Scared of Presentations?

24 11 2009

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Scared of Presentations?

5 Easy Steps Towards Better Presentation Skills

Everyone has heard the urban legend that states “more people are afraid of public speaking than death.”

Thanks to blogger and Toast Master Richard Garber, I was able to locate the well cited date in The 14 Worst Human Fears list in the 1977 Book of Lists. In the study, 41 percent of people feared speaking before a group, while only 19 percent feared death comparitively. This data was skewed into the “more people are afraid of public speaking than death” urban legend we hear today.

Tirelessly, I looked for some data along these lines, but I was unable to find any such figures; however, I dug up an article in the Archives of General Psychology that claimed that one in three respondents reported “excessive anxiety” when they spoke to “large audiences. This study, conducted by three doctors with impressive acronyms, also reported that the onset of this fear appeared in half of the study by 13 years of age and that 90 percent of participants in the study were shaking at the podium by the age of 20.

I thought I’d do my part to relieve this anxiety by making presentations a little easier with these personal tips. These tips are loosely  based on George Mason University’s The Short Guide To Effective Presentations.

So here is the skinny.

1. Know your mission: Determine your purpose by establishing what you want your audience to know and how you would like them to act on this knowledge.

2. Establish your target: (target audience that is) Analyze your audience and tailor your message according to their age, education level, knowledge about your topic and attitude toward the topic.

3. Gather intelligence: Gather enough information to write an effective presentation, then adjust the information as to avoid overwhelming the audience with too much information. Remember, it’s better to recall all of some, than none of all.

4. Operational pictures: Add interest with relevant images. Never add a photo that doesn’t add to the message or embody the emphasis of the topic. Only use charts, graphs or illustrations if they are simple enough to understand and increase the audience’s understanding.

5. Train: Practice, practice, practice and then? Practice! Ideally, research your topic until you feel like an expert. When you feel comfortable with the content, run through the presentation. Preferably, practice out loud with your visuals. If at all possible, record your practice and make notes about eye contact, movements, uses of gestures, tone, enthusiasm, pace and voice projection.

Quicksprout blogger, Neil Pate, points out that this recorded practice run can be a great tool to catch errors because You usually don’t notice when you say ‘uhm,’ ‘ah,’ or any other useless word frequently, but the audience does. It gets quite irritating.” Pate also recommends that you “Show some movement – People are more engaged with an animated speaker.”

A quick word on the visuals – I’ve never fancied myself as a great writer, but I’m a solid writer. More importantly, I’m good with visuals and drawing interest. I’m not saying that visuals will carry your presentation, but visuals can garner attention and carry interest through your content. For expert advice on your visual layout and slides, most specifically for PowerPoint and Keynote, I recommend that you check out Presentation Zen.

The visual rule of thumb is to keep it simple. Pate warns, Whatever your visuals may be, keep them simple and don’t put too many words on them. The audience isn’t there to read your slides; they are there to listen to you present.”

If you need more insight, this You Tube video provides comical parody into the problems associated with, in this instance, PowerPoint presentations and zealous naivety.

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4 Easy Steps Towards Bigger Donations

2 11 2009

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Get More Cheese!

4 Easy Steps Towards Bigger Donations!

Do happier donors equal bigger bucks for your non-profit? Well, according to an article written in the Public Relations Review by Julie O’Neil, they do. Most non-profit studies seem to reiterate the importance of cultivating the relationship between the donor and the organization, especially in times of economic distress.

According to the findings of that study, there seems to be a two-year threshold for when donors’ perceptions of trust and satisfaction become relatively high and they begin to increase their donations; however, getting to this stage can be a daunting task for any organization.

Many organizations spend their time mass soliciting the public looking for new donors when they should be focusing on strengthening their ties with familiar donors. In a paper published in the Journal of Communication Management, Richard Waters said that “if an organization want to ensure its longevity, then it should be prepared to dedicate time to developing  relationships with its donors.”

So how do we best cultivate these relationships? Here are four easy steps:

1. Create interpersonal dynamics to generate trust with the donor. A recent Brookings Institution report indicated that donors were most concerned that non-profit organizations did not spend donations wisely. Organizations need to develop trust through transparency. Studies indicate that when a donor perceives the accurate use of donations in a timely manner, they are more likely to donate. This gives the donor the assurance that the donation was needed and used responsibly.

2. Groom your donor relationships with a sense of commitment. Lets face it; you’re not going to ask someone to the prom if you think they might switch schools before the big dance, and donors feel the same way. Donors are more likely to give to causes that display a worthiness of a donation. An organization that demonstrates longevity and devotion to a cause is prone to receive more gifts.

3. Generate a sense of satisfaction for the donor. It’s important to associate positive feelings within the giver. My mother will be the first one to admit that the look in her Black Lab’s eyes brings her as much joy as the treat in her hand evokes in her dog. If the donor is going to continue their support, the benefits must outweigh the costs of charity. The satisfaction of the donor leads to longevity and recommendations among others.

4. Establish a sense of control mutuality between the organization and the donor. Nobody wants to feel controlled. There must be a perceived balance of power and mutual esteem. The organization should strive to reciprocate the kindness of the giver in some form or effort.

These are just the tip of the iceberg examples for cultivating better donor relationships. Even profitable businesses can stand to gain from these relationship maxims.Your NGO or non-profit needs to plan and tailor a personal procedure based on these principles. Greg Fox of DonorPower says that “The future lies with those who serve the donors,” and that “Raising money the old way is getting harder and harder to do.”





7 Easy Twitter Commands Every Rookie Should Know

19 10 2009

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TWIT-101 95?:

Seven Easy Twitter Commands Every Rookie Should Know

In the age of quickly evolving media and trend hopping journalists, it’s rather difficult to stay abreast of the social media curve. While I was researching a simple class assignment, I quickly noticed a lack of readily available Twitter codes. After a couple of simple Google searches I had yet to discover a simple list of basic Twitter commands. To remedy this, I gathered a basic, novice level list of esoteric Twitter lexicon.


Okay, so let’s start on the assumption that if you’re looking for commands, then you probably have an account and can at least post a 140-character comment. We can further deduce that if you’re an entry-level tweeter, then most of your content is nothing more than mediocre everyday nothingness. Now, let’s get you a little more advanced.


Replies – When you see a post you would like to reply to, select the swirling arrow “reply” icon under the trash icon, or select The Jetsons looking “Sprocket” on the user’s profile page. Twitter will automatically generate a “text field” in your comment section with the “@” sign, followed by the user’s screen name so you can reply. (i.e. @user) Once you’ve typed your message, it will insert a link to that user in your post and post it in their feed.

Direct Message – (DM) You can message other Twitter users directly without public posts by selecting “Message” on the user’s profile page in the “Actions” section on the right side of the profile.

Hat Tips – (HT) The Hat Tip is the Twitter code to acknowledge a user’s post, specifically one of particular achievement or in recognition of informative value. It’s the literal likening to the proverbial tip o’ the hat.

Hashtags(#) You can use the hashtags on Twitter by affixing a tag, or “key word,” to your comment. To do so, place the pound sign character (#) next to the word you wish to tag, without a space between them. This tag links your comment to a specific group of similar tags and even the “Trending Topics” section of Twitter if the topic generates enough popularity. Hashtags, when affixed and shared to a group of users, are useful in lumping in group tweets for a specific purpose.

ReTweet – (RT) When a Twitter user wishes to repost, or retweet, they may do so by citing the original tweeter. Do this by simply affixing an “RT,” then “@” and then the username of the original message, followed by the original post. Of course, the 140-word character limit still applies. Most veteran Twitters stay well under the 140-character limit to allow space for RT attribution so you can cite them.

Overheard – (OH) Overheard is an anonymous re-tweet – Use “OH” to re-post a tweet when the user wishes to hide or protect the tweet’s originator.

Heard Through – (HT) Use this command to re-tweet something heard in life from a twitter user. To do so, affix “HT,” the “@,” and the username. Then feel like a nerd for retweeting a real life conversation.

Okay, someone needs to say it; that last Tweet-Trick ranks as the ’40-year-old-virgin’ comment, on a scale of one-to-nerd. Also, is it just me, or does that Twitter bird remind anyone else of a hastily drawn Snow White style Disney animation knockoff? Speaking of mistaken, was anyone else’s mind blown when they realized that the Disney ‘D’ wasn’t a ‘G’?

Be sure to HT@longo05 when you bite one of those last quotes. ; )

For more information on Twitter: There is a 13-step beginners’ guide from TwiTip, a social media approach from The Spinks Blog, and even the simplest YouTube explanation of twitter by CommonCraft.





A SoupKnife Life: The Opening Gambit

27 04 2009

A SoupKnife Life: The Opening Gambit
Wednesday, June 17, 2009

    The Opening Gambit…

First thing’s first. Why Soup Knife? In a world where a rose by any other name couldn’t possibly sound as sweet, I chose to ironically name my web presence after an abstract play on word.

I could tell you that it was homage to John A. Nagl’s counterinsurgency novel, titled “Learning To Eat Soup With A Knife.” I would explain to you that Nagl uses an aphorism defined by T. E. Lawrence, which explains “Making war upon insurgents is messy and slow, like eating soup with a knife.”

I would tell you that it resonated with me on a very personal level. I could tell you that in an age of merging technologies, globalization and a blurring of conventional boundaries has created a world where were are constantly emerged in the floundering tribulations of men. I could tell you that I thought the concepts of insurgencies and counterinsurgencies were the quintessential symbolism of all we do. I could explain that life is all about creating insurgencies in some cases, and about quelling them in others.

I could tell you that it was a matter of principle. You would probably buy into that. I would offer an argument based on my own personal approach of Kantian idealism slathered in Machiavelli satire. Not the disillusion of utilitarian ethics that people commonly interpret to be of cut-throat cynicism, but rather a call to arms for the people in most dire need of republic idealism.

I might confide in you that I stand fast to the Roman ideal of Virtu. I would explain to you the imperative ideology of achieving moral excellence, and finding the fairest moral balance in all aspects of you life. I would explain that I am continually most impressed with the Roman virtues of being the wise patriarch, experienced warrior, and judicious politician, ruled only by self control and obligation to all.

I could further explain my affinity for military history, and my personal fascination with extrapolating life experience from it. I would imply that I hoped to learn from the biggest failings of men, war, and mean it.

I could tell you that I am devout to duty-based ethics and that I derived my title from a form of duty to country that it is a maxim of principle, which I hold dear to myself. Then I could explain that practicing this maxim is tight rope sprint between duty to a larger ideal for a greater good of the aggregate composition of this United States, and the chauvinistic false idealism of nationalism. I suspect you would quickly realize that I spitefully contest unrequited nationalism and blind support.

I could explain to you all these reasons and, perhaps more importantly, this reasoning. Would you care though? You might hate me in disagreement, or listen steadily in divergence. Perhaps we could evaluate the world we live in and aspire to define the human condition, and better understand others and ourselves.

I think we would all be sufficed with the explanation that I simply enjoy humor, and the absurdity of life, and the constant irony that humiliates our hubristic endeavors. We could relish with the false notion that life is unbearably out of our control and that we simply have to take the unfortunate perplexities of life and the majority in stride. We could all recite generic truism and turn up our nuclear family values, or we could try to understand just how complex and multifaceted each situation is.

Perhaps it is because I am afforded the luxury of being in school and subsequently the free time to really analyze the world with a third person perspective and seemingly not having any stake in it. Yet, I have always scrutinized life with a curiosity unquenched by surface appearance. Maybe it is through this disillusion of neutrality that we can systematically further an understanding, in the same way a microscope takes no bias in the analysis of a cell.

Basically, all I really want is to achieve a better understanding and to facilitate a multilogue where I can, along with others, create a forum where I can engage the abstract and real world alike. I seek to establish a haven for the trivial, monumental, absurd and logical. This will be my arena and you may be my coach, if you are wise enough; my teammates, if you are patient enough; or my opponent if you are strong enough.

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