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Ira Koretsky
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Duane Bailey
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Having traveled around the world both on vacation and speaking, I have come across a variety of interesting food names:

- Chicken with wilted spinach
- Stinky tofu
- Vegetarian meatballs

You may have heard, even tried some of these. By themselves, do the titles immediately make you think “yummy?” or do you mentally cringe? Personally, I cringed at "wilted spinach." Why would I order something out of date or not fresh? Because this was served at a very nice restaurant, I laughed out loud. It sparked quite an interesting conversation with my dining partners.

Quite unintended, I ended up liking the phrase wilted spinach quite a lot as a metaphor for bad messaging. As a result, I titled our approach to testing messages, “The Wilted Spinach Test.” At its core, the test looks to evaluate whether your words/messages resonate with your target audiences. At a detailed level, do your words/messages mean what you want them to mean? Words matter. A lot. To some, one word could be positive and to others, the very same word could be negative.

Do your written, spoken, and social media communications cause audiences to ask good questions, contact you, or skip right past you?

Geetesh Bajaj of Indezine.com shared a new post from Microsoft from January 22 titled, "The Next Chapter of Office on Windows."

Here's the introductory paragraph..

Yesterday’s unveil of Windows 10 showcased a new generation of experiences that will empower people and organizations to achieve more. In partnership with Windows 10, the Office team is bringing a fantastic new set of Office experiences to this platform, furthering our mission to bring the unparalleled productivity of Office to everyone, on every device. Over the past 12 months, you’ve seen us reimagine the traditional Office experience for a mobile-first, cloud-first world. The next step in this journey is the delivery of touch and mobile optimized versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote and Outlook for Windows 10.

The post provides some hint at Office's “universal” apps on Windows 10 and Office 2016.

 

Monday, January 26, 2015

Words to Avoid - “Anxious”

altFor business communications, you should avoid using the word “anxious.” Anxious is a word all too often misused. You’ll hear people saying, “I’m anxious to meet Julie.” Or “I’m really anxious about xyz.”

By definition, anxious means: “characterized by extreme uneasiness of mind or brooding fear about some contingency” (Merriam-Webster Online).

For business communications, always use “eager.” By definition, eager means: “marked by enthusiastic or impatient desire or interest” (Merriam-Webster Online).

If there is a cause to use “anxious” to convey worry, we suggest using “concern” or “concerned.”

Since all of your business communications to your target audiences are related to your relationship and what you offer to them, choose your words carefully.

One of the most common questions/statements we receive about storytelling is "I just don't know where to begin."

Choosing the right story, turning it into an engaging experience, and practicing to be a great storyteller of course takes time. What really doesn't take much time and very little preparation, is telling a “Today Story.”

It is an experience that happened to you the day of your presentation, before you begin.

Share your experiences:
- Airplane ride
- Conversation you had with someone previously (at the opening event night before is also a good source),
- Taxi cab ride from the airport with the person sitting next you
- Conversation you had with your spouse, child, parent
- "I was just talking to FirstName" about (a participant in the audience)

In three minutes or less, YOU CAN tell a great story. One that is relevant and interesting. And one that sets the stage for a great presentation to come to your audience.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

It Is In Giving That We Receive

The rewards of volunteering are varied and many...and sometimes, not readily apparent.

Over a decade ago, I volunteered for a few years as a religious education instructor. My job was to teach middle school students the basics of their faith. I used to tell anyone who would listen at the time this was one of the toughest audiences I had ever faced. Students at this age are very transparent and I knew many of them would have preferred to be somewhere else during class time.

I spent untold hours trying to make the lectures fun, engaging and interactive. We played games, watched movies, did community service work outside the classroom and more. I gave each student a hard copy of the evening's class notes (which were filled with facts, stories and quotes from the Bible) – realizing then that they wouldn't read them until months or years later, perhaps when they were taking a religion course in college.

While it was clear I was able to reach some students during those formative years, there were others who just seemed disengaged and detached. It wasn't until the other night, during a service at my place of worship, that a former student and his family were sitting in the row in front of me. I remembered him as one who seemed particularly disengaged at the time.

I recognized him during the service and, at one point, he looked at me and smiled. After the service had ended, his mom turned around and told me her son had recognized me as one of his religious education teachers and had told her I was one of the best he ever had. It was a great gift to know my efforts were appreciated and remembered after so many years.

I tell this story because it's an inspiration to all of us on the importance of giving our best in all that we do in the New Year, for it is in giving that we truly receive.

While content may be king in the digital age, it needs to be delivered to the right audience at the right time and at the right place to make it meaningful and relevant.

This shouldn't come as a big surprise to marketers. After all, the central premise behind every successful sales presentation is knowing your audience – what their pain points are, what they're doing about them and how failing to resolve those pain points will impact your prospects both personally and professionally. It's also helpful to know where your audience is going for answers to those pain points – your competitors, trade associations, industry consultants, scholarly journals, white papers, social media, etc.

I was reminded of this recently during a visit to one of the big-box home improvement stores. I was looking for a rust-inhibiting spray paint for use on a bathtub when an associate started telling me about the store's promotion on kitchen cabinet re-facings. His knowledge level of cabinet re-facings was impressive. What he failed to realize was, at that moment, I could care less about re-facing my kitchen cabinets.

Great content, for sure. The same cannot be said for the context in which it was delivered. My pain point was a rusting tub, I wanted to repair the tub with a rust-inhibiting paint and the impact of my failing to find an answer to my pain point might be a potential water leak (which, incidentally, could cause extensive damage to the kitchen below the bathroom where the rusting tub is located). I also had previous experience with a rust-inhibiting spray paint and just needed to know where I could find another can in a different color.

Think about your digital content. I'm guessing it's awesome stuff. Now think about the context in which you are delivering it. Are you targeting the right audience? Are you delivering it at the right time and place? Are you present in the places where your target audience is going for answers to their questions? Or, are you trying to sell kitchen cabinet re-facings to a guy who simply wants to repair a rusty bath tub?

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Good Spelling Leads to Good Selling

When I was an undergraduate marketing student at Fairfield University, my English professor would remind us of this simple admonition: "Can't spell, can't sell."

I didn't appreciate the power of his words until a few years later when I became a salesperson. As a young account executive for a Fortune 500 technology firm, I was selling more than just the latest information technology. I was selling ideas, solutions and my company's (and my) reputation.

Few things did more to challenge my credibility with customers than incorrectly spelled names and words in my proposals and presentations. These seemingly simple errors were perceived as evidence of indifference, insufficient preparation or a lack of attention to detail. It was also a stretch to claim expertise about some thing if I couldn't even spell its name correctly. In an instant, spelling errors could potentially unravel deals worth hundreds of thousands of dollars that were months in the making. 

So, as it turned out, my professor was right. Good spelling leads to good selling.

 

For more on how to increase your sales, please see:
Increase Sales with Better Storytelling
If You're Selling, Are You Showing or Telling?
If You're in Sales, Tell Me Something I Don't Know

When I showed up to my daughter's after school classroom, I was greeted by her class' election day voting.

For Governor, Jake won by a landslide. Superman barely earned Sheriff. Senators Pook and Eeyore won handily.

For the House, Elsa crushed and Anna sqeaked by Ariel.

I thought it quite clever how the teachers used the children's favorite characters to teach and demonstrate our voting.

What can you do to make learning/training more interesting?

 

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I'm excited to be part of the third Cleantech Open Southeast Regional Summit in the Washington, DC area. If you are at all involved in green, energy, cleantech, etc. I strongly encourage you to attend. CTO is a global organization with partnerships in every sector working with cleantech.  alt

Here's the write-up of my portion, taking place right before the reception and gala dinner, Wednesday 23 October, 4 to 5pm. I'll be the emcee and facilitator of the ~15 companies presenting their elevator pitches. I'll keep it interesting, lively, and provide some constructive suggestions to everyone.

Cleantech Open Semifinalist/Alumni Showcase and Technology Demo – Join Ira Koretsky, the Chief Storyteller®, and Cleantech Open semifinalists and alumni companies as they showcase their technologies. Audience members will cast ballots for the company that will win the “People’s Choice Award” to be announced at the Awards dinner and celebration.

 Here's a partial listing of the many distinguished speakers and panelists:

- Heidi VanGenderen, Director of Public Engagement, U.S. Department of Energy
- Najada Kumbuli, Investment Officer, Calvert Social Investment Foundation, Inc
- Robert Griffin, Director, Renewable Energy Office, U.S. Department of the Navy
- Sara Hanks, Founder & CEO, CrowdCheck
- Honorable William Euille, Mayor, City of Alexandria
- Scott Dockum, , Program Manager, SBIR, U.S. Department of Agriculture
- Dr. Barbara Kenny, Program Director, Division of Industrial Innovation and Partnerships, NSF
- Manny Oliver, Director SBIR Programs, U.S. Department of Energy
- April Richards, Director SBIR Programs, Environmental Protection Agency
- Walter McLeod, Principal, Clean Power Group-Africa
- Stephen Morel, Climate Finance Specialist, Overseas Private Investment Corporation
- Aneri Patel, Energy Access Officer, UN Foundation, and Executive Director, ENVenture
- John Spears, Sustainable Systems International & Clinton Global Initiative Advisor
- Elizabeth Dougherty, Director of Inventor Education, Outreach & Recognition, U.S. Patent & Trademark Office
- Ed Greer, Venture & Business Development, Dow
- Jim Efstathiou Jr., Editor, Energy & Commodities Bloomberg News

 

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Join me at what will prove to be a highly useful business summit. Hosted at the beautiful Marriott Fairview, the Turkish American Business Group Annual Small Business Summit, offers a variety of speakers and panels all designed to help you grow your business.  The agenda includes:

2:00 - 2:40 Check-in

2:40 - 3:00 Opening Keynote by Varol Ablak, CEO of Vocelli Pizza with Emcee Dan Nainan (old friend of mine)

3:00 - 3:50 Access to Capital, Commercial Lending and Alternative Funding

3:50 - 4:00 Coffee Break

5:00 - 6:00 30 Tips in 30 Minutes by 3 Experts to Grow Your Small Business (Ira Koretsky's program)

6:00 - 7:00 Reception

8:00 - 9:00 Gala Dinner with Congressman Rob Wittman, Talha Sarac, President of PERA Construction and Chairman of the Turkish American Business Network, Nick Spanos Co-founder of Bitcoin Center at NYC, John S. Powell, SVP of EagleBank, and William D. Euille, Mayor of Alexandria

 

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Soon to be a Veteran? Veteran? Spouse? Looking for hands-on career advice? Join me and a distinguished group of presenters providing free career workshops at the annual Association of the United States Army (AUSA) conference in Washington, DC.

I was part of the 2013 program and look forward to this year's event. While the event is Army-focused, any service member, veteran, and spouse is welcome.

The American Freedom Foundation workforce hiring event at AUSA is presented by Sourceamerica® and GES.  12 workshop sessions take place October 13 – 15 to provide resources and information for veterans and transitioning military.  I'll be giving my program, "“Your Upcoming Tour on Main Street:  How to Positively Engage and Influence Hiring Managers with Your Words and Stories" on Monday 10/13 10:30am to 12noon and Tuesday 10/14 1pm to 2:30pm (list of all programs)

AFF "mission is to honor the men and women of America’s armed forces, raise awareness for their service and sacrifice and raise money for organizations that serve and support our Veterans, active duty military and their families." 

If you need any more information please let me know (contact me here).
 

 American Freedom Foundation’s Warriors to the Workforce
Hiring Event at AUSA Announces Workshop Sessions  

12 Workshop sessions will take place October 13 – 15 to provide resources and information for veterans and transitioning military 

Attendance at Warriors to the Workforce Hiring Event is FREE and open to veterans, military service members and spouses.

Presentations will include topics such as mental readiness, confidence building, networking and presentation skills, resume writing, interviewing techniques, job searching, career planning through goal setting, translating military skills and training into civilian life and corporate experience, among others.

In addition to these transition workshops, veterans will have the opportunity to meet with some of the country’s largest and most veteran friendly employers including Aerotek, ASM Research, ATK, Inc., BAE Systems, Calibre Systems, CSC, Didlake, Inc., Easter Seals Veterans Staffing Network, esri, Elbit Systems of America, First Command Financial Services, General Dynamics Information T echnology, Goodwill Industries, Hendrickson International, Kaplan University, Linden Industries, Melwood, Navy Federal Credit Union, Pride Industries, RNDC-­?USA, SAIC, Still Serving Veterans, TFD Group, University of Phoenix, USACE, VETS Group, Working Warriors Nations–MVLE and Department of Veterans Affairs.

Attendance at Warriors to the Workforce Hiring Event is FREE and open to veterans, military service members and spouses.

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As an MBA graduate of the Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland, I am excited about next week's presentation.  I'll be presenting "Executive Storytelling" with fellow part-time MBA students. 

It was a serendipitious meeting with Megan, the professional development program chair. We met at a Smith School Event for International Development. After chatting a bit, I learned Megan worked for the Department of the Army and I'm an Army veteran. Soon after, we talked about a variety of topics, which led to the "What do you do?" question.

A few months later, I'll be sharing some great video clips, thoughts, ideas, and exercises on business storytelling. I'm looking forward to a dynamic exchange of ideas.

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The other day I gave one of our Storytelling for Executives workshop programs. In it I showed one of my all-time favorite videos, the Turbo Encabulator.  I show it to demonstrate the best and worst aspects of using jargon. Most people do not even realize how much jargon they use in his or her various communications. This video is a humorous way of gently reminding everyone to minimize jargon. One of the program participants asked me for the actual text of the video (see below), prompting me to write this post.

You owe it to yourself to watch this one and half minute video to be completely awed at the delivery by a truly gifted presenter, Bud Haggert. If it wasn't for the fact that nearly every important word is made up, you might actually believe he is talking about a very technical, highly complex piece of machinery, the Turbo Encabulator.

Director Dave Rondot shares the background of how the video came to be...

This is the first time Turbo Encabulator was recorded with picture. I shot this in the late 70's at Regan Studios in Detroit on 16mm film. The narrator and writer is Bud Haggert. He was the top voice-over talent on technical films. He wrote the script because he rarely understood the technical copy he was asked to read and felt he shouldn't be alone.

We had just finished a production for GMC Trucks and Bud asked since this was the perfect setting could we film his Turbo Encabulator script. He was using an audio prompter referred to as "the ear". He was actually the pioneer of the ear. He was to deliver a live speech without a prompter. After struggling in his hotel room trying to commit to memory he went to plan B. He recorded it to a large Wollensak reel to reel recorder and placed it in the bottom of the podium. With a wired earplug he used it for the speech and the "ear" was invented.

Today every on-camera spokesperson uses a variation of Bud's innovation. Dave Rondot (me) was the director and John Choate was the DP on this production. The first laugh at the end is mine. My hat's off to Bud a true talent.

 

Wikipedia has an entry providing some nice background information on the origin of the Turbo Encabulator idea, posting by Time Magazine (I bought the issue), the actual GE product data sheet included in the General Electric Handbook (see picture below), and more.

Here's the text. Enjoy!

For a number of years now, work has been proceeding in order to bring perfection to the crudely conceived idea of a transmission that would not only supply inverse reactive current for use in unilateral phase detractors, but would also be capable of automatically synchronizing cardinal grammeters. Such an instrument is the turbo encabulator.

Now basically the only new principle involved is that instead of power being generated by the relative motion of conductors and fluxes, it is produced by the modial interaction of magneto-reluctance and capacitive diractance.

The original machine had a base plate of pre-famulated amulite surmounted by a malleable logarithmic casing in such a way that the two spurving bearings were in a direct line with the panametric fan. The latter consisted simply of six hydrocoptic marzlevanes, so fitted to the ambifacient lunar waneshaft that side fumbling was effectively prevented.

The main winding was of the normal lotus-o-delta type placed in panendermic semi-boloid slots of the stator, every seventh conductor being connected by a non-reversible tremie pipe to the differential girdle spring on the "up" end of the grammeters.

The turbo-encabulator has now reached a high level of development, and it’s being successfully used in the operation of novertrunnions. Moreover, whenever a forescent skor motion is required, it may also be employed in conjunction with a drawn reciprocation dingle arm, to reduce sinusoidal repleneration.

 

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As a speaker, I have a very high bar before I recommend other speakers. Ridgely, without question, exceeds the bar. He's personal, insightful, warm, and an expert at what he does. I had the pleasure of being in Ridgely's program several months ago sponsored by Entrepreneur's Organization in Baltimore (Ridgely's bio is below).

We were able to get him to come to the Washington, DC area to present his "Unleash the Power of Your Why" on Wednesday, June 18, 4:30 to 8:30, in Washington, DC.

Join us for an entertaining and transformational workshop where you will:

- Discover your WHY in an interactive format—yes, you will learn the exact process you can apply at home and at the office
- Create WHY-based messaging for your marketing
- Learn how neuro-science drives behavior and how you can use that in your personal life as well as your business
- Use your WHY to build an inspired organization—a WHY-focused organization
- Know how your WHY can drive the culture of your company

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Click to register. The event is hosted by IgnitionShift. This is my (along with fellow charter members) ongoing event series and educational platform for high-growth companies.

 

altAbout Ridgely Goldsborough

Author and international speaker, Ridgely Goldsborough, known in the Latino market as Richeli, has spent the last 20 years as an expert in personal growth and development. Much like Napoleon Hill did in the early part of the last century, Ridgely has interviewed titans of business and industry in person, for his television show and on the radio. Based on the principles learned from these interviews and his own personal journey, Ridgely continues to write books and create audio and video programs to help us all on our journey to success.

In Business
- Started his first enterprise at the age of 16. In the past three decades, he has created 36 companies, with 400 employees in 35 countries.
- Founded, as the publisher, Network Marketing Lifestyles, the first ever four-color glossy magazine distributed on the newsstands for the industry of direct sales and multilevel marketing, in addition to three other magazines.
- Continues to develop various businesses in a diverse array of industries, with a passion for personal growth, particularly in the Latin market.

As a Writer
- Written nine books, including The Great Ones, The Power of Belief, Masters of Success, Skinny, Happy and Rich and four others.
- Shares his columns and inspirational articles, in English and Spanish, on over 30,000 websites.
- Created over 60 audio programs on personal and professional development.

As a Speaker
- In the last twenty years, Ridgely has given thousands of presentations on motivation, personal and professional development and business education, on five continents, in both English and Spanish.
- Conducted well over 100 interviews with titans of industry on the themes of success, prosperity and wealth accumulation.

Radio and Television
- Created 50+ inspirational and educational programs entitled A View From The Ridge that played on the radio across the Midwestern United States.
- Created his own television program, Modest To Millions based on interviews of successful business men and women who shared their keys to prosperity and wealth.

In Summary
If you are looking for a first class speaker with years of experience in both the English and Spanish markets, who entertains, motivates and educates all at the same time—and who is one of the world’s premiere experts in personal growth, prosperity and wealth accumulation, contact us today to book Ridgely for your next event!

Ridgely splits his time between Latin America and Pensacola, Florida, where he lives with his wife Kathy and their four children.

 

Here is more scientific proof that great visuals are integral to great presentations.  You need both. You need great stories, great messages, great content. And you need to ensure your PowerPoint/Keynote are also done well to ensure your audiences remember and act on what you say.

"As it turns out, there is merit to the Chinese proverb 'I hear, and I forget; I see, and I remember,'" says graduate student James Bigelow. James and his colleague Amy Poremba PhD recently published "Achilles’ Ear? Inferior Human Short-Term and Recognition Memory in the Auditory Modality" in the Journal PLOS ONE, which "features reports of original research from all disciplines within science and medicine."

Medical News Today writer David McNamee, summarizes the study nicely. "We have a harder time remembering things we have heard, compared with things we have seen or felt." He goes on to quote the study: "We tend to think that the parts of our brain wired for memory are integrated,' says Professor Poremba. She also says the team's findings may indicate that the brain uses separate pathways to process information. Even more, our study suggests the brain may process auditory information differently than visual and tactile information, and alternative strategies - such as increased mental repetition - may be needed when trying to improve memory."

"The U.S. Military Academy Class of 2015 gathered inside Washington Hall [at West Point] January 18, 2014 with invited guests and academy leaders to celebrate 500th Night. The night recognizes the milestone for cadets as they count down the final 500 days until their graduation and commissioning into the U.S. Army. Admiral William H. McRaven, the ninth commander of the U.S. Special Operations Command addressed the class at the banquet." (from the West Point Public Affairs Office Press Release)

If you are looking to be inspired, spend about 20 minutes watching the video or reading the transcript below. If you are in the military or related fields, you will be inspired. The Admiral uses figures of speech, vocal variety, readily understood concepts, active voice/verbs, and relevant personal stories. As a U.S. Army veteran, my continued thanks go out to the active duty, reserve, guard, and veteran service members for their service.

 

A Sailor’s Perspective on the United States Army
Admiral William H. McRaven, Commander, U.S. Special Operations Command
Address to U.S. Miltary Academy West Point Class of 2015, 500th Night
18 January 2014

Good evening General and Mrs. Caslen, General and Mrs. Clarke, General Trainor, Col Brazil, Command Sergeants Major Duane and Byers, distinguished guests and most importantly Class of 2015. I am truly honored to be here tonight to address the future leaders of the United States Army.

But, as a graduate of a state school in Texas, who majored in journalism because I couldn’t do math, or science, or engineering or accounting, I am somewhat intimidated by the thought of giving any advice, to any cadet, on anything. Nevertheless, after almost 37 years in the service, much of that time with the Army, there may be something I can offer.

So tonight, as you begin the final 500 days of your time at the United States Military Academy, I would like to give you a Sailor’s Perspective on the Army; not the Army of the Hudson, not the Army of the history books, not the Army portrayed in the countless murals across campus, but the Army you will enter in 500 days—the Army upon which the future of the Nation rests; the Army that you will shape and the Army that you will lead. So, if you will humor this old sailor, I will tell you what I’ve learned in my time serving with the Army.

In the past twelve years I have worked for the great Generals of this generation; Dempsey, Petraeus, Odierno, McChrystal, Austin, Rodriguez and Dailey. All graduates of the Military Academy, each man, different in his own way.

Dempsey, a man of great humor and compassion, whose quick wit, and keen tactical sense allowed him to secure Baghdad as a Division Commander, lead the Central Command as a three star, and today, as the Chairman, he presides over the greatest change in our military since WWII and he does so with tremendous reason, intelligence and with a song in his heart.

Petraeus, whose understanding of the strategic nature of war was unparalleled.  Who saw opportunity in every challenge and who dared greatly in hopes of great victories.  His daily command decisions in Iraq and Afghanistan unquestionably saved the lives of thousands of young soldiers.

Odierno, a soldier’s soldier, who as a Division and Corps commander in Iraq, fought with a fierceness one would expect of a great warrior and then as the Commander of all forces in Iraq combined that fierceness with the diplomat’s subtle hand to lead and shape the future of a sovereign Iraq.  And today, he leads the greatest Army the world has ever known.

Austin, the quiet bear of a man, whose deep intellect and incomparable combat experience allowed him to think through every complex problem and to succeed where others might have failed.

McChrystal, whose creative mind and intense drive for perfection, changed forever how special operations would fight on the battlefield and changed how SOF would forever be perceived by the Nation—and in doing so, likely changed the course of the Armed Forces as well.

Rodriguez, the everyman’s general who proved time and again, that character matters--that hard work, perseverance, persistence, and toughness on the battlefield are always traits of success.

And Del Dailey, whose boldness and innovation, coupled with a Night Stalkers sense of teamwork and aggressiveness, began the revolution in special operations.

What did I learn about the Army in watching these men and other great leaders like Keith Alexander, Chuck Jacoby, Mike Scaparrotti, John Campbell, Bob Caslen and Rich Clarke?   Well, I learned first and foremost that your allegiance as an officer is always, always to the Nation and to those civilian leaders who were elected by the people, who represent the people.

The oath you took is clear; to support and defend the Constitution, not the institution-- not the Army, not the Corps, not the division, not the brigade, not the battalion, not the company, not the platoon, and not the squad—but the nation.

I learned that leadership is hard.  Karl von Clausewitz once said that “everything in war is easy, but the easy things are difficult.”  Leadership sounds easy in the books, but it is quite difficult in real life.  I learned that leadership is difficult because it is a human interaction and nothing, nothing is more daunting, more frustrating more complex than trying to lead men and women in tough times. Those officers that do it well earn your respect, because doing it poorly is common place.  You will be challenged to do it well.  

I learned that taking care of soldiers is not about coddling them.  It is about challenging them .  Establishing a standard of excellence and holding them accountable for reaching it.  I learned that good officers lead from the front.  I can’t count the times that I saw Petraeus, without body armor, walking the streets of Mosul, Baghdad or Ramadi, to share the dangers with his men and to show the enemy he wasn’t afraid.

Or McChrystal, jocking-up to go on a long patrol with his Rangers or SEALs in Afghanistan; Dempsey on a spur ride in Iraq; Austin at the head of his Division during the invasion of Iraq; Odierno, cigar in mouth, rumbling through the streets of Basrah; Rodriguez and Dailey always center stage during the tough fights in Iraq and Afghanistan.

I learned that if you are in combat, move to where the action is the hottest .  Spend time with the soldiers being miserable, exhausted and scared.  If you’re a Blackhawk pilot or a tank commander, spend some time on the flight line or in the motor pool with the maintainers and the wrench turners. Whatever position or branch you are in, find the toughest, most dangerous, job in your unit and go do it.

I learned that you won’t get a lot of thanks in return.  I learned that you shouldn’t expect it.  Your soldiers are doing the tough job every day, but I guarantee you, you will learn a lot about your troops and they will learn a lot about you.

I learned that the great leaders know how to fail.  In the course of your Army career you will likely fail and fail often.  Nothing so steels you for battle like failure. No officer I watched got it right, every time.  But the great ones know that when they fail, they must pick themselves up, learn from their mistakes and move on.  

Rudyard Kipling, the great British storyteller, poet and soldier once wrote, in part, “If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you. If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you, but make allowances for their doubting too. If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster and treat those two imposters just the same. Yours is the earth and everything that’s in it and which is more-- you’ll be a man my son.”

If you can’t stomach failure, then you will never be a great leader. I learned that great Army officers are risk takers, but the greatest risk is not on the battlefield, but in standing up for what’s right.  

I have seen a young lieutenant stand up to a colonel when that officer’s behavior was out of line.  I have seen a captain challenge a general about a flawed battle plan.  I have seen many a general privately confront their civilian leadership and question the merits of the national decisions. All Army officers are expected to take risks in battle.  The truly great officers know that real victory is achieved when men and women of character take professional risks and challenge the weak - kneed, the faint of heart, the indecisive or the bullies.

And finally, in watching Army officers, young and old, I learned that the great officers are equally good at following as they are at leading. Following is one of the most underrated aspects of leadership and each of you will be asked to follow someone else.  The strength of a good unit rests more on how well the officers follow the commander, than how well they lead their own soldiers. I have seen many a good Battalion and Company underachieve because someone in the officer ranks thought the Commander was incompetent and quietly worked to undermine his authority.

I guarantee you, that in the course of your career you will work for leaders whom you don’t like and don’t respect.  It will be easy to make fun of their idiosyncrasies, their receding hair line, their soft chin or their spouse.  Be very careful about getting too smug, too opinionated and too righteous.  As long as the actions of y our commander are moral, legal and ethical, then do everything you can to support the chain of command and avoid the rolling eyes, the whisper campaigns and junior officer dissension.

I learned that the great Army officers know how to follow. And what about the soldiers that you will lead? In my career I have been fortunate to have served beside soldiers from the Screaming Eagles of the 101st Division, the paratroopers of the All American Division, the 1st Armored Division, the 1st Cavalry Division, the10th Mountain Division, the 1st, 3rd and 4th Infantry Division, all Groups of the Special Forces Regiment and my beloved Army Rangers.

I learned that the greatest privilege the Army can bestow upon you is to give you the opportunity to lead such magnificent men and women. These soldiers are not without their challenges.  Your soldiers will, at times, question your authority.  They will undermine your actions.  They will mislead you, frustrate you, disappoint you, and occasionally fail you. But, when the chips are down, I mean really down, your soldiers will be there and they will inspire you with their courage, their sense of duty, their leadership, their love and their respect.

In difficult times, your soldiers will be everything you dreamed they would be—and more. All one has to do is look at the citations that accompany the actions of Sergeants Sal Giunta, Leroy Petry, Robbie Miller, Ty Carter, Jared Monti, Ross McGinnis, Paul Smith, and Clinton Romesha.  Men whose unparalleled heroism, above and beyond the call of duty, was only apparent moments before their brothers were threatened. I learned that your soldiers are at their best when their brothers and sisters in arms are threatened.  They are at their best when life deals them the hardest of blows and their indomitable spirit shines through.

In 2007, I visited the intensive care unit in Landstuhl, Germany, where the Army was sending all of its most critically injured soldiers from Iraq. As I walked into the sterile room, clad from head to toe in clean white garb, a man lay naked on the bed in front of me.  Missing one leg above the knee and part of the foot on the other leg, he was swollen beyond recognition from the blast of an IED.

The doctor in attendance didn’t know the man’s unit or service.  I asked the man in the bed if he was a Marine or a Soldier.  Unable to talk, he pointed to his thigh.  There on what was left of his thigh, was a tattoo; the 1st Infantry Division. “You’re a soldier,” I remarked.  He nodded.  “An infantryman.” I said. He smiled through what was left of his face and then he picked up a clipboard upon which he had been writing notes. He looked me in the eye and wrote on the paper.  “I –will—be— infantry—again!”  Exclamation point.  And somehow I knew that he would.

Just like the young Ranger in the combat hospital at Bagram who had both his legs amputated and was also unable to speak.  The nurse at his bedside said that he knew sign language.  His mother was deaf and the soldier had learned to sign at a young age.  He was so very young and a part of me must have shown a small sign of pity for this Ranger whose life had just been devastated.   With a picture of hand gestures in front of me, the Ranger, barely able to move and in excruciating pain, signed, “I will be okay.”

And a year later I saw him at the Ranger Regimental Change of Command. He was wearing his prosthetic shorties, smiling from ear to ear and challenging the Rangers around him to a pull up contest.  He was okay. Just like the young female sergeant who I just visited at Walter Reed this week.  She was seriously injured in a parachute accident.  With her father by her side, she laughed off the injury like it was a scratch.  She’s been in the hospital for two months and has years of rehabilitation ahead of her.  She has no self- pity, no remorse, no regrets, just determination to get back to her unit.

These soldiers and tens of thousands like them will be the warriors you lead in 500 days.  You had better be up to the task, because I have learned that they expect you to be good. And, most importantly, I also learned that y our soldiers expect you to hold them to high standards.  These soldiers joined the service to be part of something special and if they are not held to a high standard, if their individual efforts are no more important, no more appreciated than the efforts of a slacker then it will directly affect the morale of the unit.

And I learned that nothing is more important than the morale of a unit. MacArthur once said of morale, “…that it cannot be produced by pampering or coddling an Army, and it is not necessarily destroyed by hardship, danger, or even calamity…It will wither quickly, however, if soldiers come to believe themselves the victims of indifference or injustice on the part…of their leaders.”

The great leaders in the Army never accept indifference or injustice and they only judge their soldiers based on the merit of their work.  Nothing else is important.  Not the soldier’s size, not their color, not their gender, not their orientation, not their religion, not their ethnicity— nothing is important, but how well your soldiers do their job.

I am confident that history will reflect that the young American’s who enlisted in the Army after September 11th, were equal in greatness to their grandfathers and their great grandfathers who fought in the World Wars—and in 500 days you will inherit these incredible soldiers.  Be ready.

Finally, in watching the Army for most of my career, I learned that no institution in the world has the history, the legacy, the traditions, or the pride that comes from being a soldier.  I am envious beyond words. I learned that whether you serve 4 years or 40 years you will never, ever regret your decision to have joined the United States Army. You will serve beside the finest men and women in America.  You will be challenged every day.

You will fail.  You will succeed.  You will grow. You will have adventures to fill ten life times and stories that your friends from home will never be able to understand. Your children and their children and their children’s children, will be incredibly proud of your service and when you pass from this earth, the Nation that you served so very well will honor you for your duty.  And your only regret will be that you could not have served longer.  

And if for one moment you believe that because Iraq is over and Afghanistan is winding down that the future holds few challenges for you, then you are terribly, terribly mistaken.  Because as long as there are threats to this great Nation, the Army upon which this Nation was founded, will be the cornerstone of its security, it’s freedom and its future.  And you, as Army Officers, will shape that future, secure our freedoms and protect us from harm.     

So what has this sailor learned?   That there is no more noble calling in the world than to be a soldier in the United States Army. Good luck to you all as you complete your final 500 days.  May God bless America and may we always have the privilege to serve her.  Thank you very much.

While doing some searching on the Internet, I came across an article on public speaking. The speaker said early in every presentation, he tells people

“This presentation is for you. So don’t hesitate to interrupt me and ask questions. In fact I encourage you to argue with me.  I’m here for you. In fact, I challenge you to throw me off.  That’s what makes this fun.”

While his intent is positive, how I could not DISAGREE more with most of what he said. Sentence by sentence, here are my comments and suggestions:
a) This presentation is for you
> I like it

b) “So” don’t hesitate to interrupt me and ask questions.
> “So” is a filler word. It is one thing to say it and another to write it. Don’t include it in your writing. One thing to note, “so” is one of my filler words and I continue to work on removing it from my speaking

c) “don’t hesitate to interrupt me and ask questions”
> “interrupt” is a negative word, 1,000%. It means to stop someone from doing what they were doing. No one likes to be interrupted.
> instead, say something like, “don’t hesitate to ask questions” or make it more positive by saying, “please ask questions at any time.”

d) In fact I encourage you to argue with me.
> Really, you want people to argue with you? In public? In front of everyone else in the room? In front of your superiors, colleagues, friends?
> I find this statement illogical. Can you think of any time in your personal or professional life you wanted to be sitting next to or standing next to two people arguing? People run from conflict…it’s human nature.
> Part of his audience are global professionals. There is a huge disconnect here as global audience members never ever, never ever, challenge the speaker.
> Make people feel good about interacting with you, the speaker. Perhaps something like, “if you have experiences different than what I am talking about, please share them. Different perspectives are helpful to everyone.”

e) I’m here for you
> It’s okay

f) In fact, I challenge you to throw me off.
> see comments under (d)

Here’s my suggestion for a revised introduction.

“This presentation is for you. Please ask questions at any time…don’t hesitate. If you have experiences different than what I am talking about, please share them. Different perspectives are helpful to everyone. Hearing from you is what makes this fun.”

What do you think?

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy Holidays and Happy New Year 2014

Everyone at The Chief Storyteller® wishes you a warm, safe, and relaxing holiday season. Here's a little humor we shared years ago with our first holiday greeting card.

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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Leadership and Lifelong Learning

President John F. Kennedy once said, “Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.”

Take a moment and think about the leaders you know. Leaders of industry, thought, government, sports and your community…the people who inspire us to give our very best are the ones who do not assume they know everything. They know they will make mistakes from time to time.  And they trust the people they lead to help them when they ask for answers to some of their toughest challenges.

Leaders who are lifelong learners are approachable. They ask questions and they encourage open and honest feedback. They foster a culture where team members tell them what they need to hear, not what they want to hear.  They encourage others to take risks and they embrace each failure as an opportunity to learn.

A commitment to lifelong learning. Few attributes define the character of a leader more than this one.

I have come to learn and be a fan of The American Freedom Foundation several years ago.Its "mission is to honor the men and women of America’s armed forces, raise awareness for their service and sacrifice and raise money for organizations that serve and support our Veterans, active duty military and their families." AFF has partnered with AUSA to hold a Warriors to the Workforce event at its annual convention in the Washingont, DC area Oct 21 to Oct 23.

Guy Timberlake, CEO, of The American Small Business Coalition, (I'm a member) connected me to AFF. I'll be presenting on 10/23 a program on the importance of your personal "Tell me about yourself" story and business storytelling in general.

The event is free of charge.

 

 American Freedom Foundation’s Warriors to the Workforce
Hiring Event at AUSA Announces Workshop Sessions  

12 Workshop sessions will take place at October 21 – 23 to provide resources and information for veterans and transitioning military 


The Warriors to The Workforce Hiring Event presented by SourceAmerica™ during the 2013 AUSA Annual Meeting & Exposition at the Washington DC Convention Center on October 21 – 23, 2013 will include workshops featuring some of the top speakers in the country providing resources and information for veterans and transitioning military.   

Presentations will include topics such as mental readiness, confidence building, networking and presentation skills, resume writing, interviewing techniques, job searching, career planning through goal setting, translating military skills and training into civilian life and corporate experience, among others.

In addition to these transition workshops, veterans will have the opportunity to meet with some of the country’s largest and most veteran friendly employers including ADS, Inc., Aerotek, ATK, Inc. BAE Systems, Ball Aerospace, Calibre, Camber, CSC, EMCOR, ESRI, First Command, Fluor, General Dynamics Information Technology, Geneva Software, HP, Kaplan, Kelly Services, L-­?3 National Security Solutions, Lockheed Martin, Marriott International, Navy Federal Credit Union, Northrop Grumman, Pricewaterhouse Coopers, SAIC, SourceAmerica, Troops Into Transportation, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Verizon, Vets Group and Veterans Administration.

The Latino Hotel and Restaurant Association, LHRA, is on of the preeminent organizations representing the business interests of Latino hotel owners, operators and developers. Internationally, members own and operate hotels representing more than 20,000 rooms, employing over 15,000 individuals, and whose assets are valued at more than $2 billion.

Over 300 people from the US, Mexico, Central and South America will be attend. Members are influential, decision-making executives.

If you are in the hotel or restaurant industry, join me and hundreds of professionals from around the world.  I will be delivering Thursday morning's keynote, "Get Funded: Design and Deliver the Perfect Investor Pitch."

Top 5 Reasons to Attend

1. Forecasting. We cannot predict the weather in Florida, but our expert speakers and panelists can make educated predictions on how they think hotels and restaurants will preform in 2014!

2. Education. Two action packed days of presentations and panels focusing on industry trends that will help attendees boost their performance.

3. Networking with colleagues. Mix with other successful hospitality business professionals at our unique receptions and breaks.Last year we had a chefs competition to close the event...this year savory dishes will kick it off!

4. Legacy Building. Join LHRA as they hosts this year's Battle of the Brands - High Stakes Golf Tournament to support Latino students seeking careers in the hospitality industry! Compete in this stimulating golf tournament and help us raise money for student scholarships!!!

5. Industry Recognition. Meet owners, operators, developers and industry suppliers who have proven themselves worthy of LHRA recognition at this year's Estrella Awards!

 

Article Summary:  With today’s communications so fast and furious, do you have the time to really process the multitude of messages demanding your attention? Of course you don’t. As a leader who has to communicate your own vision, how then do you ensure your messages resonate and generate the right actions? By surrounding them with compelling personal stories. Together, they make a business story. With our easy global access to diverse cultures and experiences, your words and stories matter to those around you more than ever before.  So Mr./Ms. Leader, what personal stories are you telling to inspire action? Do your audiences respond the way you intended?  [Note, this article was originally written for The Latino Hotel and Restaurant Association (LHRA)

 

Great Leaders are Great Storytellers:  Five Tips to Improve Your Leadership Effectiveness
Copyright © The Chief Storyteller® LLC. All rights reserved.
Ira J. Koretsky
July 2013, Published with The Latino Hotel and Restaurant Association (LHRA)


With today’s communications so fast and furious, do you have the time to really process the multitude of messages demanding your attention? Of course you don’t. You pick and choose based on what resonates.

So as a leader who has to communicate your own vision, how then do you ensure your messages resonate and generate the right actions? By surrounding them with compelling personal stories. Together, they make a business story.

If you were to look back over your career at the leaders that inspired you, I would bet part of what makes you smile when you think of them was their ability to connect to both your heart and your mind. Truly, only through business stories can you accomplish both.

During my career, two leaders have really stood out. When I think of Mike C. and Colonel M., I smile and remember fondly my time working with each of them. They stand out because of how each treated me—they were great listeners, they were great advisors, and they were great supporters. Over 26 years later, I am still friends with Mike C. Unfortunately, I lost track of Colonel M. when I left the US Army.

Why did Mike and the Colonel make such powerful and indelible impressions? Our shared experiences. Experiences define us. And it’s the stories we share about these experiences that help shape the world around us. We live through each other’s stories. The best stories have several key characteristics. They are simple; are easily understood; have immediate resonance; are delivered passionately; and have a positive outcome or learning experience.

Great leaders are great storytellers.

Whether you are speaking at a small, informal meeting; in front of investors; or before thousands at a shareholder’s meeting, use these five tips to improve your own business storytelling.

Identify the One Thing You Want them to Remember
Ensure your business story has only one key message. In the absence of a clear message, audience members will either forget what you said or create their own interpretation. Think of your message as a headline—about seven words in length. To see the potential power of a headline, try this: Type a phrase into your favorite search engine. You will be greeted with hundreds, if not thousands, of examples of pithy, short phrases all vying for your “click me” action. Which one will you click?

“Texture” Your Story
Use a variety of language styles. Imagine you were in an audience listening to some of our greatest contemporary storytellers. They use a variety of techniques and styles such as metaphors, alliteration, and repetition. Be deliberate in your word choices. Be deliberate in using character dialogue. Be deliberate with your rhetorical devices (by way of example, starting several consecutive sentences with the same words is a repetition figure of speech called “anaphora”).

Make the Journey Relevant
Make your story pass the “so what” test. Invite your audience into your experience by sharing the WIIFM?What’s In It For Me. Well-told stories create a shared experience, which enables your listeners to understand your business message on a personal level. Your words should crystallize common values and experiences. Be sure to answer the audience’s question of “Why is this important to me?”

Only Share the Good Parts
Edit ruthlessly. You have at most, three minutes to share your business story. Don’t think the whole story has to be shared. It doesn’t. And it shouldn’t. Instead, rethink how you tell your story in a business setting. Typical personal stories told at parties involve boring parts. Lots of boring parts, with the good parts interspersed. The good parts make your story interesting. If you need a little help identifying the good parts, ask your friends and colleagues for feedback. Or next time you tell a favorite story, listen for questions and look for favorable body language. Now edit or omit everything else. Then texture your words around the good parts.

It’s All About Them
Once you have identified your stories, think carefully about the words you are using. Words conjure feelings and emotions. The words you use and the stories you tell can elicit positive and negative feelings equally well. Words and stories have context and perspective. Many words have multiple meanings, and tone and delivery can be understood?or misunderstood?in a variety of ways. For example, the expression “You’re crazy,” can be playful, argumentative, or even condescending.

Leaders are constantly looked to for guidance and advice. Remember it’s all about them? It’s all about your audience. So Mr./Ms. Leader, what personal stories are you telling to inspire action? Do your audiences respond the way you intended?

With our easy global access to diverse cultures and experiences, your words and stories matter to those around you more than ever before. Be deliberate with the stories you tell and the messages you share. Follow the advice of famous novelist Joseph Conrad: “I have no use for engines. Give me the right word...and I will move the world.”

-----

Ira Koretsky is the president of The Chief Storyteller®, a boutique marketing and sales consulting firm. He has delighted audiences around the world helping them achieve better business outcomes and accelerate their revenue with highly effective written, spoken, and social media communications. With over 25 years of experience, he is a sought-after global speaker, columnist, consultant, and executive coach. Find him on Twitter, LinkedIn®, and YouTube.

 

In an instant, I can always tell what my experience is going to be with a brand, company or organization I am interacting with for the first time. In most cases, I can see it. Where I cannot see it, I can hear it. And regardless of whether I can see or hear it, I can almost always feel it. In a word, it’s a smile.

A smile is contagious. It starts with your employees and how they greet one another at the beginning of their work day. It extends to how they greet your customers at every touch point in their experience with your brand, company or organization. You don’t need a magnifying glass to observe it. And you won’t see it measured on any report. You will, however, know it when you see it.

So the next time someone asks you to look into improving your customer experience, start where it matters…at the beginning. How are your employees greeting one another? How often do they smile when they are at work? Can you see the smiles on their faces? Or hear them in their voices? Or feel them by their presence?

Remember, all great customer experiences begin with a smile.

I read an article by best-selling author and syndicated columnist Harvey Mackay (“Swim with the Sharks without Being Eaten Alive”) in the Washington Business Journal the other day where he cited research that shows “buyers are not reaching out to contact salespeople and sales organizations until they’re 60-70 percent along in the decision process.”

The simple truth is customers are doing their homework. They are going online and researching the answers to their needs and problems. They are forming opinions on who they think can best help them. Then they are reaching out to sellers for the one thing they cannot get online – a better price.

This is where the value of preparation comes into play. In today’s selling environment, salespeople need to provide value by telling buyers something they don’t already know…answers to questions like:
• What makes you and your products different?
• How can you and your products help me?
• How do you know you can help me?

The sellers who can answer these questions with thoughtful and relevant responses are the ones who are most likely to make the sale, often commanding a price premium even in today’s market. Those who cannot are the ones who will most often find themselves responding to RFPs and attempting to sell highly commoditized products at the lowest price.

 

I received this advertisment from Flickr. I like the content, style, layout, and message.

I would prefer to see a smiling person(s) instead of a flower. The message, in bold white letters, is "Smile." If the folks at Flickr really want to use a flower (assuming a connection to Spring), then use smiling people holding flowers or running in a field.

Your photography and imagery should always match the picture. Otherwise you run the risk of creating messaging disconnects. Messaging disconnects reduce click-throughs, success of call-to-action buttons, signups, purchases, and so forth.

 

In a few weeks, I will attend my 30th college reunion at Fairfield University. It’s hard to believe so many years have gone by since I received my undergraduate degree in Marketing and said goodbye to the place that had been home for four great years.

As I scanned photos of this year’s commencement activities on the University’s Facebook and Instagram pages the other day, it was easy to take myself back in time. I remember thinking on graduation day I had made it. I did it. I had become one of my family's first-generation college graduates. I had no idea what the future would hold. All I had at that point were fond memories, lessons learned from my undergraduate studies and the promise of an uncertain future.

Thirty years later, the feeling I had on graduation day remains with me. I did it.  Along with my wife, I have since raised a family, earned an MBA, built two successful careers in business, given back to my community in countless ways and have reconnected to many of my college friends and the place I once called home.

I’ve applied many of the lessons I learned at Fairfield over the last thirty years. Of these, I think the most important is this – in everything you do, always remember to make it about “them.” The people who tend to be the most successful in life are the best listeners. They are sincere, open, honest and responsive to others. They are team players and treat others the way they would like to be treated.  They respect the people in their lives and spend time getting to know, understand and appreciate them.

As I look back now and think about it, this is probably the one big lesson the Jesuit Fathers and my other college professors hoped I would take away from my undergraduate experience. You see, making it about “them” is not only the foundation of great marketing, it’s a big part of the Jesuit commitment to service and social justice.

I am a huge fan of audio books. On the plane, in the car, and on the subway I am catching up on my favorite business books and for pleasure books. A colleague introduced me to John Scalzi, who is primarily a sci-fi writer. As I do every time with new authors, I read reviews on Amazon, biographies on Wikipedia and Amazon, and ask the referrering person more about style and substance.

Reading John's bio on Amazon really piqued my interest. Reading the bio shows me he's a bit wry, funny, well-liked (he's won several awards), and has an interesting call-to-action at the end.

John Scalzi writes books, which, considering where you're reading this, makes perfect sense. He's best known for writing science fiction, for which he won the John W. Campbell Award (2006) and has been nominated for the Hugo Award for best novel (2006, 2008, 2009). He also writes non-fiction, on subjects ranging from personal finance to astronomy to film, and was the Creative Consultant for the Stargate: Universe television series. He enjoys pie, as should all right thinking people. You can get to his blog by typing the word "Whatever" into Google. No, seriously, try it.

I indeed typed "Whatever" into Google and John's blog came up first. I'm convinced. Now I have to figure out which book to read first.

Moral of the story:  If you have a personal bio on your website, LinkedIn profile, speaker one sheet, etc., have you considered, seriously considered changing it? Most bios are factual and chronological splashed at the end with the "Ira's married to the love of his life, has a wonderful daughter, and enjoys photography in his spare time." When I thought conservative was better, I didn't stand out. Today, my bio helps me more memorable and more engaging. My bio gives people reasons and opportunities to talk with me more about my background.

Try changing your bio....even if it is just a little.

Postscript 1:  I just looked at his LinkedIn page and this is his first sentence in his Summary:  "I write. I edit. I get paid. I fight crime! I lied about that last one."

Postscript 2:  Some people asked that I include my bio. The bio is available as a PDF on The Chief Storyteller website, is included with my speaking engagements, has a variation on social media sites like LinkedIn and Twitter, is included in proposals, and the list goes on. People always ask me about something in the bio.

“Think deliberately.” The mantra of a person who has made improving communications his life’s work.

It all began some 30 years ago, at a high school science fair. Ira had presented his computer program on the heart and the circulatory system. One by one, the prizes were announced...third...second...first place. After nearly 100 hours of programming evenings and weekends, he slumped his shoulders and thought to himself, “I lost.” Then...Ira heard the chairwoman announce, “We are awarding the grand prize to a young man who could sell me my own pair of shoes!” And his name was called.

For more than 26 years nationally and internationally, Ira has been building his communication skills into a well-honed set of precision instruments. Within minutes, he will fundamentally change the way you communicate.

His most pivotal experience was serving as a public affairs officer in the United States Army Medical Service Corps. Trained in giving and preparing presentations for military and civilian executives, he gained invaluable insights into messaging, communications, and storytelling.

Living on both coasts, Ira has held various leadership roles in marketing and product management. After earning his MBA from the University of Maryland in 2000, Ira entered into the world of leading edge technology. It was while working in San Francisco and Silicon Valley he began to adapt his skills for use with the new, technology-driven tools today’s professionals have come to rely on.

And like all good communicators, Ira loves the stage. He performed improvisational humor professionally with ComedySportz in a career spanning 12 years and more than 1,000 shows. While performing, Ira had this epiphany: “improv mirrors life.” Life experiences stem from random and planned connections with people, and it is these experiences that help us to bond quickly with audiences.

Ira is an active blogger and writer, was a guest columnist for the Washington Business Journal, and an adjunct professor at the University of Maryland. He helped the a US government contracting firm win a $94 million multi-year project; Altum develop a proposal that had a 100% success rate in going to the final decision round; and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) secure funding for the National Youth Fitness Survey.

Last week I had the honor of being a semi-finalist judge for the The George Wasington University Business Plan Competition. About 35 judges discussed the merits and potential of some 30 business plans. Our focus was to select the eight lucky finalists. These finalists would then pitch on April 19, competing for over $60,000 in cash prizes.  We had some passionate discussions, laughed a bit, and in the end, chose some really interesting ideas. I am really looking forward to the presentations next week. If you are interested in attending, the link is at the bottom.

Brief Background
The GW Business Plan Competition, founded five years ago by Florida Governor Rick Scott and First Lady Annette Scott, awards over $60,000 in cash prizes to teams of GW students, faculty and alumni who have innovative ideas for new products and/or services. The Scotts' daughter, Allison Scott Guimard, is an alumna of GW's School of Business, class of 2005.

With 109 submissions from 12 schools at GW, participation has increased significantly over the years. From those initial submissions, 35 student-based teams were invited to write full business plans, and from them, eight teams made it to the GW Business Plan Competition Finals. These eight finalists will present their business plans and ideas to a panel of distinguished entrepreneurs, investors, venture capitalists and GW alumni.

Event
Eight student-led teams will present their winning business ideas and compete for over $60,000 in cash prizes during the GW Business Plan Competition. The GW Business Plan Competition Finals are the culmination of a year-long series of educational workshops and active mentorship on new venture creation. Finalists will present their business plans and ideas to a panel of distinguished entrepreneurs, investors, venture capitalists and GW alumni. In addition, winners from previous years will be present to talk about where they have taken their businesses since securing funding in a previous GW Business Plan Competition. Registration and a full schedule are available here.

Final presentations and awards will take place from 9:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. on Friday, April 19. The event is open to GW students, alumni, faculty, staff and members of the general public.

The George Washington University
School of Business
Duques Hall, 6th Floor
2201 G Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C.

Schedule for the day and to register, click here.

If you are planning to attend let me know, we can meet up there for some coffee.

The other day, Geetesh Baraj, PowerPoint MVP and Manager of the "PowerPoint and Presenting Stuff" LinkedIn Group posted the following question to the group.  My suggestions follow below...

Creating Slides for Multi-Lingual Audiences
I am researching a blog post topic -- since it is still being researched, anything mentioned below is not set in stone. I am open to all your thoughts and the scenario and the suggestions can be broadly changed as required.
Here is the scenario, and as I said, this is a broad definition that can be changed:
1. You need to create slides for a multi-lingual audience.
2. Everyone in the audience understands English to some extent, but they are not necessarily fluent in the language.
3. The presentation needs to distributed later to audience members -- and some others who were not present at the actual event.
4. Before distribution, the presentation may need to be translated to other languages -- this means that there needs to be some basic amount of text.

What are your thoughts about the use of:
1. Story / Outline: How deep should this be? Should the depth level be low -- will that compromise the content?
2. Text: What level of simplification?
3. Visuals: Should pictures replace text, or complement it?
4. Design and Color: What works best?

 

My response:

Geetesh,

Interesting...

I've pondered this several years ago before I started presenting internationally. I have had the honor of conducting programs in 8 countries with six trips involving simultaneous translation. Here are some questions and suggestions.

1. How knowledgeable is the audience? Without knowing your answer, in general, I suggest ~30 to 50% reduction in complexity and content
2) The broad brush suggestion is to translate the presentation and handouts in advance. Bring your own version matched page-for-page with the translated version
3) Find people through your network whom have done business, worked in, or lived in the country/region and solicit feedback
4) Localize--always. For color, fonts, pictures, graphs, words, humor, etc. Some seemingly small things could actually backfire and you may never even know it
5) Consider an appendix or handouts with tips, examples, and how-to's
6) Solicit feedback from the audience afterward. Be gentle as you probe, as some cultures are not forthcoming with what they deem criticism of the speaker

I was at an all-day conference a few days ago. Each of the sessions was a panel. During the second session, one panelist said "That's a great question." Then it became a contagious virus. The second panelist said "That's a great question." And of course, the third panelist followed. Subsequently, EVERY single question was followed by "That's a great question" or something very close. The woman next to me leaned over and said, "I bet that's a great question" and we both laughed and cringed.

This prompted me to write the Tip of Week with the same title. I included the tip below...

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Saying “That’s a great question,” detracts from your credibility, no matter what. If you are like some, you use it all the time hoping to make everyone feel positive about asking questions. In this case, no one feels special as it is used every time. And by the third or so time you use it, “great question” sounds disingenuous.

If you say it occasionally, then you alienate those that did not receive a “great question” response…immediately.

Instead, remain neutral throughout your time with your audience. Respond and acknowledge points without tipping the emotional balance.

Here are a few suggested responses after receiving a question:
- Thank you for your question
- Please (and gesture/point to the person encouraging him/her to begin talking)
- Thank you for asking that question
- Yes (and gesture/point to the person encouraging him/her to begin talking)

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