Monday, March 29, 2010

Building a Large Vocabulary: New Edition of “Words of the Month”

The latest edition of “Words of the Month,” my free vocabulary enhancement feature, has been online since March 1. Words featured this time: parsimonious, Potemkin, effervescent, impolitic, animus, invidious. As in previous editions, all of the featured words are within the conversational vocabulary of America’s most articulate.

Here are some of my favorite examples from the new edition:
1. At our workshop tomorrow, we will be serving sandwiches instead of a sumptuous lunch as in the past. These latest budget cuts have forced us into being a bit parsimonious.

2. in January 2009, while visiting a critically ill relative in Chicago’s Northwestern Memorial Hospital and driving on downtown streets that were rife with potholes and seeing rusty bridges and other images of disrepair, this author remarking to his fellow passenger with disgust: “Looks like the supposedly great metropolis of Chicago is, in reality, a Potemkin village.”

3. My understanding is that every major decision taken by our CEO, Robert, is really at the behest of the company’s largest shareholder. Robert seems to be a CEO only in name, a Potemkin CEO if you will.

4. White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel was forced to apologize for using the word “retarded” during a meeting with some fellow Democrats when someone offered a suggestion he felt was absurd. The question that has since been occupying this author’s mind: When referring to somebody’s quality of thinking, will the conversational use of words such as idiotic, stupid, and moronic also come to be regarded as impolitic, even if these words were to be uttered facetiously or jocularly?

5. I realize you want to limit the number of guests, but if you are inviting everyone who contributed to the project’s success, you should certainly include the design folks. Leaving them out would seem invidious to me.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

“Cocaine Pricing” – a Strong and Stirring Metaphor from Harvard’s Robert Darnton

The other night, as a guest on “Charlie Rose,” Robert Darnton, director of the Harvard University Library, used the term “cocaine pricing” to describe the modus operandi of publishers of some highly advanced scientific journals who seduce librarians into buying an initial subscription (at a low price) and then, having hooked a library’s customers, start ratcheting up the cost, making the journal so expensive that libraries have to cancel several other subscriptions. The publishers of these scholarly journals know full well that librarians will be compelled to keep renewing because of pressure from readers.

As soon as I heard Prof. Darnton explain the insidious workings of some of these publishers, I realized that “cocaine pricing” is an incredibly appropriate and evocative metaphor to describe their MO--a metaphor that you and I can apply in many a situation.

For more on Robert Darnton’s use of the term “cocaine pricing” and his point of view, check out his interview on NPR.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

High-Octane Presentations; Recommended Actions BEFORE You Start Speaking—Part I: Mingling With the Audience

When delivering one-on-one coaching on public speaking, or delivering presentation skills training to large groups, I invariably urge my audiences to make a special effort to create the right atmospherics before starting their speech or presentation because that will help beget a friendly reception of their message, even if their ideas are a bit contrary to those cherished by the audience.

For instance, milling around the room before the speech; using the introduction to whet the audience’s appetite; making a broad “visual sweep” of all those in attendance; not picking the wrong moment to start speaking . . . These are some of the easy preliminary steps to create the right ambience and ensure a high-impact presentation. This week, in “Part I,” I focus on mingling. Parts II and III next month and beyond.

Mingling with the audience before the presentation: By arriving early and engaging in light conversation or banter with some of those who will comprise your audience--something which I’ll readily admit is not possible in all situations--has several benefits. Among them:

(i) You will be able to “connect” with the listeners. It’ll be an opportunity for you to be seen as an endearing, warm-blooded person. And we know from research that there is a much greater chance of people accepting a presenter’s point of view if they like the speaker “personally.”

(ii) For neophyte speakers, this can be a confidence booster. It helps lessen nervousness. By mingling and “connecting,” a speaker quickly realizes that many in the audience are unquestionably supportive and want the presenter to succeed.

(iii) It’s an opportunity to ask people at random what issues or aspects they are expecting you to talk about. You might be surprised to learn there’s a misconception with regard to your topic or subject matter--something that you should definitely address during the presentation. Such informal one-on-one quizzing of the audience before the presentation becomes even more valuable if some of your material is controversial.

(iv) Continuing on the issue of a controversial or charged subject matter, the chit-chat will lower the probability of those opposed to your point of view being totally impervious to your ideas. And there will be less likelihood of your encountering hostility during the Q&A.

(v) Finally, if you are a foreign-born and have an accent, as I do, it’ll enable listeners to fine-tune their antennas to your style of speaking and idiosyncrasies well in advance.

Part II of actions to take before you start speaking will be posted next month.


An Apology; End of My Long Slumber

Forgive me for not writing for almost 5 weeks. I was in one of the periodic Rip Van Winkle phases of my life.

Subject: Nov--Dec 2015 website update cycle: #5 -- Final email -- Contents of "What's New" box


please make the following changes in the "What's New" box on home page: 


First bullet:


Latest rendition of “Employee Recognition: How to deliver effective praise in Just Three Sentences”  

(embed the new link you are creating for the Oct. 15 seminar in Dallas in the words “Employee Recognition: How to deliver effective praise”) [note: the words “in just three sentences” should not be part of the link]


Second bullet:

 New seminar topic: Enhancing morale and harmony in a highly diverse workplace

(embed following link in the words “New seminar topic”)

Third bullet:

“Campaigning like she’s in Napoleon’s march on Moscow” -- visual, evocative expression for emphasis

(embed following link in the words "visual, evocative expression”


Fourth bullet:

Senior executive at ExxonMobil on the long-term benefits of my one-on-one coaching

(embed following link in the words "long-term benefits of my one-on-one coaching”)

Same link as last time

Fifth bullet:

November/ December 2015 Words of the Month

Sixth bullet: 

September /October  2015 Vocabulary Quiz



No more emails for this cycle.