Simon Sinek’s “Why Good Leaders Make You Feel Safe”


Simon Sinek has done it again!  “Why Good Leaders Make You Feel Safe” is a new TED Talk by the speaker who gave us wildly popular “How Great Leaders Inspire Action” or the “Start With Why” speech.  This March 2014 presentation is not to be missed.  Check it out below:


This speech emphasizes trust and safety as the keys to establishing leadership in a company or business.  If employees live in a culture of constant fear, if they feel they could lose their job at any moment if they don’t abide by the rules or the chain of command, leadership is not good if it can be called “leadership” at all.

Sinek teaches us that good leadership is about nurturing and opportunity, education and discipline, as well as a focus on building self-confidence.  He says if an employee at a company with good leadership is having performance issues, that company focuses on coaching and support.  He also says good leaders sacrifice numbers for people.  Companies with strong leadership know that people are the bottom line and not money.  Sinek tells story after story after story of companies with leadership that empowers people.  You have got to watch his Talk.

Leadership is infinitely fascinating to me.  I recently shared several articles I’ve been reading in the last edition of Links of the Week.  I began a new leadership training at my company today.  Yesterday, I had a meeting with my professor to flesh out my leadership-centered graduate thesis topic.  I can never read enough or learn enough on the topic, and I think I am most curious because I see leadership and presentation/communication skills so closely linked.

What great resources on leadership have you enjoyed lately?  Did you like this Sinek talk on leadership as much as his first TED presentation?


A New Elizabeth Gilbert TED Talk!


“Success, Drive, And The Drive To Keep Creating” is a brand new TED Talk by Elizabeth Gilbert.  A follow-up to her wildly popular TED Talk five years ago, this shorter presentation is just as compelling and tackles the subject of success.  Check it out below:


Equal parts funny and touching, Gilbert’s story-based content takes audience members on a journey out of failure.  Her humor and her wisdom make me feel like I know her, and this delivery style embodies Garr Reynolds’ “naked” presenter philosophy.  Whether you’re an artist or not, Gilbert’s message will resonate with you.

What was your favorite part about Gilbert’s new TED Talk?

Dr. Emdin’s “Teach Teachers How To Create Magic”


Dr. Christopher Emdin‘s hook got me.  He tells the story of an aspiring teacher writing a 60-page paper about a super old education theory developed by a long-dead man and wondering what in the world that paper has to do with her future career goals and aspirations.

As a graduate student AND a full time teacher, this is something I’ve too often experienced.  I’ve found that research-based universities (the big universities such as the University of Florida and the University of Central Florida) are concerned with just that: research.  Teaching duties are secondary to research and publication, conferences and journals.  Research-based universities employ scholars: the thinkers, philosophers, and inventors of our day.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, we have learning-centered institutions (formerly community colleges, now state colleges, such as Valencia College or Seminole State College).  These colleges are concerned with teaching and learning.  Check out Valencia’s learning-centered mission statement here.  As opposed to research, faculty members at learning-centered institutions are expected to be strong teachers.  Teaching is the primary goal, not the means to an end.

As Dr. Edmin’s introduction continues (watch him continue this train of thought until 1:30), he asks us to focus on this research-based university system which, from personal experience I can agree, trains students how to become scholars and researchers.  Teachers aren’t focused on engaging students or on creating magic in the classroom to inspire learning.  And Dr. Edmin thinks that is a bad thing.

You may be wondering who Dr. Emdin is.  A professor at Columbia University and a Director of Science Education for the Center for Health Equity and Urban Science Education, Dr. Emdin is a superteacher.  He is the creator of the Hip Hop Ed social movement and has also collaborated with Wu Tang Clan’s GZA and the website Rap Genius on an initiative designed to engage students in science through hip hop battles.  Watch Dr. Emdin’s TEDx Talk below:


His argument is that superteachers aren’t often found in the classroom.  We know from people like Dr. John Medina, Garr Reynolds, and Nancy Duarte that great presenters (and great teachers) are storytellers, engaging presenters who focus on delivering content in an audience-centered fashion.  Superteachers and super-presenters are bound, linked, tied together, and this is a huge reason why I live and breathe public speaking and presentation.  Dr. Emdin says teachers are educated on theories and standards, but they have no idea how to develop that magic in the classroom, and that magic comes from careful study of effective communication and presentation techniques.  If we ditched education curriculum and replaced it with books like Brain RulesPresentation Zen, and Resonate, imagine the classrooms filled with students on the edge of their seats, excited and ready to learn.

Just like Sir Ken Robinson, Dr. Christopher Emdin sees that the system of education is broken.  His solution: teaching teachers how to develop “that magic” (as he calls it).  Dr. Emdin’s solution is that we should study effective presentation content and delivery, and I wholeheartedly agree.

What advice or suggestions would you give a new teacher to help her become a superteacher?

Inspirational Speech by “The World’s Ugliest Woman”


One of my favorite former students, Evan O’Lear, emailed me a link to a TEDx Austin Women Talk delivered by “The World’s Ugliest Woman,” Lizzie Velasquez.  Lizzie turns this terrible label on its head and urges her audience – and us at home – to reconsider how we define ourselves.  Does physical appearance matter so much that a strong, intelligent, funny, powerful woman with an exceptional medical condition must resign to a life of taunting and bullying?  And why are we so afraid of people who don’t look exactly the same way we do?

I guarantee that while watching this Talk, you will feel feelings.  Check it out below:


The Huffington Post calls Lizzie’s Talk “a lesson in acceptance and self love” (Source).  The International Business Times says Lizzie’s goal is “to help diminish the hate that comes her way by overriding it with an inspirational message of love and acceptance” (Source).

Even though I’ve seen thousands of presentations, after watching Lizzie’s TEDx Talk, I find myself in awe at the power of words.  A great speech can transform the way we look at someone – can make someone labeled “a monster” by cyberbullies into a beautiful human being, a hero and champion for women.  A great speech can make us feel deep empathy and compassion for others.  A great speech can change our perspective and can change the way we view the world.  A great speech can make us move from apathy to hope and optimism.  Lizzie’s presentation was masterful, and she makes her audience feel like we are better people for having watched her speak.

What is your reaction to Lizzie’s TEDx Talk?  Please share your thoughts in the “Comments” section!

Want To Be Happy? Be Grateful by David Steindl-Rast


Thank you for being so patient, Creating Communication readers, during this overwhelmingly busy time in my life!  Work has been off-the-charts busy with overhauling our online course; teaching extra classes; and handling more student issues than usual.  My graduate class has also been crazy as we wrap up our semester.  My final research paper was due yesterday, and our class final exam will be next week.  Because I will be so busy studying this week and over the weekend, I elected to stay in Orlando for Thanksgiving as opposed to driving to my hometown.  Though I am sad I won’t see family, I am exhausted.  I need a break, and I can’t wait to spend some time alone.  Do you ever feel that way?

This Thanksgiving, I am focusing on slowing down and being grateful despite the frenzy going on around me.  Brother David Steindl-Rast’s TED Talk could not have come at a more perfect time for me.  Called “Want To Be Happy? Be Grateful,” the Benedictine monk teaches us how to calm ourselves and to focus on giving thanks.  Check out his beautiful lesson below:


This Thanksgiving, I am going to stop, stand still in the middle of the tornado that is my life right now, and be thankful for every single blessing I have been taking for granted.  Whether you will be traveling and spending time with family or, like me, home alone, I hope you will find some time to stop, meditate, and be thankful.

Wishing you a Happy Thanksgiving!


The Importance of Storytelling in Public Speaking


While studying for my Quantitative Research Methods in Communication midterm this weekend, I took a much-needed mental break to visit  Because so many of my friends are or were online daters, the title of Amy Webb’s “How I Hacked Online Dating” immediately caught my eye.

I started watching it, and I marveled at the seamless, perfect blend of data and numbers with story in Webb’s TED Talk.  Her casual, audience-centered delivery and her beautiful supporting visuals rounded out all three legs of the presentation stool, and as a result, Webb delivered one of the strongest TED speeches with slides that I’ve actually EVER seen on the TED website.  Watch it here:


I am not a numbers person.  I’ve spent 8 hours today and will spend 8 hours tomorrow and 8 hours on Wednesday (midterm day) creating flashcards, reading and re-reading my textbook, going over my class notes, and highlighting my instructor’s PowerPoint slides to try to figure out nominal measurement scales, coefficients, ordered variables, and many other miserably confusing quantitative-related vocabulary words.  Even putting in 24 hours of studying won’t help me feel completely comfortable with this material.  It’s not something that I understand easily.  That being said, I do love data and numbers when that information is presented in story form.  Because I get it.  Because story works.  Webb’s presentation (above) proves it.  She makes data simple and explains the meaning behind the data, and as Garr Reynolds reminds us, this is essential if we want our audience to remember the information we are presenting.

So what is Webb doing in her TED Talk that helps me and other audience members understand and able to recall the data in her presentation?

My co-workers and I were talking about TED Talks in general, and a comment was made that TED speeches weren’t practical in teaching and learning public speaking because they were too story-driven.  I didn’t stop to think about the comment mid-conversation, but I did think about it quite a bit for the next few days.  Yes, TED is story-driven, and that’s the point: story is what drives all human beings.  Story is the most digestible,  understood, and easy to retell communication medium in the world.  And, as we know when we study ethos, pathos, and logos, people throw reason and logic out the window when the right emotional chord is struck.  TED Commandment #4 is “Thou shalt tell a story,” and this is because story is what sticks (Source).

Don’t believe me (or the TED Commandments)?  Look no further than Chip and Dan Heath, the men behind Made To Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die.  The Heath brothers know what TED presenters know: that story is sticky and resonates within us for days, weeks, months, years.  Presentation revolutionaries such as Nancy Duarte teach us that story “has played a significant role in all cultures but its adoption into professional cultures has been painfully slow. That’s because it’s easier to present a report instead of a well-crafted presentation that incorporates stories” (Source).  If we’re going to create effective speeches, we have to start turning to story as the primary vehicle for communicating and delivering the information we want to stick in other people’s minds.

So Webb is doing what all presenters should do.  She’s telling her story, and her story helps us understand a) the purpose of her speech, b) the data she collected, and c) why this is important for us as audience members.

Why do you think traditional public speaking and presentation instructors scoff at story-driven speeches?  How can we convince these old school folks to change their mindset?

Malcolm Gladwell’s “The unheard story of David and Goliath”


When I was searching for a new book to read this weekend, I came across Malcolm Gladwell’s newest called David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants.  While I almost instantly realized I wasn’t going to have time for any pleasure reading during my “weekend,” I did notice that TED released a TED Talk by Gladwell based on that book.  Check it out below:


This TED Talk is beautifully shot.  One thing I hate about some of these new TED Talks is the tiny “stage” with the audience clustering around.  That semi-circle seems so awkward!

Gladwell’s content is interesting, and he tells the story of David and Goliath only to turn the story on its head.  What I love most about his Talk is his delivery.  He is so conversational that it makes me feel like he’s talking to me at a dinner party.

Learn more about Malcolm Gladwell here.  You can also check out a few of his other TED Talks.