Showing posts from February, 2016

Speaking: How to Use Notes Discretely

One of the questions I am continually being asked by aspiring speakers is how to read from notes discretely, so that most of the audience doesn't notice. There are actually quite a few techniques and the best plan is to learn them all so you always have the right solution for the venue. By far the most effective way to speak is to speak from memory. But even if you have learned your speech very well some notes can be useful in case you suddenly lose track of your thoughts and need a prompt. Simply reading the entire speech sounds very awkward and stilted, though there are ways to make that sound smoother, too. In most cases I would recommend that people memorize the sequence of points in their talk or presentation and then talk freely about each point. If you are speaking in a second or third language or you are less experienced it is usually more effective to write a complete script and go through that several times to prime your brain with suitable words. After that you ca

Churchill's Little Secret: See to it That Your Reports are Shorter.

As the Battle of Britain raged in the skies over southern England, prime minister Winston Churchill found time on 9th August 1940 to address a memorandum to the war cabinet lamenting that people sent him wordy reports. "To do our work" , the memorandum says, "we all have to read a mass of papers. Nearly all of them are too long. This wastes time, while energy has to be spent in looking for the essential points.  I ask my colleagues and their staffs to see to it that their reports are shorter." Were Churchill still alive today he might not be terribly surprised to see that that air forces today are equipped with stealthy jet fighters and remotely piloted drones, but perhaps he would be disappointed that more than seventy years later we are still struggling with the same problem. There are many ways to make written communication more effective but one that will almost always work is to keep your messages shorter. Short messages are easier to read, easier

Three Things Twitter Needs to Fix

For years Twitter seemed to have an unassailable position as the new CNN, the place everyone goes to spread and read news. Journalists rely on it for breaking stories much more than people realize, world leaders rely on Twitter to get their news out in real time and when disaster strikes following Twitter live has replaced CNN. Now Twitter growth has stalled and investors are getting nervous. Partly this slowdown in user growth is caused by the emergence of new alternatives that didn't exist in 2006 -- people have more choices and the market is more fragmented. But this stalled growth is also at least partly because Twitter has slowly become much less appealing for users, to the point where some drastic action will be needed to restore confidence. I am sure that people at Twitter are already working on this problem, but here are some issues that they could and should be fixing right now. PREEMPTIVELY ADDRESSING HOSTILE CONTENT. One of the problems that deters many would

Why Eating Your Own Dog Food is a Good Idea

A few years  back I sat patiently through the presentation of a new presentation tool, puzzled and bemused. Finally when the pitch was done I asked just one question: Why are you guys not using your own product? Gulp! In the software and startup world the practice of using your own products is known as eating your own dog food or dogfooding , based on the supposed origin in the dog food business, where employees' dogs were the first to try a new product. Many company routinely test their products in this way. Not everyone can eat their own dog food but when you can it can be a very persuasive argument to customers, investors, the media and pretty much everybody else. If you don't think your own product is worth using why should anyone else use it? One of the best examples of this I have seen recently is a new app called Lunchback , that brings together people for mentoring lunches, an app that emerged from a Stockholm Startup Weekend. Mentors post lunches -- dates an