Lauren Bacon can help you ask the right questions.

Lauren BaconI’m going to plug a friend’s services here because a) they’re terrific, b) she’s terrific and c) I think she can help you be more terrific.

Some of the most valuable conversations I’ve ever had have been with Lauren Bacon. She’s a superb listener, offers excellent advice and is relentlessly curious about the world.

Looking back on it, most of that advice didn’t come with a period at the end. Lauren has a gift for asking questions (that’s the curiousity coming into play) — and she’s put it to work helping a lot of people: leaders, creative professionals, companies and non-profits.

And now maybe you. Her newly relaunched website has a wide range of offerings, including the short-but-profoundly-useful e-book Curious for a Living and its free companion workbook, Essential Questions for Purposeful Projects. Continue reading

Robin Williams

Alex and I saw Robin Williams perform in Vancouver several years ago.

A lot of touring comics start with a few thinly localized jokes to win the crowd over, and then launch into their main routine. I expected he’d do the same — and sure enough, he did a Vancouver joke.

And then another. And then an extended riff. And another one.

There must have been twenty minutes of genuine Vancouver material: not boilerplate insert-name-of-city here stuff, but joke after joke that felt organically, authentically of this place. And his material was savvy and current, not just land-of-pot-and-Birkenstocks stuff.

I once read an article about his USO work: how he would usually eschew VIP treatment and official tours in favour of just sitting down and talking to soldiers for hours. When he finally did perform, he’d draw extensively on those conversations.

That’s a precious gift to give to an audience: using your talent as a prism for their own lives and experiences. It requires some real courage — far safer to rely on tested material that reliably delivers the laughs. But in the hands of someone as talented as Mr. Williams, it was powerful.

I’m sorry I won’t have the chance to see it again, and sorrier still for the pain that led him to end his life. There will be plenty of chances to reflect on his work in the weeks to come, but for now, I’m remembering a performer who did far, far more than just meet expectations.

About that presentation…

Rob Cottingham:

Below, some very sound advice on how to keep your next speech from being derailed by a tech trainwreck.

My take? People want to hear your message. Not the piddly in-the-moment travails and frustrations that won’t amount to anything in half an hour, but your message.

You can do everything right: rehearse the presentation with the setup, have a local backup ready to run if the Internet connection didn’t work, and so on. But for whatever reason, sometimes the AV system will have none of it.

The real solution to technical glitches like this, which still happen all too often, isn’t technical. It’s much more fundamental: being prepared to abandon the technological side of the presentation, and fall back to the thing that really matters — your story, told clearly and well.

Originally posted on Key Messenger:

Recently I attended a luncheon speech by a senior executive from one of the world’s leading technology firms. I even sat next to be guest speaker. During lunch, his colleague indicated that the presentation had technological issues: the file wouldn’t speak to the laptop, which was angry at the projector from a different generation (my paraphrasing).

“Oh well”, said the speaker. Someone had to figure this out.

Being a communications trainer, I mentioned that slides and video, while wonderful, were not essential for a great talk. I joked that Martin Luther King never used PowerPoint; I had seen Margaret Thatcher in Parliament and she hadn’t relied on slides…

By the middle of the main course, the guest speaker turned to me:

“Wouldn’t it be funny if the guy from a major tech company couldn’t get the audio-visual to work?”

I said don’t worry you’ll be fine. Tell us a good…

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Filed under: Uncategorized

Meet Localty, Vancity’s local-shopping mobile site for Victoria

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Alex and I got to work with William Azaroff eight years ago (good lord! eight?!) on Vancity‘s ChangeEverything. We became friends, and I became a fan of William’s impressive online smarts. So when he announces an online project for Vancity, my ears prick up so fast it makes my chin hurt:

Recently, a project I’ve been working on for the past few months with some brilliant and capable colleagues launched as a test and learn pilot in Victoria, BC. The project is called Localty, because what else are you gonna name a loyalty program focused on local purchasing?

Localty is a mobile web platform connecting our members and the public to discover Vancity business members, and encourage them to promote these local businesses via social media and to shop locally. We want to encourage more people to steer some of their purchases away from multi-national chains and big box stores to small, local businesses.

Continue reading

The truth, a story and pictures: Dan Roam on powerful presentations

If we tell them the truth, tell them that truth with a story, and tell that story with pictures, our presentations will be extraordinary.

‘Show and Tell’ Author Dan Roam Talks to Marketing Smarts

I’m a fan of Dan Roam’s. He delivered a fantastic presentation to the Nonprofit Technology Conference a few years ago (you can see my sketchnotes here). And his books The Back of the Napkin, Unfolding the Napkin and Blah Blah Blah are terrific guides to using simple pictures to do a dramatically better job of thinking and communicating.

Now his latest, Show and Tell, focuses specifically on presentations. For folks who are sick of stock-photo-laden PowerPoint decks and dense, meandering gabfests, this could be a life-saver. I can’t wait to read it.

Filed under: Presentation Design