Another New Blogger at PublicSpeakingforGeeks.com

Posted by Barry Flanagan on Aug 11th, 2008
2008
Aug 11

 

Recently I posted a call for new bloggers here at PublicSpeakingforGeeks.com. Hilari Weinstein was the first to answer the call. I am very pleased to announce I have a second victim blogger for the site. :)

 

 

Michael Keen is our newest blogger.

 

Michael Keen is the Director and Senior Solutions Architect in the Enterprise Architecture group at Alliance Technologies in Des Moines, Iowa.  He is an innovative, results-oriented architect and executive with over a ten years of experience using technology to reach business objectives and eliminate barriers to business growth.

Before his career in IT, Michael was a professional alpine climber.  He spent over seven years in the highest peaks of the world and was the deputy expedition leader for an expedition to the South Face of Annapurna in 1999.  He has learned what it takes to prepare oneself for large challenges and has taken those experiences and translated them into his successful career in IT.

Today, Michael spends most his time speaking in front of C-level executives and other business groups around the U.S. on the how to integrate IT and business.  He brings his experience in strategy and execution from alpine climbing to the world of strategic IT automation and execution using dynamic IT concepts and the Citrix Delivery Center products.

 

 

I am very pleased that Michael is joining the team here at PublicSpeakingforGeeks.com. Michael has a wide variety of experience in technology and blogs a great deal about the lessons he learns each day in the field. The technology experience and his extensive moutain climbing background make Michael a very interesting person to know.

 

 

I am looking forward to seeing Michael’s cotnributions to the site.

 

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Build a Memory Palace to Lose the Crutch – Part V

Posted by Barry Flanagan on Jun 22nd, 2008
2008
Jun 22

(Read the earlier posts in this series here, here, here and here.)

 

 

Next up in this series are two videos with Andi Bell (three time World Memory Champion) from the BBC program "How to Improve Your Memory".

 

 

In this first video, Bell memorizes the order of 20 decks of cards in ten minutes. He then shows how he encodes the card by translating them into characters, then stores the images in a memory journey around London.

 

 


[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X-xl7_hdWZo]

 


 

In this second video, Bell teaches the host of "How to Improve Your Memory" how to create his own memory palace out of his home.

 


 

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9NROegsMqNc]

 


 

This second video shows how really simple the technique of creating a memory palace out of home or memory journey out of a path through town is very simple to do. Remembering the locations is the easy part for most people. Learning to quickly create vivid, bizarre images can take a bit of practice.

 

Take a recent presentation you built. Write down the opening statement, the three main points ( and examples for each) and the closing statement. Now create a memory palace. For this exercise, I suggest using your home. Start your path in your bedroom, then work a path through the entire home until you have eight spots for your memory palace. Use halls, bathrooms and closets if necessary. For now, only store one vivid image scene in each location.

 

Next, work on creating a vivid, bizarre action scene for the opening and closing statement, and one for each of your three main points and three examples. Each of these colorful action scenes should include sounds and a  powerful smell or taste as well.

 

 

Try it out. Please post your results and thoughts on the experience in the comments.

 

 

More video examples to come…

 

 

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Build a Memory Palace to Lose the Crutch – Part III

Posted by Barry Flanagan on Jun 21st, 2008
2008
Jun 21

(Read the earlier posts in this series here and here.)

Anyone can create their own memory palaces to quickly store and retrieve a wide variety of information or to remember the key points and examples of a presentation or speech..

 

1) – Pick a Palace – Choose a very familiar place (or path or journey) for your memory palace. Your current home is often a great choice for your first memory journey as you learn the technique.

 

2) – Choose a Path – Choose a starting point that you will use for all memory journeys. This can be the front door, the northern most room of the first floor, the largest entrance – what point you select try to stick to that tpe of start for all memory journeys. Decide which direction you will follow from that starting point and how you will proceed from there. If you are able to use a similar starting point and path for every memory journey, it will be much simpler to get started. As you grow more comfortable with this technique, you can use each room of a building to store multiple images. A single wall or an object within a room can become a storage location for a memory. For pi memorization, I use 10 locations in each room (four walls, ceiling, floor, (three walls in closet and closet ceiling). Since each visualization in the Dominic System represents four digits, I can store 40 digits of pi in my college apartment bedroom.

 

3) – Create the images – This step is much easier if you have taken the time to learn the Dominic System. But that is not absolutely required. Create an action scene for the info you need to remember. Make a picture in your mind of whatever the info is, and find every association you can imagine related to those associations.  Ensure their is movement and sound at a minimum. To lock this image in, use outrageous, comical or offensive action. The visualization must be memorable on its own and stand out from all the other images you collect daily. Add in smells and tastes where possible.

 

4) Lock it In – Play the memory journey through your mind in your spare moments. While you are on hold for a call, driving in the car, brushing your teeth or waiting in line, walk through your new memory palace and call up each visualization. A few minutes a day will help you lock those images inside your memory palace.

 

The metaphor I use for a memory palace is a technical one – the master file table on your computers hard disk. Your operating systems keeps a map of all location available on the hard drive. Each time data needs to be sorted, the os encodes the data, stores teh data ion available locations ( similar to to selecting a new memory palace) and keep a record of that location  Finally, when the data needs to be retried, the os check the master file table for its location on the disk, finds the data and decodes it.

 

The vivid and outrageous action scenes built on your personal associations is the encoding step. Picking your memory palace and the path inside it for storing memories is similar to finding available locations on the master file table for storage. Checking the master file table for the data location and pulling that data off the hard disk is a retrieval system much the same way returning to the appropriate spot in your memory palace is a memory retrieval.Translating the vivid action scene back into the needed information is like the os decoded the data on the disk.

 

This technique does require practice. The most difficult for many people is learning how to quickly find associations and translate those associations into a memorable and vivid action scene in a short period of time. The more you do this, the easier it becomes. If you spend just 3-5 minutes a day working on learning this memory technique, you will inevitably discover with a few weeks that you memory has improved dramatically and that it is much easier for you to recall you presentation topics and examples when you speak.

 

 

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Build a Memory Palace to Lose the Crutch – Part II

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

(Read the first post of this series here.)
Several Romans writers wrote of these ancient memory techniques. "Rhetorica ad Herennium" (author unknown), "De Oratore" (Cicero, 55 BCE),  and Institutio Oratoria (Quintillian, 95 CE) all cover the use of the memory palace technique in oratory. According to "The Art of Memory" by Frances Yates, each of these ancient works refers to the Greek Simonides as the originator of the technique.


His patron, Scopas, reproached him at a banquet for devoting too much space to a praise of Castor and Pollux in an ode celebrating Scopas’ victory in a chariot-race. Scopas refused to pay all the fee and told Simonides to apply to the twin gods for the remainder. Shortly afterwards, Simonides was told that two young men wished to speak to him; after he had left the banqueting room, the roof fell in and crushed Scopas and his guests.  During the excavation of the rubble, Simonides was called upon to identify each guest killed. He managed to do so by correlating their identities to their positions (loci) at the table before his departure. After thanking Castor and Pollux for paying their half of the fee by saving his life, Simonides drew on this experience to develop the ‘memory theatre’ or ‘memory palace’, a system for information management widely used in oral societies until the Renaissance. He is often credited with inventing this ancient system of mnemonics (Quintilian xi.2,n).


Cicero expands upon the memory palace technique in "De Oratore"(Book II, Section 357) -


It has been sagaciously discerned Simonides or else discovered by some other person, that the most complete pictures are formed in our minds of the things that have been conveyed to them and imprinted on them by the senses, but that the keenest of all our sense is the sense of sight and that consequently perceptions received by the ears or by reflection can be most easily retained if they are also conveyed to our minds by the meditations of the eyes.


A memory palace (also called method of loci) provides a location and series of associations for memory. The cornerstone to this method is vivid and imaginative pictures for each item to be included in the memory palace. In my experience, a outrageous action scene that includes a great deal of color, sound, and, if possible, tastes and smells is even more effective.

 


Ancient Greeks did not have access to paper as we know it today for taking notes. Gutenberg’s printing press would not come along until the 15th century. Oratory was very common (and extremely long winded) but there was no readily available method for writing down notes or using sources. Mnemonics were essential to oration, and oration was considered essential to politics and academics. These techniques were refined and proven over centuries, but fell out of favor as paper, printing (and now computers and powerpoint) became more common.

 


This memory palace technique can still be useful today for the speaker. This mnemonic technique can be used for much more than speeches of course. The key is to create vivid, outrageous active pictures for each bit of information, then chain all that information together as action scenes throughout a building (or along a journey as Dominic O’Brien suggests).




In Part III of this series, I will cover a step by step process to creating a memory palace.

 

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The Inner Game of Public Speaking

Posted by Barry Flanagan on Apr 4th, 2008
2008
Apr 4

 

Public Speaking is all in your head, literally. You can come to this blog or 10,000 other blogs, web sites, books, videos and seminars to get a step by step formula to becoming a great speaker. Ultimately, you have to execute on what you learn.

 

This point applies to a wide variety of physical and mental skills, of course. Singing, playing a musical instrument, memory, learning, golf, pool, bowling,  coding, video games, basketball, server administration, and tennis all have a wide variety of instructional videos, classes, blogs, web site, forums, and gurus. Some people are a "natural" and learn these skills on their own, while others may be seminar "junkies" and hunt and eat every single morsel of knowledge they can find. For all these skills and many more, utimately your ability to do well is determined in very large measure by what is going on in your own head.

 

Several years back, I played a great deal of tennis. I found that I could do extremely well in practice, and just as poorly in a real match. I was desperate to understand why, and read many books and watched many videos on how to perform each stroke. While I did learn several new ways to hit a forehand or a serve, my results actually got worse. I was cursed with too much knowledge.

 

Long before I came across "Made to Stick" and the concept of the "Curse of Knowledge", I read a fantastic book that has lessons that apply both to tennis and public speaking. That book is "The Inner Game of Tennis" by W. Timothy Gallwey.

 

I too admit to overreaching as a new pro, but one day when I was in a relaxed mood I began saying less and noticing more. To my surprise, errors that I saw but didn’t mention were correcting themselves without the student ever knowing he had made them. How were the changes happening? Though I found this interesting,  it was little hard on my ego, which didn’t quite  see how it was going  to get its due credit for the improvements  being made. It was an even greater blow when I realized that sometimes my verbal instructions seemed to decrease the probability of the desired correction occurring.


All teaching pro’s know what I am talking about. They all have students like one of mine named Dorothy.  I would give Dorothy a gentle, low-pressured instruction like, "Why don’t you try lifting  the follow through up from your waist to the level of your shoulder? The topspin will keep the ball in the court."? Sure enough,  Dorothy  would try hard to follow my instructions.The muscles would tense around her mouth; her eyebrows would set in a determined frown;the muscles in her forearm would tighten, making fluidity impossible; and the follow through would end only a few inches higher.At this point, the stock response of the patient pro is, "That’s better, Dorothy, but relax, don’t try so hard!" The advice is good far as it goes, but Dorothy does not understand how to "relax" while also trying hard to hit the ball correctly. (from page 6)

 

The lessons from "The Inner Game of Tennis" for speaking apply both to learning about public speaking AND to the whatever technical topic you are speaking about when in front of the room. I recall when I first began speaking that I was told by a co-worker to never put my hands in my pockets. When I asked "What do I do with my hands?" The answer came back "Just gesture."

 

At the time, I had no idea how to "just gesture".  In my post "But This is a Technical Presentation!" you can see an example where a technical speaker assumes that more text and information is better in a technical presentation. As Gallwey illustrates in this next excerpt, often more instruction leads to worst results.

 

 

Why should Dorothy – or you or I – experience an awkward tightening when performing a desired action which is not physically difficult? What happens inside the head between the time the instruction is given  and the swing is complete?  The first glimmer of an answer to this key question came to me at a moment of rare insight after a lesson with Dorothy: "Whatever’s going on in her head, it’s too damn much! She’s try so hard to swing the racket  the way I told her that she can’t focus on the ball" Then and there, I promised myself I would cut down on the quantity of verbal instructions.


My next lesson that day was with a beginner named Paul who had never held a racket. I was determined to show him how to play using as few instructions as possible.; I’d try to keep his mind uncluttered and see if it made a difference. So I started by telling Paul I was trying something new: I was going to skip entirely my usual explanations  to beginnings players about the proper grip, stroke, and footwork for the basic forehand. Instead, I was going to hit ten forehands myself, and I wanted him to watch carefully, not thinking about what I was doing, but simply trying to grasp a visual image of the forehand. He was to repeat the image in his mind, several times then just let his body imitate. After I had hit  ten forehands, Paul  imagined himself doing the same. Then, as I put the racket into his hand, sliding it into the correct grip, he said to me, "I noticed that the first thing you did was move your feet." I replied with a noncommital grunt and asked him to let his body imitate the forehand as well as it could. He dropped the ball, , took a perfect backswing, swung forward, racket level, and with natural fluidity ended the swing at shoulder height , perfect for his first attempt! But wait, his feet;they hadn’t moved an inch from the perfect ready position he had assumed before taking his racket back. They were nailed to the court! I pointed to them and Paul said, " Oh yeah, I forgot about them !" The one element of the stroke Paul had tried to remember was the one thing he didn’t do! Everything else had been absorbed and reproduced without a word being uttered or an instruction being given!


I was beginning to learn what all the good pros and students of tennis must learn; that images are better than words, showing is better than telling, too much instruction worse than none, and that trying often produces negative results.One question perplexed me: What’s wrong with trying? What does it mean to try to hard? (from pages 6-7)

 

There are some fantastic nuggets of knowledge in this except that led to much of the things I have learned about speaking. "Images are better than words" (for example) is consistent with the research of Richard Mayer. In Chapter Six (Changing Habits) Gallwey gives the Steps to "The Inner Game Way of Learning".

 

  1. Observe Existing behavior Non-Judgementally.
  2. Picture Desired Outcome.
  3. Let it happen!
  4. Nonjudgemental, Calm Observation of the Results Leading to Continuing Observation and Learning

 

You can see much of this advise in the Six Rs of Communication.

  1. Result – this is very similar to Picture the Desired Outcome.
  2. Rapport
  3. ResponseObserve Existing Behavior
  4. Reflect - Gallwey emphasizes "non-judgemental" observation that isn’t emotional or critical.
  5. Range -
  6. Repeatable - Throughout his book, Gallwey stress the concept that "Inner Game" is more about your overall mental process than it is about drilling on specific skills.

 

 

"The Inner Game of Tennis" is a fantastic book for tennis and for any other skill. Gallwey has other books on Golf, Skiing, Music, and work. I highly recommend his approach.

 

 

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