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Ira Koretsky
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By day, and depending upon what I am working on, I am sometimes a motivator, trainer, business storyteller, improvisational humorist, consultant, marketeer, coach, creativity guy, and so on.

5 minutes ago I wore the hats of motivator and coach. I have a new client who is sharp, insightful, great at her job, and successful.

When she has to present in front of a group, her world crumbles. Sweat beads down, nerves rattle and roll, hands shake, voice quivers, and the desire to flee overwhelms her. You would never guess this to be true and you would never be able to tell. She confided in me. I reassured her that this is common to many.

As her coach, I have been asking her to practice mini on-the-spot communication exercises, created just for this type of circumstance. She has been resisting for a few months to do these regularly. I’m politely persistent. Today, I was a bit more polite or shall we say persistent (smile). I made her promise to practice 3-5 minutes a day. Why? So that she can see the difference, feel the difference, to make a difference.

Just like a sport, a musical instrument, a hobby, and job skills, improvement starts from within you. Practice is essential. Will Durant in The Story of Philosophy referred to Aristotle’s approach to happiness. Durant wrote, “we are what we repeatedly
do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.” Zig Ziglar, consummate advocate for delivering audience-centered messages, has a great way of talking about habit. He stresses, “motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going.”

Communication is the absolute most difficult skills to learn and gain. If I really wanted to, I could become an astronaut, a neuroscientist, a brain surgeon. How? Through long hours of classroom learning and practice. As for communication, I humbly believe that no one can ever master it. It has too many surprises, unanticipated turns, complexities, nuances, colors, changes, and variables. How can we improve?  is a question that I get asked many times over.

My answer, every time…practice. You have to practice, practice, and practice some more. Practice until it becomes a habit. After it becomes natural and part of you, you will then be on your way to mastering your fear of __________ (insert here your fear).

Today I had the pleasure of giving “Be a Business Speed Dating Expert: Develop a powerful story to turn a contact into a client,” at the annual National Women’s Business Center Conference. I met Penny Pompei, CEO of the Center, about a year ago. We had a wonderful conversation and I gladly accepted to present a workshop.

The workshop description was “If you were in a room full of 100 decision makers, could you deliver an inspiring and compelling 60-second “elevator pitch?” Learn how to communicate your story credibly, consistently, clearly, quickly and confidently in any business setting. This workshop uses fun, practical and hands-on exercises to develop your communication and networking skills.”

As always, I made the workshop highly interactive, infusing improvisational humor techniques to make the time fly and to reinforce concepts. I rolled out a new product, The Networking Game. It’s an interactive card game that reinforces how people should treat others at a networking function. The message, “treat everyone like a CEO.” Today, I used the management deck. I look forward to rolling out the other industry decks like human resources, finance, non profit, sales & marketing, and professional services.

During lunch, Jan Hargrave, noted body language expert, entertained us, and taught us a few insider concepts on body language. If you are curious, her four book titles include: “Let Me See Your Body Talk,” “Judge the Jury,” “Freeway of Love,” and “Strictly Business Body Language.”

I have to plug my buddies at the Robert H. Smith School of Business (my business school). The session title was “Show Me The Money! A sleuth’s guide to financing your business.” Specifically, the panel was sponsored by the Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship at the Smith School. Asher Epstein, the center’s director, brought together Charlie Heller (venture capitalist), John LaPides (angel investor), entrepreneur Mark Walsh, financial engineer Woody Wollesen, Relationship Manager Heather Parker, and Rudy Lamone (former dean at Smith).

The event included “an opportunity for women business owners and executives to schedule a personal meeting with federal agency contracting officers and OSDBU’s/SADBU’s. Sponsored by the US Small Business Administration’s Washington Metropolitan District Office, more than a dozen federal agencies will be represented – and they all want to do business with women owned firms!” Here’s a partial list: General Services Agency, Bolling Air Force Base, Department of Treasury, Department of Agriculture, Department of Commerce - NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology), U.S. Army North America Regional Contracting Office, Department of Commerce – NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency), Department of State, Environmental Protection Agency, DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency), and Department of Education

One of the sessions that I would really have liked to attend was “Breaking the Plexiglas Ceiling into Corporate Boards Appointments: What tools does it take?” Unfortunately, it was held at the same time my session was. The write up stated “Women are slowly breaking into the corporate boardroom. Do you want a seat at that shiny mahogany table? Learn how to get beyond the non-paying non-profit Board appointments that women are often tapped for – and into the big boys club of paid corporate Board positions. Currently 15% of the Board seats of the 500 largest US companies are held by a woman – a 10% increase in just the last two years. It won’t find you – but you can find it. These women tell you how it’s done. Speakers Sharon McCone, Carolyn Jordan, Linda Bolliger and Elizabeth (Betsy) Burnett.”

Overall, a wonderful conference. Tremendous enthusiasm, passion, willingness to listen and embrace new ideas, good food, and an opportunity to make new friends. I look forward to the 2007 conference.

I was doing our “Be A Business Storyteller: 8 Steps to a Perfect Presentation” workshop when someone asked about my remote presenter.

Remote presentation devices give you the freedom and flexibility to be anywhere in a typical office conference room and training room. You can move around the room to answer questions, review materials, collaborate, give someone else control, and most importantly interact with your audience.

Typically, I have to gently nudge professionals who use PowerPoint to purchase a presentation device. It was a nice surprise to be asked the question.

If you are part of a team where one person “drives” (meaning sits in front of the laptop to advance the slides), then you must, must purchase a device (go, go now or order one from the Internet). It will add sooooo much to your level of professionalism, make delivery smoother, improve teamwork, enhance audience rapport, and a host of other benefits.

There are several devices out there. When I did my research several years ago, Interlink Electronics had the best product for me. The RemotePoint Presenter Special Edition had all the features of its competitors plus more. It has a 100 foot range, 32 megabyte drive, and it is synched via radio waves.

Let me know what device you are using and whether you would recommend it for purchase.

Do you know everything there is to know about your target audience? You should be able to answer questions like these: Where does your audience shop? Socialize? Purchase goods and services? How do they buy? Make decisions? What do they read? What are the major driving influencers? Are they socially responsible? Where do they live and work? Are they brand loyalists? And so on.

If you don’t know everything about your target audience, you should. Everything you need to create a message that resonates with your partners, clients, prospects, members, board, and staff lay with knowing your audience. As I like to say, “it’s all about them.”

A bountiful harvest of data is available from the Census Bureau. In December 2005 they published a 254 page report titled, “65+ in the United States: 2005.”

Here are a couple of the highlights:

- “The older population is on the threshold of a boom. According to U.S. Census Bureau projections, a substantial increase in the number of older people will occur during the 2010 to 2030 period, after the first Baby Boomers turn 65 in 2011. The older population in 2030 is projected to be twice as large as in 2000, growing from 35 million to 72 million and representing nearly 20 percent of the total U.S. population at the latter date.”

- “The social and economic implications of the aging of the Baby Boom generation will be a significant concern for policy makers, the private sector, and individuals. The size and longevity of this group will trigger debate about possible modifications to Social Security, Medicare, and disability and retirement benefits, among other issues.”

- “As employed men and women get older, their likelihood of working part-time increases. About 10 percent of employed men aged 55 to 64 worked part-time in 2003; while half (47 percent) of employed men aged 70 and over worked part-time. Similarly, one-quarter of employed women aged 55 to 64 worked part-time, while almost two-thirds aged 70 and over worked part-time.”

- “Households maintained by older people have net worth higher than that of all other households except for those maintained by householders in the pre-retirement ages of 55 to 64, which were similar.”

- “Between 1990 and 2000, the largest proportionate increases in the older population were mostly in the West (particularly the Mountain states) and in the South (especially the South Atlantic states).”

- “In 2003, 3.7 million, or 11 percent of the older population, were foreign born. Most of the older foreign born were from Europe and Latin America (about 35 percent each) and Asia (23 percent).”

- “The future older population is likely to be better educated than the current older population, especially when Baby Boomers start reaching age 65. Their increased levels of education may accompany better health, higher incomes, and more wealth, and consequently higher standards of living in retirement.”

Wow! Another awesome conference. It was my third Great Ideas Conference. I have had the honor and pleasure of presenting "3 Steps to Tell Your Business Story in 30 Seconds or Less" and "Encore, Encore: 5 Steps to Deliver the Perfect Presentation Every Time" workshops.

I was introduced to The American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) by Jamie Notter, my friend, colleague, subsequent client at Association Renewal. Jamie has been in the association community for many years. As we got to know each other, he suggested that I submit a proposal to be a session leader. Three conferences later, I'm still thrilled and thankful.

The ASAE team puts on a great event each and every time. Smooth, well planned, on top of things, anticipatory--all descriptions of the event.

One thing the ASAE team of course couldn't plan for was the pineapple express (torrential rain). They kept our spirits high with the abundant good will and smiles. The presenters engaged us with interesting ideas and stories, and the cammaraderie led to new relationships. Our host hotel, The Loews Coronado Bay Resort San Diego, was fantastic. The picture with the sunset was taken from the hotel. It had friendly staff and picturesque views.

The conference was kicked off by an inspiring and creative keynote by one of my friends, Frans Johansson. Frans wrote a best seller, The Medici Effect. It is a must read for anyone. It will challenge the way you think, the way you approach things, and the way you use your senses. Can you imagine the possibilities of an intersection of two disparate ideas? The possibilities are exponential. Here are just a few intersections: mix termite temperature control with a building's cooling system, intersect afros and Asia, and combine birds with unmanned aircraft. Read The Medici Effect--it's a can't put down book.

I rekindled some friendships from my first and second conferences, started some new ones, and set up some business dates that I am just about to embark on.

I took away some of my own great ideas that are percolating. I look forward to the next Great Ideas Conference.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

SmartCEOs Are On SmartBusiness Radio

There is only one business radio show in the country exclusively for Chief Executive Officers and that is SmartBusiness. The team at Exit Planning Group invited me to be on SmartBusiness for the February 18 show. I had a great time. (History of how I met them is below).

The theme was Message and Messenger. Message was the first half of the show and I was the guest. Messenger was the theme for the second half and Alex Moussavi of Matrixx-Partners was the guest (read below a little story about Alex and me).

When John McCullough first approached me, I immediately thought, very cool! It was an opportunity to strengthen a new relationship with EPG and to give me exposure to the entire Washington, DC listening area for WTNT 570 AM Radio.

To start off the show, both hosts John McCullough and John Hrastar threw me a wicked curve ball. They had me create an on-the-spot elevator speech for a company that sells dead flies in a bottle to pet and plant owners.

Now, I’m good at what I do (laugh out loud with humility). Creating an elevator speech in two minutes with absolutely no preparation was quite the challenge. I went through the seven-step process of how to create a compelling elevator speech and came up with a pretty good one that touted “we make your pets happy.” We all had a good laugh and the hosts saw the benefit of using our process.

We then spent the next segment talking about how to turn the typical boring business conversations, jargon-heavy elevator speeches, and me-centered presentations into exciting, compelling, and sales-driven messages. The messages must resonate with our emotional side to be effective. We buy based on emotion and justify based on facts. A passion-filled business story is the absolutely best way to connect with your audience. It is the best way to increase sales (corporate), increase membership (non profit), and gain funding for a program (government).

I ended the segment by talking about two recent success stories for us: (1) How Bob Rossi’s new title of Chief Happiness Officer is helping increase his revenue and (2) How IntelliDyne’s new tag line and presentation just helped them close a multi-year $100 million dollar contract. Our website has business stories (“case studies” or "success stories") with more details.

Radio Show (each link is a MP3 file and it is about 2.5 mbs)

Segment 1: Dead flies and the “7 Steps to a Perfect Elevator Speech,” with Ira Koretsky

Segment 2: Business dates increase revenue, with with Ira Koretsky

Segment 3: Find the best sales professionals, with Alex Moussavi

Segment 4: Growth success, with Alex Moussavi

===== ABOUT Exit Planning Group =====

How I met the Team at Exit Planning Group: I met John H. about a year ago through GrowFast GrowRight, where we are “Dream Team” members. Over time our relationship has strengthened and helped both of our businesses. Subsequently, John invited me to attend one of the EPG workshops.

From there, I learned all about the well-thought out process to exit planning. They really impressed me with their seven-step process. They bring a wealth of experience (e.g., estate planning, financial analysis, strategy, human resources, and customer care) that gave me pause as I think about how I am growing my business. I walked away with lots of questions and I look forward to working with them to find the best answers for me.


Alex appeared on the radio program because we created a solid and sustained business dating relationship over two years ago. Over time we discovered that our respective businesses, personalities, and messages are highly complementary. After we help our clients create a great business story, Matrixx-Partners helps them substantially increase their revenue through sales consulting and sales recruiting.

With just the right amount of overlap, we created a partnership of lead sharing and income sharing. So when John M. and I were talking about the show, I knew without hesitation that Alex would be great at representing the Messenger side. It is rare to find such a credible and trustworthy partner. If you are lucky to have one, treat it like your favorite house plant—water it, talk to it, and make sure it gets the right amount of sunlight (smile).

The easiest way to get people to understand, respect, and accept a new idea is to link it to something they already know and trust. The link must begin in the right brain—the emotional side—the big picture side. Emotions compel us to act.

And one of the best way to induce an emotional response is to use a great visual metaphor.

Those of you that know me, know that I am a hugely, gigantic fan of metaphors. Metaphors are words on steroids. Great ones impart emotion, meaning, and action--immediately after being heard or read.

In my “7 Steps to a Perfect Elevator Speech,” Step 4 is “Create A High Level, Powerful Visual Metaphor.” Step 4 is the start of your verbal answer to the question “What do you do?” These are the first words of your elevator speech. A powerful metaphor will make your first words meaningful, engaging, and memorable.  A powerful metaphor will at a minimum, guarantee that someone will talk with you for a few minutes. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the purpose of an elevator speech (smile).

I will continue to expand on the concepts of metaphors and how they will help transform your business story into a “wow, tell me more story.” If you are using metaphors in your stories, I would love for you to be a guest blogger. Just shoot me an email.

Here’s a resource that offers some food for thought. A colleague sent me an interesting article on metaphors. Within the article was a reference to a leadership study and the importance of metaphors. It is a bit academic so speed-read a little through the study. It has some amazing insights into the use, influence, and power of metaphors.

Organization: Center for Public Leadership, John F. Kennedy School of Government

Study: “Through Their Own Words. Towards a new understanding of leadership,” 2003

Authors: Thomas Oberlechner and Viktor Mayer-Schnberger

I was listening to the radio the other day in my car and heard an interesting and a bit offbeat commentary about the “comic talents” of the United States’ Supreme Court Justices.

The Supreme Court is synonymous with seriousness. When I heard about laughter, mirth, and how it was associated with the Supreme Court, I knew that I needed to track down the source.

A law journal, “The Green Bag” (see below for more background information), published “Laugh Track” in their latest issue (Autumn 2005, Volume 9, Number 1). The author, Jay D. Wexler, answers the question “which Justice provides the best comic entertainment for the court watchers, lawyers, and staff that make up the Court’s audience on any given argument day?” 

When I was listening to the radio, I was curious about the method of determining the laughter level. Wexler writes that each time a certain level of humor and laughter is attained, the Court Reporter notes in the transcripts, “(Laughter).” So Wexler pored through the 2004-2005 transcripts of the oral arguments looking for the notation “(Laughter).” Justice Scalia was found to be the clear winner.

Sure, you can identify the notation easily with a word processor and search for all of the instances of Laughter. How can you measure it objectively? Communication at a high level is comprised of three main parts: body language, tone of voice, and the words you use.

 What makes up laughter? It must be analyzed at a level of detail that goes beyond the main components of communication. Do you use a sound instrument for how loud the room responds in laughing? The length of time the laugh lasts? Amount of clapping? Laughter is directed at you or audience is laughing with you? Do you measure whether the Laughter was sarcastic, clever, witty, or acerbic? Does the Laughter receive more weight when the audience responds with “ooooooohhh” when the joke or comment is at someone’s expense, which some Justices are inclined to do? How about the smile—was it a small smile or a Cheshire cat grin from ear to ear? You can see my point—the variables are many and varied.

My 12+ years of performing improvisational humor with a national franchise, ComedySportz, with my improv group Improvorama, and within my business have led me to conclude that funny or not funny (in its many variations such as inappropriate, just not funny, tactless, etc.) is based on three key areas: the relationship you have with the audience, the personal histories of the audience, and timing.

 In “Laugh Track,” Wexler included a footnote (number 2) that there is no standard way of determining the level of laughter or the methods used by the Court Reporter. I agree. The Court Reporter is a metaphor for each one of us. How do you judge what is funny? When do you make funny comments? And do you evaluate what you have said for its impact, good and bad?

 I would strongly suggest that with an unknown audience, use other people’s humor as your foundation. We use New Yorker cartoons from the CartoonBank (about $20 per cartoon) in our presentations as well as our own New Yorker style cartoons (see below for examples). Use quotes and jokes from famous people. Ask a few friends and colleagues for their judgment on whether to use jokes, cartoons, anecdotes, and stories.

The Green Bag Background Information

According to an interesting article, “Behind the Green Bag,” from the Law School a the University of Chicago, The Green Bag is a law journal founded in 1997 by Ross Davies, David Gossett, and Montgomery Kosma while they were still law students. It has “four current Law School faculty members sitting on its advisory board and a vast, multiwing conspiracy of alumni pitching in…The journal proclaims itself ‘An Entertaining Journal of Law…’ The articles are short, provocative, and engaging…Brian Brooks, ’94, a reader and contributor, says, “The editorial style is intended to start an interesting legal discussion rather than trying to have the final word on any subject.” He adds, “the Green Bag is for people who care about novel legal ideas, not just to help them with a current case but also because the ideas are interesting in their own right.”

An article in today's Washington Post caught my eye. The word PowerPoint and the associated image “Katie's Christmas List 2005” (see below) jumped out at me. The article was titled, “PowerPoint Slides: the New Puppy-Dog Eyes: Kids Increasingly Use Tech Savvy To Sell Their Holiday Wish Lists.”

Katie, an 11 year-old girl, put together a 12 page presentation for her parents. In her words, “My sister gave me the idea. My sister and my sister's friend did a PowerPoint too. I thought it would be a good idea so my parent's could see the pictures and so they would know exactly what to get.  Because sometimes it's kinda hard to understand when you write it down.

Ylan Q. Mui, the article’s author writes, “Sometimes, when children want something badly enough, miracles start to happen.

Promises of spotless rooms and perfect report cards are made. Letters to Santa are neatly typed and spellchecked. Sullen teenagers take the headphones from their ears to shower their parents with compliments.

But kids today don't stop there. They are employing their high-tech savvy to wow their parents into fulfilling their Christmas wish lists.”

One of the more insightful comments Mui makes is “This is the generation that has never known a world without the Internet. They rush home from school to talk to their friends online and flirt over text messages. They have mastered the latest communication technologies and added them to their holiday arsenal.”

This is fascinating. Kids of all ages are using technology to learn and communicate. I look forward to the next generation of business storytellers. 


Saturday, November 26, 2005

Free Stock Photography - Stock.XCHNG

Over time I have collected a few sites that are good for stock photography. Most charge either a per picture fee or a per month fee.

Stock.XCHNG is a rare site offering no cost and royalty-free photographs. Hosted in Hungary, the site represents the collected efforts of professionals from Hungary, Canada, United States, Poland, Mexico, United Kingdom, Belgium, Malaysia, and Portugal.  There are over 40 categories with lots of high quality images. Let me know if you use any and for what type of presentation.

Here a few excerpts from their site for About Us and Terms of Use.

About Us:  "Stock.XCHNG was launched in February 2001, as an alternative for expensive stock photography. The idea was to create a site where creative people could exchange their photos for inspiration or work. In about two years the site evolved into this massive community you see now - there are about 200.000 registered users and more than 100.000 photos online!"

Terms of Use:  [Note, I only included three of the seven terms] "1.) You may use any of the photos in our system free of charge for any commercial or personal design work if you obey the specified restrictions concerning each photo you download. 2.) Selling and redistribution of these photos (individually, or as a whole) without written permission is prohibited. Using the photos in website templates, on postcards, mugs etc. doesn't count as selling or redistribution, however you are not allowed to build a gallery using the photos you downloaded from here. 5.) Although these images are made available free of charge or obligation, if you use any images here PLEASE remember to contact the artist using the e-mail address found on the artists page. This is a simple courtesy and means a lot to many of our contributors who simply would like to know how their work is used."

I was talking to a client and we were chatting about her upcoming web seminar. During our conversation we talked about when we started giving presentations over the Internet. I shared that my first was with WebEx Communications in 2002. Can you believe that just three short years ago, web presentations were pretty much unknown? Even now many business professionals have yet to experience a presentation while at home in their pajamas or at work sitting leisurely at their desk.

We were discussing how we were going to title the presentation in her sales & marketing materials. She offered "blankety blank webinar." I immediately shook my head and said, it's a registered trademark. She couldn't believe it--she said that organizations all over are using webinar.

Here's how I know that it is a trademark. In Nov/Dec of 2002, I had come across the phrase Webinar. I thought it to be a fantastic description and metaphor for Web + Seminar = Webinar. I started to use the phrase in my marketing materials and website.

Ooops wrong thing to do. In early 2003 a little bird whispered in my ear thatwebinar was in fact, a trademarked word with the US Patent & Trademark Office. The reason I use the phrase, a little bird, was that the little bird just received a "cease and desist" order from the attorneys from the owners of Webinar. So I looked up the registration and found the word to be officially registered as of April 2000.

Fast forward to today. Google shows over 11,300,000 site references to a search for "webinar." That surprised me--a number that big means that industry usage must have overcome the trademark owners (can you think of another reason?) So I typed in as I did in 2003 and found the site to be inactive. The website used to be live and specifically reference the USPTO listing. No longer. In fact it is a inactive link. I am at a loss to wonder why the Webinar owners let go such a wonderful phrase. Perhaps the task at hand to track all the organizations down was untenable.

Irrespective to knowing with certainty the current legal state of Webinar (it still is an active trademark), I'd suggest strongly that you don't use it. Try web seminar, web presentation, online seminar, net presentation, e-presentation, e-learning, distance learning, or some other derivative.

Curious about the USPTO registration? You can find the info here. Select the button at the top of the middle column. Select .  Type "webinar" in the field box. Press . Select option #3 for Webinar, Live.

Here's an excerpt from the registration page at the USPTO:

"Word Mark WEBINAR




Serial Number 75478683

Filing Date May 4, 1998

Current Filing Basis 1A

Original Filing Basis 1A

Published for Opposition January 25, 2000

Registration Number 2342313

Registration Date April 18, 2000"

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Seven Steps to Speak Like Jack

I received my Selling Power Presentations email Newsletter today. One article piqued my curiosity…Seven Steps to Speak Like Jack [Kennedy].

[Note: Selling Power Magazine is a must-read for anyone in sales and marketing. If you are interested in improving your presentation and communication skills, there are always tips and suggestions. I’ve been a reader almost since its start some 17 years ago. Selling Power is also a partner of The Chief Storyteller]   

The article was written based on a Q&A session with John Barnes, author ofJohn F. Kennedy on Leadership: The Lessons and Legacy of a President(AMACOM, 2005). You can read the entire article free of charge by signing up for the Selling Power free newsletters     

With my experiences in helping clients with their presentations and presentation delivery, here are a few comments on three of the steps.   

I strongly suggest following step one. “1. Live your speech. Adopt a style that feels natural to you. Use words you normally would use and work on appearing at ease when addressing others. Believe in what you are saying and convey that belief with sincerity and feeling.     

Step 1 is a similar to my mantra of “be authentic and genuine.” It goes to my more expanded comments under step 2 about credibility, connection, and story.    

Step 2 reads “Tell a story when appropriate. If you can find a story that makes your message personal for audience members, you can make the issue resonate for them. A powerful, relevant story will do more to sell your product and service than all the facts and PowerPoint slides in the world.     

The first line for Step 2 should read, “Tell a story always.” Presentations and communication are about creating a connection. Great stories accelerate your ability to connect. Credibility is the foundation to creating this connection. It is our responsibility as business storytellers to impart our credibility from the first handshake, smile, and eye contact. If a picture is worth a thousand words, a story is worth a thousand pounds of credibility.    

Step 7 reads “Remember that your speech reflects you. No matter how many people collaborate on your presentation, keep in mind that in the end it’s your message. What you say and how you say it communicates volumes about who you are. When you get right down to it that often is a big factor in whether a prospect decides to do business with you.”   

I bet that if you were to think back to all of the presentations that you have attended, less than ten standout as truly memorable. Of those that were memorable, they likely resonated with you on a personal level. Personal connection always wins over compelling statistics and facts--always. “Be authentic and genuine” is something that I “preach” over and over.    

If you have the opportunity to read Mr. Barnes’ book, let me know your thoughts.

Yesterday I came across a very interesting word, “panegyric.” It takes complimenting to the nth degree. The most likely synonym for a contemporary word is eulogy. And eulogy falls short of the intensity of praise intended by panegyric.

According to LITTRÉ, Dictionnaire de La Langue Française, “Panegyric means more than eulogy. Eulogy no doubt includes praise of the person, but it does not exclude a certain criticism, a certain blame. Panegyric involves neither blame nor criticism.”

Generally, a panegyric is a formal public speech. The orator delivers the speech with heaps and heaps and heaps of praise for the person. Its style is consistently witty, elegant, and polished. It is devoid of criticism, negativity, and sarcasm.

From Wikipedia, “The most famous panegyrics are the Olympiacus of Gorgias, the Olympiacus of Lysias, and the Panegyricus and Panathenaicus. The Romans confined the panegyric to the living, and reserved the funeral oration exclusively for the dead. The most celebrated example of a Latin panegyric is that delivered by the younger Pliny (AD 100) in the senate on the occasion of his assumption of the consulship, containing a somewhat fulsome eulogy of Trajan.”

According to Dryden and the Tradition of Panegyric, “panegyric originates in the festivals of ancient Greece. Derived from the word panegyris, meaning ‘a general assembly,’ the panegyric was a speech delivered before a mass audience on a festival occasion. Gorgias, Hippias, and Lysias are all known to have delivered panegyrics, but the most famous and influential of these festival orations is the Panegyrikos of Isocrates.” The citation explains further that the oration by Isocrates was delivered at the Panathenaic festival in 380 B.C.

The Dryden and the Tradition of Panegyric goes into great detail on the origin of panegyric. If you are even a little intrigued by this ancient word, check out the link and peruse the text. I’m sure you will find it interesting.

I was talking to a client today about the power of visual storytelling--using metaphors to impart emotion, connection, and action. I started rattling off some of the advertising that I included in the blog earlier such as Kimpton and Pier 1.  Just then, I had an "aha" moment and was reminded of my Nissan experience about a year ago.

It was late 2004 as you can tell by my ski jacket, scarf, and hat (brrrrrrr). Some friends and I were in a suburb of Washington, DC and came across this billboard from Nissan. Immediately upon seeing the ad, I halted the group, pulled out my trusted digital camera, and snapped a few shots.

The ad is selling "future expectation." It cleverly combines a very powerful image of a road and mountain with the written visual metaphor, tell better stories. You, the new owner, will absolutely experience the joys of driving the new Pathfinder. Your enjoyment will cause you to tell all sorts of exciting new stories to your family and friends. And with the stories come memories for a lifetime.  All of this in one simple billboard.

I just watched a fascinating presentation unlike anything I have ever seen. Dick Hardt, Founder & CEO, Sxip Identity, delivered a funny, interesting, and engaging presentation on a highly technical topic—identity on the Internet.

Typical technical presentations are a Zzzzz’s fest. This was 180 degrees away from boring. Why? Instead of showing typical wiring diagrams with arrows like spaghetti, using tons of jargon, and reading dry bullet lines of text, he entertained us, he made us think. He made his points with visual ideas and metaphors. It was a story. It was "edutainment" (education and entertainment).

This presentation was a 9 on the entertainment and enjoyment scale. On the content and message scale, it's an 8. To get this presentation to a content 10, I suggest:

(a) Use a remote control presenter device. He was stuck behind the laptop and this reduced the interaction and rapport-building considerably. With his charming and conversational style, the audience would have loved to smile with him and be more involved personally. I am a big fan of Interlink Electronic’s RemotePoint Presenter Special Edition. I have been using mine for well over a year. It offers a 100’ of “wander” distance. If you give presentations, I’d suggest strongly buying a remote device.

(b) Employ some structure to the presentation. He cleverly used some signposts such as his picture, college logo, frequent flyer club, and map of Canada. They were not sufficient to carry the main thoughts through the entire presentation.

(c) And speaking of main thoughts, he should have reinforced his main points consistently from beginning to middle to end.

(d) Reduce the number of slides with words so that he can interact with the audience. Because Dick was verbalizing the words on the screen, he had to read them as if they were a script. The reading chained him to the laptop.

Dick delivered his presentation “Identity 2.0” at a conference called OSCON 2005.

Take a look at Dick’s presentation—then look at your presentations. What can you do to add more graphics? How can you evoke more emotion and connect? And what can you do to engage the right brain of your audiences?

Here's a new cartoon that I am using in my presentations and workshops.  I love the twist on the typical "dog and pony show" reference.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Leave Your But's Behind

In terms of usage, I place "but" at the top of the worst words in the English language. It is an absolutely horrific word. It negates everything said previously.

Yes but, no but, and just plain ol but permeate conversations. While at networking functions and social gatherings, I've informally counted the frequency of "but" utterances. They rival any commonplace word like "and," "I," and "a."

"But" has become such an accepted word that most people have absolutely no idea how many times they use it. Our "Yes And" exercises make people acutely aware of the use of these negative words. Yes And is a concept from improvisational humor (look for a future entry to describe Yes And in more detail). It makes you become an active listener. When we do our "Yes And" exercises, it takes a lot of practice for participants to embrace Yes And and attempt to leave the but's behind (pun intended).

Typically, about a month after attending a workshop or becoming a client, people email and call to confirm that the but's are slowly being eliminated. Also, they share that they are becoming whole body communicators employing Yes And.

Here's a challenge, a big challenge.

Try this for one day at first. Before hitting the send key on your emails, replace every instance of "but," "however," "although," and "on the other hand" with a period or "and." I'll bet you thousands of Monopoly dollars that this suggestion will not change your meaning or intent. In fact, this suggestion will strengthen your message. Part B. After doing this for a few days, slowly implement this process into your spoken words. Become more self-aware of when and why you use "but." Same process, replace with a period or and.

It would be great for you to share some of your successful "yes and" results.

Monday, October 24, 2005

The Art of Intelligent Listening

I verify every quote that I use. When I searched for the one below on the Internet, I came across a few variations. As such, I bought a physical copy of the Readers Digest Magazine from Ebay.

I fully expected to extract the quote and be done with the magazine. Instead, I was surprised and pleased that the entire article from Mr. Miller is filled with nuggets on how to become a more intelligent listener. People always laugh when I share this quote and I mean allllwaaaayyyyssss.

Interrupting people during conversations has become prevalent and accepted. Most people don't like being interrupted. Why do we continue to do so? Instead, be an Intelligent Listener. Intelligent Listening is a key ingredient to becoming a whole body communicator--great story, positive body language, and intelligent listening.

"Conversation in the United States is a competitive exercise in which the first person to draw a breath is declared the listener."

— James Nathan Miller
“The Art of Intelligent Listening”
Readers Digest, vol 127, September 1965

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Talk Fat Free

I was talking to my colleague, Alex from Matrixx today about a presentation that we both attended. As we were talking, Alex said that guy has got to "talk fat free."

After that phrase popped up, I immediately interrupted him :-)

In an excited voice, I asked him to write an entry on it. In my business, I work with people that are "fat free challenged." They get to the point after many minutes of conversation and presenting. I look forward to Alex's insight so that we can all lose a few communication pounds.

Breakfast of Champions - Ted Leonsis

Ted Leonsis recently spoke at a local technology conference. His keynote address was titled, "Breakfast of Champions." He told his story through a sports metaphor. He used some of the most well known and respected names in sports today. Names like Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Wayne Gretsky, and Joe Namath.

Ted covered each of the points in his plan with a powerful quote from one of these sports giants. He told a story in a unique and very personal way. For those of you not familiar with Ted, he is the Vice Chairman of AOL, a majority owner of the Washington Capitals NHL Hockey team, minority shareholder in the NBA's Washington Wizards, and owner of the Washington Mystics, a WNBA team. He intertwined his message of how he is helping to shape the new AOL with a foundation of compelling and inspirational quotes. Quotes that all have a business relevance. In this humble at home sportcaster's opinion, his presentation was a homerun.

The 12-Point Plan for Success:

1. Plan it - write it down – break it down - strategize
2. Work at it – be committed
3. Measure and improve
4. Listen and learn
5. Trust those around you
6. Don’t be afraid of failure
7. Respect everyone
8. Don’t get too high with the highs and low with the lows
9. The journey is the reward - enjoy
10. Seek balance
11. Be part of something bigger than yourself
12. Love and passion


Here are a few of Ted's quotes...

-- “The more I practice, the luckier I get.”

-- “I don’t love the game. I am in love with the game.”

-- “Failure and loss are my best friends and personal motivators.”

I was doing some research today and came across an interesting article from Business 2.0 Magazine, 2005 0906. IBM is following a story-driven approach in its new advertising.

I am a huge fan of using visual metaphors in your business stories, especially in your elevator speech and presentations. Visual metaphors impart so much emotion and connection in a condensed and effective way. The challenge is to get people to feel comfortable using them in purpuseful way in their business communications. It is one of the hurdles my clients and workshop attendees face in developing their own stories. Once they work through the hurdle, it's a warming feeling to see the smiles on their faces. I can just imagine how big of hurdle IBM had in accepting this audience-centered way of communicating their messages.

I copied three paragraphs below....

"Let's face it: Management consultants are a dull lot. Jet-lagged and overworked, they wander the world spouting tired buzzwords about "enriching the customer experience" or "strengthening supply chain relationships."

"It's simple, actually: Just use a metaphor. It's one of the oldest tricks in the book. Add a little drama, conflict, and character development -- and, of course, a happy ending -- and a sleepy high-tech service advertisement can start to feel, well, almost human. That's the underlying strategy of IBM's latest Global Services campaign, which will be unveiled this week at the U.S. Open tennis tournament. The topic may be dull, but the approach, created by IBM and its advertising agency of record, Ogilvy, surely is not. "

"According to Ogilvy group creative director Andy Berndt, who helped dream up the campaign, here's how it works: 'You take boring, complicated stuff and explain it. Since the topic isn't that interesting, you need to add some dialogue and characters with humor.' "

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Talk at the 10th Grade Level

Most people in business communications over complicate concepts with jargon, big words, and busy diagrams. The typical listener is bored, wondering where the point is, and is looking for a polite escape. My suggestion is "talk at the 10th grade level." Simple, brief, and to the point. One of my all-time favorite quotes is "brevity is the soul of wit" (anonymous).

I'm a big fan of talk radio. So when I heard an author mention that the New York Times newspaper writes at the 8th grade level, I just had to check. I called the NYT today and chatted briefly with a helpful woman in public affairs. She shared that most mainstream magazines and newspapers write between the 6th and 8th grade levels. The NYT typical article is geared to the 10th grade level.

To the average person, that would likely seem a bit askew. To the media savvy person, it is exactly as expected. Americans have such a short attention span--verrryyy short. We are bombarded with thousands of messages every day vying for our emotional and financial wallets. Messages come from multiple sources. Examples include friends, co-workers, sales professionals, billboards, television, magazines, radio, direct mail, email, and more.

How do you ensure that you stand out from the competition? One way is to use the Flesch-Kincaid tool. It is a helpful option in Microsoft Word (setup instructions below). Readability is based on average sentence length and average syllables per sentence. Run the Flesch-Kincaid tool on some documents and emails. You will be surprised by the results. Examine closely the text that receives a high score. Reduce jargon and acronyms. Replace ten dollar words with fifty cent words. Chop long sentences into short ones. Run the tool again. Now you will be surprised at how easy and straightforward the process is to create memorable messages.

If after reading this, you are thinking, "hey, I should check the readability in PowerPoint." If so, then without seeing your presentation, I know that it has way too many words, sentences, and bullet points. Reduce the text by at least 50%. Then, if you really feel the urge to check the readability, convert the PowerPoint into a Word document and then perform the readability check.

Remember that the NYT knows it audience and purposefully writes to the 10th grade level. Choose the grade level appropriate to your audience. My suggestion, stick to the 10th grader in us, or lower. Make your writing more clear, concise, and brief. Let your passion and your story drive home the message.

Let me know how it works for you.

From the Microsoft Word Help file: "Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level Score: Rates text on a U.S. grade-school level. For example, a score of 8.0 means that an eighth grader can understand the document. For most standard documents, aim for a score of approximately 7.0 to 8.0. The formula for the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level score is: (.39 x ASL) + (11.8 x ASW) – 15.59. ASL = average sentence length (the number of words divided by the number of sentences). ASW = average number of syllables per word (the number of syllables divided by the number of words)"

Setup in Microsoft Word: Go to the toolbar at the top of your monitor. Select then then the tab. Click the "Show readability statistics" box at the bottom of the dialog box. Now, after you spell check, the grade level appears indicating the readability score of the text.

Friday, September 02, 2005


Hello Everyone!

Welcome, welcome, welcome!! I am very excited about starting a blog.  Friends, colleagues, clients, Romans, and countrymen have been telling me for months to start one.  It's time.  I look forward to sharing thoughts and reading yours on everything and anything related to business storytelling, content, messaging, and so forth.



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