Currently Listening To: “Can’t Buy Me Like”

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Gone are the days of Mad Men-style advertising.

“In Can’t Buy Me Like: How Authentic Customer Connections Drive Superior Results, authors Bob Garfield and Doug Levy cite this case as one example of the shift from the “consumer era” to the “relationship era,” where companies can no longer control their image and need to create authentic connections in order to thrive” (Source).  Though I heard this story in the car about a month ago, I listened to the story again today.  I love the idea of advertising moving into a relationship era because it allows honesty, integrity, and genuine dialogue to promote products.  Consumers hold more power than ever before, and this forces companies to treat people like people.

Click here to listen to the story or to read the article.  Since I am a huge Neal Conan fan, and since Talk of the Nation is on its last leg, I definitely recommend listening to the story versus reading it.

I’m definitely interested in figuring out how to incorporate some of these ideas into my class when we discuss rhetoric and how it relates to advertising and marketing.  I love what Garfield says within the first three minutes, “You cannot dictate your image anymore” (Source).  The corporate message should take a backseat to cultivating actual human relationships with customers.

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Garfield’s ideas resonate with me because I do feel a huge difference between companies who treat me like a person and companies who treat me like an account number.  For example, I had two really negative experiences with Wells Fargo and with Verizon Wireless, and I am in the process of leaving both companies.

At a local Wells Fargo branch, an overzealous salesperson sat me down to help me with a mortgage-related issue.  As soon as we reached his desk, he tried to sell me a different kind of mortgage.  I told him I would need to talk with my husband before making any enormous mortgage-related decisions.  When I asked for literature so that I could go home and talk to my husband, the guy purposefully shamed me for being ignorant and tried to make a sale off of my embarrassment.  When I refused to give in to his sales tactics, he began to process my original request.  He made small talk – asking me where I worked, etc. – and then tried to sell me a credit card.  “I’ve never had a credit card in my entire life, sir,” I replied, “and I don’t need one now. But thank you.”  He began to berate me for being “afraid” and “scared” of credit cards, and I just shut down.  I stopped talking.  He saw that I was done and finished my request a few seconds later.  What should have been a short and sweet transaction made me feel terrible about myself.  Not only did this person insult me several times (insinuating that I was stupid and then scared), but he also completely ignored that fact that I was a person to make a sale off of me.  He didn’t care about building a relationship with me.  He cared about making money, and I was just the latest victim.  I decided right then and there that I wanted to transition to a local credit union.

Another negative experience was at a local Verizon Wireless store.  My husband and I had to get another phone because he had lost or destroyed his, and we also wanted to see if we could downsize our plan to get a cheaper rate.  The salesperson said we could decrease our payments by adding a third telephone line for our home, and we would see our monthly bill go way, way down because of this special going on in their store.  Instead of seeing our bill decrease, it increased by $25.  Countless hours of talking to Verizon and going back to talk to the salesperson proved fruitless.  Because we’d trusted what this salesperson said and signed a contract, we were paying the extra $25 a month, and that was that.  For the past two years, my husband and I were swindled into paying Verizon Wireless $600.  A salesperson lied to our faces, made a commission off of selling us an extra line, cost us hundreds of dollars, and got away with it.  Because we were trusting customers, a company treated us like a cash register instead of like real people.  I decided right then and there to never use Verizon again, and I am making the switch to a new phone company in May.

Have you ever had a negative experience with a company?  What companies can’t buy your “like” ?

Currently Reading: James Cary’s “A Cultural Approach to Communication”

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After a long and much-needed break, I returned to graduate school this week.  This semester, I am taking Interpersonal Communication, and our very first reading is from James Cary’s book Communication As Culture: Essays on Media and Society.  We are assigned Chapter 1 “A Cultural Approach to Communication.”  Read the text here or here.

I’ll be sure to give you my feedback as soon as I’ve finished reading the short chapter!

What are you reading this weekend?

Review: Lynda.com’s “Effective Public Speaking” Training

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Since my work granted all of us unlimited access to Lynda.com, I’ve been excited to watch “Effective Public Speaking,” a one-hour training under the “Presentations” section of the website.  To say I was disappointed would be an understatement.

The content of the training is the best part.  However, I would suggest reading this material in Nancy Duarte’s Resonate.  The slides are still the standard death-by-bulletpoint and don’t embody the qualities of well-designed slides.  Also, unfortunately, the presenter’s delivery is the worst “leg” of the presentation stool.  It’s sterile and robotic.  She reads from a teleprompter and uses hand gestures as if she were in an infomercial.  Using a presentation guru such as Garr Reynolds or Nancy Duarte would have been perfect for this training, as 21st century presenters know that a speech must involve natural, authentic delivery.

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The training was broken up into five sections.  These included preparation; warming up (isn’t that preparation?); opening; delivering; and closing.  I was sad that there wasn’t a more Presentation Zen-like approach since this training was created in mid-2012.  I would have liked to see sections specifically dedicated to the three legs of the presentation stool: 1) content, 2) delivery, and 3) slide design.  This helps others understand the big picture: what it takes to create a successful presentation.

The speaker started by saying she wasn’t going to focus on presentation anxiety.  I think this is problematic because we have to overcome our lizard brains in order to even think about the preparation stage of a presentation.

The “Preparing Your Speech” first section of the training was filled with great information on preparation in areas such as audience analysis; brainstorming; developing credibility; and rehearsing.  This section did contain good information, but, again, I’d more highly recommend Nancy Duarte’s Resonate.  The book does a significantly better job explaining these concepts in a more interesting way.

I also enjoyed the content and the three downloadable assets provided by Lynda.com.  These included an audience persona sheet; a warm-up checklist; and a storyboard template.

While the slides were ineffective, the biggest drawback of this training is the presenter’s delivery.  An audience is going to become easily bored and disinterested by this one-hour lecture because the presenter’s delivery is devoid of all humanity.  This is problematic for a beginning presenter who might think he has to deliver a speech in the same way.  While the delivery may be technically perfect (no “ums” and “ahs”), it lacks authenticity.  Once we learn the goal of speech delivery, we can convey our natural selves to others.  Delivery isn’t about perfection.  Audiences like vulnerability… They want their presenters to be real and human.  I would have liked to see a presenter who understands delivery lead this training, and this could make all of the difference in the world to Lynda.com users.

As opposed to watching this training, I’d recommend that you read Resonate by Nancy Duarte to help you develop your presentation content; The Naked Presenter by Garr Reynolds to help you develop your delivery; and Slide:ology by Nancy Duarte and/or Presentation Zen by Garr Reynolds to help you improve your slides.

Have you been disappointed by a public speaking and presentation training?  What can we do to push people to transition from 1980s sterile presenting using clip art and a podium to the art and science of 21st century presenting?

The Art of Public Speaking: Lessons from the Greatest Speeches in History

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While at home over Thanksgiving break, my father gave me an early Christmas gift:

The Art of Public Speaking: Lessons from the Greatest Speeches in History is part of The Great Courses lecture series and is taught by Professor John R. Hale from the University of Louisville.  With 12 lessons on speech anxiety; delivery and authenticity; storytelling; the power of three; audience analysis; and persuasion based upon historical speeches, I can’t wait to dive into this two-disc film.

Tomorrow, my students are presenting their first TED Analysis presentations, and afterward, we’re going to discuss audience analysis.  I’m hoping lecture 9 called “Focus on Your Audience – Gandhi on Trial” will fit right in with our class discussion.  As soon as I watch the entire 12 lesson set, I’ll be sure to do a review!

Do you watch any video lectures on presentation?  Who presents your favorite DVDs on public speaking?

Currently Reading… The Thanksgiving Edition

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My Thanksgiving break has been so wonderful!  I woke up Thanksgiving morning to run 5 miles (almost entirely uphill) with my younger and much faster brother, Max.  Thanksgiving in Tallahassee was delicious, and I ate some amazing Southern food with my dad’s and then my mom’s families.  I’ve also spent a tremendous amount of my “break” working: grading; preparing for class for next week; finishing up my Faculty Development workshop coming up this Thursday; and putting the final touches on my grad school final paper… Though a break is never really a break for a Type-A obsessed with her work, I managed to spend a little bit of down time reading:

On the to-read list for the upcoming weeks are Aesthetics by Anne Sheppard and The Nature and Aesthetics of Design by David Pye.  Though both are older books (published in the late 1980s), my goal with these two are to learn more about aesthetics so that I can improve as a presentation designer.  Graphic Design: A Problem-Solving Approach to Visual Communication by Elizabeth Resnick will also, hopefully, help me in this area.

The remaining two books are about interaction design.  Designing for Interaction by Dan Saffer and About Face 3: The Essentials of Interaction Design by Cooper, Reimann, and Cronin will help me to see how design relates to more than just presentation.  Gaining a broader sense of visual communication and design as related to websites; social media; products; apps; etc.  I can’t wait to finish all five books!

What are you reading over the Thanksgiving holiday break?

Signed Copy of Nancy Duarte’s HBR Guide to Persuasive Presentations

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When I walked in the door from work today, my husband said, “You got a package in the mail.”  I could tell there was some excitement in his voice when he followed up by saying, “It’s from Duarte.”  Let it be known that my husband could care less about effective presentations.  He only knows about my obsession because I talk about Nancy Duarte, CEO of Duarte Designs, at least once a week.

Nancy Duarte was kind enough to autograph and mail a copy of her new book.  I am so flattered and honored, and this is seriously one of the best gifts I’ve ever received in my entire life.  Thank you for being such an amazing, gracious person, Nancy!

Currently Reading Peter Gruber’s Tell To Win

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Funnily enough, the day I posted “Top 35 Books on Presentations,” I received a bright blue package on my doorstep from the library.  In the “Top 35 Books” Slideshare presentation’s first page, you can see Peter Gruber’s Tell to Win: Connect, Persuade, and Triumph with the Hidden Power of Story.  I’m so excited to dig into this book, especially now that I know it’s #32 on the “Top 35 Books on Presentations” as voted by some of my personal heros, Nancy Duarte and Andrew Dlugan.

How many of the Top 35 Books on Presentations have you read?

Harvard Business Review Guide to Persuasive Presentations by Nancy Duarte

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After a Junior League meeting last night, I came home dead set on finishing grades for my English Composition class.  I just needed a little Twitter fix to get me through the long evening.  Unfortunately, I came across this Tweet:

“@NancyDuarte‘s New Book is on Shelves Now! Classic Highlights + New Insights in one amazing @HarvardBiz Guide: http://blog.duarte.com/2012/10/nancys-new-book-on-shelves-now/” (Source).

After watching the short Vimeo video explaining the book, I immediately searched for HBR Guide to Persuasive Presentations on Amazon and scrolled through the table of contents.  I frantically texted Chiara that we had to change our course textbook immediately.  Then, at 8:45 PM last night, I called my local Barnes and Noble, waited on hold for 20 minutes while one poor woman combed the store at my urging, and rushed across town to purchase my very own copy.

My grading clearly didn’t happen.  I stayed up all night reading the book.  It’s comprehensive, it includes important information from both Resonate and Slide:ology, and it even talks a bit about delivery (my favorite!).  Stay tuned for the review… Coming soon!  I am DYING to get this book in the hands of my students.  You did it yet again, Nancy Duarte.  I adore you.

Have you read HBR Guide to Persuasive Presentations?  Leave your glowing comments and reviews in the “comments” section!

Review: How To Be A Presentation God

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Though I had three books ahead of it (these and this one), I couldn’t resist the pull of How To Be A Presentation God: Build, Design, and Deliver Presentations that Dominate by Ethos3′s CEO Scott Schwertly.  Schwertly was kind enough to send me an autographed hard copy of the text a few weeks ago, and since I opened the first page, I was hooked.  My initial review after skimming through the text and reading the first few chapters was that the book was “insanely good.”  After finishing the entire thing, I am happy to report that my first impression was correct; the book is great!

I’m always baffled when I read a lukewarm review of a book I enjoyed.  However, my dad taught me an important reading lesson; he said we must read books at the right time in our lives.  For example, let’s look at Dr. Nick Morgan‘s review.  Morgan writes, “I’m always on the lookout for good new books on public speaking, but I can’t recommend this one. The advice is too general for anyone who has any sort of experience speaking – or has read more than one or two books on the subject” (Source).  So why might Dr. Morgan and I differ in our views of the text?  Again, I believe it is because you must read a book at the right time in your life.  If you come to a book expecting a life-changing experience, you might be disappointed.  I try to read a text without any expectation other than to learn and to grow, and I am usually happy to expand my knowledge base in some way.

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I enjoyed many things about Schwertly’s book.  First, the book explained the presentation revolution concept in a new, interesting way using fantastic metaphors (ethos as an interstate highway) and examples (Bruce Lee, Ron Burgundy).  This made the presentation revolution more accessible and understandable for the beginning presenter.  My favorite part of the book was the first part called “The New Era of Presentations” comprised of three chapters.  Schwertly captured the presentation revolution’s goals perfectly in this section.

I also loved Schwertly’s humor.  Has a book ever made you cry?  Has a book ever scared you?  Has a book ever made you laugh out loud?  If a writer can make me feel feelings, I consider that writer successful because it is so rare.  Humor helps us learn because it helps us remember and retain information.  If a book can make you feel a specific emotion, such as happiness, the writer is doing his or her job.  If you can have fun while reading a book, the writer is successful.

The third thing I loved about Presentation God was the use of design to help us retain and remember these principles.  For example, I loved the ideas behind “Narcolepto” or “Mediogre,” but the full-page images applied the picture superiority effect and really helped these concepts stick in my head as characters.

There were things I didn’t like about Presentation God, too.  First, Schwertly’s Ethos3 is known for its beautiful, well-designed Slideshare presentations (among many other things).  I would have liked to see a more in-depth chapter on design letting us in on the company’s secrets.  Schwertly’s next project should definitely be a design “how to” book using images in addition to text.  It’s hard to write about design without showing examples.

Though audience analysis is extremely important, I did not enjoy Chapter 7.  I would have liked to see a different approach to audience analysis using more Brain Rules techniques to define what an audience needs from a presenter.

Finally, I would have restructured parts of the “Delivery” section (Chapters 11 through 13).  Some of “Delivery” was about presentation anxiety, which, in my opinion, should be covered before the three legs of the presentation stool: content, design, and delivery.  With a separate section on “Presentation Anxiety” before the three legs, the “Delivery” section could have focused on actual delivery: eye contact, movement, nonverbal communication, proxemics, etc.  Delivery is really, really hard to write about; do yourself a favor and read Garr Reynolds’ The Naked Presenter immediately.  You won’t ever need another resource on delivery as long as you life.  Okay, that’s lofty, but I love the book.

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I recommend Presentation God to beginning presenters and public speakers who want to learn more about the presentation revolution.  It would be a great classroom textbook because the writing style would instantly hook student readers.  I would also recommend the text to intermediate presenters who want to brush up on their skills and to re-learn material by thinking about it in new ways.  I highly recommend it for public speaking and presentation teachers or coaches who need a variety of ways to explain concepts to others.

Have you read How To Be A Presentation God?  What did you think about Scott Schwertly’s debut book?

Currently Listening To: Brand of You Conference Call

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My favorite David Crandall hosted a conference call this week called “How being YOU is great for business” alongside Srinivas Rao and guests Mayi Carles, Dyana Valentine, and design superstar Mars Dorian.  The topic of conversation was branding and the “brand of you.”  Listen to the conference call here, and check out the questions and discussion on Twitter using #BrandOfYou.

I just signed up to hear about future conference calls, and you can, too!

What did you learn from the conference call?