Wednesday, December 30, 2015

In 2016, find your "whoops": My wish for communicators

When my sister lay dying this year, I reminded her how she'd given me a tree for the front yard in my then-new home in Washington, 25 years ago. She knew the yard was small, a postage-stamp-sized city front yard. So she sent a dwarf red maple, the kind bred to grow to the size of a small bush. Something that would fit the limits of the yard.

Many of the communications pros with whom I meet and work in the course of a year feel their limits all too well. I'm not talking about budget and staffing, although those are plenty limited and limiting. I'm talking about your imagined and self-imposed limits, the things that reduce your goals to the size of a postage stamp or a city front yard. It seems easier, I know: Small goals are achievable, and don't get your hopes up. So you don't invest in your own further training, or create new projects with unseen results, or push yourself to dismantle the command-and-control approaches that aren't working so well anymore in a social media world. You take fewer risks, and you get fewer surprises...and fewer delights. You pick the dwarf tree, not the soaring oak, because it fits the limits.

When my sister sent the tree to me, I planted it dead-center in the small yard and watched it grow. And grow. And grow. Today, that tree is about 20 feet tall. It shades the yard, and screens the front porch, and turns scarlet--an unseemly, loud, bright scarlet--in autumn. It's clearly very happy where it stands, and it's clearly not a dwarf tree. This year, in the hospital, when I reminded my sister that the tree had outgrown its promised limits, she grinned. All she said was "Whoops," with a grin. It was a mistake, that tree, and a gift. And I wouldn't trade it in for a million bucks.

So in 2016, my wish for communicators is that you push past your limits and find your "whoops" moments, again and again. Question what you've been doing and test a new strategy. Find out what happens when you trade command-and-control for crowd-sourced and customer-driven. Invest in your own training and push yourself. Go do the things you keep helping others to do, like giving speeches and interviews. Get better at it. Seek out feedback, and use it. Encourage yourself, and someone else, while you're at it. Have the courage to make a mistake. Surprise yourself, and think of it as a gift. You just might wind up with something you wouldn't trade in for a million bucks.

(Creative Commons licensed photo by Stanley Zinmy)

Friday, December 25, 2015

The weekend read

That great feeling when you find the right Christmas tree is just the way I feel when I come across the items that become my finds of the week, shared via @dontgetcaught on Twitter and curated here just for you. Stake a claim, communicators, and get yours here:
No trees were killed in the making of this post: Buy my ebook, The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panelssign up for my free monthly newsletter, or let me know how we can work together in 2016 with an email to eloquentwoman at gmail.com.

This week's your last chance: I've still got a few seats in my two small-group workshops coming up on Creating a TED-quality talk in Washington, DC, in January. Choose the January 14 workshop or the January 28 workshop. All you need to do is bring your one big idea for a talk in the style of TED. You'll learn how to plan, write, time, practice, and deliver it in a group limited to 5 people per workshop. Join us!

(Creative Commons licensed photo by Liz Randall)

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The DGC blog's top 10 posts in 2015

This is worth a toast or two: You read these posts the most in 2015, and as usual, you curate a great slice of what the year was like here on the blog. Social media trends, storytelling, accuracy, and training experts all took the lead in your reads. Together, they'll make you much smarter by 2016...
  1. Do your social channels have a nose for search? focused on investments many social media outlets are making in deepening search--and how you benefit.
  2. 5 things transcripts will do for your social media presence takes an often-forgotten option and shares its benefits, from boosting your search engine results to improving accessibility. Glad to see this Cinderella tactic shine.
  3. Tell It Better: Storytelling with themes and symmetry was the most popular in our storytelling series, highlighting the areas where your story falls short--but could shine, with a bit more effort.
  4. Tell It Better: Storytelling with surprise and suspense, the first post in this popular series, begs you to stop telling us what you're going to tell us, and why suspense needs a revival.
  5. Abraham Lincoln and Mark Twain called: They want their quotes back looks at fake quotes and false quote attribution, and how you can avoid these traps--and carve out a reputation as a fake-quote-buster, a clever way to turn the tables.
  6. Tell It Better: Should you or your speechwriter get the story for that speech? When authenticity, verve, and excitement matter, this frequent speaker says the speaker, not the speechwriter, should be the originator of stories that get told in speeches.
  7. Is B2B storytelling possible? You bet! This post analyzed what works when you bring storytelling back to B2B sales. After all, you're still selling to a person...
  8. Live-stream video apps: Will they reshape your comms strategy? From Periscope to Meerkat and beyond, this post got you up to speed and considered your strategy options for handling audience livecasters and media relations.
  9. On last-minute blog checks and not getting caught looked at the bloopers in blog posts, how corrections are handled, and why more mistakes may be happening these days.
  10. Making communications training worth your experts' time shared some of my insights about what works when you're planning a training session and trying to get subject-matter experts to participate.
Happy new year, communicators--see you in 2016!

(Creative Commons licensed photo by dpotera)

Friday, December 18, 2015

The weekend read

Don't move gingerly toward the weekend, communicators--not with this army behind you. Let's sample my finds of the week, shared via @dontgetcaught on Twitter and curated here just for you. After all, the "you can't catch me" Gingerbread Man is our favorite mascot over here at don't get caught:
More cookies? Buy my new ebook, The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panelssign up for my free monthly newsletter, or let me know how we can work together in 2016 with an email to eloquentwoman at gmail.com.


(Creative Commons licensed photo by Flare)

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Does your top speaker have a repetitive phrase that tips off reporters?

You shouldn't be watching the presidential election campaigns just for their social media uses. Close listening can help you better guide the speakers with whom you're working.

Jeb Bush: Crying Out Loud, an opinion column by the New York Times's Charles Blow, reminded me that, much more than ums and uhs, communications pros should be listening for--and helping their principal speaker work on--repetitive phrases that give reporters (and others) inadvertent clues to what they're thinking.

I'll let Blow explain it for you:
As a person who uses language for a living, I find it hard not to notice rhetorical quirks committed by others. 
It has become something of a parlor game for me to note whenever he says “for crying out loud,” which always seems to signal some level of exasperation. And, somewhere around that phrase, he seems to say something interesting, sometimes something careless, nearly always something that makes news. 
It’s one of those subconscious things that speakers do — like scratching their nose while telling a lie or taking a drink of water when listening to a question that makes them uncomfortable — that journalists learn to pay attention to.
You can read the several examples in Blow's column as a guide to breaking down this type of rhetorical quirk. And there's more recent coverage of Bush's frequent use of the word 'serious.' It's a tough habit to correct, but if you're working with a speaker who does this, it can save you and your company or organization a world of public trouble.

I once trained an executive who'd handle media interviews perfectly--until a hypothetical question for which he had no information came up. Every single time, he would say, "Probably..." followed by a major conjecture. Inevitably, that became the story. We identified the trouble signal word via transcripts and a review of media coverage, then worked on having him stop himself mid-sentence once that word flew out of his mouth, to say, "No, actually, I don't have enough data to answer that. I don't want to conjecture." But this takes a lot of practice.

Don't know your principal speaker's giveaway words or phrases? Try running all her recent speeches and interview transcripts through a word cloud tool or just read them through, looking for repetition. Then analyze when it happens, and why it happens. That will give you the ammo for a tough but needed conversation.

(Creative Commons licensed photo by Michael Vadon)

Friday, December 11, 2015

The weekend read

It's unseasonably warm where I live in Washington, DC, and I'm not complaining. I'd much rather have a slow start to the winter, and a fast end to the week. Let's speed forward, then, toward my finds of the week, shared via @dontgetcaught on Twitter and curated here just for you. Like the thermometer, these leads are hot:
Toasty: Buy my new ebook, The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panelssign up for my free monthly newsletter, or let me know how we can work together in 2016 with an email to eloquentwoman at gmail.com. And I've still got a few seats in my two small-group workshops coming up on Creating a TED-quality talk in Washington, DC, in January. Choose the January 14 workshop or the January 28 workshop. All you need to do is bring your one big idea for a talk in the style of TED. You'll learn how to plan, write, time, practice, and deliver it in a group limited to 5 people per workshop. Join us!

(Creative Commons licensed photo by Ray Bodden)

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

Is that speech really a laundry list? A caution for communications pros

It's easy to forget now that TED talks have been around for so long, but one of the reasons for their success is that they stand in stark contrast to the type of speech you may be writing right now for your principal:: The laundry list.

Unlike TED talks, which focus on one big idea with just a few examples, the laundry list speech piles on a basket-full of programs, initiatives, product features, people to thank, or strategic goals. Instead of diving into one to three of those things, all of them must be hung on the line that is your speech.

That approach fails to give the ideas and content their due, and prevents the audience from hearing and comprehending any one thought in detail. So who is served by the laundry list speech? Typically,  not the audience. Instead, it's the company, organization, or the self-appointed committee members reviewing the content who require the piling-on of items. This turns a speech into a real-estate deal, in which various bits of laundry that need airing are attached to the same line. For many of these colleagues of yours, the speech is being treated as their only opportunity to speak, hence the piling-on. And I'll just say that speeches written, or edited, by a committee sound like it. Audiences aren't stupid.

It's not that every speech needs to be a TED talk--speeches have a wide variety of jobs to do. But you could do worse than insist on a single, core idea for your principal's next speech. That's true even--perhaps especially--for technical talks. Consider that PyCon, a technical conference for the Python programming language community, advises that talks should be "coherent," with this explanation:
Good talks are about one subject. A common bad talk proposal is a smorgasbord, a collection of half-a-dozen ideas, none of which were quite good enough to merit their own talk. Another bad proposal is the case study, where a high level discussion is had about lots of ways you tried to do things without success. 
The easiest way to judge coherence is to consider your talk as a story, with a narrative. Is there a beginning, middle, and end, with a theme that ties it all together? That's coherent.
If you're the speechwriter helping the speaker toward that one big idea, check the conference requirements. They may provide all the ammo you need to avoid the laundry list. If you're the speaker, try this approach and see how well it works. Your audience will not only thank you, it will be able to follow you.

(Creative Commons licensed photo by Aldric van Gaver)

I've got a workshop on Creating a TED-quality Talk coming up in January 2016 in Washington, DC. It repeats twice in that month: on January 14, and again on January 28, and I'm limiting them to 5 seats per session.  All registration closes at the end of December or when all seats are filled, whichever comes first. Please join us, whether your goal is TED, TEDx, or just an elevated, current presentation style.

Friday, December 04, 2015

The weekend read

Better put some more tape on the package that was this week, communicators. You want to be sure it doesn't fall apart over the weekend, finally here. I've just delivered my finds of the week, shared via @dontgetcaught on Twitter and curated here just for you to, well, un-tape:
Buy my new ebook, The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panels for one moderator or--as one recent purchaser did, for all 27 moderators at her conference; sign up for my free monthly newsletter, or let me know how we can work together in 2016 with an email to eloquentwoman at gmail.com.

(Creative Commons licensed photo by Amanda)

I've got a workshop on Creating a TED-quality Talk coming up in January 2016 in Washington, DC. It repeats twice in that month: on January 14, and again on January 28, and I'm limiting them to 5 seats per session. All registration closes at the end of December or when all seats are filled, whichever comes first. Please join us, whether your goal is TED, TEDx, or just an elevated, current presentation style.

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Tell It Better: A street doctor's lessons in #storytelling

It was all about the foot bath.

Do you know how to get a homeless person to trust you, if you're a physician working at a shelter? Don't ask them how they are feeling or what's bothering them, and really don't ask to examine them. Maybe--no, certainly--don't tell them you're a doctor. Instead, offer them a hot, medicinal foot bath. And maybe a pair of dry socks afterward. After a few weeks, again maybe, they'll tell you what's bothering them.

I learned that from James O'Connell, MD, when I was directing media relations for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and he was directing our national program for homeless families. And as O'Connell is quick to say in his new book, Stories From the Shadows: Reflections of a Street Doctor, he learned it from a seasoned team of nurses when he first started treating homeless people. In fact, the nurses ordered the neophyte doctor to avoid telling anyone he was a doctor, and set him to the task of giving those foot baths every day for two months.

O'Connell is one of the best storytellers I've ever worked with. He knows these stories backwards and forwards, the nuances, the sharp details, the surprises, the twists and turns. And he shared many of them recently in a lovely long interview on NPR's Fresh Air (listen here or read the transcript, and read an excerpt from the book here). I recommend it to you wholeheartedly, as you'll learn so much about storytelling from him. Here are just some of the lessons I've learned from him:
  • Set up your story: O'Connell likes to use the foot baths, his own introduction to these patients, as an entree for his listeners. But he often begins presentations by showing a picture he'd taken from the roof of Boston's biggest homeless shelter, showing the long, snaking line of homeless people queued up to enter at the appointed opening time--a daily line. Then he talks about the foot baths, and how long many of his patients had walked that day before getting to that line, mileage that puts your exercise regimen to shame. It's an irresistible set-up for his stories, one that puts the listener in the moment. After that, you and your attention are in the palm of his hand.
  • It's not about you, the storyteller: I don't think I've met a more humble person in my career, and the evidence is in O'Connell's stories: He is continually giving credit where it's due, to the nurses or the homeless patients who have taught him these insights. In that way, he becomes simply the storyteller, getting out of the way of his own story and letting it take the spotlight. It's refreshing, and effective, every time.
  • It stays messy: O'Connell is not a saint (and that was one of the questions in his Fresh Air interview). In fact, he shares stories that are as messy about him as they are about his patients. Far from being inspiring because they always turn out wonderful, these stories have not been neatened up into "happily ever after" scenarios. Plenty of time is spent on struggles, failures, and less-than-ideal endings. As a result, we trust these stories more.
  • The eye for detail should never shut: When O'Connell starts describing his work, you can see it in your mind's eye--a tactic I call the invisible visual. He doesn't really need slides to describe what he does, so well does he share the details that make the story concrete, and credible. These stories don't need embellishment, just the details.
O'Connell's book benefits Boston's Health Care for the Homeless program. Buy it, and learn from it. Give it to your CEO, and to your speechwriter. It's a true treat for me to hear him telling these stories for a wider audience, and in this holiday season, the stories will remind you of what you're grateful for.

Check out the other posts on storytelling ideas and tactics in our Tell It Better series.
 
I've got a workshop on Creating a TED-quality Talk coming up in January 2016 in Washington, DC. It repeats twice in that month: on January 14, and again on January 28, and I'm limiting them to 5 seats per session. All registration closes at the end of December or when all seats are filled, whichever comes first. Please join us, whether your goal is TED, TEDx, or just an elevated, current presentation style.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Giving thanks for my clients, and closed for the week

Nearly every month, I sit down at this desk--reserved for handwritten notes--and write to clients to express my gratitude for the opportunity to work with them. So I have a form of thanksgiving on a regular basis. This week, all of my blogs--this one, Moderating Panels, and The Eloquent Woman--will take a well-earned break, with all three blogs back in full publishing mode next week. I will be using the Thanksgiving holiday to reflect on my gratitude to my clients.

This year, in addition to helping them meet their goals and carry out their strategies, I also was spending time with my sister, who died in July. I was about to lead a conference workshop in Florida when I got the call that she was worsening, and for the next few months, my clients made room for me to rearrange deadlines or work remotely while I spent critical time with her and with my family. Many clients shared their own experiences with the loss of a family member and took the time to inquire and listen to me about where I was at various stages of the process. There's nothing for which I can be more grateful. Here are the stellar clients I've worked with this year, with thanks to all of them for work I continue to find engaging and exciting:
  • The American Association for the Advancement of Science, where I led a workshop for its Science & Technology Policy Fellows about public opinion research and how it can inform their work on Capitol Hill and in federal agencies. I love hearing from them about public opinion data resources in their agencies.
  • The American Medical Association, where I provided coaching and speechwriting for executive leadership and a special TEDMED-related event where the speakers really hit their mark.
  • The Association of Public and Land-Grant Univesities (APLU), for whom I've coached higher education executives to do five-minute "Shark Tank"-style pitches in competition for funding for innovative projects in student advising and other areas. I worked with higher education leaders in Ohio, Arizona, Oregon, Florida, and California as they pitched innovations in advising--and it was a delight to hear their ideas.
  • athenahealth, a cloud-based electronic health records and practice technology company, where I've coached teams and individual executives for investor and conference presentations and keynotes. Love working with this repeat client.
  • IBM, where I piloted a storytelling workshop for marketing professionals from the North America, Europe/Middle East/Africa, and Asia Pacific regions. My magic sauce? Doing a workshop with no slides that held the group's attention.
  • Individual clients who are CEOs, scientists, educators, and executives looking to up their presentation game. Several gave TEDx talks or talks in that style that garnered compliments and more invitations to speak.
  • The National Council for Behavioral Health, where I led a workshop for communications and marketing pros on working better with subject-matter experts in mental and behavioral health. This took place at the Council's impressive annual conference. Knowing how hard they worked always makes me proud.
  • The Nature Conservancy, where I've been coaching environmental scientists in TNC's Science Impact Program to give talks in the style of TED. I'm starting work with a new cohort of the program's scientists for 2016.
  • The Physician Assistant Education Association, where I provided speaker coaching for executive leadership before the association's annual conference. 
  • Sanergy, a nonprofit working to make hygienic sanitation affordable and accessible in Africa. I conducted media training for the group's founders, creative thinkers about an intractable problem.
  • The Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins, where I led a communications staff retreat and provided support for the center's blogs and social media strategy.
  • SIGCHI, the special interest group on human-computer interaction of the Association of Computing Machinery. As a first step in a message development process, we're exploring public opinion about those interactions.
  • The Society for Healthcare Strategy and Market Development (SHSMD), part of the American Hospital Association. I conducted a workshop on presentations in the style of TED for the health care marketers and planners who attended the well-organized SHSMD conference this year.
  • TEDMED, where I advised all the speakers on memorizing talks and coached them backstage for the fifth year in a row. It's always a highlight of the year for me.
  • The UK Speechwriters Guild, where I conducted a pre-conference workshop on creating a TED-quality talk. Its conference is a wonderful incubator for my training workshops.
  • The University of Maryland Baltimore County, where I conducted advanced media training for faculty in computing and engineering, and made sure we covered the questions they've always wanted to ask in a training, but didn't have the chance to ask.
  • The U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Cyber Security R&D division, where I provided social media and communications strategies for its National Conversation on a Trusted Cyber Future, as well as other division communications. Wonderful for me to be working again with this repeat client.
  • WellSpan Health in York, PA, a health care corporation for which I coached a group of 20 executive leaders to give five-minute talks in the style of TED. I still get emails from them telling me about how they're using the talks and getting more invitations to speak!
I'm wishing you and all my clients a warm and wonderful holiday with those you love the most.

Friday, November 20, 2015

The weekend read

If the week's starting to smell like the inside of your car, communicators, it's time to freshen it up for the weekend with my finds of the week, shared via @dontgetcaught on Twitter and curated here just for you. Get your pine-tree-fresh facts, leads, and reads right here:
Buy my new ebook, The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panelssign up for my free monthly newsletter, or let me know how we can work together in 2016 with an email to eloquentwoman at gmail.com.

(Creative Commons licensed photo by Robert S. Donovan)

Got a panel coming up? Whether you're a conference organizer, speaker, or moderator, you'll have a better panel--and a sparkling discussion--if you plan with The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panels. At just $3.99 in all ebook formats, it's like having a coach with whom you can prepare and bring on stage with you.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Game-changer: MOO's new NFC-enabled business cards

This seems to be the season of technology that lets you stay high-touch as well as high-tech. I've written about using my new Ringly for notifications and how it helps, in my view, with personal interaction. Now comes MOO's new NFC-enabled business card, expanding your range and reach even when that networking contact is far from you.

Let me say first of all that I've been using MOO cards for several years. The quality of the paper and printing is excellent, and you have the option to print many images, not just one, within a pack. Even some of the available designs offer several variations in a pack, which boosts the interaction when you take out several during a networking session--I've found that people like to pick their favorites, and love the feel of the paper MOO uses. And a memorable card is one people keep.

These new cards are sure to join that memorable group. The cards are embedded with NFC (near-field communication) chips, the technology predicted to take over where QR (quick response) codes left off. (You can read more about the thinking that went into this interface here.) With a smartphone that is NFC-enabled, all you have to do is hold the card to the back of the phone to be connected with a website, social profile, or some other destination.

One big difference is that the MOO NFC cards provide you with a dashboard for managing the codes, so you can change the action without having to issue new cards. That makes them keepers, and more interactive. You also get metrics on who's interacting, how frequently, and more. Here are just some of the actions you can program the cards to:
  • Make a digital business card that lets your contact use one tap to call you, message you, or just save your contact info.
  • Share a link to your website, or all your social media connection points.
  • Promote your app--one of the toughest challenges out there--by connecting contacts with your Google Play download.
  • Share a Spotify playlist you've made.
  • Connect on LinkedIn.
  • Video chat with Appear.in.
  • Share directions with Citymapper.
In effect, the NFC embed erases the distance between two points. You don't need to take extra steps to enter contact info or act on the connection. You just tap or hold the card to the phone. 

As a speaker coach, the idea that a client can keep my card and use it to tap into a video chat or go to a specific website of practice resources has real appeal. The networking and event options also are intriguing. After all, you can design the card any way you want. It need not be a traditional "business card," but could be a card distributed at an event to make sure everyone can tap into directions to a party or become a LinkedIn network. And this singer-songwriter issued an album of cards for an interactive listening experience.

The user doesn't need an app to access any of this--they just tap the card to the back of their Android or Windows phone. (Apple, in its wisdom, doesn't yet support this.) You do need to have your NFC function turned on, and that in turn may activate Bluetooth. But tapping or aligning the card with the back of the phone pulls up any link you want, instantly.

You can get creative with that: One example in the video shows a card mounted next to a framed artwork in a museum. A tap with the viewer's phone uploads more info on a website. MOO expects to expand the technology to other stationery products; for now, the business cards are the first available with NFC.

For my first batch of NFC cards, I went with a simple design (see above) that includes instructions for finding out more. I've learned that when a technology is new, part of your job is to help the user get used to it.

Best of all, the prices are in line with what you'd pay for high-quality cards. If you use my link and you're a first-time orderer at MOO, you'll get 10 percent off your order. Watch the video below to get more ideas on how you can use this communications tool, not just for yourself, but for your company or organization. Don't forget that MOO's an international company. The website usually serves itself up in the correct language and price, based on your location, but if not, click on the flag icon to find your language and pricing--something I used to good effect when I found out I was out of cards on the eve of travel to Amsterdam last year. I just ordered from the European site and had the cards delivered to me at my hotel. So don't hesitate to order if you are outside the U.S.

I've got a workshop on Creating a TED-quality Talk coming up in January 2016 in Washington, DC. It repeats twice in that month: on January 14, and again on January 28, and I'm limiting them to 5 seats per session. All registration closes at the end of December or when all seats are filled, whichever comes first. Please join us, whether your goal is TED, TEDx, or just an elevated, current presentation style.

Friday, November 13, 2015

The weekend read

If you've taken the measure of the week and found it wanting, communicators, I've got good news: It's almost the weekend. Time to sift through my finds of the week, shared via @dontgetcaught on Twitter and curated here just for you. Have a spoonful of smartness before Monday rolls around again:
Start baking: Buy my new ebook, The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panelssign up for my free monthly newsletter, or let me know how we can work together in 2016 with an email to eloquentwoman at gmail.com.

(Creative Commons licensed photo by Terry Chay)

Got a panel coming up? Whether you're a conference organizer, speaker, or moderator, you'll have a better panel--and a sparkling discussion--if you plan with The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panels. At just $3.99 in all ebook formats, it's like having a coach with whom you can prepare and bring on stage with you.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Using a wearable to enhance in-person interactions: My new Ringly

I've been in a lot of meetings this quarter, and it's allowed me to notice what I--and others--do with our phones during these sessions. And it ain't pretty. Some text continually, others keep checking when a notification comes through, others give away their boredom while scrolling something else.

But as a speaker coach, it's often my job in these meetings to pay attention to the speaker, usually to evaluate his or her performance. I may need to know about a notification, but I don't want it to distract me, or the speaker. So I've invested in my first piece of wearable tech, a Ringly.

Ringly--Bluetooth-powered wearable jewelry that buzzes and emits light to share notifications when it's synced to your smartphone--first came to my attention while I was watching this year's TEDWomen talks. Ringly CEO Christina Mercando spoke, and I was intrigued: Real gemstones, a box that acts as a charger, and options for a wide range of notifications that come to you either via a subtle light on one side of the ring, or a series of buzzes that only you can feel. The light signals are keyed to colors that represent different types of notifications. You've got to choose and learn which notifications mean which channels, but that's about as complex as it gets. And you need not get every notification this way. If all I'm concerned about is email, that can be the only alert I get via the ring.

Here's what I notice: I'm paying better attention. I can leave my phone in my handbag, watch the speaker, take part in the conversation, and still know what's coming in. If I choose to check my phone, it's a rarity rather than a regular habit. No one really notices the ring--only I can feel the buzzer--and it works in a wide range of settings, relying on a Bluetooth connection.

I think we'll see more options like this one, given the awkward ways we've adapted to using devices and keeping up conversations. MIT's Sherry Turkle, whose new book is Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age, writes about the issue this way in a New York Times op-ed:
I’ve been studying the psychology of online connectivity for more than 30 years. For the past five, I’ve had a special focus: What has happened to face-to-face conversation in a world where so many people say they would rather text than talk? I’ve looked at families, friendships and romance. I’ve studied schools, universities and workplaces. When college students explain to me how dividing their attention plays out in the dining hall, some refer to a “rule of three.” In a conversation among five or six people at dinner, you have to check that three people are paying attention — heads up — before you give yourself permission to look down at your phone. So conversation proceeds, but with different people having their heads up at different times. The effect is what you would expect: Conversation is kept relatively light, on topics where people feel they can drop in and out.
Wearables have many advantages, including the ability to be viewed more easily in outdoor and direct-sunlight settings, among other things. I'm delighted with this one, and am looking forward to finding other ways to put it to use. Next on my list (as in, I've already contributed to its IndieGoGo campaign): The Dipper Audio Necklace, which serves as earbuds and microphone for music and phone calls...and as a wearable necklace.

I've got a workshop on Creating a TED-quality Talk coming up in January 2016 in Washington, DC. It repeats twice in that month: on January 14, and again on January 28, and I'm limiting them to 5 seats per session. All registration closes at the end of December or when all seats are filled, whichever comes first. Please join us, whether your goal is TED, TEDx, or just an elevated, current presentation style.

Friday, November 06, 2015

The weekend read

You've been raking all week, in a manner of speaking, haven't you, communicators? I can tell by the big piles all around you. Time to gather up my finds of the week, shared via @dontgetcaught on Twitter and curated here just for you. Put that rakish grin on your face and enjoy:
Buy my ebook, The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panelssign up for my free monthly newsletter; register yourself or your principal for one of my small-group workshops on Creating a TED-quality talk in January 2016;  or let me know how we can work together with an email to eloquentwoman at gmail.com.

(Creative Commons licensed photo by tuchodi)

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Tell It Better: Visual storytelling with metaphor

Storytelling isn't just a verbal art. While you're busy minding your dramatic arcs and your suspenseful starts, don't miss out on making the most of metaphor's visual aspects.

Metaphors are tailor-made for visual treatment, calling to mind as they do the image of the thing to which you're comparing something. "The fog comes in on little cat feet" conjures up the creeping forward of a cat, or a line of fog coming in. "My baby thinks he's a train," the great country music lyric, sets the scene visually for a guy moving from town to town, fast. So why not use a visual to underscore the metaphor--in a slide, film, graphic, video, or cartoon?

This article on using metaphors in design offers lots of useful considerations for subtle and skilled use of visual metaphors, and urges you to think about the company or product's real purpose:
One annual report for the Calgary YWCA emphasized the organization’s work with battered women, so the report itself was torn and distressed. The headline on the beat-up cover: “Last year over 11,000 Calgary women were treated worse than this book.” This metaphor may even be stronger than if they had used actual photographs of battered women, since this approach is less expected. 
And don’t be too literal. Try to find metaphors that capture psychological essence more than simply external reality. Let’s say that you’re creating a poster announcing a seminar in business fundamentals for graphic designers, one called “The Business Primordial.” You may start thinking of cave men with clubs—clubs as felt-tip markers, business cards made out of stone, cave men dressed in business suits and so on. In other words, you could try to fuse some image of business or graphic arts with some “primordial” image. But you don’t have to. A visual of two dogs in a tug of war (a pure metaphor) can also express the psychological essence of basic business difficulties in a less obvious way. It’s a metaphor off to the side; the dogs symbolize not the thing, but the emotional center of the thing. They’re unexpected but appropriate.
This World Health Organization video about depression uses the black dog metaphor for depression, and the illustrations in the film offer great examples of making full use of the visual implications in this metaphor, from keeping the dog leashed to the size--large, then diminishing--of the dog.

I had a black dog, his name was depression YouTube

How will you use visual storytelling to carry out your metaphors?

(Creative Commons licensed photo by churl)
  
Got a panel coming up? Whether you're a conference organizer, speaker, or moderator, you'll have a better panel--and a sparkling discussion--if you plan with The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panels. At just $3.99 in all ebook formats, it's like having a coach with whom you can prepare and bring on stage with you.

Friday, October 30, 2015

The weekend read

Every smart communicator has an exit strategy...and that's never more important than on a Friday. Wedge your way out the door using my finds of the week, shared via @dontgetcaught on Twitter and curated here just for you.
Make like a tree and leave: Buy my new ebook, The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panelssign up for my free monthly newsletter; register yourself or your principal for one of my small-group workshops on Creating a TED-quality talk in January 2016 (the big discount ends TODAY);  or let me know how we can work together in 2015 with an email to eloquentwoman at gmail.com.

(Creative Commons licensed photo by Holly Kuchera)

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

.@ivanoransky on how to pitch reporters without being annoying

At the recent #sciwri15, the conference of the National Association of Science Writers, Ivan Oransky of MedPage Today and the blogger behind Embargo Watch and Retraction Watch, put his finger on the problem with pitching reporters: You're being annoying when you do that.

And I'll just add: That's a really nice, laid-back, polite way of saying that. Perhaps it will prompt you to some nice, laid-back, polite pitching.

Influenced early in my media relations career by a mentor who said, "Do what you wish someone had done for you when you were a journalist," I focused on the approach of tip more, pitch less to reach reporters. I'm delighted Oransky included it in the "do" list for that approach, and my post (at the link) not only shares what you can tip reporters off to, but some things you can stop doing to make time for this more customized approach.

Oransky's hit on one angle that may seem like a nuance to you, but that would be missing something big: It's better to tip reporters about something that isn't from your organization, but still of interest to them. It's a fantastic relationship-builder (the "relations" part in media relations) if done well and with care...and leaves the door open later when you have something from your company or organization to share.

Check out his slides, below, and pass 'em around. We really can't hear this stuff too often.


How to pitch reporters without being annoying from Ivan Oransky

(Creative Commons licensed photo by Adam)

I've got a workshop on Creating a TED-quality Talk coming up in January 2016 in Washington, DC. It repeats twice in that month: on January 14, and again on January 28, and I'm limiting them to 5 seats per session. Seats are already filling, and you get a 25 percent discount if you register by October 30--that would be the end of this week, people. All registration closes at the end of December or when all seats are filled, whichever comes first. Please join us, whether your goal is TED, TEDx, or just an elevated, current presentation style.

Friday, October 23, 2015

The weekend read

You're in the final stretch, communicators, rounding the bend toward the weekend. Take the turn with my finds of the week, shared via @dontgetcaught on Twitter and curated here just for you. Take your positions:
Winners' circle: Buy my new ebook, The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panelssign up for my free monthly newsletter; register yourself or your principal for one of my small-group workshops on Creating a TED-quality talk in January 2016 (discount ending in just one week); or let me know how we can work together in 2015 with an email to eloquentwoman at gmail.com.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Setting stretch goals for yourself as a communicator

I can't help but agree with Mark Twain, who said, “Training is everything. The peach was once a bitter almond; cauliflower is nothing but cabbage with a college education.”

More recently, Seth Godin called it part of your infrastructure: "It's possible to invest in hiring people who are educated (not merely good grades, but good intent) and to keep those people trained and up to speed." He also says that if you're playing offense and actively trying to get ahead in your business, choosing a public speaking course is one example of what you might do--a hopeful stance about your progress.

Maybe you don't see yourself as that luscious peach or an elaborate, architectural cauliflower, communicators. Maybe you don't think about the accumulated knowledge and skill as infrastructure or playing offense. But further training as a communicator, training that pushes your envelope, can get you there.

Too often, professional communicators spend time buying training for others, but not themselves, turning into a comms version of the shoemaker's children who never get shod. If you're coaching speakers but have never had speaker or presentation training yourself, for example, it's time to turn that around. Having said, "No, I'm supposed to be in the background" didn't help me one bit when the time came in my career for my employer to assume I was a comfortable, at-ease speaker. So I became one...with training.

Right now, your fiscal year has either just gotten going or is about to end. How have you provided for your own stretch goals and the training you and your team need to get there? Are you leaving training money already in your budget on the table? Have you identified the areas in which you need to stretch yourself as a communications pro? A good coach or trainer can help you to do that.

In January, I'm leading two identical workshops on creating TED-quality talks (see info below). Most of the people who hope to give such a talk can't quite picture themselves doing it. But they show up, get their assumptions challenged, find new angles on their talk ideas, learn the actual work that goes into the process...and then go out and do the work and give those talks. What seemed just an aspiration becomes a success, a reality. One registrant for the workshop says she wants to "Rock it TED-style when co-presenting with unchangeable read-off-the-slide PowerPoint users." And so she will. I've seen it happen again and again--when participants are willing to stretch themselves toward something greater. Are you?

(Creative Commons licensed photo by Adi Prabowo)

This stretch goal is actually within reach: I've got two small-group workshops coming up on Creating a TED-quality talk in Washington, DC, in January. Choose the January 14 workshop or the January 28 workshop. All you need to do is bring your one big idea for a talk in the style of TED. You'll learn how to plan, write, time, practice, and deliver it in a group limited to 5 people per workshop. Join us! You get the best discount if you register by October 30, 2015. That's next week, dear.