Drilling Down into the Six Rs – Results

Posted by Barry Flanagan on Feb 20th, 2008
2008
Feb 20

First, have a definite, clear practical idea; a goal, an objective. Second, have the necessary means to achieve your ends; wisdom, money, materials, and methods. Third, adjust all your means to that end.

Aristotle

 

If you want your audience to follow you, you must have a clear vision of where you want to go and the path you want to follow. You have to answer one question for yourself and your audience – What’s In It for Me? What is the one most important goal for you, what action do you want to take? What problem is your audience looking to solve, or what goal are they striving to reach?

 

You must have a firm grasp on the reasons your audience will be motivated to follow you down the path you map out to your ultimate goal. Many technical speakers do not have a clearly defined goal, and never consider the goal of the audience. This story from " The Story Factor by Annette Simmons is a fantastic example of a speaker who understands where he wants to go with the audience and what it will take to get them to follow -

 Skip looked into the sea of suspicious stockholders and wondered what might convince them to follow his leadership. He was 35, looked 13 and was third generation rich. He could tell they assumed he would be an unholy disaster as a leader. He decided to tell them a story. "My first job was drawing the electrical engineering plans for a boat building company. The drawings had to be perfect because if the wires were not accurately placed before the fiberglass form was poured, a mistake might cost a million dollars, easy. At 25, I already had two masters’ degrees. I had been on boats all my life and frankly, I found drawing these plans a bit …mindless. One morning I got a call at home from a $6/hour worker asking me "are you sure this is right?" I was incensed. Of course I was sure — "just pour the damn thing." When his supervisor called me an hour later and woke me up again and asked "are you sure this is right?" I had even less patience. "I said I was sure an hour ago and I’m still sure."

"It was the phone call from the president of the company that finally got me out of bed and down to the site. If I had to hold these guys by the hand, so be it. I sought out the worker who had called me first. He sat looking at my plans with his head cocked to one side. With exaggerated patience I began to explain the drawing. But after a few words my voice got weaker and my head started to cock to the side as well. It seems that I had (being left-handed) transposed starboard and port so that the drawing was an exact mirror image of what it should have been. Thank God this $6/hour worker had caught my mistake before it was too late. The next day I found this box on my desk. The crew bought me a remedial pair of tennis shoes for future reference. Just in case I got mixed up again – a red left shoe for port, and a green right one for starboard. These shoes don’t just help me remember port and starboard. They help me remember to listen even when I think I know what’s going on." As he held up the shoebox with one red and one green shoe, there were smiles and smirks. The stockholders relaxed a bit. If this young upstart had already learned this lesson about arrogance, then he might have learned a few things about running companies, too.

 

Communication can be defined as “the exchange of thoughts, messages, or information”. Exchange is the most important word in that definition. If the audience does not understand your point, you have not successfully communicated. Have you ever heard a speaker who seemed to wander aimlessly through a topic with no clear path or destination? A speaker with no obvious goal in mind confuses himself and the audience. As the Roman Orator Cato once said "Grasp the subject, words will follow."

 

 

The most important step to becoming an effective speaker is to ALWAYS have a clearly defined RESULT in mind.  After you have created crystal clear RESULT for your presentation, it is much easier to create your opening and closing, choose your main points, and build your content. Your RESULT is what you want your audience to conclude (and act upon) when you are done. When you start at the conclusion, it is a much simpler task to create your opening, main points, and then tie everything back into that conclusion.

 

A well defined RESULT needs to be specific, attainable, and focused on the audience. “Describe our new product features” is not a specific RESULT for your audience. “Grasp the problems that are driving our new product features, and see how these new features solve those problems while providing a fast return on the upfront investment” is a specific, attainable RESULT for your audience, as opposed to the generalized and speaker focused first example. The second statement articulates exactly what the speaker wants to achieve, and lays out a roadmap for how to achieve that RESULT so the audience gets it. Answer the question "What’s In It For Me?" for yourself and your audience, and you will be on the right path to creating a clear result for everyone.

 

 

 

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Great Tech Speakers on Video, Part III

Posted by Barry Flanagan on Feb 19th, 2008
2008
Feb 19

The next great tech speaker I would like to highlight is Steve Riley from Microsoft. Steve Riley is a regular speaker at every Microsoft Technical event around the globe, and receives consistently high ratings for his sessions.

 

Here is Steve’s bio from his blog -

Steve is now a senior security strategist in Microsoft’s Trustworthy Computing Group. He is a frequent and popular speaker at conferences worldwide, often appearing in Asia one week and Europe the next: speaking engagements have included multiple Microsoft TechEds and other conferences, plus SANS, RSA, Black Hat, Windows and Exchange Connections, Windows IT Pro Magazine roadshows, TechMentor conferences, the Institute for Applied Network Security, and InfoSec US. When not evangelizing the benefits of Microsoft security technology, Steve spends time with customers to better understand the security pain they face and show how some of that pain can be eliminated.

Steve Riley is certainly not your typical technology speaker, especially from a company as big as Microsoft. Steve has wild blond hair and is known to be very loose with the corporate dress code (he states in one session that "I don’t believe in pants that go all the way to the ground"). He wears earrings on occasion (see picture below), uses profanity on occasion and sometimes says things that the PR people likely wish he hadn’t ("We let you down with Windows XP"). Steve does not fit the stereotype of technical speakers, and that is part of what makes him so engaging, interesting and dynamic in front of the room.

 

Steve Riley

 

Steve has been blogged about by several people who have been in his audiences around the world. Long Zheng from Melbourne, Australia had this to say about Steve on his blog I Started Something

I had a chance to attend one of Steve Riley’s sessions today and it as one of the best presentations I’ve seen. Steve Riley is a security expert at Microsoft and has been involved in the work that has gone into BitLocker and other Vista’s under-the-hood security features. The content of Steve’s presentation was not all that out-of-this-world, but his personality and way of presentation was so captivating. He would not use the stage, instead he walks just over a metre infront of the first row of the audience. He would walk back and forth and often stopping infront of people, looking at them right in the eye and kept talking. Sometimes he’d even walk up half way the sidewalks to get closer to the people at the back. It sounds weird, but it felt like he wasn’t presenting to the audience, but more having a chat with the audience.

 

Aidan Finn in Ireland had this to say about Steve on his blog -

 

Steve Riley has posted links to video recordings of a bunch of his presentations at TechEd conferences. Steve is a serious security expert. Don’t let his employment by Microsoft prejudice your opinions. He’s pretty open, honest and has well thought out reasoning for all of his points. Steve is also one of the best speakers I’ve seen. He can make a very entertaining presentation out of what is normally a very stuffy subject.

 

To confirm the first two comments, I found this comment about Steve from a blog in Virginia.

 

While Steve’s appearance is the antithesis of the stuffy Redmond culture, (hey, do you think the MS guys will be wearing blue shirts and black pants/shoes AGAIN at this year’s TechED?) he is quite possibly their best presenter. His fun loving and irreverent seminars, complete with opening trance music, are informative and inspiring. I highly recommend that you visit some of his sessions this year.

 

Steve’s session videos are all hosted on Microsoft.com at the TechNet SpotLight. Since these videos are in Microsoft SilverLight, I am not able to embed them into the blog (though I am looking for a working SilverLight plugin for WordPress). One of Steve’s recent sessions was called The Fortified Data Center . In this session you see Steve down in the audience, moving throughout the room, using alot of audience appropriate humor (I love his "unhandled coffee exception"). Steve uses personal and customer stories very effectively. He does a great job of continually changing his volume, pitch, rhythm and vocal pace to keep the audience engaged. He uses many visuals quite effectively and for the most part the slides provide support for his remarks. He uses a presentation remote to keep him from being tied to the laptop to advance the slides, which allows him to get down in the audience and physically connect with the crowd.

 

There are a few occasions where the slides are overloaded with bullets or text (one slide on SharePoint had over 100 words). Another slide that depicts all the components of Steve’s "Fortified Data Center"vision is overloaded with graphics and texts. On those occasions, I get the sense that Steve is committing one of the commons sins of technical speakers, using the slides as a handout. If you use the slide merely to provide visual context to your remarks and create a separate handout, it is much easier to avoid these issues. Admittedly, this is extremely common in the tech industry and I have done it myself many times, unfortunately.

 

Despite those few slide issues, overall Steve is a very good technical speaker. There is much to be learned from his use of stories, metaphors, examples, and audience interaction. In my opinion, if Steve implemented more of the concepts in books on powerpoint design like "Visual Selling" or "Presentation Zen" he would be even more effective. A very interesting combination would be Steve’s engaging speaking style with Dick Hardt’s powerpoint design (inspired by Lessig).

 

I have more in this series planned, and several posts on bad speakers. I am still crafting the first in the deep dive series on the Six Rs to beat the curse.

 

 

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