How else will mobile phones ruin your life?

I’ve owned a cell phone since 1999. I even had a bag phone circa 1995. Over 80% of American adults now use some kind of mobile phone. In my experience, I see cell phones as a tool that helps us avoid making plans and sticking to them.

Cell phones give people an excuse to be late.

Today, it’s more popular to say “I’ll just text and say I’m running late,” than it is to actually show up at a previously agreed upon time and place.

If I decide to travel without my cell phone, etiquette-wise, I’m the one who’s in the wrong.

“Didn’t you get my text 15 minutes ago telling you that I’d be 30 minutes late and in a different building? No? What’s wrong with you? The mobile phone frees us from the shackles of planning and commitment. Do not ever let yourself become separated from the bonds that free you. Ever again.”

(Not) Reading Texts Photo credit: C.A.P.

People use their cell phones, excuse me — I mean mobile phones — excuse me, I mean smart phones —  for more than calling these days. Curiously, calling people is not the core function of the modern phone. Mostly, American adults use their “mo smart” phones — yes, that sounds right — so that they can be marketed to more effectively.

Really, there’s little point walking around unfettered. The mo smart phone enables relevant messages to permeate your random thoughtstream. Why simply walk past a bakery without a second glance, thinking poetically about profound matters of the heart, when a small electronic noise can alert you that one of your friends whose taste you don’t admire once frequented the establishment in 2010? And that if you, too, visit the bakery immediately, you may get 50 cents off your bill and earn a perky point? Really? Why wouldn’t you want this kind of geographically relevant data occupying your thoughts every square second of the day? How is this not an improvement on making your own fuzzy mental connections that may not have anything to do with said bakery?

What’s the point of pointless pondering or mindless meditation? Why not cram those useless moments with direct and geographically relevant marketing filler?

The mo smart phone can fill those empty spots in your head with all sorts of tittle-tattle, as well. Instead of interacting with the immediate, physical world or making your own unique mental connections; you can fill those unproductive moments with the knowledge that a girl you once knew in high school thinks her kitten is cute, and so do her friends, most of whom you do not know.

The right kind of knowledge, at the exact right time and place, is the right kind of power.

Blogging fun social media Twitter

The most passive-aggressive phrase in social media

Ding ding ding! We have a winner for THE MOST passive-aggressive phrase used in Facebook and Twitter posts.

Coming in at number one: “some people…”.

As in posting “Some people tear down everything positive we try to do for our community” instead of “Cindy habitually encourages people to think critically before jumping on dubious social media bandwagons with wild enthusiasm!”

Or “Some people overreact to everything!” instead of “Greg seems empathetic & usually writes passionately when he believes that oppressed people are being harmed.”

some girls - the rolling stones

Photo Credit: OddSock

For the legions of “some people” and “everything” posters out there, please note: there is but one letter of difference between “posting” and “pouting”. You can make a stronger case if you write with specificity as well as passion. Engaging directly with folks who think differently can help you adjust or strengthen your point of view.

Keeping your sense of humor can help, too.

What are your runner-ups for the most counterproductive phrases you’ve seen in Twitterville and Facebookland lately?

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Steal This Press Conference!

Actually, the title of this post should be:

“If you don’t like the news, why not go out and make your own?”

The above question is a quote from “Steal This Book“, a social instruction guide written by Abbie Hoffman in the 1970’s. Hoffman was a master at getting free publicity for his causes in the 1960’s and 70’s. He didn’t have the power of Goliath on his side — large corporations and governments certainly did not appreciate his approach! Instead, Hoffman used the stealthy power of a David to successfully change the course of the Amerikan conversation.

Abbie Hoffmancredit: osbomb

In one paragraph, Hoffman describes timeless presentation techniques for snatching free publicity using the conventional press conference system. With the popularity of social media channels, Hoffman’s techniques may be even more effective today than they were over 40 years ago.

The paragraph, in its entirety, is in italics below. I broke up the paragraph with free (stolen?) images from Flickr, for your viewing enjoyment.

Everything about a successful press conference must be dramatic, from the announcements and phone calls to the statements themselves. Nothing creates a worse image than four or five men in business suits sitting behind a table and talking in a calm manner at a fashionable hotel. Constantly seek to have every detail of the press conference differ in style as well as content from the conferences of people in power.

DSC_0069.JPGcredit: Andrew Feinberg

Make use of music and visual effects.

Bidê ou Balde - Natal da Integração Campo Bom - Dez 2008credit: Tiago Zaniratti

Don’t stiffen up before the press. Make the statement as short and to the point as possible. Don’t read from notes, look directly into the camera.

ACORN press conference 12/18/08credit: ProgressOhio

The usual television spot is one minute and twenty seconds. The cameras start buzzing on your opening statement and often run out of film before you finish. So make it brief and action packed.

GAW: Massive Dynamiccredit: Giant Ideas

The question period should be even more dramatic. Use the questioner’s first name when answering a question. This adds an air of informality and networks are more apt to use an answer directed personally to one of their newsmen.

TR20081106-011credit: Menlo School

Express your emotional feelings. Be funny, get angry, be sad or ecstatic. If you cannot convey that you are deeply excited or troubled or outraged about what you are saying, how do you expect it of others who are watching a little image box in their living room?

Bumper Sticker Wisdomcredit: Kevin Krejci

Remember, you are advertising a new way of life to people. Watch TV commercials. See how they are able to convey everything they need to be effective in such a short time and limited space.

A Christmas Present for My Snow-Bound Friendscredit: Caveman 92223

At the same tune you’re mocking the shit they are pushing, steal their techniques.

Keeping it Real, West Jerusalemcredit: David Masters

How many of Hoffman’s techniques can you “steal” to help promote your own worthy cause? And how astute is  “the establishment” (politicians, governments, large corporations and organizations, etc.) becoming at using Hoffman’s style to promote their own agenda?

How many of these techniques have you seen successfully deployed lately? Book burning, anyone?

PS — If you’d like to steal Hoffman’s book, I found it as a free pdf download here: I wonder how long before it will be a free Kindle download on Amazon… it only seems fitting.

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Holy Mackerel! What’s the Best Speaker Gift Ever?

Recently, I received a can of mackerel as a gift. It wasn’t a speaker gift. It was, however, an unusual gift.

It was also an unusually thoughtful gift. How so?

A week earlier, I told an off-topic story. I heard an interview on NPR that fish at the bottom of the food chain — sardines, anchovies, herring, mackerel — are nutritious and better environmental choices than salmon and tuna.

However, most Americans haven’t developed a taste for these “lower food chain” fish. I mentioned that the NPR interview gave me the inspiration to try to develop a palate for these fish:

  • Herring, I already like.
  • Anchovies, they’re OK to cook with occasionally.
  • Sardines, meh. I had a sardine bake last week. It was OK, not great. But I love canned sardines on rye! Bonus points for hot sauce.

As for mackerel, I’ve been warned against it repeatedly. I’ve never tried it.

Holy Mackerel Speaker Gifts

That was the gist of my off-hand story. A week later, I received the can of mackerel as a gift, with the challenge to try it. I love a challenge, so I’m going to do it. I’m going to eat that can of mackerel.

More than anything, I love that someone was listening to my offhand comment, and took the time to respond with a thoughtful — albeit unusual — gift.

This made me think of business and speaker gifts I’ve given and received over the years. I once gave a man a smoked salmon as a speaker gift — long story, drug dogs at the airport went insane, security guards drawing weapons — but in the end, it all worked out. The guy’s secretary probably loved the story of temporary airport incarceration more than the actual salmon. But ever since, I’ve been leery of giving the gift of fish. It’s an act of crazy bravado.

However, you’ve really got a challenge when you give a speaker gift. How can you top an unusual, personalized gift like a can of mackerel or a story of incarceration?

The Best Speaker Gift Ever! One of the keys of giving a truly thoughtful gift is to listen to your speaker. If you’re hiring someone to speak at your event or for your organization, read their blog. Follow them on FaceBook, Twitter, or LinkedIn. Watch for that offhand comment — it may be about a mackerel, a passion for falconry, adventures in beekeeping — who knows? Once you know a little bit more about your speaker, you can find something more personal that the leftover SWAG that’s been gathering dust in your office.

It may not be the actual gift that’s treasured — but the story behind the gift. Give the gift of listening and storytelling. Those are the best gifts any speaker can receive.

That, and cash.

PS — What are the oddest — and best — speaker gifts you’ve ever given or received? (And if you have any good recipes for canned mackerel, I’d love to read them…thanks!)

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Top 3 Ways Presenters Can Make Sex Boring

Let’s imagine that you’re asked to give a presentation about sex. Really!

Your audience of adult coworkers are eagerly anticipating the fascinating insights you’re going to share with them in your one-hour presentation.

I’m seriously asking you to imagine this. Go ahead. Giggle, blush, scoff —  but ask yourself:

How might you prepare? What might you say? How will you handle Q &A? What props will you use?

boring presentation

As exciting as the topic is — and as riveted as you know your audience will be to hear you talk — there are three pretty typical ways a business presenter can make even sex boring! Here are the top 3 ways you can make any presentation deadly dull — even if the topic is incredibly provocative.

1. Tell the audience everything you know. Let’s say you  know quite a bit about the topic. You have a list of facts. You know the latest research. You’ve read volumes of historical, sociological, and anthropological perspectives. Jamming it all into one short hour is going to require fast-talking and lots of bullet points.

Instead, resist the urge to sound like a smarty-pants. You’ve only got an hour. Pick a narrow niche. Go deep, not broad.

2. Share facts, not stories. You don’t want your presentation to get too personal. People need solid information, not jokes or anecdotes. Every second you spend sharing a story or a smile is just a lost opportunity to cram in another important fact.

Instead, try the exact opposite approach. Your audience is more likely to learn from a story than from swallowing a list of facts. Tell a story that relates to your topic. People will do more than learn: they’ll remember.

3. Disconnect yourself emotionally. If you want people to take you seriously, you’d better play it straight. Divorce yourself from your emotions, and read stoically from a teleprompter. Use a monotone. Do not make eye contact with the audience.

Instead, try using some emotional range. Good news may require a display of cheer, bad news may go down easier with an honest display of concern or remorse. You can even spruce up an emotionally neutral topic with some sincere enthusiasm or humor.

Business presenters seldom get to deliver a presentation on a topic as exciting as sex. However, “The Top 3 Second Quarter 2010 Business Unit Challenges” can be a downright amazing presentation if you pick a niche, tell stories, and deliver your presentation with passion!

How else can presenters make sex boring?

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Professorial PowerPoint Humor

I’ve only been teaching at the college level for a few terms. One of the chief complaints I hear from students about PowerPoint lectures (from other instructors!) is the unbearable boredom when a professor uses the pre-packaged presentations included with the course textbook. These CDs contain mostly bullet-point outlines of the entire book.

Yes, you read that right. Bullet-point outlines of an entire textbook.

Professors read this mess for an hour or two. In front of their classes!


With all we know about learning and cognitive function, you’d think that professors — dedicated to a career of imparting knowledge — might spend a minute or two understanding that this approach doesn’t help students understand course material. You’d think that textbook publishers — also dedicated to the art of imparting knowledge — might actually read a book or ten about brain function.

PowerPoint expert Ellen Finkelstein poses an excellent question in her LinkedIn group, Great Communicators! Effective Presenting & PowerPoint. Ellen asks,

With so much information about good presentation techniques available, why are there so many Death by PowerPoint presentations given every single day?

Great question, Ellen. You can read some of the answers on her LinkedIn Group… and chime in with your own answers, too.

If you’ve ever experienced a bullet-point textbook presentation, you might enjoy this classic video on YouTube that parodies the horror. Wait for the Q&A session near the end — classic.


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End hiccups instantly with this amazing mind trick

I haven’t suffered from a case of the hiccups in over 40 years. And I have helped dozens of people end bouts of hiccuping instantly — without props, goofiness, or drama.

All you need is the power of your own mind.

Here is what you do if you ever get a hiccup: talk to yourself, mentally.

Tell yourself,

“OK, for my next hiccup, I will concentrate on making it the LOUDEST hiccup ever!”

Concentrate on making it really loud.

Then wait.

You will not hiccup loudly.

In fact, you will not hiccup again!

The mere act of concentrating on making a LOUD hiccup lets you regain control! It’s that simple.

Try this phenomenal trick, and you may never endure a case of the hiccups again. You may hiccup once, but once you deploy the mind trick — you’ll never have another “case” of the hiccups.

Ah, the irony! Every now and then, I’ll run into someone with seemingly unstoppable hiccups. I’ll tell them to concentrate on making their next hiccup super loud. If they comply, their hiccups end. Many will say, “Oh, wait, my hiccups went away… I never had a chance to try your trick and make a loud hiccup!”  The funny part is that they think the hiccups went away without using the trick — when in fact, it was the mind trick that made the hiccups end!

Alternately, I’ll run into a neurotic hiccup-er who says, “Absolutely not! I will NOT make my next hiccup loud. I don’t want to make a fool out of myself…” And so, they will hop up and down, hold their breath, drink water, plug their ears and noses with their hands, twirl around in circles, or beg their friends to find a way to scare them.

And yet, they say they don’t want to appear foolish. Irony at work, again!

If you’re serious about ending hiccups instantly, permanently, and without drama — try my little mind trick. I doubt you’ll ever have a case of the hiccups again.

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PowerPoint Deaths Climb in 2009: But at Slower Rate

Every year, I Google the phrase “Death by PowerPoint” (without quotes).

Exactly one year ago today, this “Death by PowerPoint” inquiry yielded 366,000 search results – over 4 times as many results as 2007.

Today, if you Google “Death by PowerPoint”, you’ll see 980,000 results — only about 2.7 times as much as 2008. The year-to-year death rate appears to be dropping.

The PowerPoint death rate keeps climbing — but at a much slower pace than 2007-2008.

Why do you reckon the rate of death mentions is slowing? With more people participating in social media channels, the opportunity to mention this oft-parroted phrase is increasing. Could it be that the phrase itself is becoming passe?

Yet why are overall mentions still increasing? Almost a million search returns – goodness! What will 2010 yield? And what will finally put an end to the carnage? 🙂

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The Days of Talking Heads Are Nearly Over

I ♥ David Byrne.

I even ♥ David Byrne’s “I ♥ PowerPoint.”

Really, I do.

But the days of the Talking Heads are over.

I’m not talking about the band. I’m talking TV. And presenters. And presentations.

We have social media to thank.

I ♥log
Creative Commons License photo credit: andyket

Interactive presentations are in.

Authoritative anchors reading dispassionately from teleprompters are out.

Teachers and professors lecturing from on high? Also on the way out.

Note your TV news shows asking, “What do you think? Talk back. Send us your video. Talk to us at Twitter. Comment on our blog….”

Walter Cronkite, bless his trusted soul, didn’t ply his trade in an era of interactivity. He was a talking head, appropriate for the decades he served. A deep authoritative voice coupled with a kind-looking face served him well in his time.

Today, Jon Stewart is the most trusted man in TV news. Well, not really. People just voted him as the most trusted newscaster.

In an online poll.

By Time Magazine.

See what I mean? Online polls. Talking back. Old-school journalism meets citizen journalism. Opinions. Interactivity. It’s all the rage.

Burning down the house. Last week, Stewart jokingly called his second-place poll rival (TV news anchor Brian Williams) a “teleprompter monkey.”

Does that make the new style of news anchor, a “hyper-interactive monkey?”

And how are you using social media to make your presentations more interactive, compelling, and contemporary?

design fun PowerPoint Presentation social media

Three Transparently Phony Ways to Appear Less Confident

Confidence. Somehow, this word became virtuous in the 1980’s. It remained a positive trait — until fairly recently.

Confidence men, we called them in the 1930’s and 40’s. Over time, we shortened this to “Con Men” or “Cons”. Overly charming, smooth. Hucksters. Yech.

Cons transmit that they are absolutely positive in their correctness. Who trusts the overly confident?

Bernie Madoff and his ilk have made us collectively uneasy about confidence again.

Striped bachelor
Creative Commons License photo credit: Matti Mattila

How to appear less confident

If you’re an overly confident speaker, you might have a big problem connecting with a modern, tech-savvy audience. (Especially here in the American Midwest!) In an era of quickly produced, less-than-polished user generated content — your confidence might seem inappropriately over-the-top.

Here are 3 quick and completely insincere ways to tone down any over-confidence you may have as a speaker or presenter.

  1. Toss in filler words. A few, “ums and ahhs” and nervous shuffling can go a long way to instill the idea that you’re thinking about what you’re saying. You’re not glibly reciting a speech. You’re not absolutely convinced that you are unequivocally correct. You’re open to starting conversations and creating a dialog. Your social awkwardness in public speaking indicates that you’re thinking. That you’re concerned. That you care enough to be nervous. Audiences warm to this kind of humility.
  2. Ugly up your PowerPoint slides. Nothing says, “I’m overly image conscious” like professionally designed PowerPoint presentations. When it looks like a presenter spent 80 hours in meetings with a team of designers, writers, and speech coaches to deliver a one-hour presentation — that’s the take-away. That’s what the audience will talk about behind the speaker’s back. The message won’t stick when all people talk about is how pretty the slides were and how Hollywood the storytelling was.
  3. Dress out-of-sync. I watched a multi-millionaire give a presentation to 200+ business people. The audience? In modern business attire. The presenter? In a sad, schlumpfly suit from the 1980’s. The audience LOVED him. Think they merely tolerated his eccentric garb because he was rich? Guess again. I also watched a junior software engineer wearing an unpressed polo shirt and lumpy khakis present to a board wearing business suits. They ADORED his presentation, too.

If you’re an awkward or eccentric speaker, rejoice. This is your time! Embrace your humility! Hug your weirdness!

And if you’re a con artist, your audience will likely see through your naked attempts to “Aw, shucks it up” for them. After all, this is the age of authenticity and transparency — two achingly glorious buzzwords that shine a bright, unflattering spotlight on slick over-confidence and transparently phony faux-humility mannerisms.

Social awkwardness is in!

Nerds, enjoy it while it lasts…

What will the next wave of popularity be?