Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Motivational quotes are good to get inspired

Today we had a nice Toastmaster session here at the company, and as a Table Topic Master was missing, I took the role.

If you don't know what a Table Topic session is, just imagine a moderator asking questions or introducing topics to an audience. After the topic is presented, he calls a member from the audience on stage to have him improvise for at least one minute (on the topic).

I had nothing prepared, so I thought about involving speakers on reflections on motivational quotes. I have quite a lot I am used to send to friends every once in a while. Here they are:

It is hard to fail, but it is worse never to have tried to succeed.
Franklin D. Roosevelt

Personality can open doors, but only character can keep them open.
Elmer G. Letterman

Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass... it's about learning to dance in the rain.

Failure defeats losers. Failure inspires winners.
Robert T. Kiyosaki

Why repeat the old errors, if there are so many new errors to commit.
Bertrand Russell

If you want to live a happy life, tie it to a goal, not to people or things.
Albert Einstein

Don't say things, have them done. Things done are self explained.
Woody Allen

Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.
Winston Churchill

I think it's nice to have people reflect on these topics, but as there are new members too, I let them choose if they wanted a difficult topic or a simple one. Moreover, switching from a serious quote to a light topic, made the session funnier. So, prepare some more topics such as:

  • What are the things you do before going to sleep?
  • Which smartphone do you prefer, iPhone or Android?
  • Is it better to have an iPad or an Amazon Kindle?
  • What would you rather ride, a Vespa or a Harley Davidson?

Silly topics, but really helpful for nervous speakers, indeed.

Friday, November 25, 2011

A couple of tips to start your public speech

I am not used to watch TV, because I don't own one, and my life goes on anyway. For video information I rely on Youtube, Vimeo and similar, it's more than enough to satisfy my interests.
I'll list just a couple of tips to remember, because I think they can be effective at the time of speaking in public.

Especially if you need to improvise your speech, opinion or simply contribution. It's curious: when you are drinking a coffee with a friend, a person of trust, you feel comfortable enough to express freely your thoughts and digress on multiple topics. But put yourself in front of an audience, and unless you have the gift of knowing how to control yourself and establish a contact with people from the public as soon as possible, your speech won't be so fluent as you would like.

Then just a couple of ideas from Elsa Punset, Spanish writer and philosopher.
  • Drink a sip of water just before speaking
    Having a sip of liquid will send a message of relax to your brain, and the brain will interpret that if you have time to drink, then your life is not in danger. So the brain sends another message of relax to the whole body. In case you don't have any glass of water, swallow your own saliva, it'll help!
  • Inhale air deeply in your belly, retain air some seconds, and exhale as slowly as you can
    This kind of breathing will make you relax immediately, probably thanks to the same mechanisms of the previous tip. It's the typical respiration you use when sitting down, and part of one typical Yoga respiration too (I'll write a post on it).
I tried these tips, and although they don't solve every problem, they'll help; at least as a placebo!
And if you need some more self-confidence, I think this video will help you charge your batteries before your next speech, quite intense and funny!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Don't go upper case. SO OBVIOUS.

I have a few friends in my social networks that seem to have problems with editing styles. I'll be more precise, I am not referring to spaces after commas, capital letters when starting a new paragraph or a full stop when introducing a new sentence.

I don't pretend to be the style master at all. But simply, when you greet your community, comment others' posts, appreciate an image or make yourself visible on the network, you really don't need to use capital letters for everything.


My explanation.
  • Your caps lock is broken
    I see. Write me a line I'll send you 5 dollars to buy a new keyboard.
  • You think your texts are not visible enough
    You're wrong. The universal rule is writing lower case. I admit upper case writing for an exclamation of pure joy, but just from time to time. Unless you're happy the whole time, of course.
  • You need to attract attention
    Go have some beers with your friends. If you don't have, you can drop me a line.
  • You are an artist or a publicist
    I guess your creations are cool, otherwise stop writing and try painting.
  • You have absolutely no idea about communication, education and technology
    Well, it's time to learn how communication has changed, my friend.

Remember, when writing upper case YOU ARE JUST SHOUTING at your readers, that's not pleasant.
That's why each time I read capital letter updates I feel uncomfortable. Please remember:


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Ryan Air, how travel teaches toleration (Benjamin Disraeli)

My travel starts from the very web page, when I have to buy my flight for my weekend to Las Palmas de Gran Canarias.

Hey darling! There's a 60 euros offer! Proceed, go on, buy it, make it yours, fast fast, click click, come on, otherwise the price will inflate!

Run, run; come on, come on; yes, no, yes, I don’t want any assurance, no I don’t want to not buy the premium “Les grands VIP” for entering the plane first. 
Shame, that means I want it. No, I don’t want it. Help, call me an engineer!

How many bags? One, no? 10 kilos? Yes of course, day by day, flight by flight I look like Michelin man hiding sausages in my pockets. What if it does not fit? I’m getting nervous. I am sweating.

Do I want the car? No, love walking. We love walking, isn’t it darling?
Relax. It’s done, it’s the confirmation screen. Whaaaaat? Ten euros to use my Visa? Hold on, I’ll bring them money personally. Breath deeply and pay.
I have it, 120 euros flight is mine. Wasn’t it 60 euros? No, I dreamt of it.

It’s done, if you have your check in tickets, you think you’re done! You are wrong.


Monday, November 14, 2011

How to not forget lies you tell

I'll agree with anybody, one should never tell lies. Actually I don't, for a couple of reasons mainly.
Firstly because I don't want to manipulate the reality, it's complex enough and time is running out so fast that I don't see a clear advantage in it. I think one should try to contribute to social development by telling things as they are.
And secondly, because I don't think it's a good thing living with the feeling of being discovered. I should always take care not to contradict myself, and this would be really uncomfortable.

Anyway, yesterday I was reading the description of a character taken from "East of Eden", Cathy. The writer suggest that Cathy employed three techniques to tell lies; here they are

  1. Stay close enough to the truth so that one can never know
    This way I understand you can blend reality to make it appear the way you need; by emphasizing certain ideas or belittle others. Once you find someone questioning your statements, you can always fix everything with a misunderstanding.
  2. Interlard lies with true statements
    This way you will probably reinforce your contribution by playing with well-known ideas, so that trust on what you say is somehow established.
  3. Tell a truth as if it were a lie
    This is part of the whole strategy to make yourself credible. If you want to set a precedent, follow this step. Once your statement is called into question, make sure you have all the resources to demonstrate its truthfulness. This will provide you some degrees of liberty and for a long time, when you'll need to say:
    I told you, you never believe me. Just like that time when...
I hope you found this tips interesting. Lies are evil, but I admit that from time to time, a "technical small lie" can save you time and probably your face!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

How to connect to your audience: two basic hints

Last 7th of November 2011 I watched the debate between the two presidential candidates for next Spanish general elections (on the 20th of November): Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba and Mariano Rajoy.

My first impression is that not only was the debate boring, empty of concrete content and full of elusive answers on critical issues, but it also was designed not to hurt citizens' feelings.
My second impression is that when I need theatre, then I'd rather go to the theatre and assist to the performance of good actors, not just amateurs.

Apart from the content, I did not feel hurt nor attacked by their campaign. Actually I didn't feel much impacted, after all. This was independent from the interventions of both candidates (a mix of kindness and good propositions).
The sensation I had was the big distance between me, the audience on the other side of the screen, and them.
And after thinking a little bit, I realized that at least in the final intervention, at the time of addressing their message to the public, they were missing eye contact.
My observations:

  • Nobody would say Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba summarized his message to the nation without batting an eyelid. Along the whole debate he blinked thousands of times.
    It was getting me nervous, really. Because it seemed like he was relying too much on his capacity of improvisation and did not prepare the conclusion at all. Or simply he needed some good eye-drops. I guess it's happened to you, you're asked a question and while thinking of an answer, you start blinking.
    The hint, simply blink as much as physiologically needed.
  • On the contrary, it seemed like Mariano Rajoy did not rely at all on his capacity of improvisation.
    Actually what would you say of a person looking at his own notes 585 times in approximately 40 minutes? The contact to the audience was completely fragmented.
    Quoting Rajoy, speaking of political situation in Spain:
    Actually I know it won't be easy, actually it'll be —pause 5 seconds and look at the note, then resume— difficult.
    What? You need to read your notes to say it'll be —pause— difficult?
    Second hint. Don't use notes, just for writing. You'll be proud of yourself and people will appreciate it. Moreover, less people will doubt about your sincerity.
A polite debate, after all; nobody left the room injured.

Monday, November 7, 2011

A question, what's television for?

Three years ago I moved to a rented flat with my girlfriend and I remember we had that small television of the home owner laying on the fridge. It was not connected to any antenna, I guess it is the reason the quality of reception was absolutely poor. Moreover, we had only a couple of channels, RTVE, that are Spanish national channels.

I think that wasn't the first time in my life I didn't miss having a TV at home. The years spent as a student, having a TV was optional. You never knew which house you were moving into, and sharing the device among all home mates might have been difficult. Therefore I was not really interested in watching TV. I think I learnt from those moments, that surviving during cold winter nights with just a book or a chat on the phone was enough to ensure some moments of distraction. Later on, it was the time of Internet at home, the more then perfect substitute of the magic box. Information on demand: what more did I need?

Actually I needed nothing. Last year I moved to a new flat and the same again. No TV. My house is quite, silent and the atmosphere is really relaxed. Those times I go to visit my family in Italy, I realize that when I'm in front of a television, I'm completely glued to it. Hypnotized, when having dinner I almost don't listen to people talking to me! Actually at my parents' house, during the meals TV is on. And I am sticked to commercial breaks. I assure you I'm astonished by the facility TV makes me dumb.

Therefore, with everything I see around, starting from "The Big Brother" and all the shitty commercials; passing to news both tailored for the audience and manipulated, until I finally get useless movies fragmented by more commercials...I don't see the point in having a TV at home.
Moreover if, like in Italy, you have to pay a yearly fee to watch public channels, and that's not all that cheap.

You should choose carefully your TV programs, there's something good there; although you can often find quality content on the Internet.
That said, what is TV for?