Links of the Week: 2014.08


This week, I’d like to share some great articles on leadership and management.  As I am transitioning into my new position as Vice President of Marketing and Communications with my volunteer organization this month, I have been reading and studying leadership best practices.

I’ve also been thinking back to great leaders I’ve worked with and comparing them with not so great leaders to really help me define what kind of VP I want to be.’s Jeff Haden compiled a list of the top 50 leadership and management experts.  This list is excellent because it lets me know the thought-leaders in the field I should be reading up on and following on social media.  Some of my favorites made the list (Nancy Duarte, Sheryl Sandberg, Susan Cain, Malcolm Gladwell, Seth Godin, Dan Pink, Simon Sinek, John Maxwell), and I was also introduced to so many new people.  It does disappoint me to see so few women on the list; however, many of the women I would have added are professors.  Haden’s list was compiled to find “globally the most popular management and leadership writers in the English language.  In other words, we did not focus on local countries or languages; we did not focus on teachers, professors, or CEOs; and we did not measure any other topics besides management and leadership” (Source).


Since Haden’s article focused on the English language and American culture, “How To Lead Well Across Cultures” from Forbes was important for me to check out.  Power distance was the central focus.  Power distance was defined for the purposes of the article as “the extent to which the less powerful members of organizations accept and expect that power is distributed equally” (Source).  That got me thinking about the kinds of meetings I want to lead as VP of Marketing and Communications.  I want to facilitate round-table meetings where we all brainstorm, think, and talk through issues together.  Sharing the power requires confidence in yourself and your team, and this can be a difficult task.  I think back to all of the leaders I’ve worked with in the past both at work, at school, and at my volunteer “jobs.”  In my experience, my favorite leaders have emphasized collaboration and an open, honest space to share ideas.

In “Great Leadership: 7 Traits Of True Leadership,” Leigh Buchanan explains what I love collaborative, team-focused leaders.  She says the most important traits of a leader include empathy, vulnerability, humility, inclusiveness, generosity, balance, and patience (Source).  These are qualities I would assign to the strongest leaders I’ve worked with in the past.  The best boss I’ve ever had supported me by listening to me and making my needs a priority; challenging and pushing me to be better and stronger at my job; and including me in times of important decision-making.  Even though she was my boss and my superior, she trusted my input and ideas.  She earned the respect of everyone around her by showing people that same respect along with support and love.  She is the kind of leader I want to be and will work hard to be.

What qualities do you look for in a strong, effective leader?  Which of these new experts on Haden’s list of 50 leadership/management experts should I start reading about and studying?




Garr Reynolds is on fire, which means his upcoming book is bound to be filled with amazing things!  Presentation Zen has posted two good reads in the past seven days.  “No Amount Of Technology Will Make A Bad Story Good” looks at Toy Story and the technology used in the movie.  Reynolds cites Steve Jobs and John Lasseter to point out that technical feats are meaningless in the film industry unless a compelling story exists.  The driving force is “story, story, story” (Source).  Reynolds talks a bit more about this in “Storyboarding And The Art Of Finding Your Story.”  This second blog post examines, specifically, what Pixar can teach us about storyboarding and uses advice from Walt Disney.  This advice does relate to presentations because if you can arrange your presentation (or your story) on paper in a way that makes sense, your audience will get it.


Ethos3’s “Presentation Lessons from Brené Brown” is based on her TED Talk (and one of my personal favorite TED Talks) called “The Power of Vulnerability.”  Since it had been quite awhile since I’d seen Brown’s TED Talk, I watched it again before reading Ethos3’s article.  Not only did the presentation resonate with me once again, but the advice from Scott Schwertly was spot on.  The CEO of Ethos3 suggests we remember the importance of storytelling, simple slides, humor, and emotional moments (Source).  We can also learn a lot from Brown’s delivery.  She embodies Garr Reynolds’ “naked presenter” philosophy and shows her audience her true, authentic self.  I was happy Ethos3 reintroduced me to the Talk this afternoon.

Our final good read of the week comes from Angela DeFinis of DeFinis Communications.  Called “7 Deadly Sins of Presentation Preparation,” DeFinis explains some pretty killer mistakes people make when preparing for a speech.  These sins include not preparing content before slides; not practicing delivery ahead of speech day; and not showing energy and confidence along with four other major preparation issues.  Read the article here to ensure you fully and properly prepare for your next presentation.

What great articles did you read over the weekend?



This week started off busy, but by its end, I got exactly what I needed: a much-needed break.  This time of year means the end of my Spring semester at UCF and Spring Break at work, so I am where I need to be: relaxing and enjoying some time to refocus on the things that are important.  During that time, I am planning to read for pleasure.  I just received Dan Roam’s Show And Tell in the mail yesterday, got Kafka On The Shore from my brother for my birthday, and purchased Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald today at Target.  As a reader, I cannot tell you how excited I am for some pleasure reading for the next few weeks between graduate classes.

Today, I also had a bit of time to catch up on my favorite blogs.  I’d like to share new offerings from Chiara Ojeda and Ethos3.

Chiara Ojeda of Tweak Your Slides shared two incredible posts this week.  “Participation: Action Speaks Louder Than Your Words” shares some audience-centered advice on how to include participation and activity in your next speech.  Chiara writes, “When an audience can move beyond passive absorption of information or even active visualization of an idea, that audience is more likely to not only remember the idea, but pass it along to others (whether it is through action, word of mouth, or influence). A message come alive in the audience’s hearts and minds creates that ripple effect speakers need to gain traction for their ideas” (Source).  I think activity CAN be incorporated in any presentation.  If you are short on time, that activity could be asking your audience to imagine something or asking for them to raise their hand in response to a prompt.  If you have more time, that activity can be acting out a scene, drawing on a whiteboard, or engaging in some sort of play.

Chiara also posted “Design Smarter: Learn To Generate Color,” a must-read for slide designers.  She shares tips for how we can work to create effective color schemes in our slideshows using helpful tools such as Design Seeds (my personal favorite) and Adobe’s Kuler.  If choosing a color scheme is difficult for you when you create a slideshow, this article is essential! 


Ethos3 also published two great articles since the last time I read the blog.  Amy Cuddy is one of my favorites, and I always recommend that my students watch her TED Talk, “Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are.”  I was delighted to see Ethos3’s “Presentation Lessons from Amy Cuddy” yesterday.  Ethos3 CEO Scott Schwertly gives us some great tips from Cuddy’s presentation including a strong hook, effective use of visuals and video, storytelling, and a strong conclusion.  Schwertly writes, “Combining moving personal narrative, wisely-chosen media, and a strong hook, Amy Cuddy succeeds massively in her TED Talk. It makes us want to take a power pose right now” (Source).  Let’s stand up and do the Wonder Woman all together now!

Ethos3 also published “The 5-7-5 Presentation Technique,” which I recognized as a form of poetry called the haiku but never imagined could be applied to presentations.  The article suggests we consider the haiku style when presenting because it allows us to be “mindful about using too much text with extraneous narrative and filler” (Source).  The goal is to include as little text as possible on our slides and to consider the haiku style when developing those slides.  Ethos3 gives two examples here and explains, that when “broken into separately designed slides, it’s minimal and filler-free” and “a triumph of minimalism” (Source).  I am definitely going to try this when designing my next Slideshare deck!

What great articles on public speaking and presentation did you read this week?

Links of the Week: 2014.05


Have you made time to read this week?  I’ve had a particularly busy week, so it was nice to take a forced but much-needed break this afternoon to do some reading for pleasure.

Unfortunately, I read Ethos3’s “Make The Best Call To Action Of All Time” too late to share with my students who are delivering their persuasive presentations tomorrow in class.  This is an article, though, that I will definitely want to hand out in the future.  Ethos3’s CEO Scott Schwertly gives us four important ways to call our audience to action: by triggering an emotional response; by sharing a sense of urgency; by using actionable language; and by giving incentive (Source).

My favorite suggestion was to give a sense of urgency.  When mentoring the Sports Marketing and Media students earlier this week, one student’s call to action did include that feeling of pressure on his audience.  But how do we create this in our presentations?  Schwertly says, “Give the audience a sense of urgency; why are you standing before them presenting today? Why is important they hear your message and “act now?” What will happen if they don’t act? Build your [call to action] to be time sensitive so that your audience knows they can’t put off their action” (Source).  Another suggestion is to analyze infomercials and commercials to see how companies market that urgency.


Kevin Daum of posted a fantastic article called “10 Tips for Giving Great Online Presentations.”  Daum’s suggestions come at the perfect time.  Since the beginning of 2014, I’ve had four major online interviews/meetings using either Skype, FaceTime, or Google+ Hangouts, and I’ve conducted a dozen GoTo Training presentations for students.  The age of technology and innovation allows us to meet and to present online, and this is important because our audience is global.

Daum tells us we must first use the right tool for the job.  With all of the online meeting and presentation tools available, how do you pick the one that works best for your purpose?  Next, he suggests we focus on clarity; simple slides; and engaging content.

His seventh tip, encourage conversation, is something I feel is essential.  Daum says, “The great part of collaborative software is that it allows people to communicate with the presenter and each other during the presentation through messaging, so the talk isn’t interrupted. You should encourage your team to do this from the beginning. Watching the online activity will give you a sense of how engaged your listeners are and allow you to tailor your presentation along the way, if need be” (Source).  In the GoTo Trainings I lead for my students, I would speak for 45 minutes and leave 15 minutes for Q&A.  My “ah ha!” moment came after I re-read John Medina’s Brain Rules, and I realized that students sitting and starting at a computer for 45 minutes wasn’t conducive to learning.  In 2014, my focus has been on a 5 minute warm-up conversation or “question of the day” to get people talking; 25 minutes of my content; 20 minutes of student activity; and 10 minutes of Q&A at the end.  The GoTo Training sessions have been more interactive and better than ever, and student participation has really helped us learn more about public speaking and presentation in the 21st century.

Read all 10 of Daum’s online presentation tips here.

What great articles did you read this week?

Links of the Week: 2014.04


During my search for the perfect book for my Public Speaking class, I added The Power Presenter to my list.  I still haven’t read it, but a certain blog post pushes the book to the top of my list.  Ethos 3’s book review on Jerry Weissman’s The Power Presenter is short and gives some great information on the strengths and drawbacks of the text.  Ethos3 claims the text contains advice on overcoming speaking anxiety as well as strong delivery and content… I am excited to read it!


Angela DeFinis of DeFinis Communications gives us Public Speaking Best Practices from her clients.  Written at the start of the new year, this advice resonates with me because it is so valid in every setting for every speaker.  For example, some of the client advice includes simplifying the message and the slides; using engagement strategies; and considering delivery (Source).  Check out her entire article here.

Make A Powerful Point is quickly becoming my favorite website/blog on public speaking and presenting.  Curator Gavin McMahon’s latest article “Comparisons Speak Louder Than Words” is something I want to implement in my classes to help students present numbers and data.  McMahon explains that audience members can’t really understand large numbers because they become abstract (Source).  Knowing this, presenters should put a focus on comparisons, and he gives us 5 ingredients for a good comparison.  This post is essential for business presenters!  Read it here.

What great articles have you read this week?

Links of the Week: 2014.03


This week, presentation experts have been buzzing about Michael Bay’s Meltdown.  If you haven’t seen it yet, go ahead and watch the cringeworthy onstage moment here.  Unfortunately for Michael Bay, this was an epic public speaking fail.  Fortunately for us, we can learn a lot from it.

“Five Lessons from Michael Bay’s Meltdown” by Manner of Speaking gives us great insight into what happened onstage at the Samsung press conference.  These five lessons all relate to preparation: 1) prepare, 2) warm up, 3) have a back-up plan, 4) don’t make a big deal out of the problem, and 5) get back on the horse.  Check out the fantastic article here.  I created a lesson for my students on the importance of preparation, but I also gave them practical examples of how to prepare.  Check out the Slideshare deck here.  (Again, keep in mind, this is only a slideshow designed to go along with my classroom lesson.  If you want to know more about what we discuss in class, email me!)


Nadine Hanafi of We Are Visual created a visual presentation to address the issue.  “Michael Bay’s Million Dollar ‘Whoops’ Moment: Why You Should Internalize – Not Memorize – Your Speech” is a must-see Slideshare deck.  Hanafi hits the nail on the head about how to prepare for a speech.  The goal is not to write a script and then to read that script to the audience.  As we know from Garr Reynolds’ naked presenter philosophy, our goal is to research and to prepare content that we spend time rehearsing until we are comfortable.  On presentation day, a speaker can definitely use a speaking outline or notecards with very little written down to help stay on track with our content.  But if a speaker relies on a teleprompter to feed him both words and ideas, he’s in trouble!  As we can see from the Michael Bay ‘Whoops’ Moment, if the technology fails, we’re screwed if we’ve planned to rely only on the teleprompter.  What’s more – if we simply read from a script, our delivery isn’t natural, authentic, and “naked” as Garr Reynolds advises.  We must learn the goal of speech delivery and how to embody this conversational style when we present.

For a few more good reads on the Michael Bay presentation debacle, check out Carmine Gallo’s “How A Movie Director Could Have Avoided Prompter Meltdown” and “What You Can Learn From Michael Bay’s Embarrassing Presentation Mishap” by Geoff Weiss of

What did you think of Michael Bay’s presentation, or lack thereof, at the Samsung press conference?

Links of the Week: 2014.02


For both my on-campus and online students, I explain that when it comes to public speaking and presentation, there are two major problems: lack of preparation and presentation anxiety.  It is true that these often go hand-in-hand.  In his latest blog post on Presentation Zen, Garr Reynolds discusses speech anxiety, also known as the lizard brain.  “Coping With Presentation Anxiety and Stage Fright” starts off by showing us an example of a Michael Bay presentation fail.  Reynolds then explains that we all suffer from stage fright in certain speaking situations, and we must learn how to deal with that anxiety.  He gives us an excerpt from his book The Naked Presenter written by guest author Les Posen called “Five Tips for Dealing With Presentation Nerves.”  These five suggestions include chunking your presentation; rehearsing; engaging in positive self talk; controlling physical symptoms of fear through deep breathing; and practicing deliberately.

Sometimes, the part of the presentation that makes us most fearful is the question and answer portion.  Fortunately, Ethos3’s latest post, “How To End Your Q&A Session,” can help!  My on-campus students are the only ones who ever do Q&A after speeches, and this can be a positive, productive experience or a really, really sad time.  For example, one of my students gave a persuasive speech on an emotionally-charged, polarizing topic… one which I told him he should reconsider due to his audience.  He ignored my advice, and I told him to meet me in my office to prepare and plan a successful speech.  Of course, he declined my offer (and, I should add, declined to apply all of the things I taught him that semester) and instead delivered a scattered, disorganized, essentially impromptu presentation which, needless to say, did not go over well with his audience.  During the Q&A, his fellow classmates tore him apart.  And I let them.  While it’s not my intention to ever make a student feel bad about himself, it is important that students learn one key thing in my class: it is all about the audience.

Not all students ignore my lessons and feedback and one-on-one help in my office, and most do a great job with Q&A because they’ve prepared and practiced.  They’re ready for their audience and genuinely want to clear up confusion or elaborate on their ideas.  Ethos3’s advice on how to manage a successful Q&A is a great article I would like to share with my audience-centered students.  The three tips Ethos3 give us for a post-speech chat include 1) taking one question at a time in a structured and organized fashion; 2) explaining up front the kinds of questions that will be answered; and 3) sharing an agenda.


At our last English Department meeting, a colleague brought up the topic of visual resumes.  This is something I teach in Professional Communication and Presentation to my business students, and I loved the timing of Nancy Duarte’s “Old Career Rules Don’t Work – To Compete, You Need A Body Of Work.”  While my colleague did a great job of sharing examples of visual resumes, what wasn’t said in our Department meeting was why an online, digital portfolio or visual resume is essential in 2014.  Duarte talks about that specifically in her latest blog post.  She writes, “If you neglect your story, one will be written for you […] The rise of social media has blurred the line between our personal and professional lives. Anybody can search for your name on the Internet and interpret the results however they wish” (Source).  And this is where managing your digital reputation comes in.

In 2010, Facebook was my obsession.  I’d had it since 2004 and spent hours every single day looking at photos and posting on my friends’ walls.  My Internet “brand” was what I posted on my personal Facebook page and the pages of other people.  Fast-forward to 2014, and I’ve been Facebook-free for nearly three years.  Instead, I’ve focused on building my digital brand in a much more constructive way through my blog, my contributions on the blogs of others, my Slideshare posts, my visual resume, and my LinkedIn profile page.  If you’d conducted a Google search of me back in 2010, you wouldn’t find much because I was wasting so much time on Facebook.  These days, I like what I see when I type “Alex Rister” into Google, and this has taken years and years of work.

Duarte says, “[Y]ou can no longer rely on a traditional resume of bullet points to position you for success. You must understand that all information in the public forum will become stories that influence your personal brand” (Source).  We only have 24 hours each day, and we get to decide how we want to spend that time.  Are we using our hours on the Internet for constructive, career-building, brand-creating, storytelling purposes?  If not, how can we make this more of a priority?  Can we cut out just 30 minutes or an hour of Facebooking each day to focus on our personal brand?

What great articles have you read this week?