White House staffers resettle in Silicon Valley

Silicon ValleyKudos for the FT’s Hannah Kuchler for reporting on the number of Obama-era White house staffers who’ve gone West and taken up lucrative speechwriting and communications roles in Silicon Valley.

She notes that the talent from DC is a match made in heaven for Silicon Valley companies. There was always a simpatico feeling between leaders in tech and Democrats (with notable exceptions such as Republican ex-Cisco CEO John Chambers and libertarians including Sun Microsystems CEO Scott McNealy and VC Peter Thiel). However, Kuchler notes that when Obama left office what had been a trickle became a flood:

Previously, tech companies had hired former Obama speechwriters and advisers, and a few Republicans. But last year came the flood: Facebook hired people who had worked on strategic communications for the National Security Council, trade policy and judicial nominations; Uber took on a special assistant from the office of international economic affairs; start-ups hired former Michelle Obama advisers on innovation and cyber-security policy.

These West Wing operatives will prove their worth if they are able to stem the backlash against the likes of Uber and Facebook as they struggle to win the hearts and minds of regulators worldwide.

Those of us who’ve written for the tech industry for years welcome the new blood, there’s a place for you in the Silicon Valley Speechwriters Roundtable!

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Creative Video for Communicators

Brian WalterThis Saturday I attended the annual Presidents Day meeting of the National Speakers Association Northern California Chapter. As a past Chapter President (2008-09) I was invited to the meeting where the current national president, Brian Walter, CPAE, CSP held a brilliant workshop modestly titled ‘A Bazillion Extreme Ways to Use Video DURING Your Speeches’.

This was just as impressive as his 2011 Extreme Meetings presentation. He covered a wide range of options for the use of video by speakers and trainers with his typical infectious humor.

Why video? It’s for when your audience gets sick of you! It brings the real world into the artificial environment of a ‘meeting bubble’.

Brian began with some basic, very solid, advice:

  • Avoid streaming video over the hotel WiFi.
  • Instead, embed video in your slides (which he did throughout his 3-hour presentation).
  • Don’t project pixiliated ‘crappy video’ (as downloaded from YouTube or captured on a phone) full-screen. Instead, shrink it down to occupy a small part of your presentation screen, embedded in a slide background — such as a smartphone or monitor screen image.
  • Break up clips into short segments and turn each into a point to make in your talk.

Brian then explained the range of options (not a bazillion, but more than a few) for using video, from simple to elaborate. Absent his many examples these may not seem as impressive on the page as they were shown onscreen, but each is worth exploring.

Crowd-sourced video

Procurement TubeThis is harvested from the folks within an organization and embedded into a smartphone image (allowing for portrait or landscape source to be shown). It can be made into a parody video which can, in fact legally use images such as the YouTube logo if styled as, say, “Procurement (Department) Tube”

As-is Video

Licensed stock video clips from sources such as istockphoto can be purchased once and used over and over.

Libraries of commercials available for license from sources such as TVAds or, depending on the proposed use, from YouTube directly (assuming you are not going to embed the ad in product for sale, which commercial company could possibly object you showing an advert that was, in fact, designed to sell?). Brian made the point that the emotional charge of showing an advert to an audience is unique, since even those who might have seen it before will not have done so in a group setting where the impact is magnified. His example was the hilarious EDS cat herding Superbowl commercial (if you have not seen it, take a second…). Point is, EDS no longer exists, so ‘fair use’ is unlikely to be challenged.

Movie and TV clips can legally be shown if a speaker obtains an annual $625 umbrella license from the Motion Picture Licensing Corporation. Reinforcing Brian’s point they state:

Conference organizers and Public Speakers understand that movie scenes have the power to bring a presentation to life. The magic of the movies allows a presenter to stand out from the crowd and unleash his or her creativity without limitations. What better way to illustrate a point than by incorporating the perfect movie scene? More importantly, movies can do more than simply enhance a presentation, they can help create a more engaging and entertaining experience that holds an audience’s attention.

One license allows you to legally show clips from major motion picture studios in at conferences and events. Which clips to use and what to say about them? Brian has us covered. He recommends three books that deliver both the medium and the message:

101_Clips101 Movie Clips that Teach and Train, by Becky Pike Pluth

Let this book jumpstart your creativity for lesson planning or training design by providing you with the perfect movie clip for over 100 topics, including discrimination, leadership, team building, and sales. Each clip comes with cueing times, plot summary and scene context and cogent discussion questions.

Reel_LessonsReel Lessons in Leadership, by Ralph R. DiSibio

A unique study of leadership qualities using memorable films and their characters. The author takes a unique approach to studying the overwritten topic of leadership by using scenes and characters from popular movies. For each of the dozen movies, the author identifies leadership traits that the main character symbolizes.

Big_PictureThe Big Picture: Essential Business Lessons from the Movies, by Kevin Coupe & Michael Sansolo

Shows you how the stories in movies can inspire solutions in your business life. From brand marketing to ethics, leadership to customer focus, planning to rule breaking, everything you need to know about business is found in your favorite movies

As-Is Plus Video

Simple edits can be made to stock video that will enhance the message for the audience. These include subtitles, comment boxes, counters and more.

For-You Video

These are typically testimonial videos about you or your organization made by others. You bask in the reflected glory of their words. Be sure they mention your name up front.

By-You Video

If featuring you, these are the classic speaker videos. They need to be short, since people did not attend the meeting just to watch you on camera.

If they feature others, they really ‘bring the real world’ into your meeting. Examples featured employees saying what makes them feel appreciated, shown to HR managers. These can be ‘scrappy’ videos filmed on your phone, embedded in a suitable background.

Animated Video

Here Brian showed the great GoAnimate tool, which I used back in the day during my time in executive communications at Cisco. Really easy to make and effective at getting issues across in a powerful way. This explains how it works:

One tip from Brian: Don’t fade up from black. Simply add a still cover image with a half-second delay in PowerPoint before it plays.

Star-You Video

This was the highest level of video Brian discussed, explaining this puts you in the role of producer who hires scriptwriters, sound & camera people, editors and more. Coincidentally, there was just such a resource in the audience that day — Joanne Tan from 10+ Visual Branding.

My fav example from Joanne’s portfolio has to be the ad for this local Brazilian waxing salon, located right next door to the restaurant where the past-presidents met for a late lunch. How convenient!

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A blast from the past: The influence of the wealthy in politics

Trump_FamilyDipping into past blog posts I came across my 2006 comments on the cultural differences between Japan, Australia and the US around attitudes toward the wealthy.

While the Japanese hammer down the nails that stick up, to enforce conformity, and the Australians whack their tall poppies, Americans are famous for their adulation of the wealthy.

In the comments to that original post I added a 2008 article by FT columnist (now Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs) Chrystia Freeland, who detected changing attitudes to the super-rich wishing to enter politics as revealed by then-attitudes to New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg “flirting with an independent bid for the White House for months. By and large, New Yorkers have been indulgent, but this week brought a chorus of scoldings, some of them directly aimed at his extraordinary fortune.”

She concluded by speculating that the mood in the US was moving toward condemnation of the wealthy, and asks us to:

Consider Donald Trump, who has built new a career as a media celebrity by assuming the persona of an obnoxious yet somehow admirable billionaire. Now, though, the mood is changing.

That was then.

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The Year of the Sahasrara

An wonderfully acerbic column by Jo Ellison in the Weekend FT alerted me to the fact that the good folks at Pantone have announced that the ‘Color of the Year’ for 2018 is Pantone 18-3838 Ultra Violet, which is subtly different from the Blue Iris (18-3943) that was color of the year 10 years earlier. It replaces the shade of green that was the color of 2017.

Pantones’ executive director waxes eloquent about the relevance of this for 2018:

Pantone Quote

Ellison is having none of this. To her

It makes me think of wizards and wacky shed-dwelling craftspeople and the type of people with gnarly toenails who congregate at sunrise to take part in ancient ceremonies involving runic stones. It’s the colour adored by “open-minded” people who move out of London to give their children better educational opportunities, and end up whittling nose whistles in Brighton.

The Queen in PurpleThere is, however, a long association of purple/violet with higher purpose, being both the color of Royalty (not known for nose whistle whittling) as well as the sahasrara or crown chakra. As I wrote back in 2006, the crown chakra sits on or above the physical top of the head. It relates to consciousness as pure awareness. It is our connection to the greater world beyond, to a timeless, spaceless place of all-knowing. When developed, this chakra brings us knowledge, wisdom, understanding, spiritual connection, and bliss.

SahasraraBack then, I asked speechwriters to consider to what extent does anything in your speech really mean a damn in the big scheme of things? It’s refreshing to see that Pantone is asking the same questions today.

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Let’s welcome more refugees to America!

Flashing for the refugees on the unarmed road of flight
— Bob Dylan, The Chimes of Freedom

Upwardly Global ReportAs I’ve previously posted immigration, legal or otherwise, is the lifeblood of the United States. Refugees form an important source of immigrants who are often among the least understood, most victimized and yet most valuable additions to a society. Since 1975, the U.S. has resettled more than three million refugees. Consider the role of some these refugees and the way they helped make America great:

  • Andy Grove, Hungarian refugee, founder of Intel currently valued at $203 billion.
  • Jan Koum, Ukrainian refugee, founder of WhatsApp which in 2014 was purchased by Facebook for $22 billion.
  • Steve Jobs, the son of a Syrian refugee, co-founder of Apple, currently valued at $900 billion.

This information is from an important new report from Upwardly Global that highlights the role of refugees in America and reviews both their successes, as well as barriers to integration they face.

The foremost barrier, not surprisingly, sits in the White House. The report notes:

The U.S. refugee policy overhaul in 2017 marks a fundamental shift in how the U.S. allows people to enter the country at a time when 65.6 million people around the world have been forcibly displaced, including 22.5 million refugees. In September, the White House announced plans to cap the number of refugees the U.S. will accept in 2018 at 45,000, the lowest number since the current U.S. refugee admissions system was established in 1980.

This policy ignores the fact that accepting refugees is not only a humanitarian and legal obligation, but an investment that leads to long-term socioeconomic benefits. Investing in skilled refugee workforce integration yields tremendous benefits for our economy and communities. In 2016, Upwadly Global helped 247 refugees secure full-time professional jobs with an average income of $47,000 – resulting in these individuals lifting themselves out of poverty and become economic contributors.

Let’s not turn our back on the global need to resettle refugees. Let’s do something that will really make America great again and welcome more refugees to America!

To find out more, read the full report.

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Comfort Zone

Tommy John ModelThe good folks at men’s outfitters Tommy John (“A man’s under layers shouldn’t be stuck in the past. Or anywhere else.”) have, rather surprisingly, produced a great infographic on how to remain calm under pressure — such as might afflict any chap called on to speak in public. Since they claim that their underwear “won’t crumble his cookies” and the models who wear Tommy John’s look extremely relaxed you can be sure the techniques suggested in the infographic work wonderfully. Moreover, any company named after a man’s John Thomas deserves the respect of wordsmiths everywhere!

Click on the image below to see the full-sized infographic.

Tommy_John

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Speaker Magazine

Speaker_MagazineAn excellent resource for anyone curious to learn more about the business of professional speaking (and presentation tips in general) is the archive of SPEAKER magazine, published each month by the National Speakers Association.

You can scroll through back issues back to 2007 (including my own Relevant Resources columns from 2012).

Recommended.

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Podcast: Shel Holtz on Social Media and Speechwriting

Shel HoltzOn Wednesday October 4th the Silicon Valley Speechwriters Roundtable hosted a conference call with Shel Holtz. We discussed the ways in which social and digital media — which have given rise to content marketing — offer a host of options to speechwriters to draw attention to the speech before, during, and after its delivery. Shel reviewed the rapid development of the many forms of social media available for speechwriters to use, from humble beginnings as blogs and chat rooms to the rich variety of streaming media solutions available today.

Among the tips Shel shared was the use of Poll Everywhere to engage audiences and the Mevo live event camera for streaming.

Click on the podcast icon below to listen to Shel discuss these topics and more, as well as answer questions from speechwriters who were on the call. (Apologies for the audio which suffered from occasional background noise, but nothing that should prevent you listening to whole 55 minute call.)

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Announcing: A Conversation with Shel Holtz

Shel HoltzI’ve long been an admirer of communication strategist Shel Holtz. who is a regular speaker on topics surrounding the application of online technology to strategic organizational communication. He speaks regularly at IABC and Ragan Communication conferences.

On Wednesday October 4th the Silicon Valley Speechwriters Roundtable will host Shel on a conference call. We’ll be discussing the ways in which social and digital media — which have given rise to content marketing — offer a host of options to speechwriters to draw attention to the speech before, during, and after its delivery. From repurposing parts of a speech to taking advantage of trends in online video and audio, Shel will discuss how you can get much more mileage from a speech today than ever before.

To register for this no-charge event simply go to the Roundtable Meetup Group and RSVP. We start at 11:45am (Pacific).

Shel is the author of a number of great books on topics such as podcasting, blogging and more.

Shel_Holtz_Podcasting

Shel-Holtz-Blogging

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Kombucha makes it to Middle England

KombuchaI was amazed to hear mention of kombucha on the August 31st edition of the long-running English radio soap The Archers. Two of the village women are in a competitive keifer (pronounced “kaa-fear” in an Ambridge burr apparently, not ‘kee-fer” as in the USA) making competition and a neighbor who’d been visiting farm stores in and around Boston (Mass) made a reference to the “fermented tea” he’d sampled Stateside.

I’ve long anticipated kombucha becoming popular in England, especially as it tastes rather like Scrumpy. Maybe mention on The Archers heralds the start of more general availability.

I’ve brewed my own ‘booch for over five years can heartily recommend it as a healthy option to all those pints of Shires they drink down at the Bull.

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