Archive for June, 2008

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

The Heart of Change Management

Vision is an “it” word just now. We’re caught up by vision, aren’t we? Dazzled by it. Blinded by it, I think, at least in regards to driving change.

Of course, vision is important for some things, for driving an organization forward toward a common goal, for inciting people to work hard. As long as they are doing work they want to do. But it doesn’t make people change, at least you can’t lead change with vision. Managers often think you can, even that you must. And their initiatives stumble over that conviction.

“Things would be much easier if my boss would just let me handle his calendar.” 
“I could help my partners so much if they would just invite me into the planning process earlier.” “They could develop more momentum much more easily if the product team would pick a brand name that makes sense.”

I see issues like this after staff members have tried for weeks, often months, sometimes longer to resolve them. They are little petrie dishes of change management led by vision. The basic formula is this: Life would be so much better (vision), if only you would do what I say (change). And the staff and managers advocating for these changes learn through the laboratory of experience that the formula doesn’t work. Read the rest of this entry

A Dirty Shame

When marketers try to create disgust and embarrassment or any other experience for their audiences.Microsoft Dinosaur

I usually think Dan and Chip Heath, the authors of Made to Stick, are right on in their analysis. I’m an avid fan. Which is why I was so surprised that they were off the mark in their June 2008 article, and off in such a fundamental way.

It’s a despicable practice, they say, for marketers to create social stigmas to sell products. The problem is that the thesis misconstrues what it is that marketers (or influencers of any stripe) can do.

Marketers, when they’re at their most persuasive, don’t try to create shame, disgust, embarrassment, or social stigma.  Nor for that matter do they try to create joy, pride, esteem, acceptance, or any other experience. Read the rest of this entry

In a recent post, Daniel Pink introduces us to the idea of Emotionally Intelligent stop signemotionally intelligent signage. You’ll find a fun and provactive video on the idea here (and only 7 minutes long). It’s a compelling idea as far as it goes in the video. Then he missteps in his blog by endorsing signs like the one you see at the left. The concept demonstrably falls down when you try to use an empathetic appeal like this one to stop cars. Here’s why.

First his idea: Some signs are merely informational (This way to Terminal F). They don’t need to appeal to the emotions. Other signs attempt to change our behavior. And they would benefit from demonstrating empathy (Relax. The train comes every 2 minutes) or appealing to our empathy (Keep dogs off lawn. Kids play here). 

Good idea. Intuitively appealing once Daniel has pointed it out to us. And useful for some purposes. So why does it break down in the stop sign example? Read the rest of this entry

Kudos to Jim Estill. His blog “ceo blog – time leadership” was just named among the top 10 leadership Jim Estill Cover Page from his blogblogs by HR World. Coincidentally, one of his posts, What Gets Measured Gets Done, was also named among the top 5 blog posts of the week by Wally Block.  Jim is right, of course, what gets measured gets done. And he provides the nifty example in his dedication to his fitness routine (which is impressive in itself). But he doesn’t go far enough.

A good lesson comes from Atul Gawande, a 2006 MacArthur Fellow and general surgeon at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. In his book titled simply BETTER, Gawande tells the story of the most innocent of measurement scales–the Apgar scale–that spawned one of the greatest advances in the American system of health.

Dr. Virginia Apgar created the scale in 1953 in response to the terrible observation that all the great advances in medicine in the previous hundred years had been unable to reduce rate of infant death at the time of birth. Though mothers were much more likely to survive the birth of their children, the child still faced a 1-in-30 chance of dying while struggling to come into the world.

Apgar’s solution was simple and stunningly effective. Read the rest of this entry

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