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. 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 (for "affordable Internet services online") has gone completely off the grid. Located 80 miles southeast of Los Angeles in the desert hamlet of Romoland, 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!"