Archive for the ‘Communication’ Category

Embrace Limits for a Longer Lasting Message
April 21, 2009

My BB only allows me to text 160 characters including spaces. Embrace limits, use them to make your message stronger. Edit, edit, edit. Sent from my Blackberry.


Is It In You?
April 16, 2009

I have been studying, or I should say using, Practical Philosophy for about 13 years. I take these classes at the School of Practical Philosophy and Meditation in NYC and for a few years now I have had the honor of teaching one of the nightly introductory classes aptly named Philosophy Works. Last night was the first class of the term, and one of the questions on the table was: where is Wisdom? The purpose of the class is to find out in experience, via our daily lives, if the words of the wise throughout the ages are true and can be of use to us. So, Plato says in Laws, that there are four primary human virtues: Wisdom, Courage, Temperance and Justice and, of these, only Wisdom is innate. The others have to be learned. Now in my experience I believe Wisdom is innate. I believe finding Wisdom is much more a question of removing the barriers to it within our selves then starting with the premise that it is something we lack. When we eliminate things like judgment, expectations, criticisms, worry, self-doubt or fear then we find that we are brighter, happier, more efficient, smarter, tolerant and peaceful; and those seem to be qualities of Wisdom. Stripping away all these barriers leaves us with a more natural us, real us, true us, authentic us. The whole point of this blog is to encourage and possibly show some ways that we can discover and speak with our authentic voice.

The question of where is Wisdom got me wondering whether the same is true for communication? Is there an innate ability to communicate and communicate well? Could one of the benefits of discovering a more authentic us be more natural communication?

As I thought about it more, those who present for a living or have ever had to develop a presentation go through a kind of internal search. From the abundance of brainstorming to the conscious precision of words spoken, ideas communicated and images displayed the presenter removes the unnecessary. Whatever gets in the way of the message is removed. That IS the same process as discovering ones authentic voice.

This is not to discount learning techniques and tools for better communication and presentation design. However,  I encourage all speakers to learn and use technique as a means to uncovering your authentic voice, recogninzing it and feeling comfortbale with it. So, like Practical Philosophy I say we test this out and see for ourselves. Let’s work toward being our selves in front of an audience and discover if good communication is also innate.

Moment of Zen Tip (props to the Daily Show):

The less YOU are on the stage the better.

(Think about it)

Don’t Be That Guy
April 9, 2009


What makes someone a good speaker? For anyone who presents for a living that question is THE question. It’s a huge topic with endless advice, answers and examples (of what to and not to do). There is, however, a good place to start.

I was day dreaming the other day about watching someone on trial and all that you can learn from seeing someone else in action. I was also, at the time, thinking about how I am convinced nobody in positions of great authority and power in this country are in those positions because they know more than anybody else. I don’t know how they got there, but there they are. For a rookie presenter, no matter what field they are in, they are encouraged to watch others and learn. Usually, that means watch and learn what TO do, but rarely are they also told to look out for what NOT to do. But does the rookie know this? So the daydream continued and in the dream I saw someone deliver a great summation. It was entertaining, moving, well thought out and simple. In the dream I thought wow how can I do that? How can I be THAT GUY? And that is when I woke up.

All too often rookie presenters mistake the persona of the person they are watching for the skill or technique. So they embark on becoming a certain persona instead of understanding the skill set and making it their own.

For me the first barrier that goes up when I am talking to someone, especially in a presentation scenario, is the feeling that the speakers are not being themselves. Like Holden Caufield says, “that guy is such a phony”. The presenter becomes the focus, not the idea. It is a pet peeve of mine when I am out and some one says, “I am so drunk” It annoys me to no end because instead of just enjoying how you feel at the moment, you call attention to it.  Presenters who are pretending to be someone are like bad actors that make the audience more aware of being in a theater watching, then creating the illusion of eaves dropping in on someone’s conversation or being in the living room itself.

It happens in writing as well. I happen to think my wife is a great writer, and she knows I would tell her if I did not like something. When I first read something she wrote, other than her telling me she wrote it, the women I know was nowhere to be found. She disappeared, but all her writing has a similar voice; HER voice.  As part of some classes she takes she needs to read and critique other peoples work so I hear them sometimes. Many of them are hard to get through because immediately they sound like someone trying to be a writer. It is a little embarrassing to listen to, like reading an old journal entry or poem you wrote when you were 13. Once the person becomes the focus then for me it’s over and that only happens when you try and be someone else.

My first piece of advice to a rookie would be, don’t be THAT GUY. You need to find your voice. I volunteer teach Practical Philosophy classes and I remember seeing another teacher who got more students and was quieter than me and moved slower and did everything softer. One term I tried to be him and my class numbers dropped to 1. I had 1 student. I don’t do that anymore. I talk loud, fast and get pretty energized.  You should watch others, seek advice and learn but all of that has to be made your own. I also think it takes the pressure off ofcomparing yourself to others. There is no comparison, you can both do the right thing and it should be totally different because you both are different.

Simple Equation
January 24, 2009

I have been inspired by Sanjaya Malakar. Yes, of American Idol fame, but before you conclude that I have lost all credibility let me explain.

Below is a link to an interview Sanjaya gave on Good Day New York. In writing this post I had so much I wanted to say about the interview because there was so much to say. I just kept writing and writing, and we all know if you say three things you say nothing. So I stopped. I was looking for the transcript because it would have been fun to see the actual words he used or lack thereof. Then I found the clip and thought, it speaks for it self.

No Core + No Concrete (examples) + No Story = NOBODY CARES.

Sanjaya Malakar, Good Day New York, 1.22.09

The Big Bad Wolf
January 22, 2009

big bad wolf
The audience does have a desire to hear what you have to say. They have given you their most precious possession, time. However, that is as much as they will give you. The rest is for YOU to give. You need to give them meaning. You need to give them something memorable. You need to give them something moving. You need to do ALL the work for them.

Metaphors add meaning and emotion to what we are trying to convey. In A Whole New Mind, Daniel Pink’s highly recommended book about the new worker of the 21 Century, he suggests beginning to listen for and collect the metaphors we hear. The real gift of the suggestion is to wake us up to the world around us.  We begin to listen consciously, taking clues from our surroundings.

The other night I was watching Top Chef.  This episode took place at Blue Hill Stonebarns restaurant in upstate New York. I have never been but I hear it’s great. The contestants were broken up into teams which had to prepare lunch for a groups of 16 people, including the judges and the special judge Dan Barber, owner/executive chef of Blue Hill at Stone Barns

The interesting thing is I don’t really care about food. It is sort of an ongoing joke amongst my friends that I don’t eat and have no interest in food. I appreciate good food and presentation but if I am going out with friends I care much more about the ambience and the company than “whose” restaurant it is. I can be in the middle of a meal and just get bored with eating.  I digress a little only to say I think in this situation I am representative of your average audience member. I am not watching Top Chef because of my love of food, but I have given it my time.

When the judges comment on the food it really doesn’t mean that much to me. Something is too crispy, something is undercooked, some flavor overwhelms another. I certainly understand what they are saying and what they mean to a degree, but it does not hold much real meaning for me. What that means as an audience member is that I don’t care. However, during the judging of this episode the judges had just finished the savory part of one of the meals and they seemed to be pleased. Now came the desert, I don’t know what it was but they didn’t like it. They each went around describing how displeased they were by using all the same sort of descriptions mentioned above. Again I did not care.

Suddenly, one of the judges said the desert is the BIG BAD WOLF of the meal. My ears perked up because I was struck by how powerful it was to me. Again, what I consider to be an average audience member in this scenario. I immediately understood what Daniel Pink meant. Very simply, I cared and I don’t care about food. I thought, “oh that’s not good”, “that is a glaring mistake”, that desert sucks. I have never even tried the desert. I probably would have loved it. I AM a big fan of desert.

The impact of such a well-placed metaphor with all that it conveys is immediate and visceral. The big bad wolf is angry, mean, destroys the houses of little pigs, it ruins things, it’s monstrous. That is why that simple phrase was so powerful. Look how much in conveyed in just a few words and it had nothing to do with the language of food. But now I got it, now I cared, now I understood, now the judging had meaning.

If you are trying to convey something to a friend, to a single donor or to an auditorium of people, discover, record and use metaphors.

DESIGN NOTE: the big bad wolf is also good to keep in mind when designing slides for presentations. Watch out for those monstrous elements that stand out and ruin the presentation/meal for the audience. (more…)

We are “how” we do.
January 21, 2009


What I am and what I do are different things. However, what I am and how I do (what I do) are not. How we do is a direct reflection of who we are; how we approach work projects, how we meet someone new, how we deal with conflict, how we manage change, how we act as husbands, wives, brothers sisters and friends. How we do all of this is a reflection of who we are. I am not just my job or my various relationships but I am the energy I give, the attention I direct and the love I project. Each area of our lives deserves to be nourished by this understanding. All true philosophies and spiritual paths direct us towards unity of thought, word and deed so that “how” we do reflects the highest us.

Speech is creative, not only in the artistic sense, in that it creates actions, emotions and thoughts. It can create worlds within our minds, worlds that we live in worlds that are positive or negative. Speech can raise a nation and topple a civilization. The “how” brings us right up next to who we are. It mirrors our thoughts, hidden intentions, desires, weaknesses, strengths, emotions, intelligence, love, kindness; you cannot speak and hide. The spoken word betrays our inner world.

Speech can be meaningful in all situations. It is not necessarily the content. Best friends can speak of the most trivial things but the authenticity is apparent. What matters is the authenticity of the moment. The search for authentic communication is no different than the search for your Self. Find your Self and you can not help but be authentic. Find your authentic voice and you have found your Self.

Authentic speech can lead us to our Self and the everyday world can lead us to authentic speech. The clues are everywhere, the stories of our time are waiting to be heard, the beauty of design is waiting to be seen, the language of emotion is waiting to be felt. Listen, look and feel and speak your way to your own heart and the hearts of others.