Pitching VCs Reminder Tips

The WSJ published an article on perfecting the pitch to venture capitalists this morning.  It is all stuff we’ve heard before and I’ve been coaching for years, but it is a good reminder.  http://tinyurl.com/mkw84r

Since the WSJ seems to be the one paper that refuses to join the rest and offer their content for free, I will summarize the article for those who don’t have a subscription.  The article offers 4 areas of tips:

“Modesty Doesn’t Pay”
“Tell it to Mom”
“Don’t Play with the Numbers”
“Stay on the Radar”

Modesty doesn’t pay is a reminder that what you are selling to the VC is yourself and your team.  Sure the business idea has to be good, but the team has to be able to execute on the idea for the VC to invest.  Tell it to mom is about keeping your pitch simple enough that your mom can understand.  Of course, you need to be prepared to dive deep if the VCs ask questions, but the first communication of the concept and your business plan needs to be simple. Don’t play with the numbers is about establishing credibility by accurately depicting your market opportunity.  Stay on the radar is about following up and working to build a relationship with the VC, even if the answer is no to the investment.

My favorite quote from the article comes from Mr. Brotman of Greenhil SAVP in New York.  “A pitch is like going on a date,” he says.  A lot of entrepreneurs don’t introduce themselves.  They might give you a name and a business card; other times they’ll go straight to the pitch.  That’s like going on a date and saying, ‘Let’s get it on.'”

Of course, the best piece of advice is to practice the pitch before the VC meetings.  I have heard from many VCs that they can tell the coherency of the team based on the first presentation — and that coherency comes from practicing the presentation as a team.

Needle in a Haystack

An article in today’s NY Times reports that intelligence wire tapping of Americans did not aid in the thwarting of terrorist activity (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/11/us/11nsa.html?_r=1&th&emc=th).
Quotes from the article:

“Most intelligence officials interviewed “had difficulty citing specific instances” when the National Security Agency’s wiretapping program contributed to successes against terrorists, the report said.”

“. . . intelligence leads that came from the wiretapping operation were often “vague or without context,” the report said.”

But, of course.  What did we expect? I don’t have a full understanding of the speech recognition and data mining technology markets, but I know enough to believe that randomly wire tapping Americans in search of terrorist-related communication is like searching for a needle in a haystack.  Too much data and not efficient enough technology to handle the job of broad search-and-seek.

The-get-a-warrant-then-wire-tap is a better process because it applies human judgment at the front end and then uses technology to assist.  Not to mention it provides a level of rights and protection to citizens.

Now that we’ve spent tax dollars interviewing “about 200 government and private-sector personnel” to determine the program was not efficient, we can go back to respecting rights and following law.

“While former Bush administration officials continue to argue that their policies made the country safer,” said Senator Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon, “I believe this report shows that their obsession with secrecy and their refusal to accept oversight was actually harmful to U.S. national security, not to mention the privacy rights of law-abiding Americans.”

Mind Maps for Visual Communication

“I suspect that the reason mind maps works so well is that they engage your visual intelligence and provide a way to navigate a much larger space of ideas in a smaller visual field.”
In his article relaying the benefits of mind maps, Forbes guest reporter Dan Woodsis, uses examples from Evolved Technologist to show how complex projects and ideas can be managed over time.
An open source version of mind mapping software can be downloaded at http://sourceforge.net/projects/freemind/
Mind mapping allows for two-dimensional views of information that traditional outlining prohibits.  When working with clients on creating presentations, I work to get people away from the traditional linear way of thinking through information.  In our visual age, the linear approach does little to help us think and communicate in an effective way.  Mind maps are another way to help us move away from the linear and improve communication.

On and Off — Both are Good

Good Morning Silicon Valley debates whether or not we can ‘turn off’ the electronic connectivity that is pervasive in our lives.  http://tinyurl.com/raysqc

Personally, I am glad to have the option to be connected and “on” and I feel I have the power to disconnect and be “off” when I want.

I discuss this social issue in my communication course at SFSU.  Just because we have access to the technology doesn’t mean that we need to use it all the time.  And just because we use the technology doesn’t mean we are bad or inconsiderate.  We need to use our social judgment and decide for ourselves what is the right balance of “on” and “off”.  That balance is not going to be the same for each individual and it will take some time before our society will set norms to guide behavior.

Remember when cell phones were new and before each meeting the leader would have to remind everyone to turn them off.  Then the social norm was formed that it is rude to use a cell phone in a meeting and most people automatically turn them off.  But then texting came along and people are still working out that social norm.  It is the give and take between individuals that determine what the social rules become.  And it starts with individuals making their own judgements about when and where and how they want to use the connecting technology.

Whenever a technology is being adopted, it tends to be used in ways and places that eventually are determined to be socially inappropriate.  And at this time in history, many people are so enthralled with technology that they are reluctant to be “off” and disconnected.  But, I believe that will change with time.  Eventually we will all be able to benefit from the features of the technology and be able to balance the “on” and “off” equation.

“Fleeting Expletive” Ruling

The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld the ruling that stations can be fined for ‘fleeting expletives’ aired prior to 10 pm.  The justices indicated their decision was based on their belief that the FCC did not violate policy when changing the rule on expletives back in 2004.  They state that the First Amendment is not the issue at hand.  The Wall Street Journal covered the story http://tinyurl.com/c9xkoq.

I say, not only is the First Amendment the issue at hand, but several cultural communication issues are also at hand.  Of course, I am not speaking from the technical perspective of the court, but from a broader perspective.  The First Amendment is only the tip of the iceberg.  But, that tip is important when the government is fining stations for unintentional outburst of swear words in live broadcasts.  Never mind that the individual who makes the outburst has any responsibility or, for that matter, rights about what they say in public.

Culturally, American television is way more constricting than in other countries where breast are bared and expletives made without the fear of being fined.  As the world becomes closer through communication, I hope America can adopt a more open point of view.

Another cultural difference is the expectation that the government has any role in controlling the television viewing of children. Why parents would ever want to abdicate that role to the government is beyond me.  I like the FCC chairperson nominee’s perspective much better.

“Mr. Genachowski and other advisers spoke far less about policing the airwaves than extolling the virtues of how technology can help parents monitor their children’s viewing habits.”

Fair Facebook

Facebook took a vote.  Of course, only 640,000 users cast their vote, but at least the opportunity was there.  In an example of the new social media effecting society, Facebook opened up to its users a business decision on how to handle user information.
“The new governing principles state that users own the content they post on Facebook, but they do not provide a clause for permanent deletion from the site. The amended document also lays out how site changes will be handled in the future, saying that if 7,000 users comment on a proposed change, Facebook will provide alternatives and hold a public vote. As before, the vote is stated as binding only if more than 30% of Facebook’s active users vote. ”
Maybe just a first step, but an important first step at social order in the world of social media.

Why People Use Twitter

That is a question I have been pondering as I try and adopt the communication tool, but find myself with little to say to the general public, or that portion who has decided to follow my tweets.  Twitter founder, Biz Stone, puts it succinctly in a San Jose Mercury News interview by reporter Elise Ackerman.  (http://www.mercurynews.com/news/ci_12149975?source=email)

Q Why are people using Twitter?
A I think it is because we are realizing that there is a lot of value that comes from open communication. There is kind of an alchemy that takes place when you decide that you are going to move some of your communication to a public arena. You make connections. Things happen that wouldn’t otherwise have happened.

Open communication and alchemy — sounds like music to the ears of this communication scholar.  Makes me motivated to put in more effort and see what connections happen.

I’m All for More Openness

The Federal Reserve floated the idea of holding press conferences, reported today in the Wall Street Journal.  http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123975237751018765.html#mod=djemalertNEWS

“The Fed’s policy makers already make and disclose economic forecasts four times a year. The Fed chairman gives detailed reports on the economy and monetary policy to congressional committees twice a year. And Fed officials speak regularly on the outlook and give frequent testimony to Congress. Press conferences would be a significant further step toward more openness.”

I am all for more openness.  So much of the current financial conundrum stems from lack of financial transparency.  Having the Federal Reserve take the lead towards openness, just might encourage others to follow suit.  Well, actually the European Central Bank is really the leader here because they already hold press conferences.  At any rate, I encourage the move — just in case they care what I think.

Office Design & Communication

Ever stop to think about how the design of an office effect communication? April’s issue of Wired had a story on the history of office design starting back in 1904 with Frederick Taylor, the father of efficiency, who first recommended the open bull pen with the overseeing boss.  This would seem to allow for open communication between employees because they are all right next to each other, but really hindered communication because the boss was always watching.  It did make people work efficiently.
In the 1960s Burolandschaft and Herman Miller started to mix it up with varied designs based on function of work — some stations side-by-side and some circular.  This was also the decade the cubicle was created.  The varied design did increase communication, when and where is what needed for work.
By the 1980s the cubicle had been taken to the extreme and farms were built with everyone having their own ‘space.’  I remember that illusion of privacy — you could hear everyone’s phone calls, but you couldn’t see what they were wearing unless you walked around.  Cubicles inhibited communication between employees because you had to walk around or go into a conference room to collaborate.
As of late, designers are getting more creative and creating compromises that facilitate communication with some privacy.  The new designs may give the illusion of privacy, but everyone can still hear each others’ calls.  Not that that is a bad thing — it keeps people focused on work when they are at work.  Circling back to Taylor efficiency.
Next time you walk in to an office, you may ponder — just  how is this design effecting communication?

Give It Back

At the risk of sounding left of left, I say to the financial industry executives who made millions last year as the economy tanked — “GIVE IT BACK.”

Wall Street Journal reports,
“As Merrill Lynch staggered last year, 11 top executives were paid more than $10 million each in cash and stock, and 149 more received $3 million or more.”

It just gets my goat that I, as a tax payer not delinquent on any bill, am paying for a rescue when executives took home millions as their companies failed and brought the world economy down with them.

Now what does their action communicate?


Thanks to Greg Wise of Arizona State University for my new favorite word to describe communication technologies: assemblages.  Greg shared his concept during a panel on the convergence of television and the computer at Western States Communication Association annual conference this morning.  He defined an assemblage as technology that has physical pieces, plus functions, plus a human element that is pulled together with a social investment.  In this way, the computer and the television are overlapping assemblages as they have many of the same qualities and share several functions.

My mind went straight to my iPhone when I heard the word assemblage.  The physical piece of technology — a phone — fails to describe the device, while the word assemblage does it justice.  Microsoft Word Dictionary defines assemblage as “Artistic arrangement of miscellaneous items.”  Artistic is right.
To me this circles back to Dr. Wise’s idea that an assemblage is pulled together with a social investment.

In an assemblage, the sum is greater than the technological parts because of the artistic element and the social investment.  That is a good reminder of the role we play in technologies of our time.  Be it the computer or the television or the iPhone.  We make the social investment that brings forth the assemblage and then morphs our social fabric.

Mass Communication: Change is afoot

Just being an average consumer in the year 2009, we are all aware that mass communication is changing.  Most of us are just as likely to find news on the Internet as we are to find it on the television.

AlwaysOn and KPMG have some numbers to back up the trend.  KPMG surveyed 200 media folks in conjunction with the OnMedia Conference in NYC.
Full article here http://alwayson.goingon.com/permalink/post/31140.

The survey found the most disruptive force in media today to be the pullback of ad dollars do to the recession and mobile devices becoming personal computers.  When asked what is the greatest opportunity in mobile and how will it be monetized, 48% of respondents said location-based advertise was the best opportunity and 45% said mobile applications will monetize through advertising.

Of course, media spend is moving away from traditional channels to new media — survey respondents indicated that 26-50% will be shifted in the next five years.

None of these trends are new to anyone following mass communication, but the survey results are a nice barometer of just how fast this change is occurring.

“Sunlight is the Best Disinfectant”

“Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis succinctly captured the power of openness and transparency when he wrote that Sunlight is the Best Disinfectant.”  This quote is from a story on AlwaysOn from Irving Wladawsky-Berger.  Irving is a member of the TIGR (Technology, Innovation & Government Reform) transition policy group focusing on innovation and government.  Today he lauds President Obama’s memo on government transparency.  http://alwayson.goingon.com/permalink/post/31032

“The TIGR group that I was part of was charged with developing “a range of proposals to create a 21st century government that is more open and effective; leverages technology to grow the economy, create jobs, and solve our country’s most pressing problems; respects the integrity of and renews our commitment to science; and catalyzes active citizenship and partnerships in shared governance with civil society institutions.” ” commented Wladawsky-Berger in the article.

Sounds fantastic to me.  Leveraging the technology at hand and making a commitment to open communication is pretty much nirvana for this communication coach.

Brittany Spears and Guy Kawasaki

Brittany Spears and Guy Kawasaki — now there is a pair for you.  What do they have in common?  They both top the list of Twitter users.  Brittany is the Top Celebrity user of Twitter and Guy is the Most Influential Twitterer — sending over 30 tweets a day.  This news comes from a Forbes article by Andy Greenberg (http://www.forbes.com/2009/01/29/top-twitters-celebrities-technology-webceleb09_0129_top_twitters.html).  Other Celebrities on the list include Lance Armstrong, Barrack Obama, Stephen Colbert, and Shaquille O’Neal.  All of these star are frequently posting the less-than-140-character microblogs on Twitter.  Others Influentials include Robert Scoble (scobleizer.com), Jason Clalacanis (Weblogs), Michael Arrington (TechCrunch), and Kevin Rose (diggs.com).

Why are they using this leading-edge form of online communication?  Well the celebrities are busy becoming more famous, letting more people know what they are doing when.  The influencers, on the other hand, are using it to support thier business — online business.  Stated in the Forbes article, according to traffic counting firm ComScore, Twitter attracts about 1.9 million unique visitors a month.

Many technology companies build success based on web-eye-balls.  The more people looking at their sites, the more they succeed.  Guy Kawasaki is quoted the artcle, “Around 99.9% of Twitter users see it as something fun to do in your spare time, as some kind of nicety,” Kawasaki adds.  “I see it as a weapon.”

That weapon drives traffic to his alltop.com website and increases his credibility as a technology guru.  Twitter communication is instantaneous and simultaneous — definitely pushing limits.

Imagining $819 Billion

The new administration is communicating to the country that $819 billion is the answer to the recession.

I want the economy to turn around, really I do.  I am just having a hard time imagining $819 billion dollars.  I am generally a fan of low government spend, free markets and all. But I know that we, as a country and a world, can’t get out of this mess without help.  I appreciate that the new administration is doing something quickly.  I just still have a hard time imagining $819 billion of our tax dollars being spent.  I am fast forwarding in my mind to twenty years from now and think about the effect this current spend will have on long-term debt.  I hope the economists are correct and this spending will bail the country out of recession and that the subsequent economic boom will neutralize the debt.

Wait and see, wait and see.

Hurling Insults

From the Washington Post this morning
“Soon after the November election, al-Qaeda’s No. 2 leader took stock of America’s new president-elect and dismissed him with an insulting epithet. “A house Negro,” Ayman al-Zawahiri said.” http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/01/24/AR2009012401703.html?wpisrc=newsletter

I laughed when I read it.  Maybe not the best response, but it sounded so pathetic to me.  Could al-Qaeda not come up with anything better?  It reminded me of a bully calling another kid a ‘sissy’ on the playground in elementary school.  Only if the other kid is weak does it have any effect, and Obama is far from weak.

From a communication perspective I think it is a foolish move on behalf of al-Qaeda — only making them look immature and petty.  Of course, from a global peace perspective, that is a good thing.  I guess, come to think about it, it is good they made such an insult.  Obama will not be harmed and the rest of the world (hopefull) will see right through the insult to the pathetic nature of the communicator.

Next time, perhaps al-Qaeda should think more about their communication strategy before the ‘hurl insults.”

“Now is an opportunity we have not had in decades.”

“Now is an opportunity we have not had in decades”
These are the words of Robert Reich, Obama economic advisor and former U.S. Secretary of Labor, who I heard speak today at the Commonwealth Club of California.  He was a very effective communicator.  He warmed the crowd with humor, previewed his key points, used language that could be understood by non-finance people, and had a strong conclusion.  In addition to me watching his speaking techniques, I found the content compelling.  I will share a few of his key points and then return to the blog title quote, which was his conclusion.

The U.S. lost $7 trillion in assets in 2008.  Ouch.  The dominant theory is that this recession was caused by the housing bubble crash, but actually it has been coming for a long time as U.S. median (not average) household income has stayed steady or declined since the 1970s.  To compensate, U.S. households have 1.  made both parents work 2. worked longer hours 3. gone deeper in dept, primarily by using houses as collateral.  The irresponsible lending of American financial institutions allowed Americans to go too deep in to debt.  Then the housing market crashed. People could no longer consume at the level of production, leading to recession.

How do we get out?  Three areas of aid: Federal Reserve, TARP, and Stimulus.  The Federal Reserve is helping by lowering interest rates and by buying distressed assets.  TARP is supposed to be helping by stabilizing the financial institutions such that consumers can get loans.  But, the first half of the $700 billion seems to have gone to executive pay and shareholder dividends and is not trickling down to the average consumer or “main street.”  Hopefully the second half will have more requirements such that “main street” actually benefits.  The stimulus needs to be $900 billion over two years and help rebuild American infrastructure.

This is the good news getting back to the quote – we have the opportunity now to regain American excellence by investing in areas that benefit the entire public, but don’t benefit any one company enough to be financially feasible.  These areas include differed maintenance of physical infrastructure; building of broadband networks; improvement of medical information technology; creating renewable energy alternatives; and improving education and healthcare.  The U.S. can borrow relatively cheaply (via TBills) and then spend the money to improve the country while putting people back to work.  This is the opportunity we’ve not had in decades, and the good news according to Robert Reich.

Creating PowerPoint Based on Research

My wish for PowerPoint in 2009 is we apply what we’ve learned from research.   Everyone has an opinion on what makes PowerPoint the best, but opinions vary widely.  Research confirms what actually works for most people.  There is not much, but there is some research that we can rely upon as we create PowerPoint.  My recently completed thesis research showed that audiences learn more when presented with multimedia PowerPoint that follows Dr. Mayer’s multimedia learning principles than when presented with bullet point PowerPoint.  Here is a quick summary of other research specific to PowerPoint slide design:
Alley (et. al.) found that students were better able to recall the main assertion of slides when presented with a full-sentence headline written as an assertion compared to a word or phrase headline.
Alley, M., Schreiber, M., Ramsdell, K., & Muffo, J. (2006). How the Design of Headlines in
Presentation Slides Affects Audience Retention. Technical Communication, 53, 225-234.
Bartsch and Cobern discerned that PowerPoint with irrelevant pictures can be detrimental to learning.
Bartsch, R.A. & Cobern, K.M. (2003). Effectiveness of PowerPoint presentations in lectures.
Computers & Education, 41, 77-86.
Bradshaw found that test scores were lower when participants viewed slides that had interference (pink background, ornate font, transition sounds) compared to when they viewed interference-free slides (high-contrast color, easy-to-read text and graphics).
Bradshaw, A. C. (2003). Effects of Presentation Interference in Learning with Visuals. Journal of
Visual Literacy, 23, 41-68.
Mackiewicz found that audiences perceived 2D graphs more clearly than 3D graphs and that cool colors with high contrast were more attractive.
Mackiewicz, J. (2007-1). Perceptions of Clarity and Attractiveness in PowerPoint Graph Slides.
Technical Communication, 54, 145-156.
In a study comparing five serif and five sans-serif fonts in PowerPoint, Mackiewicz found two rose above the rest, Gill Sans and Souvenir Lt, in terms of professional, comfortable-to-read, and interesting variables.
Mackiewicz, J. (2007-2). Audience Perceptions of Fonts in Projected PowerPoint Text Slides.
Technical Communication, 54, 295-306.
So what we learn from the research is:
1.    Follow multimedia learning principles (for summary of principles see http://www.jenniferkammeyer.com/research.htm )
2.    Use full-sentence declarative headlines
3.    Don’t add irrelevant pictures (or anything irrelevant for that matter)
4.    Keep the design interference-free with high-contrast, easy-to-read text & graphs
5.    Use 2D graphs with cool colors and high contrast
6.    Use Gill Sans or Souvenir Lt font
These recommendations are not opinions, but rather facts based on research done by academics following rigorous protocols.  So, my wish for 2009 is that we start listening to what the research says and developing PowerPoint presentations that will increase audience learning and satisfaction.

Meetings from my iPhone

GigaOm reports that WebEx is now accessible from the iPhone.  http://gigaom.com/2009/01/06/webex-on-your-iphone-finally/
Appreciating all the information I can access and ways I can communicate with my iPhone just increased with this announcement.  This news supports the ‘communicate-on-the-go’ trend.  Our geographical locations are becoming less and less relevant to our ability to communicate with others.  I like that.

Technology for Blind Users

This Sunday NY Times had an inspirational article about a blind engineer creating technology for blind users. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/04/business/04blind.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=Going%20Where%20No%20Guide%20Dog%20Can&st=cse
T.V. Raman works for Google and specializes in developing technology for when people are not looking at the screen.  This is great for blind people, and for people multitasking — say driving and making a call.
Of course, I think of it from a communication perspective.  Making technology more accessible to blind people opens up an entire new dimension of communication.  Raman uses screen reader technology to access computer technology and listens at a pace of three times a human voice so that he can process at approximately the same speed as someone who is reading the screen.  Right now, he is working on a touch-screen phone that would open the mobile computer world, especially GPS, to the blind.  My hat is off to Mr. Raman and all those working on accessibility.  May the channels of communication be opened.

Burning Body Fat — In Your Fuel Tank

This story about a doctor in LA who used his patient’s body fat to fuel his SUV has so many interesting communication angles, I don’t know where to begin.  http://www.forbes.com/technology/2008/12/21/fat-fuel-biodiesel-tech-sciences-cz_pcb_1222fatfuel.html?partner=technology_newsletter

Lets start with why Forbes is covering such a sensationalized story in the technology section.  Could they not find any other example of bio fuel?  Then lets move on to the ethics of using patients’ fat.  Can you imaging how that is communicated?  I can just imagine the nurse explaining to a patient, ‘Please sign here if you would like to donate your post-liposuction fat to the doctor so he can use it in his gas tank.’  The patient responds, ‘Wow, I get to look thinner and help save the earth!’

Sometimes the weird stuff makes the most interesting communication scenarios.  Anyway,  I am keeping my fat and sticking to my Prius!

Better Ideas with Group Brainstorming

Not surprizingly a new study shows that groups brainstorming come up with better ideas than individuals.
The individuals are more efficient and create more ideas because they don’t spend the time communicating with others.  But, the groups come up with better ideas because as they communicate, they get to play off each others’ ideas.  http://sloanreview.mit.edu/the-magazine/articles/2008/summer/49408/where-the-best-and-worst-ideas-come-from/

7 Keys to Influential Presentations

Carmine Gallo, author of “Fire Them Up!” offers a 7-letter acronym for creating presentations.  The seven letters spell the word INSPIRE.  You can find the article at
I    Ignite Your Enthusiasm
N    Navigate the Way
S    Spell the Benefit
P    Paint a Picture
I    Invite Participation
R    Reinforce Optimism
E    Encourage Potential
It is always good to have another way to remember the basics of delivering a compelling presentation!

Using Twitter

Guy Kawasaki gives us a lesson on how to use Twitter as a tool http://alwayson.goingon.com/permalink/post/30340  I’ll tell you, I need that lesson.  As much as a want to communicate on Twitter because I think it is a cool 21st century communication technology, I have a hard time.  I have trouble thinking of something short enough that people will care about.  Guy gives us the full run down on how he uses it to his advantage.  I learned quite a bit from the article, you might too.  I particularly like the part about reaching the many instead of the ‘influencers’ since most of my communication career has been focused in influencing the influencers.

Web Video: New Mode of Communication

Beet.tv (http://www.beet.tv/2008/12/video-search-mo.html) shows a video of the CEO of Blinkx (http://www.blinkx.com/executive-team), a video search engine company, talking about how companies can monetize video on the web.  I would like to point out that this whole conversation could not have happened 5 or even 3 years ago.  The prevalance of video on the web in the last couple of years is an indicator of a new mode of communication.  According to a 2007 PEW survey, video on the Internet has been used by 76% of young adults (18-29) in the US. And, 18% have recorded a video and 10% have watched a video on a mobile device according to a PEW 2008 study (http://www.pewinternet.org).  As we become comfortable with watching, creating, and posting video on the web, that becomes a more popular mode of communication.  Of course, when enough people make it a habit, then companies will learn how to monetize it, as Blinkx is beginning to do.

Telling Lies: Email vs. Letters

Yesterday I heard on KCBS radio about a study that showed people tend to lie more when communicating via email then they do when writing a letter.  I discovered the studies came out of Lehigh University in Pennsylvania led by Liuba Belkin and co-authored by Terri Kurtzberg of Rutgers and Charles Maquin of DePaul.  In one of the studies, students were given $89 to divide between themselves and strangers either via email or via written letter.  Those that divided cash via email lied about the amount 92% of the time, while those who divided it via letter lied less than 64% of the time.  “It’s not just that emailers were more deceptive,” Belkin says.  “Its that the magnitude by which they lies was significantly greater.”  Of course, this has implication for everyone, since we now communicate via email so often.  Perhaps when we need to know the whole truth and nothing but the truth, we should ask for it in writing.  The old-fashioned form of writing on paper.

Bad News via Email or In Person?

In Inc. Magazine’s (http://www.inc.com) Year in Review there is a side bar on entrepreneurs crafting thoughtful emails.  All of the examples are bad news being communicated, such as company layoffs.  Reading these examples, I was less interested in the artful words and more interested in why these leaders decided to communicate bad news via email.  Is it because their company is geographically diverse?  Or has email become such the default business medium that they presume it is appropriate for every communication.   Seems to me that news prone to spark emotional responses from employees, such as company layoffs, is still best communicated in person.  In person you can read the reaction on people’s faces and express more pathos to moderate the bad news.  Don’t get me wrong, I love email for many reasons, but not for communicating bad news — better to do that in person.

Weekly Presidential Address on YouTube

The use of the Internet and, in particular, YouTube was well utilized by the Obama campaign.  Wisely, the President-elect will continue to utilize 21st-century technology while in office.  He just gave his first weekly ‘radio’ address and put it on YouTube.

Some say he is trying to woo the younger generation.  I say he is communicating in the 21st Century to all ages.  YouTube combines the visual stimulation previously only available on TV with the flexibility of consumer choice only available on the web.  People of all ages appreciate that combination.


Just finished listening to Obama’s acceptance speech.  It is hard to find words to describe this historical moment.  Inspirational is the closest I can come.  My favorite part was his story about the 106 year old woman in Atlanta and all she had seen in her life.  What a wonderful way to use narrative to share all the country has endured and achieve in the last century.  Listening to his speech I felt the power of the historical moment.  I am inspired.

Be What You Want to Be

Oh, what I love so much about Halloween is the freedom to be whomever you wish.  Tonight I watched goblins and fairies come to my door and I rewarded their beauty with candy corn.  Little do these tiny humans know that when they grow up people will judge them based on how they dress and who they are.  Young and innocent, with the help of a costume, they get to be who they want to be.  I wish I could wave my magic wand and make every day a day when we could be whomever we wish.  Happy Halloween!

Always Check Your Sources

From the WSJ today:
Politico: John McCain hung his final presidential debate performance on an Ohio plumber who campaign aides never vetted. A day after making Joseph Wurzelbacher famous, referencing him in the debate almost two dozen times as someone who would pay higher taxes under Barack Obama, Mr. McCain learned the fine print on the plumber’s not-so-tidy personal story: He owes back taxes. He is not a licensed plumber. And it turns out that Mr. Wurzelbacher makes less than $250,000 a year, which means he would receive a tax cut if Mr. Obama were elected president

Oh, how very embarrassing.  Every good speaker knows to check their source of information before using it in a speech.  You would think that a presidential candidate who is behind in the polls would have been a bit more cautious on the content used in the debate.  I guess your never too old to learn.

The Art of Answering Your Own Question

Watching the 2nd Presidential debate tonight I was reminded of the art of answering your own question.  Both candidates displayed it quite well.  No matter the question, the answer always contained the key message the candidate wanted to state.  Asked about retirement, Obama suavely commented that we can’t get to retirement if we don’t deal with taxes and then promptly answered his own question about what to do about taxes. While politician used this technique all the time, it is handy for us every-day communicators as well.  I don’t condone not answering the question asked, but I do marvel at those who can answer the posed question and also incorporate their own agenda.

Required for Every Job

Picking up a prescription yesterday I was reminded that communication is required for every job.  The ability to communicate well with others is a must (or at least an asset) in almost every job I imagine.  After I had purchased the medication, the very friendly sales person told me that the pharmacist would ‘consult’ with me momentarily.  My friendly, happy-customer interaction went down the tube from there.  The pharmacist did not speak English well, he looked at the bottle and mumbled to me incomprehensibly.  I attempted to ask a question, but found it was futile.  He may be a really good pharmacist in terms of knowing medications and dispensing them properly, but he was a very poor communicator.  If part of his job is to ‘consult’ with patients, them he needs to learn to speak in an articulate manner.  Just another reminder for me that communication is so important.

Students 2 Students

Check out the recently launched website, Unigo.  http://www.unigo.com/
The site’s purpose is for college students to share the low-down on their university with other students.
Students directly communicating with other students.  According to an article in the Sunday New York Times Magazine, the Unigo editors let pretty much anything fly.  Students post thoughts, pictures, video — both good and bad.  I checked the site out — it is very buggy and you can’t use it for long without crashing.  That said, it is a great idea.  Who knows more about a college than the students actually attending the school?  I think the site also represents the shift in communication power caused by social media.  Now the power to communicate is in the hands of the students, not the college adminstrators.

Remorse Communicated

From PEHub today:
“There’s a WSJ report this morning that Bob Willumstad has rejected a $22 million severance package from AIG, where he served as CEO for the past few months. If accurate, this is an exceptional decision, in multiple senses. My hat’s off to the man, although it would be further off had he managed to execute AIG’s restructuring plan.”
Now that is a good example of communicating remorse.  There is nothing like action to speak louder than words and turning down $22 million is ACTION.
I couldn’t find the WSJ report on www.wsj.com — I think they forgot to update the search engine when they reconfigured the website because that is the third article I’ve tried to find with no avail.
Anyway, good to see Willumstad is being responsible and turning down severance.

Hey, you’re ok

Here is what we all need to hear.  Song to remind us to chill out.
If only this could play continuously in our minds then we would all feel better and communicate more kindly to one another.