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Michael Phelps Interview

Michael Phelps Interview

These August evenings, the 8th through the 24th, my family turns our television to a fierce competition. Not only among nations, but among stations as well.

My wife, Lisa, is an avid Olympic fan. She wants the maximum amount of action for her viewing time.  In our market, the Olympics are carried by three stations–King 5, the local NBC affiliate; the USA network; and CBC, our Canadian channel. Lisa will spend the evening with one hand on the remote switching between stations whenever she thinks the coverage wanes on the channel she’s watching.

Airtime in primetime hours on NBC during the Olympics is worth (according to MediaDailyNews) $750,000 a minute–yes, a minute. Not the $1.7m a minute the SuperBowl commands, but still a big pile of coin.

That’s why NBC put together a team of knowledgeable, experienced, charismatic correspondents to explain, comment on, and add color to the 2008 Olympics–to make Lisa tune our set to our local NBC affiliate and keep it there throughout the 17 nights of competition and especially the commercials that fill out this summer’s Olympic telecast and generate the revenue for NBC.

And Monday night, they dropped the ball.

It was one of the clearest examples I’ve seen of not understanding how emotions work and not being able to take advantage of that knowledge to create connection and communications.

There was Michael Phelps having just won his firt gold medal in swimming. Andrea Kremer intercepted him as he came out of the pool area. He was nearly shivering, his voice just a little shaky. We all, especially my wife Lisa, wanted to know what it was like to start his hunt for a record 8 gold medals in a single Olympics.

“What are the emotions running through your mind?” Andrea asked. “Happy and excitement,” Michael replied.

You won’t a picture from the interview or quotes posted on the internet. It fell flat–didn’t deliver. It may be a small thing. Michael has been interviewed lots of times during these Olympics, a press conference virtually every day in addition to the comments he’s had for color reporters following events.

But that interview didn’t hold my family over to the next commercial break. And if other rabid fans reacted like my wife did, lots of people switched away. And that means loss of revenue for NBC and future networks who carry the Olympics. And not a trivial loss.

There are questions you could ask that would predictably draw a more engaging response. Asking how he’s reacting, for example, will generally get you more. “Wow, Michael, there’s number one, what’s your reaction to your first big win?” People like to talk about their reactions and the question isn’t as narrow as emotions. They’ll tell you about their physical reaction, their emotional reactions, and their thoughts. And you’ll get a sense from their answer of which of these they’re attending to most.

Another way to encourage people to reveal themselves is to note the reactions you can see and ask what’s behind it. “Michael, I notice your voice is a little shaky, your eyes are watering up a bit. Where’s that coming from?”

Not every discussion merits a word-by-word examination. Else, we’d never be able to walk through a social event at ease. Some discussions do, though. When your boss says, “you know, I picked you myself and I have to say I’m really disappointed.” When your patient says, “I’m gonna sue you and this hospital.” When you have a one-on-one interview with the greatest athlete in Olympic history and your time is worth $750,000 a minute.

Tim’s Takeaway:

Especially if you work in an area where the stakes are high, it’s worth your time to craft communications that serve your needs. Communications is a skill like any other. There are frameworks for communicating that can reliably produce the kind of outcomes you want.

Saying I’m Sorry – How to do it right

There’s a nice story in the New York Times about a doctor who made one big mistake in his career (at 74, yet) and how he fared by apologizing.

It’s a good example of how to apologize in business, a topic that’s seen increasing play in the healthcare industry press for the past 5 years or so.

The husband of the woman whose rib was partially shaved off by mistake (not the picture above, that’s an electrode left in Maria Del Rossario Valdez after a Ceasarian section) gave a pretty succinct recipe:”be completely candid, completely honest, and so frank…that the anger was gone.”

Here were the offending doctor’s actual words:

“After all these years, I cannot give you any excuse whatsoever. It is just one of those things that occurred. I have to some extent harmed you.”

 It happens in healthcare that more patients sue for poor communication than for actual medical mistakes. There’s probablly a lesson in there for you even if you aren’t in the healthcare industry.


Medical malpractice as an epidemiological problem, Social Science & Medicine, Volume 59, Issue 1, July 2004, Pages 39-46, Michelle M. Mello and David Hemenway  

Instant Messaging Reduces Interruptions at Work

Source: The Ohio State UniversitySource: Forward EscapeHere’s a bit of something unexpected. We’ve all heard the talk lately about productivity lost to the many distractions at the office.  A study at the British Institute of Psychiatry, for example, discovered that excessive use of technology reduced workers’ intelligence and that those distracted by incoming e-mail and phone calls saw a ten-point fall in their IQ, over twice the impact of smoking or marijuana use. You’d expect Instant messaging to be the straw that broke the camel’s back.

It turns out, according to a new study from the Ohio State University (happens to be my alma mater), IMing actually reduces workplace interruptions.

How’s that? By combining the best of phone calls and email, instead of the worst.

Workers get the immediacy of the telephone with the incentives for brevity that come from having to type out their comments. The result is that using instant messaging leads to more conversations that are briefer.

Tim’s Takeaway:

Go Buckeyes!

Much has been said in general about the ”new Al Gore” and his great success with An Inconvenient Truth. But we can say more in specific about how you can follow his lead to become a better speaker.

Of course, the presentation is compelling. It won Mr. Gore a Nobel Peace Prize, and his producers an Academy Award. An Inconvenient Truth stands as a treatise and rallying point for many in the environmental movement and beyond who simply care about the planet.  Whether or not you believe in global warming, there’s much to learn from An Inconvenient Truth, even in the first few minutes, about making your presentation more persuasive.

Wired How-To WikiThe Wired How-To Wiki gives you advice straight from Nancy Duarte, the design wizard who’s firm, Duarte Design, crafted the presentation for the former next president. There, you’ll find general suggestions such as these: Know Your Audience , Know When to Use a slide show, Memorize the Message, Keep Your Face to the Audience, Use Large Font, Use High Quality Images, Pay Attention to Image Rights, Choose the Right Tools . All these suggestions are good, of course. But Adam Pash of LifeHacker is right when he says they’re mostly common sense.

At Presentation Zen, Garr Reynolds gives you more about Gore’s style as well as some nice links to a Newsweek critique and Lawrence Lessig’s comments.

Our charter here is to help you craft your message. And there’s a lot more you can take away from Mr. Gore’s Inconvenient Truth, if we look closer, step-by-step.

You can see the first 10 minutes or so on YouTube. I’ve laid below the series of rhetorical tactics Mr. Gore employs that help bring the audience along quickly and effectively.

Al Gore

Step one: Strong Introduction. Gore, a very recognizable personality and authority, opens the presentation in a simple and surprising way. “I am Al Gore. I used to be the next President of the United States of America.” Because his bona fides are so strong, Mr. Gore can afford to touch on them only briefly and give us a bit of self-deprecating humor at the same time. He also sets a light tone at the outset which is sure to relieve many in the audience who anticipate a 90 minute ride through potentially depressing territory, and who recall him with apprehension as stiff and wooden on the campaign trail. Read the rest of this entry

Writing Opportunity

Thanks very much for responding to my search for writers

This opportunity is open by invitation only

I’m submitting articles and creating blog posts for projects I’m working on. I cover a variety of topics. I’m hoping you can help me.

Good, clear, fluent English, and a style that makes it clear to the reader why they should take action – these are more important to me than your CV or background in the particular topics themselves. I provide some background and suggest titles for the articles.

I provide:

  • a brief packet of background information (5-6 pages) and when I can
  • a merchant’s ebook or mini-ebook or excerpts from it
  • a list of keywords, titles and angles- each article is written for a set of keyword/title/angles

What I’m looking for from you:

  • Short articles or blog posts – 300-375 words long, just shy of 1 page
  • original work, ghostwriting, I keep the copyright
  • “how to” or “top X” style per topic
  • keyword phrase in the intro, the conclusion, and one other place in the article about midway through (no keyword stuffing)

The style of writing I need:

These articles are different from the standard articles many people request to put on their websites. Those articles need to be written well and incorporate lots of keywords to make a semantically rich network of content. The articles in this blog are examples of what many people are asking for.

I need something different.

My project is to create articles that move readers from a state of curiosity to seeing a compelling reason to take action, namely, clicking on a link at the end of the article. The article needs to leave the reader feeling informed, dissatisfied with their current state and with other options that face them, and ready to take some new action that we suggest.

Fortunately, those articles aren’t tough to write because you can follow some standard formats. Here are some examples.

The opportunity format

How to Find Cars Super Cheap Now

  1. Intro paragraph- you want a cheap car, now is a good time to buy
  2. 2-4 paragraphs – here are the traditional places to find cheap cars, they are good sources, each a little different, yet they have these problems that make them a hassle or unworkable for you
  3. 1 paragraph – Government auctions are a great option that have none of these problems
  4. Conclusion – government auctions may be just what you’re looking for, and the only downside to them is that they are diamonds in the rough – they can be difficult to find themselves. You need a source for finding them efficiently and easily.

Here’s a great example that works really well. It doesn’t follow the format strictly but leaves the reader wanting to take a particular action and needing just a bit more information to do that.


Here’s an example that is well written but doesn’t work. It’s  clear, accurate, and coherent. But it gives readers too many options and doesn’t give them a compelling reason to take a particular action.


The problem format

5 Remedies to treat facial warts

  1. Intro paragraph – Facial warts are unsightly and that’s a real problem in today’s appearance-conscious societies. Sure, they’ll go away in time, but what do you do if don’t want to wait.
  2. List of 5 very brief options
    - freeze them off
    - cut them off
    - use a laser (and problems of scarring with all invasive strategies like this
    - home remedy it’s much gentler and there are lots of wives’ tales out there that don’t work and there are problems with making the warts spread if you don’t treat them correctly
  3. Conclusion – home remedies can work really well and quickly, just make sure that you’re using one that has real experience behind it and you’ve got specific directions that will make you successful

Once you get into the groove, you can generate these articles pretty quickly. I give you a packet of info and you’re writing articles on a fairly tightly grouped set of keywords so you’re not coming up with new material every time. You get 10 key points and use different combinations of 3 or 4 for each article.

Here’s an example that works well.


Here’s an example that doesn’t. Again, it’s well-written and doesn’t lead readers to take the action we want them to.


Next step:

If this project appeals to you, send me an article that fits this style. If we’ve already communicated, send me an article on the topic we’re discussing. Otherwise, send me an example you’ve written that builds up an opportunity or provides the reader with a solution to a problem and does it in 300-375 words.  Ideally, at the end of the article, the reader will be thinking, “wow, I really want to take action on this if only I had a little more information.”

Send the article to me at editor@insiderguideto.com.

If you write the style of article I can use, I’ll give you an assignment to write several to see how they go. And there will be many more after that.

Thanks again for your time considering this opportunity,

Tim Dawes