Saturday, December 28, 2013

The Best Thing I Heard in 2013 About...Public Speaking

During one of our Sandbox Summer Accelerator classes, Todd Frye (Mill Cities Leadership Institute) offered us a class on public speaking.

One thing he said that stood out for me was a break-from-the-crowd opinion about so-called "filler words." His take on them?  They're okay.

Of course, he quickly followed that up with "in moderation."  Still, I like his point -- in so many classes about communication and public speaking, moderators take the approach of, "Get rid of ums, uhs, y'knows, reallys, and likes -- at all costs."

But guess what?  They're natural.

Only when they become a distraction -- like when Caroline Kennedy says 'you know' 163 times in a three-minute TV interview -- are they bad.

Listen to regular speech, though -- the normal, pressure-free, chit-chat type stuff among friends.  The phone, the elevator, the bus stop, the coffee breaks, etc.  You will hear a few of these 'filler words,' but you'll have to pay attention enough to seek them out...they're subtle and sometimes easy to miss.

When people prepare to speak in public, they should be aware of their nervous tics and blind spots, if possible.  They should avoid filler-word repetition that distracts from the ACTUAL purpose of their words. But they should NOT be brought down by a desire to completely eliminate these words...if too much mental energy goes towards THAT purpose, the overall quality of whatever is being said will decrease -- esp. if part of it needs to be extemporaneous, or if it includes Q & A that cannot be scripted.

So, umm...just think about what...uhh...really, like matters...and don't get too bogged down with those, you know, filler words, or uhh...whatever they call them.

Project your voice.  Be confident.  Know your stuff.  Make some eye contact.  Those are the biggies.  

Monday, December 23, 2013

The Three Best Things I Heard This Year...About E-mail

Here are three good things I heard about e-mail this year, in order:

(3) Keep them short.  People are inundated with e-mails of so many stripes, shapes, varieties, flavors, and colors. Really long e-mails that look intimidating may never be read, or responded to.  Sometimes, I have to remind myself of this one when I really get *in the zone* but I know it's good advice.

(2) OHIO Principle.  It was love at first sight for me when I heard about this one.  OHIO here is an acronym for "Only Handle It Once."  It applies phenomenally well to inbox maintenance but is also an awesome principle to remember for cleanliness of your home, car, apartment, etc.  With respect to e-mails, the problem many people have (including me) is that we give our inbox a quick-look and we pick the low-hanging fruit first.  THEN we notice the actually important stuff, and lamely say something like, "I'll get to those later."  And we all know what happens then.  OHIO -- live it, love it.

(1) A primary purpose of e-mail should be to set up real-world interactions.  Of course, it can't be done w/people who are scattered all over the world, but in can go something like this: "Hey, haven't seen you in a while.. how bout we meet up at the Club Diner?"  Maybe there's a quick back-and-forth in which some topics are discussed, but the idea is that you're using e-mail as a medium to push towards an actual encounter -- NOT as an endless, back-and-forth volley about anything and everything you're doing or thinking.  I really like this principle when it comes to reaching out to people that you don't already know, but want to add to your network.  To me, "Hey, I'm interested in what you're doing, can we get together for coffee" is a winner, but "Hey, I'm interested in what you're doing, can you answer these 9 detailed questions I've crafted for you, with subsections a through c for each?" is a loser.

In 2014, I will be better with e-mails.  Too many important ones fermented way too long in my inbox this fall. I have learned that a client might not bat an eye after replying to your missive from three months ago as if you sent it yesterday, but will follow up in an agitated state if 48+ hours passes before he sees a response to his e-mail to you.

Forget the fairness or the unfairness.  When it comes to 'rightness,' the client takes it -- seven days a week, and twice on Sunday.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

A Tipping Point?

The intersection of service tips and social media has made it into several prominent news stories this year.  

Two particularly noteworthy stories were the Drew Brees story (really a 'no-story' if you ask me) in LA, and the lesbian waitress story in NJ.

For the unfamiliar, a waitress at a Chinese restaurant took to social media to complain about the inadequacy of a tip left by the Saints QB on a takeout order.  The lesbian waitress story centers around a woman named Dayna Morales, who fabricated a $0.00 tip receipt with a lengthy explanation for the lack of tip (..'we cannot support your lifestyle...')  She took to Facebook to complain, and soon she had received thousands of dollars from around the world, which was supposedly bound for the Wounded Warriors Fund, but somehow never made its way there.  Shortly after her story hit the news, the couple that had supposedly written the comment produced proof of the ACTUAL tip, via a credit card statement.  It was generous, and they quite calmly pointed out that they had no way of knowing -- let alone caring -- about their server's lifestyle.

Anyway, both the waitress from LA and the waitress from NJ were fired for their actions, one of which just showed bad judgement, and one of which crossed a completely different line.  

Locally, I can't help but notice that the baristas at my favorite caffeine-before-the-train haunt are making a habit of posting detailed information about the tips that they do (or don't) receive.  Inevitably, those posts are followed by long strings of the 'string 'em up' variety, with each commenter outdoing the last about the cluelessness or evil spirit of the bad tippers. (For those who don't live in Lowell, this is a strictly service-at-the-counter establishment -- not a place where people are paid sub-minimum wage because of an expected pourboire).  Some of the best comments are the ones where people complain about "just getting the change."  I'm not a math guy, but if your throughput is dozens of people per hour, and you're getting "just the change" on top of your base wage, that ain't so bad.  

They may be tipping some customers right off the edge.  

Here's why:  I already have a hard time justifying a $2.87 habit, as much as I love the iced coffee there (whaddothey put in that stuff...seriously?)  Especially when I face down the reality of my own fiscal cliff, coming in about 5+ months, when I lose that 'break-from-reality' status known as 'full-time student,' I'm going to have be more honest about where I can cut some corners. Even if I (correctly) justify my 6:30 a.m. habit by saying I want to get out, stretch my legs, and breathe some outside air, I can do all that with a walk around the block, homemade cup in hand.  

The thirteen cents I get back, I could part with.  Sure.  But if THAT is somehow still not enough, what is?  A buck? Again, not a math guy, but that looks like a 35 percent cost increase to a habit that I already know, deep down, to be a guilty pleasure.  

The easy answer is to just start putting that fancy-pants Cuisinart coffee maker I got as a wedding gift three years ago to better use.