The new book by Chris Anderson, TED: Guide to Public Speaking (Houghton Mifflin, 2016), rocketed to the #3 position in its debut week on the Wall Street Journal best-selling hardcover business list, published on May 21-22 (p. C14).
We rely on the New York Times business best-seller list as our primary source for selecting books for the First Friday Book Synopsis in Dallas. We will consider this book, as well as others, as soon as we see its listing there.
Other new books include The Ideal Team Player (Jossey-Bass, 2016) by Patrick Lencioni at #7. It debuted at #8 last week.
(First, a confession. I’m not much of a fan of Powerpoint. I seldom use it (actually, I prefer Keynote), and when I do, it is mostly images, and mostly to introduce my speech/presentation. So, take this as criticism from one who is not a fan).
Here is the deal. You should speak to your audience. So look your audience members in the eye. Eyeball to eyeball. You are not speaking to a projection screen, you are speaking to people. So look at the people – eyes front at all times!, toward your audience members. They, and they alone, are your audience.
Have you watched any TED talks? The speakers always look in the direction of their audience. Yes, they have a pretty big budget, with multiple monitors in front of the speakers. But the principle is crystal clear – eyes front!
Recently, I saw again what I have seen too many times to mention. A speaker was presenting a report to a room full of folks. For practically the entire time, he stood facing the screen, with his back to his audience, reading the slides at times almost word for word.
So – here are your communication tips of the day, for when you speak with PowerPoint or Keynote slides.
#1 — Never speak with your back to the audience. Not one word. Look at your audience at all times, and not, not ever!, at the screen.
#2 — Never have a chart or graph on a PowerPoint slide that is too small for the audience to read easily. If you just have to have it on the screen, even if it is too small to read, make sure your audience members have a copy in their own hands that they can read clearly and easily.
#3 – Darken the screen when you want your audience to pay more attention to you directly. Do this frequently throughout your presentation. In other words, be in control of the eyeball direction of your audience members. When you want them looking at the screen, then have a slide on the screen. When you want them looking at you, darken the screen.
All of this should remind you that PowerPoint slides are not the presentation. They are presentation aids. You are presenting your presentation. So look your audience members in the eye, speak directly to them, every minute, every word of your presentation.
(And, read my earlier blog post, A Set of PowerPoint Slides is NOT a “presentation” – a rant)
What do we mean when we say that every company, every organization, needs to continually innovate?
It means that every company and every organization needs to continually innovate! Or, they will be left behind, and maybe even cease to exist.
There is no alternative.
This post is prompted by a question that I asked a good friend. First, the background. There is an article critical of the TED conference, written by Nathan Jurgenson. (I read about it on Andrew Sullivan’s blog: TED Talks: “The Urban Outfitters Of The Ideas World. The full article, Against TED, is available at The New Inquiry here).
I am a big fan of TED; I have watched many of the videos, and shown them to my speech students. I’m not sure that I buy Jurgenson’s criticism. Here is one line from his article:
At TED, “everyone is Steve Jobs” and every idea is treated like an iPad.
Now, I own an iPad, I have presented a synopsis of the Isaacson Steve Jobs biography, I am a raving fan of the innovation of Apple, and I got to thinking… Is it in fact “fair” to compare all companies and organizations to Apple? Should we expect that level of innovation in all the rest of the world of business, and nonprofits? In other words, does every company and every organization need to continually innovate?
Now, acknowledging the obvious, that genius like Steve Jobs’ genius is not available for purchase on the shelf at your local grocery store, let me say that yes, the quote is not that far off: “At TED, “everyone is Steve Jobs” and every idea is treated like an iPad.” And, that is what we should do with ideas. We should keep looking for that next profitable, successful idea, and then the next one, and then the next next one. It is the only path to innovation. And if we do not continually innovate, we are in deep, deep trouble.
After reading the TED criticism, I called a friend of mine; an exceptional business consultant/coach. You’ve seen his face on TV, representing a company that became more successful with his help. My question went something like this:
“I know that companies that are directly impacted by technology have to keep innovating. But, does every company have to continually innovate? Aren’t there companies that simply provide a product of service, and basically they keep providing the same product or service. Oh, sure, they will upgrade their software occasionally. But, continually innovate? Really?”
I wondered if this pressure to continually innovate just might not be so “necessary” in quite a few arenas.
Well, this is a smart man, and when he was through with me, I was fully whipped. He told me of one client of his: they provide a product that was basically put out of business by a previously unknown competitor who developed a cheaper, better way to provide the same product. It had to do with what goes inside the “shell” of the product that they manufactured and sold. So, this company had to adapt, quickly. They had to modify what they put inside their own shell, find a new market for their product, and then churn out the product for less than they thought possible. Their innovation saved their company – and quite a few jobs. If they had failed to innovate, they would have had to close the doors.
I started thinking about other examples — example after example. Just look around. What restaurants did you used to eat at – and they are now shuttered? (Does anyone else miss the Steak & Ale salad bar?) What about hotels that you used to stay at? Recently, my wife and I stayed at a three year old Holiday Inn. It is nothing! like the Holiday Inns we stayed at early in our marriage (we married back in the dark ages, when there was no cable TV, not even a remote control, and tennis rackets were still made of wood. I played with a Jack Kramer autograph).
Maybe the only path forward is to treat every new idea like an iPad – a breakthrough for this moment, but soon to be outdated by the new version. Someone will come up with the new version. It is better that you do this yourself.
No matter what your business, it really is a “you’d better learn how to continually innovate” world out there. And here is the value of TED. TED, if nothing else, keeps asking, “Since the world is going to keep changing, what are the ideas that will drive that change in the best direction?”
Look at the TED logo — it is right there in the wording: “Ideas Worth Spreading.”
And out of these presentations, and the many conversations that such a conference and on-line resource sparks, (and, of course, the many other conferences and conversations from other sources), we think about the future differently. And so we ask, how can we do our job better? How can we continually innovate?
Somebody is asking that question right now — someone who is itching to put some other company out of business. Not because they are mean (though they may be); it is just that they want to build a profitable enterprise themselves. They want the customers, and if that means taking them from you, then so be it. And so somebody keeps looking for that next, better idea.
You’ll be smarter if you make that somebody “you.”
Last Saturday, I had the privilege of attending TEDxSMU (thanks to a generous, unexpected gift from a First Friday Book Synopsis regular. Thanks, Dan). It was our “local” version of the TED conference, held each spring, and now viewed by millions (literally! millions!) of people online. Click here – (a good place to start – with the “most viewed”). But, trust me, there are so many great presentations.
This year, for the first time, they are awarding the TED Prize not to a person, but to an idea — the City 2.0. From their announcement:
About the TED Prize
The TED Prize is designed to leverage the TED community’s exceptional array of talent and resources. It is awarded annually to an exceptional individual who receives $100,000 and, much more important, “One Wish to Change the World.” After several months of preparation, s/he unveils his/her wish at an award ceremony held during the TED Conference. These wishes have led to collaborative initiatives with far-reaching impact.
We work closely with the TED community, off- and online, to obtain pledges of support for the TED Prize winners. These pledges can take the form of business services, hardware and software, publicity, infrastructure, advice, connections, feet on the ground and more. This is in addition to the funding and support from the Sapling Foundation and TED staff.
TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design. It started out (in 1984) as a conference bringing together people from those three worlds. Since then its scope has become ever broader.
The TED Conference, held annually in the spring, is the heart of TED. More than a thousand people now attend, the event sells out a year in advance, and the content has expanded to include science, business, the arts and the global issues facing our world. Over four days, 50 speakers each take an 18-minute slot, and there are many shorter pieces of content, including music, performance and comedy. There are no breakout groups. Everyone shares the same experience. It shouldn’t work, but it does. It works because all of knowledge is connected. Every so often it makes sense to emerge from the trenches we dig for a living, and ascend to a 30,000-foot view, where we see, to our astonishment, an intricately interconnected whole.
Notice this phrase:
It shouldn’t work, but it does. It works because all of knowledge is connected.
Yes, all knowledge is connected, and there are people who are champions of connecting people to that knowledge. Here in Dallas, we can point to Carole and Jim Young. Regulars at, and cheerleaders for, our First Friday Book Synopsis, they sat on the floor at lunch with their “Carole and Jim Young Fellows” at the TEDxSMU conference. I sat with them, and was immersed in stimulating conversation with two very sharp young minds. (Read about this, and the remarkable group, here). What an impressive, solid group of young adults. (And there are rumors that Jim and Carole hosted a few of these folks, and shared their well-stocked freezer full of ice cream. I’ve also heard rumors that the ice cream is Graeter’s. Now this is how people get spoiled!)
But TED is all about the learning, and the networking, and you will find few lifelong learners, or few connectors, to rival Carole and Jim Young. Their commitment to this life long quest, to keep learning, is clearly what drives them to be involved in such efforts as TED. (By the way, their daughter, Kelly Stoetzel, served as host, and serves as the TED Content Director).
As for the conference itself, well, it was a wonder. Wonderful presentations, great music, terrific networking.
Yes, TED is a place for you, and me, to learn so much. I am still amazed when I run into people who have not yet discovered the videos from the TED site. So, if you are one of those, head on over. There are many I could recommend as your “first’ video, but at this moment it is this one, by Chris Anderson, the curator of TED:
Chris Anderson: How web video powers global innovation
There is so much to learn, and the resources are waiting for us all.
I don’t know how to identify an “expert” all that easily these days. Is a person an expert because he/she has written a book? Probably not. But, when smart people disagree, how do we decide who knows enough to copy and emulate?
Consider this: is it good, or bad, to have meetings?
In Verne Harnish’s book, Mastering the Rockefeller Habits, Harnish teaches that the rhythm of regular meetings is critical to the success of a company or organization. Jason Fried disagrees.
I like Jason Fried. He is a witty, good writer. I liked his book, Rework, which I read and presented. It is a terrific thought-provoking read. But I think he is leading us astray.
In Jason Fried’s world, heard in his TED talk, Why work doesn’t happen at work (watch the video here), Jason Fried basically says that meetings are the devil. Here’s what Fried had to say (taken directly from the video):
The real problems are the “m & ms” — the managers and the meetings. Managers’ real jobs are to interrupt people… and, managers most of all call meetings, and meetings are just toxic; they’re just terrible poisonous things during the day at work…
So, who is right, Harnish or Fried? Are meetings good – or bad?
I suspect that Harnish is right, and I would say to Jason Fried, “no, meetings are not the devil.” Yes, there is a problem with bad meetings, run by unprepared, clueless leaders. I would agree that bad, poorly run, unfocused meetings may be the devil.
But the solution is not “no meetings,” or even “fewer meetings,” but “good meetings.”
Jason Fried says: “People don’t do work in the office.” He says that we need “long stretches of time” to get meaningful work done – a premise that I do agree with. And he says, that the office provides not a place for work, but a place for “work moments.” Ok, he may be right about that. But then, he blames that problem on too many meetings. And that is where he misleads us.
There is a flood of evidence that meetings of all kinds lead to superior performance. Let me remind us all again: a Super Bowl winning football team has countless, seemingly endless, very regular meetings. They watch film together, they listen to their position coaches together; there are group meetings, there are one-on-one meetings, there are sideline meetings in the middle of a game, there are very short meetings before every play (called “huddles”)… Try winning a Super Bowl with no meetings!
So my advice to the Jason Fried fans out there is, quit listening to Jason Fried. Look instead to people who know how to plan, run, and follow up after meetings. Study how they conduct their meetings, and “go and do likewise.”
No, the devil is not meetings…the problem is bad, non-purposeful, “meetings just to meet” meetings. But a good leader, running a purposeful meeting, providing follow-up after the meetings… this is the lifeblood of a successful organization.
Do you need to improve your skills at running meetings? You can start with reading Mastering the Rockefeller Habits by Harnish.
And by the way, I wonder if the TED folks have any meetings to prepare and plan for their conferences? I bet they do!
You can purchase my synopses of Mastering the Rockefeller Habits, and Rework, with audio + handout, at our companion web site, 15minutebusinessbooks.com.
I have read, and presented my synopsis of the Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything by Sir Ken Robinson. I have blogged about him here. I have watched the videos from his presentations at TED, Ken Robinson says schools kill creativity and Sir Ken Robinson: Bring on the learning revolution! He’s a real champion of creativity, with lots of freedom, in education.
Here is a terrific RSA Animate (white board illustrated) of Changing Education Paradigms, a presentation he made at The Royal Society of the Arts. It is just over 11½ minutes, and has had over 800,000 views. It is worth the time. (I learned about this from an exceptional financial adviser at an event this week).
Take a look.