Thursday, September 30, 2010

Visual, Evocative Words to Emphasize Something—Some Inspiring / Humorous Examples

Here are some recent examples of people using a vivid, evocative expression to emphasize something--examples which, I hope, will inspire the rest of us into similarly imaginative use of the language, especially when we are trying to break through the clutter.

1. Talking about the speed with which the U.S. military is acquiring robots, “Wired for War” author P.W. Singer said during a CBS interview: “We went into Iraq with a handful of drones; we now have 7,000 in inventory. We went into Iraq with zero unmanned ground vehicles that are robotic; we now have 12,000. And these are just the Model T Fords, the Wright Brothers flyers, compared to what’s coming.”

2. Earlier this month, speaking with ABC’s Christiane Amanpour about Princess Diana’s impact on the British monarchy, former British PM Tony Blair commented: “Buckingham Palace saw her as a threat because she was such a different type of person. For a very traditional monarchy, it was like a meteor coming in what had been a fairly well disciplined, well ordered ecosystem, and that obviously had a big impact on it, a big consequence.”

3. Asked why Mexico’s President Calderon criticized Arizona’s new immigration law during his last visit to the U.S.--criticism that, not surprisingly, created a brouhaha here--Jeffrey Davidow, president of the Institute of Americas, saying: “If Calderon had come in here and not mentioned the Arizona law and made something of a big deal about it, he would on his return be put on a spit and roasted slowly by the Mexican public. This is a big issue for them.”

4. With reference to why the Democrats have yet to see a political payoff from the health-care overhaul and other big initiatives of the past 12 to18 months, David Axelrod telling The Wall Street Journal: “We didn’t have a lot of cotton candy that tastes good right away but disappears quickly. What we had was some fiber that’s going to help people in the long run, but it doesn’t provide that immediate pop.”

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

High-Impact Public Speaking; Eliminating Uhs and Ums, Filler Words, and Other Verbal Tics From Your Oral Communications

In a post a few weeks ago, I discussed how the unrelenting use of uhs and ums, and filler words such as actually, basically, and you know can be extremely irritating to the listener and can eviscerate your presentation or interview. As promised, here are some thoughts on how to expunge these verbal tics and other annoying mannerisms from your system.

(a) Solving the problem on your own: First you must make a conscious effort to find out what sort of tics or disfluencies you utter frequently. I say this because many who suffer from such a flaw have no idea that their speech contains a preponderance of uhs and ums, or you knows, or basically/essentially/actually, and so on. The best way to find out is to quietly ask one or two people in the audience to give you some feedback each time you make a presentation. You could also request people in the office, especially those who can hear you speak on the phone or who often attend the same meetings that you do, or family members at home. Then, having sized up the problem, stick little post-it notes or other helpful reminders on your office desk or wall, or any other place that you often stare at while on the phone. Carry a sheet of paper with such self-admonitions into each meeting.

(b) Through outside help: Join a Toastmasters club. When I first became a Toastmaster, every sentence of mine contained a spate of uhs. Yet, within just a few months, I had almost banished them from my speech! Today, even during my long workshops (1- to 2-day affairs) the audience will scarcely find me uttering more than a total of one or two uhs.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Susan Desmond-Hellmann: Communicator Extraordinaire and One of the Most Illustrious Female Execs in the Land

I first learned about Sue Desmond-Hellmann in early 2005, when she appeared on "Charlie Rose." At the time, she was a president at Genentech. I was so struck by Dr. Desmond-Hellmann's nonverbal gestures that I remarked to myself "Move over, Carly Fiorina and Ellen Futter. Make way for Susan Desmond-Hellmann," and wrote her an email complimenting her. After a while, Ms. Desmond-Hellmann fell out of my consciousness, sort of, until this past week when she appeared on the PBS News Hour.

This time, she made an even stronger impression on me. And as I watched her respond to the interviewer's questions--see video clip below--words such as the following flashed through my head: crystal clear, crisp, animated, emphatic, persuasive, engaging, well poised, utterly endearing and, ofcourse, extremely articulate.

There is no question that each one of us can advance his or her communication effectiveness by taking cues from her style--a style that is a rare and powerful blend of nonverbal techniques (especially vocal variety and facial gestures) and verbal skills, such as the use of synonymous terms and phrases, and antonyms.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

My Testifying at a Public Hearing; Exhorting the Government to Adopt Tougher Public-Health Measures; Invoking the Gettysburg Address

Yesterday, I traveled to Dallas to speak at an EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) public hearing. The issue: should the federal government tighten the regulation of coal ash disposal by coal-burning power plants.

Here is my approx. 2-minute presentation. Most of the words that I emphasized (by using vocal variety, hand gestures, and other body language) are in bold. Also note my liberal use of fresh words and synonyms.

“Good Afternoon!

I am a resident of West Houston. My name is V.J. Singal, and I am testifying as a member of the general public—I should say, a member of the concerned public.

Whenever I get a chance to appear before a highly consequential government body, as yours surely is, I like to invoke a key phrase from Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address—the phrase “a government for the people” which, when translated into today’s issue, would mean putting the clamps on any industrial activity that is detrimental to the public’s health, any activity that is endangering the public.

Gentlemen, you have in your possession incontrovertible evidence that coal ash is highly toxic, that it is unquestionably deleterious to the public’s health. And you have similarly irrefutable evidence that the TCEQ has been utterly lax in monitoring and implementing the Clean Air Act and other environmental regulations.

A case in point: The Fayette plant outside Austin, where coal ash has so badly contaminated the water that it has been rendered undrinkable—a perfect testimony to the TCEQ’s apathy in matters environmental.

And so, if we are to adhere to that maxim of “a government for the people,” then it is imperative, and mandatory, that the EPA, which is, after all, a protector of last resort when it comes to the environment, takes firm and speedy steps to issue new regulation—regulation that is (i) tough, (ii) unambiguous, and (iii) enforceable.

And if you do that, you will have every reason to feel truly ennobled!

Thank you for giving me this opportunity to share my thoughts on the subject."