Tuesday, December 11, 2007

How NOT To Use Powerpoint

I just came across this very funny video on YouTube:
"How NOT To Use Powerpoint By Comedian Don McMillan"
Good advice for anyone who uses PowerPoint.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Facebook’s nailed it!

There’s been a lot of talk in the media about online social networking tools such as MySpace, LinkedIn, and Facebook.

In my view, Shakespeare predicted MySpace nicely with his line from MacBeth: “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

There is research that indicates that people tend to ignore all data when they are given more than they can process. Recently, neuroscientists tested people for the effects of information overload and found these symptoms:

  1. Irritation
  2. Boredom
  3. Inability to take decisive action
  4. Pervading sense of “So What?”
  5. Failure to respond

This is how I felt about MySpace. I found MySpace overwhelming and without meaning.

When I read an article in the February issue of Business 2.0 about LinkedIn, I was excited about the possibilities of LinkedIn and started to use it to link to other business professionals.

After a slow start, the service has nearly doubled its membership during the past year. Seeded with Hoffman's own high-powered network, a magnet for tech's movers and shakers, LinkedIn has capitalized on the Web 2.0 boom to attract more dealmaking members and race past its rivals.

VC heavyweights Sequoia Capital and Greylock - whose hit parade includes Apple, Cisco, Google, and Yahoo - have pumped nearly $15 million into LinkedIn. The private company says it's profitable and on track to hit $100 million in revenue by 2008.

I feel sure that if I were job-hunting, a recruiter or solely-responsible for business development, I would use LinkedIn much more than I do.

So far, the actual results have been underwhelming. I can’t see how it’s had any significant effect on my business or my relationships with professional contacts.

Then Bill Petro invited me to join Facebook. I’ve known Bill since he took our “iPresentation” workshop at EMC in March of 2002. We’ve since become friends. At first, I thought, “Oh, great – another networking site that won’t live up to it’s billing.” That was followed by the thought: “Bill is a pretty tech-savvy dude. He must see some value. Why not give it a try?”

I signed up and found it easy and pleasant to interact with friends and clients online … but it still didn’t hit me as a ground-breaking application.

I read an article in Wired magazine about Facebook that caught my attention. It was titled: "How Mark Zuckerberg Turned Facebook Into the Web's Hottest Platform."

Today, Zuckerberg, 23, is famous for other reasons. For one thing, analysts think he could be the nation's richest man under 25, with a net worth estimated at $1.5 billion. But more important, he has transformed his company from second-tier social network to full-fledged platform that organizes the entire Internet. As a result, Facebook is the now most buzzed-about company in Silicon Valley, and Zuckerberg is constantly compared to visionaries like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. Even some of the tech industry's most legendary figures are genuflecting before Zuckerberg. In an entry on his blog, Netscape cofounder Marc Andreessen called Facebook's transformation "an amazing achievement — one of the most significant milestones in the technology industry in this decade." Says Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce.com, "I'm in awe."
This article caught my attention and raised Facebook's profile on my radar screen. Then, something remarkable happened. I received this Alert from Google: “Serena Software Adopts Facebook as Corporate Intranet."

Serena Software is a client. In fact, I have managed the Serena Software account at The Henderson Group since we started working with them in December of 2003. In addition, I have personally delivered all the workshops we’ve done at Serena in that time frame. We’ve worked with sales, marketing, professional services, and development teams. Consequently, I have a LOT of relationships there.

This struck me as a seminal moment for both Facebook and Serena. Both have received significant press as a result of this announcement.

In the last few weeks, I have found myself having conversations with clients, many from Serena, on a daily basis.

Here’s what I’ve noticed:

  1. I find myself looking forward to spending time on Facebook much like I enjoy spending time at YouTube or IMDB.com.
  2. Facebook is the ultimate web mash-up incorporating so many elements of the web into one interface.
    For example, videos and photos can be posted on Facebook. Hence, YouTube and photo apps such as Flickr, Yahoo! Photos and Snapfish should be feeling the heat. When I can log into one site and interact with friends and associates, take a look at their photos, blogs, or videos, without having to do another stinking log-in … How cool is that?!?
  3. Conversations with clients take on a MUCH less formal tone because I am hearing about the details of their day. For example, people post their current status such as:
    “Terry Gault is enjoying the comfort of home. Aaaah.”
    “Dave is contemplating leaving the City...”
    This last remark led me to contact this client/friend to learn more about the reasons for leaving and explore if there might be a business opportunity for my wife, RealtorRobin.
    Hence, the platform drives a higher level of intimacy and authenticity – a major theme in my work as a communications trainer and coach.
  4. Facebook is the hottest platform for do-it-yourself developers. In this video (from Serena) titled, “Why Facebook?” Tim Zonca brings out some amazing facts:
    Facebook allows users to access 7400+ different applications
    The most popular apps have 3 million users every day
  5. The traditional marketing methods are no longer necessary to create an audience of users.
    The decision to open the Facebook platform to developers has enabled them to create applications that users can easily access in one place and recommend to their friends. Hence, do-it-yourself developers can develop a HUGE audience of users by creating a fun application that spreads through viral word-of-mouth recommendations. Whenever, someone adds an application to their profile, that fact is published to all their friends. Often, these applications (comparing movie tastes on Flickster with Bill Petro, comparing traveler IQ with my nephew, insulting my actor buddies with the Shakespeare Insult Generator) are how the interactions take place on Facebook.

It’s a fully integrated web experience unlike any other I’ve experienced. Facebook has delivered on the promise of creating community online in a way that’s been talked about for years but never delivered … until now.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Even a child can do it

I found this video through Garr Reynolds' superb blog, Presentation Zen.

Severn Cullis-Suzuki was only 12 years old in 1992 when she raised money with members of ECO, the Environmental Childrens Organization (a group she founded) to attend the Earth Summit in Rio De Janeiro. Severn presented environmental issues from a youth perspective at the Summit, where she received a standing ovation for a speech to the delegates. This video presents that speech.

What struck me the first time I watched this deeply moving video were the reactions on the faces of the adult delegates. I imagine them as typically distracted and jaded, creatures of politics. When they listen to Severn, their faces are rapt and attentive. Their feelings and thoughts are as evident as neon signs - their protective masks are stripped away by the directness and passion of this terrific young speaker - this "child" who communicates with the wisdom and craft of a veteran speaker.

This video reminded me of one of the deeper truths that I have observed in my work as a presentation skills coach and trainer. Authenticity and passion are the most compelling qualities a presenter can have.

So, what is authenticity? Websters defines it as "true to one's own personality, spirit, or character." I like this quote from Mahatma Gandhi who said, "Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony." that is a great description of authenticity, in my estimation. Authenticity is evident when someone is speaking from the heart. David Henderson, my mentor in this work, used to say, "Speak your first truth first."

Passion ("
a strong liking or desire for or devotion to some activity, object, or concept") is evident when you give full expression to your deepest desires and feelings.

Severn has both authenticity and passion in spades. She provides a superb and humbling example for all of us.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Story Corps - A Worthy Project

I can't recall the first time that I heard about Story Corps but I know that the moment I heard about them, I was inspired. Storytelling is a HUGE component of communication. I preach it regularly to all my clients and in all the workshops that I lead. In addition, it's how we share the collective wisdom of our families and communities.

"Our mission is to honor and celebrate one another’s lives through listening.

Since 2003, almost 30,000 everyday people have shared life stories with family and friends in our StoryBooths. Each conversation is recorded on a free CD to share, and is preserved at the Library of Congress. Millions listen to our broadcasts on public radio and the web. StoryCorps is the largest oral history project of its kind.

Everybody’s story matters. Every life counts. Help us reach out to record our history, hopes, and common humanity—and illuminate the true character of this nation."
The Story Corps has a website as well as some fun blogs for their mobile trailers, both west and east. There is also StoryCorps Griot - a one-year initiative designed to collect the stories of African Americans. You can find their blog here.

NPR.org has posted recordings on their website that you can download as a podcast or hear online from the Story Corps project.

You can order either a CD with recordings or a book titled, "Listening Is an Act of Love" at Amazon. I ordered the CD and am looking forward to listening to it on my next flight. (The spoken word on a MP3 player/iPod is a great way to pass time on planes.)

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Green web host

If you have a web site, you can do something to make an environmental difference - go solar.

I read this article in the (Sob!) final issue of Business 2.0, one of my favorite biz rags: "Server Farms Go Solar."
Massive data centers are vital to the economy. They are also notorious power hogs. If their numbers keep growing at the expected rate, the United States alone will need nearly a dozen new power plants by 2011 just to keep the data flowing, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

That's why a small server-farm company called AISO.net (for "affordable Internet services online") has gone completely off the grid. Located 80 miles southeast of Los Angeles in the desert hamlet of Romoland, AISO.net has flanked its 2,000-square-foot building with two banks of ground-mounted solar panels, which generate 12 kilowatts of electricity. Batteries store the juice for nighttime operation.

Relevant Factoids:
Paint the web green!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Brain exercise - talking

Today's local paper contained an article positing a thesis that warmed my heart - talking improves memory and boosts intellectual performance as much as doing crossword puzzles.
"A team led by University of Michigan psychologist Oscar Ybarra asked more than 3,500 people ages 24 to 96 about their social interactions and tested their working memories. Regardless of age, the more social contact, the higher the level of mental function. The researchers also split 76 college students into three groups. One group had a 10-minute discussion, one spent 10 solitary minutes doing intellectual exercises (such as reading comprehension) and the third, in isolation, watched 10 minutes of "Seinfeld." On follow-up cognitive tests, the social interaction and intellectual exercise groups did better than "Seinfeld" viewers. The chit-chatters did just as well as the intellectual group."
Check it out:
"Idle chatter? Hardly"
By Susan Brink, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
November 5, 2007

The next time someone gives you grief for talking too much, reply with, "Hey, I'm giving my brain a workout, baby. Chill!"

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Bumper sticker

"Wag more. Bark less."

Terry Gault
Sent with Wireless Sync from Verizon Wireless

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Urban Word of the Day: nano nap

This made me laugh.

Are people taking "nano naps" during your meetings or presentations?

Urban Word of the Day

August 14, 2007: nano nap


An unintentional, seconds-long nap that you take most often in class or a really boring meeting. So short that usually nobody but you notices.

I caught myself taking a nano nap on that conference call

Authenticity in the Face of Crisis

Jon Harmon, a PR Consultant with Force For Good Communcations, wrote a piece in the LA Times about the recent Utah mine tragedy and how CEO Robert Murray managed his role as the face of Murray Energy Corp.
Harmon makes an important point about effective communication in a time of crisis - that the good of genuine authenticity can often help counter the bad influence of mistakes. He writes:
The 67-year-old Murray was in Montana when he got word of the collapse at the mine owned by Murray Energy Corp. He hopped on a private jet and was at the scene within hours, taking command of the rescue operation, providing the media updates. All this was textbook PR in the best sense. The presence of the concerned chief executive on the scene of a disaster has been understood to be essential to successful crisis management since Exxon's CEO infamously took far too long to travel to Valdez, Alaska, in 1989, to take stock of the oil spill that caused one of history's worst environmental disasters.

But after that, Murray broke so many rules of crisis communications he had news anchors, on-air, asking what they'd just witnessed. From his first briefings, Murray angrily denounced the media (seldom a winning strategy) and blamed union organizers for suggesting that the dangerous practice of "retreat mining" had led to the collapse. He blasted environmentalists for their crusade against global warming, calling it an affront to the coal industry and to the American economy.

Crisis communications experts universally panned Murray's rantings as "callous," "damaging" and "not helpful" to the families of the trapped miners.

Murray also insisted that an earthquake had caused the mine collapse, then doggedly held to that theory despite seismologists' conclusions that the tremors were caused by the collapse.
These would appear to be disastrous mistakes, guaranteeing Murray a shot at The-Worst-PR-Gaffe-of-the-Year-Award. Indeed, the following paints a picture of miner's families who have lost faith in Murray:
After three rescuers were killed in a cave-in, Murray dropped out of sight, leaving a subordinate to conduct briefings. A representative for the miners' families said, "We feel Bob Murray has abandoned us." Without any explanation for his disappearance, one could only assume that he was made to understand that his abrasive style did not fit the increasingly grim mood.
In spite of all this, Murray is noted in at least one blog for his candor and refreshing authenticity.
"Despite [Murray's] occasional moments of near-insanity, I suspect he's better liked by the general public than he would be if he'd gone by the crisis communication book," David Murray (no relation) wrote on his public relations blog, Shades of Gray.

In times of crisis, spokespeople should trust in the redeeming power of being authentic. We empathize with the leader who bravely steps up in a time of peril. We readily forgive an unpolished and even shaky presentation -- as long as we feel in our hearts that the spokesperson is being truthful to us, a feeling Bob Murray has not always inspired.
We can recover from mistakes, especially honest ones. But once our credibility comes into question, once our authenticity is compromised, it is a steep uphill-climb to regain the trust of those who experience such a lapse.

PS: I did a web search to find the Murray Energy corporate website. My search string on Google was "Murray Energy Corporation." On the 10th page of search results, I gave up. The first 10 pages were almost ALL links to news stories or blog posts about the Crandall Canyon mine collapse. This reminded me of the story about Dell in my post about Radical Transparency and Authenticity.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Growth or Fixed Mind-Set?

Carol Dweck, a Psychology Professor at Stanford, has written a book titled, "MindSet." She posits that one's mindset is a greater determinant of one's ability to succeed than talent. She outlines 2 different mindsets: The Fixed Mind-Set and the Growth Mind-Set. A fixed mindset is one in which you view your talents and abilities as... well, fixed. In other words, you are who you are, your intelligence and talents are fixed, and your fate is to go through life avoiding challenge and failure. A growth mindset, on the other hand, is one in which you see yourself as fluid, a work in progress. Your fate is one of growth and opportunity.

Here's a terrific Nigel Holmes graphic that originally spar
ked my imagination. You can also find a recording of an interview with Moira Gunn and Carol Dweck here.

In this press release from Stanford, she recounts a story from the 6th grade:

When psychology Professor Carol Dweck was a sixth-grader at P.S. 153 in Brooklyn, N.Y., she experienced something that made her want to understand why some people view intelligence as a fixed trait while others embrace it as a quality that can be developed and expanded.

Dweck's teacher that year, Mrs. Wilson, seated her students around the room according to their IQ. The girls and boys who didn't have the highest IQ in the class were not allowed to carry the flag during assembly or even wash the blackboard, Dweck said. "She let it be known that IQ for her was the ultimate measure of your intelligence and your character," she said. "So the students who had the best seats were always scared of taking another test and not being at the top anymore."

Asked what seat number Dweck occupied during that memorable year, the professor paused, and silently raised her right index finger. "But it was an uncomfortable thing because you were only as good as your last test score," she said. "I think it had just as negative an effect on the kids at the top [as those at the bottom] who were defining themselves in those terms."

From that experience, Dweck became fascinated with intelligence, convinced that IQ tests are not the only way to measure it. "I also became very interested in coping with setbacks, probably because being in that classroom made me so concerned about not slipping, not failing," she said.

This idea resonated deeply for me. As a trainer, I am constantly interacting with people in a learning environment. I can clearly see behaviors in workshop participants that fall into one category or another.

Also, it parallels the Zen philosophy called Beginner's Mind. Beginner's mind is Zen practice in action. It is the mind that is innocent of preconceptions and expectations, judgments and prejudices. Beginner's mind is just present to explore and observe and see "things as-it-is."

Shunryu Suzuki-Roshi, author of Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind, captured it very simply with, "In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert's there are few."

Think of how a child approaches life and you will inherently understand beginner's mind. It's full of curiosity and wonder and amazement. "I wonder what this is? I wonder what this means?" Without approaching things with a fixed point of view or a prior judgment, just asking "What is this? What does it mean?"

When I give feedback to workshop participants, those in Fixed (or Expert) Mindset will react by explaining or defending themselves. They feel a strong need to counter any conception that they "made a mistake" by not doing a perfect execution of the task assigned in a given exercise.

Those in Growth (or Beginner's) Mindset react with a sense of humility and confidence. They are genuinely interested in hearing how they might improve their skills. They tend to be thankful for feedback and are quickest to laugh at their own foibles.

Which mindset do you possess? Dweck provides a checklist to assess yourself and shows how a particular mindset can affect all areas of your life, from business to sports and love. The good news, says Dweck, is that mindsets are not set: at any time, you can learn to use a growth mindset to achieve success and happiness

Friday, August 10, 2007

Big Brothers Big Sisters - A Great Experience

Since the fall of 2002, I have been volunteering as a Big Brother with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Sonoma County. This has been an extremely rich and rewarding experience.

During that time, I have been matched with 2 boys. First ...
Then ...

This has been a very rewarding experience for me and very much echoes the experience described in this terrific story about Alex and Isaac.

BBBS is always looking for adults to act as mentors and friends to kids who really blossom with these kinds of friendships. I hope you will consider volunteering yourself.

You'll find the national website here where you can find out about your local chapters and how you can get involved.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Barry Bonds - The Art of Mindful Hitting

I came across this blog post about Barry Bonds today. As a long time baseball and Giants fan, this home run record chase has been an interesting story.

Robert Seidman has some interesting thoughts about the steroid "asterisk" issue and whether Bonds is a better hitter than Hank Aaron.
I assume Bonds used performance enhancers (just as I assume many if not most of his peers and the pitchers he faced), I assume the Giants management and ownership knew this, and I also assume Selig and MLB knew as well.
The way it worked out is that I have far more respect for Bonds than I do for ownership, Selig or MLB. Selig can say or do whatever, as can ownership, but at the end of the day, McGowan and Selig don't have to stare down a 91 MPH fastball.
I am a numbers guy: whether he was svelt or extra bulky, he always has had tremendous plate discipline. This year marks the 14th season (and he has not been bulky nearly that long) that Bonds drew over 100 walks. Aaron NEVER had a season with 100 walks (his best was 92).
Barry Bonds is the best hitter of my lifetime. His plate discipline, even at 43 years old is nothing short of amazing. With all the pressure of the world on him, hated by almost everyone the man uses all that to motivate him and then steps up to the plate, and delivers. On top of that he's one of the most entertaining performers to ever pick up the lumber.
If you watch the clip of #755, you'll see the ball lands near a woman who was holding up an "*"(asterisk) sign. You'll also see this same woman jumping up and down, cheering and giddy as the ball came her way.
He can even entertain and delight those who would mock him. He may well be the best there ever was.
This struck me - reading the sports page about Bonds hitting 754 to tie Aaron at Petco Park in San Diego. The crowd jeered Bonds when he stepped to the plate. After he hit the home run, they cheered and gave him a standing ovation. This is how Jeff Fletcher of the Press Democrat put it:
Although the milestone homer came at San Diego’s Petco Park, amid a sellout crowd that jeered him as he stepped to the plate, the homer was greeted by raucous cheers and a standing ovation.
In spite of all the pressure and scrutiny, he manages to stay focused and in that mindful state that I've spoken about in a previous post. Now, THAT'S a performer.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

To Act or Not to Act - The Climate Change Debate

I don't normally focus on such issues in this blog. But this video struck me as very important to pass along.

This video demonstrates that the risk of not acting on climate change FAR outweighs the risk of acting.


Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Is our culture failing us?

“Fifty years ago, I suspect that along with Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, and Sandy Koufax, most Americans could have named, at the very least, Robert Frost, Carl Sandburg, Arthur Miller, Thornton Wilder, Georgia O'Keeffe, Leonard Bernstein, Leontyne Price, and Frank Lloyd Wright. Not to mention scientists and thinkers like Linus Pauling, Jonas Salk, Rachel Carson, Margaret Mead, and Dr. Alfred Kinsey.”

So said Dana Gioia, chair of the U.S. National Endowment for the Arts, when he delivered the commencement address this month at Stanford University. Click here for an excerpt of the speech.

“I don't think Americans were smarter then, but American culture was. Even the mass media placed a greater emphasis on presenting a broad range of human achievement.”

He goes on to say:

"Everything now is entertainment. And the purpose of this omnipresent commercial entertainment is to sell us something. American culture has mostly become one vast infomercial. When was the last time you have seen a featured guest on David Letterman or Jay Leno who isn't trying to sell you something? A new movie, a new TV show, a new book, or a new vote?

Don't get me wrong. I love entertainment, and I love the free market. But we must remember that the marketplace does only one thing – it puts a price on everything.

The role of culture, however, must go beyond economics. It is not focused on the price of things, but on their value. And, above all, culture should tell us what is beyond price, including what does not belong in the marketplace.

A culture should also provide some cogent view of the good life beyond mass accumulation. In this respect, our culture is failing us."

This reminded me of an article in Wired Magazine titled "Putin? Never Heard of Her."

"More than a decade after the Internet went mainstream, the world's richest information source hasn't necessarily made its users any more informed. A new study from the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press shows that Americans, on average, are less able to correctly answer questions about current events than they were in 1989. Citizens who call the Internet their primary news source know slightly less than fans of TV and radio news. Hmmm... maybe a little less Perez (sic) Hilton and a little more Jim Lehrer."

Reading this graphic, I was gratified to see that watchers of The Daily Show fared well in identifying figures in the news. It was also gratifying to see that Fox News either:
  1. Delivers the lowest quality news coverage.
  2. Is watched by idiots.
For my parent's sake, I'll assume it's the former.

In recent conversations with friends and clients, I have been saying, "Knowledge is no longer a determinant of success. Now, it's ideas."

I say this because Google, Wikipedia and other internet phenomena make your need to know information less critical than your ability to know where to find good, reliable information and come up with creative ideas - creative solutions to problems.

In reflecting on my work with presentation and communication skills with The Henderson Group, I believe that general and broader knowledge of culture is important.

Recently, I was leading a workshop with a group of sales people in the Pacific Northwest. I kept referring to my bibliography, the books that I and my colleague Chuck Kuglen, used in our research, preparing for the workshop. I would ask them, "Have you read The Tao of Sales by E. Thomas Behr ... or ... Selling With Integrity by Sharon Drew Morgen ... or ... Blink by Malcolm Gladwell?


It became a running joke.

"Would you please stop asking us if we've read any books because we don't read, apparently."

I remember thinking, "These people are sales professionals. Their livelihood depends on being able to do this skill well. I am a trainer. Yes, I do wear a sales hat but 60 - 70% of my livelihood depends on my being an effective trainer. And I've read more books about selling than they have. What's wrong with this picture?"

Perhaps this perspective grew out of my work as an actor and director. When working on a play, I was trained to read biographies of the writer and their other work, not just the play I was working on. In addition, if it was a period piece (Shakespeare, Dickens, Chekhov), I was taught to study the history and the culture of the period. This studious quality seems less prevalent to me now than when I was young.

Is our education system failing us, too? My wife's family is filled with educators that would argue that any alleged failure is certainly not due to the teachers.

Is this a sign that I am fully middle-aged - bitching about how lazy the younger generation seems? It's probably some of the latter.

I consider the stories from Blink of the art experts immediately recognizing a fake
Greek sculpture. Their snap judgments prove right because they've spent decades training themselves. This level of bone-deep knowledge doesn't come from a cursory read of a Wikipedia page on Greek sculpture.

In the end, broader understanding of a culture, deep knowledge of culture has some value and perhaps ideas alone aren't enough. Or perhaps the most useful and valuable ideas only flow from minds with a broad understanding of a the culture - be it knowledge of Greek sculpture, theater, or the problems facing businesses.

In closing I think of the words of 2 visionaries:

"Television is democracy at its ugliest." Paddy Chayefsky
The two most abundant things in the universe are Hydrogren and stupidity." Harlan Ellison

Friday, July 6, 2007

The Path to Presentation Peace - Mindfulness and Stillness

I was fascinated by Patricia Leigh Brown's story in the NY Times about mindfulness practice being used in public schools:
In the Classroom, a New Focus on Quieting the Mind

Mindfulness, while common in hospitals, corporations, professional sports and even prisons, is relatively new in the education of squirming children. But a small but growing number of schools in places like Oakland and Lancaster, Pa., are slowly embracing the concept — as they did yoga five years ago — and institutions, like the psychology department at Stanford University and the Mindfulness Awareness Research Center at the University of California, Los Angeles, are trying to measure the effects.

The techniques, among them focused breathing and concentrating on a single object, are loosely adapted from the work of Jon Kabat-Zinn, the molecular biologist who pioneered the secular use of mindfulness at the University of Massachusetts in 1979 to help medical patients cope with chronic pain, anxiety and depression. Susan Kaiser Greenland, the founder of the InnerKids Foundation, which trains schoolchildren and teachers in the Los Angeles area, calls mindfulness “the new ABC’s — learning and leading a balanced life.”

At Stanford, the psychology department is assessing the feasibility of teaching mindfulness to families. “Parents and teachers tell kids 100 times a day to pay attention,” said Philippe R. Goldin, a researcher. “But we never teach them how.”

Angela Haick, the principal of Piedmont Avenue (one of the piloting schools), said she was inspired to try it after observing a class at a local middle school.

“If we can help children slow down and think,” Dr. Haick said, “they have the answers within themselves.”

This is the very practice that I teach participants to use in our presentation skills workshops.

When the slightest thing goes awry (we forget one point in our "script", a cell phone rings, the wrong presentation slide pops up), it's easy to descend into a downward spiral of panic.

We begin to think: "Oh, sh*t! That wasn't supposed to happen. This is horrible!" This inner dialogue is often followed by a physiological manifestation of anxiety and stress: sweaty palms, physical tremors, accelerated heart rate, etc. Then we begin to focus on the feeling of anxiety and another round of self-talk begins: "OH, SH*T! I am feeling really nervous right now! How can I make this feeling go away? I hate this! Everyone must be able to see how nervous I am. This is a DISASTER!!! OH, God, give me the power to dissapear!"

We want our mind to be still and settled so that we can think clearly and communicate effectively. The metaphor than I recently found was this: It's a bit like enjoying the stillness of a beautiful pond. Suddenly, a large stone drops into the pond, ruining the stillness of the water's surface. So, in response to this, in our panic and frustration, we throw a handful of pebbles into the pond, shouting, "Hey, you stupid pond! Settle down!"

This cycle of thought sets off the stress response and the stress response sets off another round of negative self-talk, spiraling downward into lower and lower levels of Hell.

What's the solution?

Follow this process:
1. Awareness
2. Practice Stillness and Silence
3. Breathe
4. Think
5. Speak

Here it is in more detail:
1. Awareness
You become aware there is a problem - you catch yourself saying "um", you say the wrong thing, the media projector malfunctions, etc.

2. Practice Stillness and Silence
Stop moving and speaking. DON'T comment on what is happening with inane remarks such as, "I forgot my point." or "Oops - wrong slide!" No fidgeting, grimacing or nervous laughter. Just be still and silent.
This takes discipline and practice but will pay off in spades. The audience won't invest much import in whatever happened if you appear poised.

3. Breathe
In moments of stress, a typical reaction is to become tense and stop breathing deeply. The brain is the bodily organ most dependant on a fresh supply of oxygen. If you are not breathing deeply, your thinking will suffer. You will make poor decisions.

4. Think
Ask yourself, "How can I recover from this without making it seem important?" Even better, ask, "How can I turn this into an opportunity?" Often the most inspired moments in workshops and presentations were the direct result of a 'mistake'.

Once you've made a rational decision about how to proceed ...

5. Speak

Taking a moment to become still and mindful is the best antidote to the panic that many feel when presenting.

Here's the broader learning that I arrived at - this technique will help in ANY stressful situation when panic tends to take over. I've used this technique when I locked myself out of the house, on turbulent airplanes, and on difficult calls with clients. Invariably, things go better and I make better decisions when I remember to do this practice.

Mahatma Gandhi said, "The only tyrant I accept in this world is the 'still small voice' within me." We can only hear that voice when we can still the din of our own mental chatter.

To paraphrase Dr. Haick, “If we can slow down and think, we have the answers within ourselves.”

Thursday, July 5, 2007

SeatGuru.com - A Traveler's Friend

Check out SeatGuru.com.

As a frequent traveler, I've used this service many times over the last couple of years and found it valuable and informative.

You select your airline and aircraft and the site will give you information on every seat. If you roll your cursor over seats on their map, up pops a box with more detailed information.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Transparency and Reputation

Thom Friedman is one of my favorite columnists. In the column that appeared in The Santa Rosa Press Democrat (A NY Times newspaper), he writes about the transparency brought on by the blogosphere.

Reputations retained forever on the Web

THREE years ago, I was catching a plane at Boston's Logan airport and went to buy some magazines for the flight. As I approached the cash register, a woman coming from another direction got there just behind me - I thought. But when I put my money down to pay, the woman said in a very loud voice: "Excuse me, I was here first!" And then she fixed me with a piercing stare that said: "I know who you are." I said I was very sorry, but I was clearly there first.

If that happened today, I would have had a very different reaction. I would have said: "Miss, I'm so sorry. I am entirely in the wrong. Please, go ahead. And can I buy your magazines for you? May I buy your lunch? Can I shine your shoes?"

Why? Because I'd be thinking there is some chance this woman has a blog or a camera in her cell phone and could, if she so chose, tell the whole world about our encounter - entirely from her perspective - and my utterly rude, boorish, arrogant behavior. Yikes!

When everyone has a blog, a MySpace page or Facebook entry, everyone is a publisher. When everyone has a cell phone with a camera in it, everyone is a paparazzo. When everyone can upload video on YouTube, everyone is a filmmaker. When everyone is a publisher, paparazzo or filmmaker, everyone else is a public figure. We're all public figures now. The blogosphere has made the global discussion so much richer - and each of us so much more transparent.

This related to the idea of "radical transparency" that I wrote about in a previous post. I was thinking about this today.

In a YouTube world, political candidates can no longer control their message if they slip in an unguarded moment.

In the world of the blogosphere, companies can no longer count on a press release alone to reach their audience.

In the age of Digg and Yelp, Everyman becomes the taste maker, the reviewer, the critic rather than the traditional media.

It seems to me the solution is to identify one's core (most authentic) values, then work everyday to manifest those values. Only through consistent and diligent effort, can we build and protect our reputation.

I am reminded of the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson, who said:

"What you are thunders so that I cannot hear what you say to the contrary."

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Images and PowerPoint update


Check it out.

They license stock photos for $1 - 2 per image. The quality of images seems high and the selection appears to be good.

I'd like to hear about your experience using them.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The Urban Dictionary

OK, so, maybe you are a middle-aged white guy ... like me. You wish you could be all hip and urban and down with the latest street lingo. But, instead, you are a middle-aged white guy ... like me.

Here's the solution: The Urban Dictionary.

Finally, it's a level playing field. You can find out what "word" and "ese" actually mean without having to reveal what a unhip, dorky white guy you actually are. You can toss around hip, edgy slang like "That's how I roll" and "bling" with the best of them. You can watch "Boys n the Hood" and "Colors" without subtitles.

The Urban Word of the Day is hilarious.

So, now you have a resource. This internet things is pretty stinkin' cool especially for mawgs like me. Double true.

The Power of Stillness and Silence

I am becoming a big fan of Garr Reynold's blog, Presentation Zen. His most recent post is titled, "When there is no quiet, there can be no loud." He uses an interesting YouTube video called the "Loudness War" to demonstrate that "dynamic range" not only applies to the impact of good musical audio engineering but presentation style as well.

The Wikipedia entry on dynamic range states:

"... a good quality audio reproduction system should be able to reproduce accurately both the quiet sounds and the loud; and a good quality visual display system should be able to show both shadow details in nighttime scenes and the full brightness of sunny scenes."

The presentation analog is the dynamism of a presenters communication style. If the presenters range of dynamism is narrow, their presentations have a flat quality and our attention will drift. When the presenter has a more compelling quality. As Reynolds says:

"Great presentations too make us 'turn up the volume' ... There is immense power in the quiet bits and the silent spaces in music and in speech, just as the empty spaces (negative space/white space) in visual forms of expression can make or break the effectiveness of the design."

One of the first points I make in my workshops on presentation is that great communicators have developed a comfort with stillness and silence. Rookie presenters often speak constantly afraid that silence will betray their self-perceived lack of credibility. In addition, their constantly fidgeting, swaying or pacing (My wife Robin calls this the "Caged Lion") betray their lack of comfort and confidence. It's as though they feel compelled to speak and to move in order to mask their discomfort. In fact, it has the exact opposite effect.

Observe the presenters that you admire the most. You will see and hear them being still and silent.

They will take long pauses to give their words impact.

They will hold a gestured position while they speak to create a sense of movement even in stillness.

Notice statuary. My observation is that the subject is either in motion or in an interesting pose. Be willing to assume a dynamic pose and hold that in stillness.

Take pauses after key points to give those points impact, to think about what comes next or how to make your next point most effectively. Take in the audience's reaction in those silences as a form of non-verbal feedback and guidance.

As Thomas Carlyle, Scottish author, essayist, & historian, said:

"Under all speech that is good for anything there lies a silence that is better. Silence is deep as Eternity; speech is shallow as Time."

As Indira Gandhi, the former Prime Minister of India said,

"You must be still in the midst of activity, and be vibrantly alive in repose."

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Images and PowerPoint

Finding images for PowerPoint slide shows is a time consuming process.

That said, it can be time well spent ... if you are using PowerPoint correctly, making images and graphics the focus rather than text.

PowerPoint is misused by the VAST majority of corporate users. Edward Tufte (described by The New York Times as "the Leonardo da Vinci of Data") believes that PowerPoint is responsible for degrading the effectiveness of corporate presentations. In his words:
"Rigid slide-by-slide heirarchies, indifferent to context, slice and dice the evidence into arbitrary compartments; producing and anti-narrative with choppy continuity."

In a sense, we are using a linear, hierarchical, left-brained format to communicate a layered right-brained narrative.

It's clear to me now that learning to utilize the right-brained big picture tools of story and metaphor is a requisite to excellent communication.

Finding the right image to capture a visual metaphor or to tell a story can be a tricky business. That's why I was very interested in an article in the April issue of Business 2.0, titled, "You Ought To Be In Pictures." The article focuses on the business of licensing images and lists several image sources.

There are "The Goliaths":
And "The Davids":
I would add to that list:
Of course, Google's image search is a great resource for images but one has to be careful about violating copyright laws, especially for corporate presentations. Also, Google can be far more time consuming as the images are usually not labeled or tagged with the searcher in mind.

In other words, if you are looking for the image of a female archer, you are likely to use "female archer" or "woman archer" as your search string. However, Jill, an avid archer might post dozens of high-quality images of herself practicing archery on her personal web site and never use those words to label her photo files.

The sites that license the use of their images are incented to tag them so that they can be found easily. Hence, searches using the paid sites can often be less time-consuming.

When I work with intact teams, I coach clients to create a pool of images that each team-member can draw from. This can help to cut down the amount of time spent on searching for images. In addition, it encourages conversations about how various images, stories and metaphors are being employed. "Good artists copy. Great artists steal." said Pablo Picasso. You SHOULD be stealing ideas from colleagues, if you want to truly master the art of communication.

I've made much personal effort to make sure I had access to all the images that we at The Henderson Group have compiled over the years. Having a good recall of these images has often saved me from time-consuming image searches.

This is an important personal practice that can benefit your team-members as well. Some final tips:
  1. Thinks in terms of story and metaphor
  2. Use images to tell your story or illustrate your metaphor
  3. Use image resources and services to help you find the right image
  4. Make the image the focus on the slide, taking up more real estate
  5. Minimize the use of language
  6. Keep bullets to a minimum
  7. Think of your bullets as very succinct "hooks" (more on this is a future post)

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Spin vs. Authenticity and Credibility

Will future generations look back and see this as The Age of Spin?

If they do, I hope they look back from an age when being authentic and credible is the norm, rather than the exception.

On Fri, May. 25, 2007, Leonard Pitts of the Miami Herald, posted a column titled, "Dishonesty is sanitized in a world of spin." The column opens with these paragraphs:

"One hopes there's a little something extra in the pay envelopes this week for whatever flacks represent Jimmy Carter and Clinton Portis. Surely, the spin doctors have earned it.

Take Portis, a Washington Redskins running back, for example. In an interview Saturday, he defended Michael Vick, the Atlanta Falcons quarterback under investigation for dog fights at a home he owns. Portis, 26, said he didn't see what the fuss was. 'I don't know if he was fighting dogs or not. But it's his property; it's his dogs. If that's what he wants to do, do it.'

Just hours later, Portis issued a statement saying in part he wished to make it clear he does not 'condone dog fighting in any manner.'

Former President Carter, meantime, was asked in an interview with the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette to rate the administrations of Richard M. Nixon and George W. Bush. He said, 'I think as far as the adverse impact on the nation around the world, this administration has been the worst in history.'

Carter would hardly be the only person to hold that view, but apparently he had second thoughts about violating the unwritten rule that says one president never speaks ill of another. Days later, he claimed on the Today show that his remarks were 'maybe careless or misinterpreted.' "

It seems that daily, I am reading retracted comments like this in the newspaper. I wonder if these folks (Porter and Carter) really thinks that anyone believes their retractions.

Though I certainly have not lived under the kind of scrutiny these guys have, I wonder how I might deal with such a situation. I like to think that I would stick by my statements, if they truly matched my beliefs or opinions.

These questions come up for me:

  • What is driving this dynamic?
  • Is it the press, shoving microphones into people's faces - shouting, "President Carter, do you stand by your statement that the Bush administration "has been the worst in history"?
  • Can't they see that their credibility takes a hit every time they retract their opinion?
  • How far will Political Correctness go?

Perhaps the deepest question of all are:

  • How does one remain true to one's self and opinions while remaining open to other viewpoints?
  • How does one be willing to admit honest mistakes while remaining credible in the public eye?

All tough questions to wrestle with. More thoughts to follow ...

Monday, May 14, 2007

Radical Transparency and Authenticity

The cover story "The See-Through CEO" for the April 2007 issue of Wired Magazine addresses a new philosophy in business driven largely by blogs and the internet. They call it "Radical Transparency."

The article argues that it is impossible to control the image of your business anymore.

" 'You can't hide anything anymore,' Don Tapscott says. Coauthor of The Naked Corporation, a book about corporate transparency, and Wikinomics, Tapscott is explaining a core truth of the see-through age: If you engage in corporate flimflam, people will find out. He ticks off example after example of corporations that have recently been humiliated after being caught trying to conceal stupid blunders. There's Sony, which put a rootkit - a piece of spyware - on music CDs as a secret copy-protection technique, only to wind up in court when bloggers revealed that the code left their computers vulnerable to hacker intrusions. There's Microsoft, this time on the wrong side of the transparent shower curtain, offering to pay people to buff up the company's Wikipedia entry. And Diebold, which insisted its voting machines were unhackable - until a professor posted a video of himself rigging a mock election on them. The video went viral and racked up some 300,000 YouTube views."

The example they provide that drove this point home very powerfully was this:
"When Shel Israel and blogger Jeff Jarvis wrote about wretched treatment by Dell's customer service, their posts were so gleefully linked to that for a while they appeared as the number one and two search results for 'Dell.' "

I found this article extremely intriguing. This made me think of transparency not only from a corporate standpoint (a company being transparent to build trust with customers, employees and investors) but also on a personal level.

Authenticity is an important element in the work that I do with The Henderson Group - leading workshops and coaching clients on their communication and presentation skills. This idea of transparency is strongly connected in my view. If you have developed superb communication technique but are not being fully authentic, your co-workers and audiences will sense that there is something amiss.

Transparency on a personal level translates to being vulnerable and up-front. It means revealing personal details and quirks. Trying to hide them suggests that you are concerned that people will discover your true self. That invariably comes across as lacking in confidence.

In our workshops we address the dynamic of "explaining" when receiving feedback. When we try to show that our intentions are perfect and there were understandable reasons for the reason that our performance was not perfect, we come across as defensive and lacking confidence.

Truly confident people (who know themselves and are willing to be seen as vulnerable and imperfect) project a rock-solid belief in themselves: "Yes, I made a mistake in this case but I still believe in myself."

It also means being proactive in pointing out our mistakes. I remember vividly early in my management career the lesson I learned about fessing up when I'd made a mistake.

If I did not report that mistake to my boss, ESPECIALLY if I tried to cover it up, he would be on me like white on rice. (Does the phrase "reamed" have special meaning for any of you, too?) If I went to him and said, "I've screwed up" and explained the problem, invariably he was very understanding and compassionate.

David Henderson, my dearly-departed former mentor and co-founder of THG, used to tell me, "Tell your first truth first." By that David meant that in moments of fear and confusion to turn inward and examine deeply what is most truthful for one's self.

A client recently asked me about giving feedback to her teenage children. She confided that they were often resistant to feedback. (Really?!?! Teenagers resistant to feedback from parents?!?! Alert the media!) I spoke about the idea of authenticity and framing her feedback as a positive statement. I asked her, "What is your core message? What is most important to you?" She thought for a moment and her voice dropped into a deeper register with her eyes welling up. She replied, "I want them to understand that I am setting limits because I care about them." I suggested that she make certain she said that when she speaks to her kids. "If they see that deep sincerity, they will get it. They may still resist but they'll understand and be more likely to comply."

Finally, the willingness to laugh at one's own foibles is a liberating way to demonstrate transparency. When I was younger (and much stupider) I used to spend inordinate amounts of energy focused on being "right." It was more important to me to be respected than liked, I have since learned (largely due to this work) is that vulnerability, transparency, warmth, good-humor and empathy are FAR more important.

One of my favorite writers, Frank Herbert (author of Dune, the world's best-selling science fiction novel) said something like, "A person who has the ability to laugh at one's self has taken a step toward the highest level of civilization."

The willingness to be up-front, vulnerable, show one's warts can go a long way in being authentic and building trust.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Low tech presentation

On Saturday, April 28 our local paper, The Press Democrat (A NY Times paper), published a front-page article titled, "Pen and paper trump tech: In a world of impersonal gadgets, techies are turning to tactile pleasures" by Meg McConahey.

For example:
"Moleskine notebooks, classic bound journals into which Matisse poured his sketches and Hemingway his prose, have become almost "a fetish" among techies, said Rich Gibson, Internet mapper and database programmer from Sebastopol."

This parallels the experience that I often have when a participant in a presentation skills workshop or coaching session turns to the flip chart or white board.

The use of the hand-written media often draws more attention than PowerPoint. In addition, the human touch of a crudely drawn figure or flow chart has more charm than a carefully crafted, slick presentation slide.

The additional advantage is that such a graphic can be quickly drawn on the fly with minimal preparation whereas an intricate flow model can take hours to construct in PPT.

This reminds me of Polish director Jerzy Grotowski's arguments for a low-tech theater in "Towards a Poor Theater." Grotowski argued that theater should be stripped down to it's essence: "a theatre in which the fundamental concern was the work of the actor with the audience, not the sets, costumes, lighting or special effects ... 'Poor' meant the stripping away of all that was unnecessary" according to the WikiPedia entry on Grotowski.

Often, presenters become so enamored by (or addicted to) their technology that they lose the human connection with their audience.

As my mentor David Henderson used to say, "They won't form a relationship with your slides."

Monday, April 30, 2007

The Value of Freaking Out

On Friday, April 27, USA today ran an article about leaders who jump from planes, surf, ski, climb mountains in order to reach "the freakout point."

The idea is to learn to cross the fear threshold and form a more useful relationship with fear:
"crossing it provides lessons useful in business and life. There's the significance of knowing that what frightens can be survived, as well as the importance of concentrating when concentration is all but impossible."

"Perhaps the most common freakout point comes with public speaking, and Iron Mountain CEO Richard Reese remembers being drafted early in his career to do a last-minute presentation on a technical subject he knew zero about."

This resonated deeply for me. Having now lead workshops for 10 years on interpersonal communication and presentation, I've often wrestled with fear. This is especially true when I've encountered what I envisioned as worst-nightmare scenarios. For example:

1) The Psychotic Supporter whose sweet demeanor is replaced by the face of Gollum when you offer candid feedback that her style might be perceived as condescending.

2) The Socially-Myopic Sales Rep who misses all the non-verbal cues that indicate that his colleagues think he is a moron.

3) The Wax-Eared Trainer Candidate who required a metaphorical two-by-four upside her head to get her to stop defending herself when given the feedback that "you are coming across as defensive."

4) Realizing it's 30 minutes before the start-time of a gig and you are in the wrong city.

5) Flight delays result in having to lead an 8-hour workshop on 2 hours sleep.

Each time one of these scenarios has happened, it's like being visited by an old, familiar enemy ... "Oh, fear. It's YOU again." Each day the scream of fear becomes fainter and fainter.

As Eugen Herrigel says in "Zen in the Art of Archery": “Like the beginner the swordmaster is fearless, but, unlike him, he grows daily less and less accessible to fear.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Movie fan? Try peerflix.com

At peerflix.com, you can trade DVD's with other users for $1.50 per trade.

Terry Gault
Sent with Wireless Sync from Verizon Wireless

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Google CEO Eric Schmidt's preso course

Recently a client at Charles Schwab suggested that I check out a video of Eric Scmidt, Google's CEO. The video shows him taking a presentation course early in his career while he was GM of Software Products Div. at Sun Microsystems.

It's interesting to see him progess over the course of the workshop. He starts out looking uncomfortable and nervous. He is using a lot of verbal filler, moving his feet constantly, not sure what to do with his hands, and struggling to hold eye contact.

Later, he seems more purposeful, decisive and confident. I would coach him to extend his gestures and take up more space but he's dramatically improved toward the end.

Notice the coat and tie (in Silicon Valley?!?) and the massive spectacles. SO early 80's.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Guy Kawasaki, Visionary!

Back in January, I was leading a workshop at TIBCO with their marketing team. Stefan Farestam sent me some links to sites that he likes.

I spent about an hour surfing around Guy Kawasaki's blog, How to Change the World.

As his site states, "Guy Kawasaki is a managing director of Garage Technology Ventures, an early-stage venture capital firm and a columnist for Entrepreneur Magazine."

He offers very interesting perspectives on work, business, start-ups. I loved his ideas about presentation and the use of PowerPoint. I particularly liked his "The Art of the Start Video."

I am not worthy ...

Addiction to Connectivity

I have been working in Palo Alto the last few days and staying at a
local hotel. The "broadband" network speed was so p-a-i-n-f-u-l-l-y slow last night that I cancelled my reservation for one night next week and am unliklely to stay here again.

In fact, I couldn't post last night because pages simply would not load.

It brought home to me how critical it is for businesses and entreprenuers to stay connected to the web, especially those in high tech or those who serve high tech clients.

It reminds me of one of the themes of Isaac Asimov's "I, Robot" - Does our technology serve us or are we the servants of our technology?

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Jott.com - A very cool service

Say you are away from your computer ... driving ... or riding the shuttle to your rental car.
Your mind reviews recent events, conversations, your upcoming activities.
You want to remind yourself to do something.
You can speed dial a phone number on your mobile, record a message, and in a few minutes you will receive an email capturing your words in text.
Using Jott.com. It's a beta service at this point.
I tried it today and can already see a TON of uses for this cool service.
Check it out at: http://www.jott.com/

Test post from mobile

We live in an age where we take magic for granted.

I posted this to my blog from my mobile phone.

Terry Gault
Sent with Wireless Sync from Verizon Wireless

Slide remotes

Often in my presentation skills workshops the subject of PowerPoint presentation remotes will come up.

A couple weeks ago at TIBCO, a client showed me his very cool Logitech slide remote with a built in timer. It can be set to vibrate at 2 & 5-minute intervals. That's a nice feature for verbose windbags, like me.

I've been a fan of Logitech mouses (mice?) for years. This unit requires no software - it is plug and play and has extra features like "launch slideshow", "black screen", and volume control, plus an integrated laser pointer (which I personally think should be banned). The cordless mini-receiver stores inside the device.

I'm jealous.

That said, I still love my MobileEdge remote which was a gift from a client, Doug Dooley at Juniper Networks.

It has similar features - forward, back, black screen, white screen, (Yes, it also had the cheesy laser pointer).

It doesn't have the timer but it is parked inside my laptops PCMCIA slot when not in use, so I never have to find my remote. AND it slips into my trouser pocket without breaking the line of my slacks. Always a plus for the fashion conscious. Way cool!