This one is a pretty thrilling ride, I think you’ll enjoy it for a change of pace:
Yup. Big brass ones.
I spend a lot of time in front of an audience. It’s a major source of my income, and if I suck at it, my bank account will feel it.
Since I’m rather fond of my bank account, I try to listen to others who do public speaking, and pick up do’s and don’ts from them. It’s mostly don’ts, I’m afraid, especially from politicians. Our generation has very few good public speakers, and no genuine orators of consequence as far as I know.
The worst things I see are tics that speakers fall into. They annoy the heck out of me, and probably you too. I try to observe and remember those annoyances, so that I can avoid them in my own delivery.
Here, then are the top five things I notice in public speakers that grate on my nerves. Any of you that need to get in front of a group should try hard to avoid having a single one of these tics even one time in your presentation.
1. "…you know…" This is the one I see the most right now. Politicians seem to particularly susceptible to this one, including Obama. Here are a couple of examples from Senator Mark Warner in an interview published just a couple of days ago.
You know, there’s ideas, for example, that I’ve found a tremendous response on that says, you know, we’ve got thousands of schools in our country that are energy inefficient. Why not take folks, particularly young people, 18 to 30 year olds, who’ve been on unemployment for more than 10 or 15 weeks and say, you know, we’re going to continue…
Well, you know, the – I wish I’d say that, you know, I’m extraordinarily optimistic, but, you know, the alternative becomes, you know, if we’re going to look at gridlock, candidly, the whole Congress ought to get fired, because the American people ought to expect us to do our job.
…there are a whole series of things that we could do that, frankly, you know, we do need folks – particularly in the House – to simply stop saying “no” and kind of roll up their sleeves and, you know, try to work together in a bipartisan way.
I doubt Warner even knows he does this, but I find it incredibly annoying when someone speaks like this. You probably do too, so make sure, you know, you’re not doing it.
2. "…like…" Another well known tic is the gratuitous use of "like". Example: "This problem is like really hard to solve. You should like give us some extra time to like figure it out."
Conversational tics go in cycles, and this one is (hopefully) on the decline. At its height five or so years ago, I used to sit in audiences and calculate the "like index", which was the number of times the speaker gratuitously stuck in "like" per minute.
Younger female speakers were and are by far the worst offenders, and for some reason this tic seems to be worse in California. I heard a young lady speak in front of a group a couple of years ago with a "like index" of about fifteen.
Because this one has been around a while, people notice it, and therefore it’s especially important to avoid it. It also has a connotation of youthful cluelessness, which is another very good reason to, like, keep your presentations "like"-free.
3. "…, right?" This one’s fairly recent. I first noticed it about two years ago. Presenters began the tic of inserting the question-tone "right" at the end of about every other sentence. Even some quite good presenters I know picked this up, and I suspect it’s because it became a conversation tic inside Microsoft – the culture there has a tendency towards such tics.
A presentation with the "right?" tic sounds something like this:
"The turboencabulator uses a CPU to encarphalize the singlial signal, right? And that minimizes energy drain by the gristocentrum, right? Compare that to an agilomodelizer. It connects garphal entities to anthrocentic viewlicanters, right?"
Unlike "like" or "you know", I think perhaps one or two "right?" insertions per hour for emphasis might not be too bad. But as a tic inserted in every paragraph, not only is it irritating, after a while the audience begins to wonder if you’re not trying to convince yourself. Right?
4. "…frankly, …" and its relatives. This one has been a favored tic from politicians for years. They like to insert "frankly" every so often in whatever they are trying to get across. You can get as many examples as you like with simple searches. Here’s one for “senator frankly”.
I think they are striving for the implication that they’re being honest with us, which of course for a politician is always an open question. I find it insulting, though. Are they not being honest if they don’t keep inserting "frankly" in every other sentence?
There are variations on "frankly", and some are far worse. Sometimes politicians realize they have used "frankly" too much, and switch to "candidly", which is just as bad. An even worse variant is "To be honest with you…". A really bad variation is the insertion of "trust me", which almost any audience member will interpret as "don’t trust me".
If you believe in what you’re saying, it should come through in your tone and body language. You don’t need to keep reassuring your audience that you’re telling the truth. Unless you’re lying, of course.
5. Overuse or misuse of "literally". I’ve been guilty of this in my writing on occasion, probably because I’m trying to emphasize that I’m really not kidding about something that sounds outrageous. However, I recommend that you never use it in public speaking.
First, it has some of the same problem as "frankly", in that your tone and demeanor should make it unnecessary. Second, there is a bad tendency in present day communication for it to be used naively. Some people apparently don’t understand what the word really means, and they just use it for general emphasis. If you use it, you risk being dumped into the bucket with those folks.
There are others: "a going-forward basis", "incentivize" and other verbicized nouns, switching out perfectly clear terms such as "spending" to something that isn’t really accurate but has a better connotation ("investment"), and other forms of drone-speak. However, it’s the tics that really bother me. I can’t really seen any excuse for them whatsoever in someone who speaks as part of their profession.
If you have to get in front of a group more than once or twice a month, these tics will bother your audiences too. So do your best to banish them from anything you say in front of a crowd or on camera.
And an incredible loss of life, especially in hard hit Alabama.
AP is now saying that the death toll for the night stands at 178, with Alabama reporting an incredible 128 deaths. Mississippi lost 32, Tennessee had 6 dead, 11 in Georgia and 1 in Virginia.
For me it was eventful but mostly sound and fury with thankfully little evident damage (a couple of trees down, etc.) But the supercell storms that passed to the north of us (we sort of caught the edge) were monsters. Watching the local TV weather folks until we lost power, the reports were unbelievable. 2 to 2.5” diameter hail (with vid), wind sheers of 115 mph. Storms moving at 65 to 70 mph. One report showed over 300 lightning strikes in one of the storms in a 10 minute period. And the different cells lined up behind each other as they moved NE. Rome GA got hammered.
There are also estimates of over 130 tornados spawned by these storms.
I actually learned a lot about these storms watching the local weather people out of ATL. Imagine the velocity of the winds aloft that can keep hail with a diameter of 2” up there as it forms and then eject it into what they called a “hail core”. Also, they repeatedly pointed out a trailing hook pattern which indicated tornados. I was introduced to the BTI which is some sort of rating from 1-10 which goes from “not likely” to “on the ground” when it comes to tornados. At times the BTI of the storms was 9.9.
I’ll pass on a repeat and I wasn’t even in the worst part. Probably a result of global warming.
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If you ever share anything on the web, you know that when you hear an interesting clip of someone speaking — part of an interview, speech, or podcast — you pretty much automatically resign yourself to the fact that it’s hard to share, so it’s unlikely to spread far even among people who you think might like what they hear.
But even that’s getting ahead of ourselves. How often do you happen upon a piece of audio that says something interesting about the topic you’re researching? And even when you do find a promising piece of media, is there anything you’d rather do less than sift through it for the useful parts, which you can’t easily break out and share anyway?
These problems can be solved with current technology, and open up new avenues for profit while we’re at it. That’s what I discuss in a series at the blog of CRAFT | Media / Digital, where I work with QandO founder Jon Henke and one of the earliest bloggers, Sean Hackbarth.
Enjoy, and please share with anyone who might find this a cool idea:
Radio Free Internet
Part I: How Much of the Web Hears You?
Part II: Grasping and Spreading the Word
Part III: Integrating the Spoken Word into the Web
On October 1st of last year, the company I’d worked with for 24 years was sold to a competitor and I, along with most of the work force, were laid off. Such is life. It was the impetus for me to suggest to two others you know well that perhaps it was high time we tried to do something we all love. Thus was born 3Media Partners LLC. The "we" is myself, Dale Franks and Michael Wade.
3Media Partners is an internet marketing and consulting firm. Here’s the short description from the 3Media website:
We provide marketing services that focus on branding, brand management, advocacy, messaging, information and intelligence research for political and corporate clients using the social media as well as other online means. 3Media also partners with corporate and political communications departments and other media companies to help run online grassroots and grasstop outreach, pushback, advocacy and messaging campaigns.
So, the short and sweet is, we’re here and we’re in business. While readers here may not be in the market for our services, perhaps you know of someone looking for them. A referral would be appreciated. Contact information is available on the 3Media site.
A post I did in September of 2006, originally entitled “September 11th, 2001 – “We Lost David”. It is the ongoing fulfillment of a promise made in the last sentence of the post. This is what 9/11 should be about.
Each week I do a tribute on Boston’s WRKO 680am called “Someone You Should Know” about a Soldier, Sailor, Marine or Airman who’s been awarded a medal for valor in combat. Those medals represent their actions above and beyond the call of duty. But, as we all know, valor and courage aren’t exclusive to the military or combat. And no better example of that is what the courageous men and women of fire, rescue and police did that awful day in September of 2001 when terrorists attacked our country by flying commercial aircraft into the World Trade Center and Pentagon.
A few weeks ago I signed on to an effort called the “2996 Project” organized by a blog to do a tribute to each and every one of those who died on that day. Three thousand bloggers are participating. The names were assigned randomly. When you signed up, you got whoever was next.
I was honored to draw the name of David Halderman Jr.
Of course, I never knew David Halderman. I’d never previously seen his name or if I had, it never registered beyond that of a person who’d died that day in those barbaric attacks. But when I began to research David, I found a man for whom my admiration and respect knew no bounds.
You see, David Halderman was a firefighter with Squad 18 of FDNY.
On that grim day in September, FDNY lost 343 of its finest who, disregarding their own safety, rushed toward the scene of the disaster while others were running away. It is estimated they saved over 20,000 souls that day. In the finest tradition of firefighters everywhere, they never hesitated. David Halderman, Jr. was among them.
Squad 18 is located in Greenwich Village. When the towers were hit, Squad 18 responded immediately. All seven firefighters on duty that morning were lost.
A visitor to New York just prior to 9/11 happened to remember Squad 18 for a particular reason:
This past Labor Day weekend, one of the youngest attendees, my nephew Beau, was walking with his mom and aunt past Firehouse #18 in Greenwich Village. Beau asked if they could stop. Three firefighters took the time to show Beau and his sister the fire truck and posed for some pictures.
Among the three firefighters who so made those visitors feel so welcome was David.
After returning home to Alaska, and following the terrible events of 9/11, Beau asked his mom if the guys in the picture were OK. After checking back with Squad #18, and showing them the picture, my sister in New York learned that “Chris and Harry made it. We lost David.” The photograph was the last picture taken of him.
As I looked further and further into the life of David Halderman, I found a man who was worthy of love, admiration and respect. He was a 2nd generation firefighter, following in the footsteps of his father and namesake who had very recently died. His brother also was with FDNY.
The fact that he’d taken time out of his day to spend with a young visitor from Alaska seemed something completely in character for him. The fact he’d responded immediately to the disaster of the World Trade Center came as no surprise either. His mother remembers the night before:
On Monday night, David Halderman called his mother in Brentwood to comfort her, as he has done regularly since his father died on Aug. 8.
“I asked him to have a good night, to be careful, to be safe, and I told him I loved him,” his mother, Geraldine Halderman, said. “That was the last time I spoke to him.”
“I love you, take care of yourself.” That was how David Halderman always ended his telephone conversations with his mother.
The next day fate and tragedy took David Halderman while performing the duty to which he’d dedicated his life:
On Tuesday morning, Halderman, a firefighter with Engine-Squad 18 in the West Village, entered the World Trade Center to help victims escape. He is now among the missing city firefighters.
“He was in the building when it collapsed,” Geraldine Halderman said. “They found his helmet. That’s all they found.”
The helmet was identified by its badge – No. 10652, the same badge number used by Halderman’s late father.
Where do we get such men? In the face of every human instinct which tells us to flee, they resist that and walk into danger, risking their lives to help others escape and live. Courage and valor are rare commodities. That’s why we revere and reward them. Those attributes were displayed by hundreds of the fire and rescue people who responded with David Halderman Jr. on that grim and horrid day in September of 2001. As a nation watched in stunned horror, men like David were saving lives.
A few days ago, David’s mother left this message on his memorial site:
Dear David, Five Years! My son you are in my thoughts and prayers every day. I have moved from the house where you grew up,it was too much for me alone. I carry all my memories in my heart. I know you are with me always, you are the voice within me that says “don’t be afraid” when I am sad or anxious. The ache in my heart remains, dulled with time but always present even through the laughter and happy times. There have been weddings and a birth since you left us,and you have been missed so much and remembered at those times. I love you forever.
Life goes on but the hurt never goes away, and mothers suffer a special agony which comes with losing their children. But we are all poorer for the loss of David and those like him. It is they who define what is good and right about us. It is they who show us what man can be. It is they who give us hope for the future.
September 11th is the day to remember those, who like David Halderman Jr., gave their lives in the service of others. I didn’t know David Halderman before this year. But I do now. He was a man to both admire and respect. And every subsequent September 11th I will remember and honor his name. It is the least we can do for the heros among us.
As a Halo player, I sometimes think back to the book that started the “armored super soldier” genre, Starship Troopers. Published in 1959, it was ground-breaking, and won a well-deserved Hugo award for Robert Heinlein. I think Heinlein would recognize elements of his story in the Halo series.
I’m happy, though, that he didn’t live to see Paul Verhoeven make a complete mess of the movie based on Starship Troopers, because the only thing he would recognize in that movie are some character names.
Some consider it a decent action flick in its own right, but Verhoeven had about as much understanding of Heinlein’s underlying story and philosophy as our resident imbecilic political science professor has understanding of economics, i.e., none to speak of. Verhoeven just dusted off the traditional Nazi metaphors, gave his soldiers from 200 years in the future the same basic weapons soldiers use today, and added some space ships and sex.
This year’s candidate for the Starship Troopers treatment is Atlas Shrugged.
To forestall a whole lot of redundant comments, let me first say the following about Atlas Shrugged:
1. It’s an important book. In surveys, it often finishes #2 behind the Bible as the book people say was most influential in their lives.
2. It’s got some valid points. If you don’t see parallels between Rand’s characters and situations and much of what we see around us today, I have to question your astuteness.
3. It’s so-so as literature. The characters are mostly cardboard-cutout quality. The heroes are super-human and the villians are pure evil (except for Dr. Stadler, who symbolizes the mushy middle). This gives the story-line a comic book feel. The long diversions into philosophical preaching can be tedious. One sermon by John Galt comes in at over sixty pages, and might as well be a book in it’s own right, though I’m guessing it wouldn’t sell much.
All that said, I respect the book. I’ve read it twice, and actually got more from it the second time around. I do recommend it as required reading if you want to understand the psychology of leftism, as analyzed by someone who was all too aware of it’s ultimate effects in the Soviet Union.
Now, on to the movie version.
You can see the director discuss the movie in this five minute video.
As you can tell, he doesn’t say much. Almost everything he says is generic “You have to cut stuff out of anything this long to make a movie.” Well, yeah. But what you cut and what you leave is what’s important. Not to mention what gets what gets changed, as Starship Troopers demonstrated.
There was a danger sign when he said “I’m still figuring things out as I shoot this.”
I thought it was interesting that John Galt’s face isn’t going to be seen in the movie. The credits at this point list that same director as playing the part of Galt (presumably just giving him a voice).
He does spend a bit of time about the theme of taking responsibility. So maybe I’m just being overly pessimistic, and he’s being coy about where he’s really going with the movie to forestall catcalls from our politically correct media.
However, what I see in the video doesn’t give me much confidence. The book is about hard edges, and black-and-white morality. These characters look soft-edged. Rearden needs a Harrison Ford type, though Ford is way too old. It was long rumored that Angelina Jolie would be Dagny, and while she may also be up against the age barrier, she was in the ballpark for the right type.
These people are supposed to be tough, independent, and prepared to take on the whole world. Maybe that’s what they’re chatting about, but somehow I doubt it. Based on what the Rearden actor said, they’re exploring their “relationship”. Oh, goody.
It is possible to make good books into good movies. Hopscotch, Catch 22, some of the episodes of Harry Potter series, Lord of the Rings, and some of the better movies from Jane Austen novels would be examples. What these books do well is capture the spirit of the book. Catch 22, for example, has to leave out a lot of stuff because the book is pretty long, but Buck Henry and crew do a great job of capturing the surrealistic spirit of the book.
Based on what I’m hearing from this director, I’m pessimistic that he can do the same for Atlas Shrugged.
Now you could argue that the hard-edged spirit of Atlas Shrugged just doesn’t work for modern audiences. I think that’s silly; I think that’s what audiences are craving in today’s gooey, politically correct world. I’m in serious doubt that we’ll get it in this movie. Here’s hoping I’m wrong about that.
So I somehow lost my phone (i.e. it was stolen) which I wasn’t totally enamored with anyway, and bought a new one today. After speaking with Dale about his recent purchase, I went down to the Verizon store and got … the Droid.
I may actually upgrade to the HTC Incredible, but for right now I am liking the full, slide-out keyboard, and I’m not sure how much I care about a faster processor or 8MP camera (compared to the 5MP on this phone). I’ll give it a few days and see what I think.
In any case, regardless of which phone I end with, I definitely prefer the Droid platform to my Blackberry Storm. The Blackberry was always a little clunky and had frequent software malfunctions. Plus, I could never have written a post for QandO on it, which is a really nice feature.
Well, we’ll see how it goes …
The details are still a bit sketchy, but NYPD has evacuated Times Square after discovering a car bomb.
Police said a Nissan Pathfinder at West 45th Street and Seventh Avenue was loaded with a bomb made of electrical components, three propane gas tanks and two additional gas canisters. They received the call about the suspicious vehicle around 6:30 p.m. and blocked the area from West 43rd to 47th streets along Broadway and Seventh Avenue with metal railings. Parts of 48th Street were also closed.
A press conference from NYPD is scheduled momentarily.
UPDATE (22:24 PST): Apparently, the bomb had been activated. The vehicle was smoking, and an NYPD mounted officer kicked off the evacuation. No injuries, and NYPD cleared Times Square in record time. I suspect NYPD will have some questions for the vehicle’s owners, but it seems the license plate on the vehicle didn’t match the one originally issued.
According to MSNBC, cameras captured the car being parked at approx. 6:30PM ET and smoke coming out a few minutes later.
UPDATE (23:19 EST): Press Conference:
An T-Shirt vendor, who is a Viet Vet, called the cops. Cops arrived, saw smoke, and evacuated the area, then called the bomb squad.
Bomb materials and such were found in the car.
It seems like the materials, though, are evidence of an amateur job. Gas cans, propane tanks, consumer fireworks, etc. In other words, it wasn’t stuffed to the gills with nitrates.
Mayor Bloomberg says the set-up was “amateurish”. So, it seems like more of a whack-job doing something nutty, than some sort of al-Qaeda deal.
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