop, he shared 3 strategy tools that are essential and practical for businesses. They are 3 Critical Choices, The Golden Ratio, and Industry Attractiveness.

The 3 critical choices are to be the Biggest, Best, or Most Profitable. Many years ago, businesses could achieve success by focusing on any 1 of them, but in our current age, with increasing competition, 1 is no longer enough.

In The Golden Ratio, the 3 important aspects of a business, regardless of industry, are simplified as Marketing, Operations, and Production. How a company decides on the ratio of focus, how much weight to give each aspect, will determine whether a company succeeds or fails.

The third strategy tool discussed was Industry Attractiveness. This is because the attractiveness of an industry also plays a very important role in how well a company performs. The higher the score, the more attractive the industry.

From this workshop, another point I found important was the importance of standing out from the rest – how to make yourself unique and special as compared to your competitors. As Joescher said, “In this world today, if your business is not a brand, it is a commodity. If it is a commodity, it can only compete on price.”

Business, brand and leadership strategy are required to transform organisations, cities and even countries. A clear strategy, a winning blueprint and a solid growth plan are indispensable to achieving business success for any company, in any industry worldwide. That is how critical the right strategy is, and therefore we as individuals can go so much further in life if we also had a clear strategy ourselves.

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Living more sustainably – the plastic dilemma

If you read the newspapers or online news websites, or watch the news on TV, you would have noticed that pollution is a chronic problem affecting our natural environment, especially since plastic was invented.

Plastics everywhere

Plastic has been around for the last 60-70 years, but it has revolutionised our urban existence. Because plastic is so flexible and created to last such a long time, it has been an ingredient added into everything from clothing, cooking and catering equipment, to engineering and retailing materials. The problem is that nearly all plastic that has ever been created still exists today in some form, as they take a very long time to degrade. The chart below from BBC’s ‘Seven Charts That Explain the Pollution Problem’ illustrates clearly the lifespan of plastic.

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Due to consumerism, our lifestyles have largely become unsustainable, and we generate too much trash every day, to the extent that landfills are filling up way too fast.

Making Choices

So, what can we do as ordinary people to be more sustainable in our daily lives? Well, it’s all about choices. Yesterday, I participated in a beach clean-up at Bagan Lalang in Sepang, and after the activity, some of us were very thirsty, so we bought some drinks from a drink stall nearby. A friend thought out loud, “We just picked up all the trash on this beach. After that, are we going to generate more trash?” She was referring to the plastic cups. I said I was not going to throw the cup away, but bring it home, wash it, and reuse it. Reusing stuff is a very important part of a more sustainable lifestyle.

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The cup I brought back from Bagan Lalang Beach

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I stack up the cups and store them in my cabinet with all my baking stuff. Left of cups – stacked up containers with cookie cutters & other small pieces of equipment). On the right – cake boards.

Reusing Plastic Items

Plastic cups, plates, bowls, cutlery, etc. all can be taken home, washed, stored neatly and reused, at least for a few times. I like to keep them for outings, barbecues and parties. Once they are damaged, broken, change colour or warp in some way, then it is time to put them in the recycling bin.

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Reusable Cutlery, Straws & Containers

It is handy to bring your own set of reusable cutlery along with you to work or outings. In that way, you do not need to get the disposable type. These are very common now – they are made of extra sturdy plastic or metal, and come in their own containers or pouches. If the food seller offers disposable food containers and cutlery to you, you can politely decline them.

Similarly, bamboo and stainless steel straws are becoming more popular and more widely sold now. So, if you are the type that likes to sip your iced drinks through straws, it is a good idea to get yourself one.

Plan ahead. If you like to buy food on the way to work or on the way back home, it is good to have a few reusable food containers in the car or in your bag. For those who go out during lunchtime to buy food back to the office, having a reusable container in your office drawer, plus reusable cutlery, is a good idea.

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Bringing your own reusable container when buying food is an excellent habit. In this photo – nasi kerabu with half a salted egg.

If you like to buy coffee or drinks on-the-go, then it will be good to have a thermos or tumbler in the car or in your bag, so that you can do away with paper or plastic cups. Do you know that paper drink cups are not recyclable? The plastic waterproof lining of many paper cups makes them unrecyclable. If they are collected with paper and cardboard, they may actually contaminate the whole load because they are also dirty/stained – this will cause the lot to be sent to landfill.

For those who travel frequently, or like to have garden parties or picnics, a set of reusable lightweight crockery and cutlery would be ideal to have. I got this 46-piece blue picnic set at carrefour many years ago, and they have served me well.

Recycling Plastic Items That Can’t Be Used Anymore

Once your reusable plastic items cannot be reused anymore, it is time to put them in the recycling bin. I sort my recyclables the low-tech way in my yard – one bag for plastics, one bag for paper, one bag for metal items, and another bag for glass items. It takes me a few months to fill up a bag. When a bag is full, I will take it to a recycling bin.

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Remember that you have to clean your plastic containers, glass bottles and metal tins before you put them in your recycling bin. You do not want to contaminate the whole bin. Also, please take note that soiled/dirty paper cannot be recycled. Dirty paper (especially those stained with food) will contaminate all the paper pulp during recycling.

So, if you haven’t thought about living more sustainably, it is never too late to start. If you are already doing all the necessary steps for living a more sustainable life, then congratulations! Keep up the good work.

 

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Beach Clean-up 2017

I like it when people from all walks of life come together for a good cause, and I saw this at the first beach clean-up organised by Guardians of Mother Earth at Bagan Lalang Beach, Sepang. It was really great that friends and total strangers came together, many with whole families in tow. In fact, the organiser, Mei Boh, was surprised by the overwhelming response, because over 60 people came.

Although it rained in the Klang Valley in the early hours of the morning when we set out, we were blessed with great weather – clouds protected us from the strong sunlight typical at beaches, enabling us to collect all the rubbish we could find over 2 hours. We were thankful to Mei Kuan for sponsoring the equipment to help us, such as gloves and thongs, among other things.

We were divided into 5 groups, and each group covered a different section of the beach. Some went to the sandy area exposed at low tide, some pulled out rubbish from between large stones in a rocky area, while some combed the grassy area where people had their picnics and barbecues.

Some volunteers washed dirty plastic plates and other plastic objects before putting them aside in bags specifically reserved for recyclable items. Au Yong from ICycle advised us to put recyclable items in clear plastic bags and unrecyclable rubbish in black plastic bags. So the sorted recyclable items could be recycled later.

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Mohd Faisal Abdur Rani from Let’s Do It Malaysia brought his weighing scale, and he weighed all the rubbish we collected.

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It turned out that we collected 200 kg of trash in 2 hours! We were amazed that the Bagan Lalang Beach had so much rubbish.

After we finished collecting the rubbish, we had a short meditation session led by Susee Ram, followed by sharing sessions and refreshments. The first sharing session was by Au Yong from ICycle, and the second sharing was by Mohd Faisal. Faisal showed us how to make eco bricks.

All in all, it was a fabulous day and we returned home satisfied that we had done something good for the environment to end the year on a positive note.

 

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