Command and control

Linda EvangelistaI loved Tim Hartford’s column in the Weekend Financial Times Think like a supermodel to wrest control of the gig economy. While his provocative headline referenced the challenges facing Uber and TaskRabbit ‘independent contractors’ who have a ways to go until they can face up to their digital masters with the same insouciance as the supermodel who states she would not ‘wake up for less than $10,000 a day’, it was his comments on the nature of the modern corporation that held my attention.

Hartford quotes the British econmist Ronald Coase who wrote back in 1937 about the strange contradiction between the world companies operate in and how they are organized internally:

…while corporations competed within a competitive marketplace, corporations themselves were not markets. They were hierarchies. If you work for a company, you don’t allocate your time to the highest bidder. You do what your boss tells you; she does what her boss tells her.

The rise in the number of freelancers has had no effect on the command-and-control organization of work within the firm.

The challenge for freelancers is that rewards are given based on scarcity and bargaining power. So while Linda Evangelista might not get up for less than ten grand, the average Uber driver does not have anything like the same bargaining power.

Hartford speculates on the possibility innovative online tools that turn the tables:

… it is not too hard to imagine a world in which skilled workers wrest back control using open-source software agents, join electronic guilds or unions and enjoy a serious income alongside unprecedented autonomy.

One aspect of my fantasy about life as a Medieval Speechwriter that I missed was the possibility that those scriveners would have formed a guild to protect their craft.

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Infographic: How to deliver a world-class presentation

Kudos to Hong Kong based Malcolm Andrews for publishing a great infographic on how to deliver a world-class presentation.

Malcolm AndrewsMalcolm is UK national who has been involved over the last 10 years in the development of business management and communication skills for companies across Asia. As well as corporate programmes, he has conducted 1:1 Executive Coaching assignments for clients in Hong Kong and Singapore. This material is posted with his express permission.

From global stats on the fear of public speaking, to ways to prepare and deliver content, this infographic is packed with facts, statistics and practical advice.

Click on the image below to see the complete infographic.

Infographic

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A Conversation with Tim Pollard on Fail-Proofing Your Communication

Tim PollardOn Thursday May 18 members of the Silicon Valley Speechwriters Roundtable were in conversation with Tim Pollard, author of The Compelling Communicator: Mastering the Art and Science of Exceptional Presentation Design.

In his new book, Tim Pollard has developed a systematic approach to the design and delivery of presentations and speeches that is applicable to everything from sales pitches to keynotes to TED Talks. The framework outlined in The Compelling Communicator is supported by research in how the brain processes information and how human beings learn; and it’s buttressed by Tim’s years of in-person experience communicating with, and coaching, leaders in business and non-profits worldwide.

Click on the podcast icon below to listen to Tim discuss some of the key concepts in his book, as well as answer questions from executive communications professionals at Cisco and Hewlett Packard.

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Toastmasters International Announces Founder of Freedom Writers Foundation as its 2017 Golden Gavel Recipient

Toastmasters International announced today that world-renowned speaker and educator Erin Gruwell is the recipient of the organization’s 2017 Golden Gavel award. The award, presented annually to an individual who exemplifies excellence in the fields of communication and leadership, will be presented to Gruwell during the Toastmasters International Convention, Aug. 23-26, 2017, in Vancouver, Canada.

Here’s a video of Erin’s thoughts on receiving the 2017 Golden Gavel award:

Gruwell was a high school English teacher in Long Beach, Calif., in the 1990s. At that time, gang violence and racial conflict was rampant and took the students’ focus away from learning. Gruwell developed a unique approach to reach her students: She introduced literature written by others who faced similar life challenges.

Her students found they could relate and soon after, Gruwell began to encourage them to write about their own life circumstances. Students recorded their thoughts and feelings in raw and graphic detail on topics such as gangs, the killing of family members and friends, growing up in broken homes, drug use, finding love and other teenage concerns. They called themselves the Freedom Writers after the 1960s American civil rights activists the Freedom Riders.

Freedom WritersThe powerful essays inspired the best-selling book, The Freedom Writers Diary: How a Teacher and 150 Teens Used Writing to Change Themselves and the World Around Them. The book was followed by the critically acclaimed movie, Freedom Writers, starring actress Hilary Swank as Gruwell.

“The difference Gruwell has made in her students’ lives epitomizes the importance and impact of instilling confidence in others,” says Toastmasters International President Mike Storkey. “We are thrilled to announce her as this year’s Golden Gavel recipient and look forward to her inspiring presentation at the Toastmasters International Convention in Vancouver.”

After the Freedom Writers movie, Gruwell went on to form a Toastmasters club and create the Freedom Writers Foundation through which she instructs educators on her teaching methods. She’s also a motivational speaker who travels the globe sharing her powerful message to vulnerable and at-risk youth.

“Toastmasters was a game-changer for me personally and professionally, and contributed to the growth of the Freedom Writers,” says Gruwell. “Being selected as the 2017 Golden Gavel award recipient is an incredible honor and I accept the award on behalf of all of the teachers out there who, every day, go into a classroom and give of themselves so their students can learn to use wings to fly.”

Gruwell will accept the award and address attendees during a presentation on Friday, Aug. 25, at the Vancouver Convention Centre. Gruwell joins an illustrious list of Golden Gavel honorees, including Walter Cronkite, Stephen Covey, Anthony Robbins, Muhammad Yunus and Zig Ziglar.

Click here to learn more about the 2017 International Convention, Aug. 23-26. The public is invited to attend.

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Book Review: The Compelling Communicator, by Tim Pollard

The Compelling Communicator Cover The true value of Tim Pollard’s excellent new book is conveyed by the subtitle: Mastering the Art and Science of Exceptional Presentation Design. While much of the literature on what makes a ‘compelling communicator’ focuses on cultivating delivery skills and stage presence, Pollard rightly consigns these topics to a brief Epilogue. Rather, his focus on what makes a presentation exceptional is around design and content. This makes the book of equal, if not greater, value to speechwriters and communications professionals as it is to those who deliver presentations.

Pollard is a welcome enemy of two of my own pet hates: Subject Experts who force an audience to drink from a firehouse, and executives who start out by building every presentation in PowerPoint, which he condemns as ‘absolutely the wrong way to start–it’s like laying bricks on each other as a way to design a new office building.’

The Need for Presentation Design

His indictment of the delusions that many, if not most, presenters suffer from is a telling one. Pollard is relentless in calling out the sorry state of business presentations in the world today, which include:

  • Cramming in large amounts of irrelevant material that crowds out content that really matters to an audience.
  • Subject experts who drastically overestimate an audience’s ability to absorb complex information.
  • Delivering an unstructured message which confuses the audience. (Sorry Guy Kawasaki, just numbering points from 1-10 does not cut it.)
  • In sum: content that is boring, confusing, forgettable, sender-centric and unlikely to drive people to take action.

The root of the problem is ‘selling the car using the owner’s manual’ by failing to identify the ‘big ideas’ that will grab the audience’s attention.

Mastering Presentation Design

The second part of the book is a step-by-step guide building a speech around a few big ideas to make an impact. This requires us nailing three key presentation design aspects:

  1. Selecting the content that deliver insights to influence the audience in the ways we want.

    Building a comprehensive audience profile is a necessary first step. It forces us to think of the world in terms of the audience and how the arguments we present intersect with their world.

  2. Simplifying and sequencing the content, paring down excessive material and structuring a story that packs meaning into each word of the speech.

    The importance of building presentations that tell a compelling story has been addressed by others such as Nancy Duarte, Justina Chen and Michael Hauge. Pollard gives us the practical tools we need to create presentations in a corporate setting that make effective use of stories.

  3. Engaging the audience with relevant information that grabs attention by appealing to both sides of the brain.

    This starts by crafting an effective opening, creating supporting visuals that add impact and are relevant, and closing with a simple, memorable, proposition.

    I especially liked Pollard’s sensible advice on supporting materials and handouts.

A Valuable Online Resource

A hidden bonus in the book is a complimentary six-month subscription to Tim’s Message Architect Software Tool which manages the process of designing presentations according to the steps described in the book.

It’s worth the price of the book to gain access to this software.

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Guest Posting: How to be a Presentation Hero, by Adam Noar

Adam Noar is the founder of Presentation Panda. He’s an expert marketer, entrepreneur, and presentation design expert. After building a successful website in the sportswear industry, he’s refocused on what he loves most: Building and designing exciting presentations for clients. Presentation Panda uses a simple, clear, and vibrant approach to presentation design. This material is posted with his express permission.

Presentation Hero vs Presentation Zero

In today’s competitive world, to pull off a KILLER presentation you need to:

• Think creatively … no more lazy bullet points
• Use tools and shortcuts so you can spend your time on the important stuff
• Create clean and captivating slides that appeal to people’s emotions
In other words, you need to be a presentation HERO.

Here’s 10 clever tips on how to be a Presentation Hero displayed within a simple infographic from Presentation Panda.

Click on the image below to see the complete infographic.

Hero vs Zero

Here’s a quick rundown of the 10 presentation tips covered in the infographic:

1. Give yourself plenty of time to work on your presentation so you can go above and beyond

Set aside plenty of time to work on your presentation so you can make sure that everything looks great. Avoid slapping your slides together at the last-minute hoping that it comes together. By giving yourself time you will be able to make sure the flow, the theme, and the content goes above and beyond.

2. Use keyboard shortcuts to save time

PowerPoint keyboard shortcuts can save you valuable time. For example, if you need to select all the objects on the slide, don’t select all your images one-by-one with you mouse. Instead, press Ctrl+A!

Here’s one more:

If you’ve made a mistake, instead of moving your mouse to hit the undo button simply press Ctrl+Z.

There are many keyboard shortcuts to memorize. Start with the common ones and add new ones over time.

3. Practice the art of slide cleanliness

Organization and consistency are one of those details that fade to the background if you do it well, but stand out as glaring errors when you neglect them. By placing everything on your slides with intention and precision your audience will be focusing on your message and not on your untidy slides.

4. Forget boring bullet points

Bullet points are simply not fun to look at. They are usually heavy on text and light on visuals, which usually means that they will be forgotten by your audience just as soon as the next slide pops up. You can do better! Getting rid of bullet points can be a challenging task, but there is no reason you can’t have a great time flexing your creative muscles to come up with some stylish alternatives.

5. Use a consistent theme of good looking visuals

A theme encompasses everything from font, images, colors, layout, formatting, and even to a certain extent the content that you put on display in a presentation. Once you have landed on a theme to use in your presentation, making decisions on how to design your slides becomes much easier.

6. Save lots of time by customizing PowerPoint with the tools you use most

Customizing your PowerPoint setup with your most commonly used tools will save you tons of time. Why search for the same tool over and over within the menus of PowerPoint when you can put it in an easily accessible place where you can easily grab it?

7. Get inspired before you start designing your slide deck

Don’t stare hopelessly at a blank canvas. Instead, take action and get inspired by looking around for presentation ideas online! A blank canvas isn’t really idea inspiring – a lot of times it’s intimidating, overwhelming, and frustrating. Who wants to feel like that before they even get started?

8. Get to know the many tools that can help you create nice looking slides
Presentation professionals know that many tools are needed for the job. In other words they keep an extensive set of tools with them when creating slides. They know what tools to use to do all sorts of things that make their presentation stand out.

9. Practice your presentation many times before giving it

Once you have finished creating your awesome slide deck you now have to practice giving your presentation many times before giving it. When you practice, you get comfortable with your message, hone what you want to keep (and get rid of), and get an understanding for how well your slides and content are placed.

10. Invest some time learning about the art of designing presentations

You aren’t born a presentation hero! If you want to create great looking PowerPoint slides you’ve got to put in some work – and that mostly means learning from the right resources and putting what you learned into action.

Conclusion

I hope you found this infographic and presentation tips helpful. Here’s my question for you:

Do you have a favorite presentation tip that has helped you achieve great results in the past? Sound off in the comments below!

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Pseuds Corner: The language of perfume

Back in 2007 I commented on the pretentious language of wine reviewers with their overblown phrases such as ‘dried cherry, pebbles and black tea aromas’ and ‘roasted red cherry, warm oak to round the edges’.

I’ve now discovered a topic even more worthy of inclusion in Private Eye’s Pseuds Corner — the language of perfumiers.

BibliothequeThe Weekend FT Fashion pages list a half dozen new fragrances for Spring. The reviewer shares that the Jo Malone’s Whisky and Cedarwood cologne “is part of a collection of five fragrances that evoke a lily pond at dawn, linseed oil, and waxed wood floors.” Flower by Kenzo, Eau de Lumière eau de toilette “is aimed at capturing the sensation of light” while Byredo’s Bibliothèque eau de parfum “suggests a traditional library”. Herbe PerfumeNot to be outdone, Hermès Eau des Merveilles Bleue eau de toilette “bottles the spirit of childhood summers and the escapism of the ocean” and Atelier Bloem’s 1614 eau de parfum “replicates the olfactory experience of Amsterdam’s floating flower market”.

Quite how the specificity of these descriptions is beyond comprehension. Does anyone know what a lily pond smells like a dawn, versus mid-day or dusk? Do all traditional libraries smell the same? Was everyone’s childhood summer spent escaping on the ocean, and does Amerstandm’s floating flower market not have notes of diesel from the barges mingled with the blossoms?

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Infographic: The Do’s and Don’ts of Presenting

The good people at Walkerstone in the UK (a team of professional trainers who are also business writers and marketers) have produced a great infographic, with an informative preamble, on the Do’s and Don’ts of Presenting. This content appears with their express permission.

The Do’s And Don’ts of Presenting

There are two elements to making a great presentation: the first is what you say, the second is how you say it. If you have great content, your presentation has an excellent basis for success. As a presenter, it will give you confidence.

Your first few words are the most important. They need to be the most interesting, exciting and dramatic that you could possibly conjure up about your topic at that very moment. They set the scene for your presentation.

Words really do matter. According to a Microsoft study, the average attention span for human beings was eight seconds in 2016. It was twelve seconds in 2000. That means that what you say and how you say it, has a greater importance today than it had yesterday. Words mean the difference between success and failure – between winning and losing.

The words you choose must have energy to stimulate and inspire your audience into listening – into wanting more. Each sentence needs to sell the next sentence, and so on until the end. Ensure you deliver a strong finish.

Use concrete words and phrases. Generalities are sleep inducing. Facts and figures coupled to interesting narrative, stimulate attention. Content is always king. Great content which is logical, reasoned and well-structured, means that you will communicate with impact.

Channel your nerves. Take into consideration all three elements of physical communication – words, tone of voice and body language. All three elements must be in harmony with each other for effective communication.

For example, if you merely say that you are enthusiastic, but your tone of voice and body language says the opposite, your audience will give little credence to the words you use. Words need good support for great effect.

With that in mind, take a look at some of the Do’s and Don’ts infographic created by Walkerstone.com. It includes some facts and figures around getting your message across and keeping the attention of your audience. It includes some useful considerations to remember for your presentation.

Use it as a preparation checklist for your presentation. It will help you feel more confident, prepared, and able to deliver your message well.

Click to enlarge..

Presentation Infographic

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Pod Save America

Pod Save America

I’m impressed by the new podcast from the Obama speechwriting team (who suddenly have time on their hands).

Pod Save America is a lively, irreverent and highly partisan discussion hosted by hosted by Jon Favreau, Jon Lovett, Dan Pfeiffer and Tommy Vietor. In the latest episode they are joined by second-term chief speechwriter Cody Keenan in a discussion that gives some great advice on what makes a speechwriters’ life pleasurable or painful, why edits to a draft are to be welcomed, and makes the unequivocal point on the importance of direct access to the principal, not mediated by comms staff.

There’s wonderful inside baseball tales on which sections of Obama’s speeches were written by who, and where the President made killer edits.

I love it that their Twitter account has over 30,000 followers but they only follow one person, can you guess who?

Check it out on iTunes or your favorite podcast syndication venue.

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Queen for a day

Sex PistolsI enjoyed a wonderfully eclectic article by Douglas Coupland in the Weekend FT on the Queen.

Since I make no secret of my age, I’m proud to say my life has been almost exactly coterminus with that of her majesty’s reign (with only my first four days on the planet spent when her father was on the throne, albeit on his death bed).

Coupland muses on the strangeness of the word Queen: ‘seemingly engineered by Scrabble technicians to allow players to shed excess vowels while at the same time affording them a well-deserved buzz while they deploy the Q-tile they’ve been hording…’. He recalls a time when the Queen waved at him, and him alone. On the relationship between punk rock (God Save the Queen) and the monarchy in British culture. On the differences between transvestites and drag queens.

But it is a wonderfully inspiring thought experiment that caught my eye, which is worth quoting in full:

I have this theory that there exists another universe which is just like ours except in that universe, different people became famous than did in this one. Jodie Foster is a Denny’s waitress in Bakersfield. George Clooney repairs engines at an Airbus facility but is off for a month because of a bad back. And so on. If you visited that universe, you could bump into Jodie and George and then . . . well, what would you do, really? Ask for their autograph? They’d call the cops. Ask them if they ever thought of acting? Stalker. There’s really nothing you could do except stare like a twit with a faint smile while you creep them out. If you ever want to make the world seem more interesting, just assume that everybody you see is a movie star in some other dimension.

Sometimes, I’ll see 90-year-old ladies and wonder if they’re actually the Queen in some other universe. What would I say to one of these women? “Hello. You look very regal today.” Clueless. “Like some tea, Ma’am?” Freak. The truth is that there’d be nothing much you or I could say, aside from platitudes and pleasantries — and then we’d sigh and realise that that’s pretty much what it would be like meeting the real Queen in our own universe. But one has to admit She’s done a magnificent job of maintaining an aura of mystery armed only with a signature hand wave and a roster of secret handbag codes used in conjunction with her security staff.

This would be an interesting executive communications technique.

Imagine

Imagine, for a moment, a speech by a senior leader that asks the audience to assume everyone in the company is a top manager in some other dimension. Treating everyone in the organization with the deference afforded top management would undermine many cultural norms, perhaps for the better. It could, for instance, relieve CEOs of the dysfunctional behaviors Rod Thorn identifies (a lack of honest conversations, too much political game playing, silo thinking, lack of ownership and follow-through, and tolerating bad behaviors). It would certainly, if carried out literally, put meat on the bones of the rather tired assertion that front line employees are more important than the CEO (which is clearly why they earn 331 times less.)

It might lead to greater empathy for the burdens the powerful bear, and the challenges underlings face, and overcome limitations in left-brained thinking that Daniel Pink has identified.

It might also help to develop the speech as a vehicle for constructive fantasy (‘what if?’), which speechwriter Brian Jenner lists as one of the jobs of the speechwriter (‘to manipulate the steady going, because we’re in the business of reconstructing the world with ideas’).

It would certainly take people out of their comfort zone, and, as ethnomethodology teaches, help everyone in an organization understand what’s going on when people in meetings pander to the CEO’s sense of humor and are more willing to laugh along at his jokes than they are with people of lesser status.

Abbey Road

Her Majesty’s a pretty nice girl,
But she doesn’t have a lot to say
Her Majesty’s a pretty nice girl
But she changes from day to day

I want to tell her that I love her a lot
But I gotta get a bellyful of wine
Her Majesty’s a pretty nice girl
Someday I’m going to make her mine, oh yeah,
Someday I’m going to make her mine.
– The Beatles

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