Public Speaking!

00 Public Speaking


“Too many people spend too much time trying to perfect something before they actually do it. Instead of waiting for perfection, run with what you go, and fix it along the way…”
― Paul Arden


 

I never thought I would write a paper about public speaking [i] (I liked what William Pittenger says about acquiring and practicing Public Speaking – see the endnote of this paper), as I never considered myself to be knowledgeable in such a skill.

It is true I have been in teaching and training for many years during my career, and it is also true I feel that amazing thrill when I am in presence of an audience. Yet I always feel the anxiety of the unknown before and for the first 50 seconds of each event.

50 Seconds, no less no more, such being the necessary time I gave myself to evaluate the audience, recognizing the various types of people attending (this could be an untold fact but believe it or not it is real). The friendly people, they will make visual contact as soon as they sit in the room and wave a non-verbal sign saying “hey! I’m here to listen and learn”, they will eventually take care of people who will try to disturb the pace of your delivery, and they are the ones sitting in front. The “foes”, I know it is a big word yet these people act as such. The reason is simple: they have been asked (told) to attend the course of the conference, they look at you as being the source of their unhappy state of mind, but no worries the “friends” will make sure their behaviour is contained. Coming to the third type, I like to call the “tourists”. These people have no idea why they’re in your room, sitting at the back (the very very back) hiding as much as possible (behind their sun glasses, a text book, the laptop lid, etc.). Usually the tourists will make sure you think they follow you and will nod, eventually send you a discreet smile to let you know they’re in!

I always enjoyed these precious seconds, helping me to unwind the teasing anxiety before every event ever since after so many years.

For some, Public Speaking  is a performance delivery, for others it is a moment of fame to promote ones skills and knowledge, many look at it as a stepping stone boosting their career, a few consider it a must imposed by their job requirements. Public Speaking has been for me the occasion of building a love relation with my audiences, sharing thoughts, facts, and experiences; bottom line transferring knowledge for the love of contributing for a better social and professional good.

If I had the gift to speak in public, it did not mean I was unreachable as a human, as a person like every single person; I had the task to speak as they had the listening role, thus being equals in all the other aspects of our presence at the same place.

I remember during my college years taking a mandatory course of techniques of public speaking. That course annoyed me to the point I used to yawn every time. The professor, who was a very smart person, used to “wake” me up by asking me all of a sudden to continue the delivery she did, knowing I would fail and learn from this a lesson. Feeling challenged in front of the students, I had to act very fast, so I stood up and “continued” the course getting my inspiration from my strong auditory memory elaborating the rest of the delivery. It was a special finding about my personal skills which one day led me to what I enjoyed during all the years spent teaching.

If Public Speaking is a skill we can learn or develop it is at the core some kind of intrinsic gift that is probably dormant in our nature. I think, it is the love of sharing with others that materialises once we choose to address to public.

I hesitated to write my first paper in English, feeling unprepared to create and build an appropriate syntax, unable to choose the right words, and feeling uncomfortable about writing skills. I postponed this first paper for months, until an acquaintance, a known writer whom I envied her writing style, told me to write and keep the focus on the message rather than the aspect. I still remember her words “if you tell your readers how passionate you are about what you say, then no one will criticize you about your writing skills, the more you will care to share your soul the more people will like what you say!”

So you can figure how scared I felt when I pressed the button “Submit” for the very first blog I wrote in English! *Smiles*

If Public Speaking is a powerful skill for born-speakers we need to constantly remind ourselves such gift can and will make miracles in the lives of our audiences. Don’t you agree that Public Speaking is essentially meant for the social good and the wellbeing of people? I, Do!

Until our next chat I wish you happy public speaking!

Michel – September 12, 2015


The picture illustrating this paper is a courtesy from the Blog: Instant.ly


[i] “There is a strange sensation often experienced in the presence of an audience. It may proceed from the gaze of the many eyes that turn upon the speaker, especially if he permits himself to steadily return that gaze. Most speakers have been conscious of this in a nameless thrill, a real something, pervading the atmosphere, tangible, evanescent, indescribable. All writers have borne testimony to the power of a speaker’s eye in impressing an audience. This influence which we are now considering is the reverse of that picture—the power their eyes may exert upon him, especially before he begins to speak: after the inward fires of oratory are fanned into flame the eyes of the audience lose all terror.” ― William Pittenger, Extempore Speech: How to Acquire and Practice It

 

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Humanware, the Missing Link between Hardware & Software!

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The real problem is not whether
machines think but whether men do.
B.F. Skinner


This paper’s title may look somehow unusual, yet it is a reality we, the humans, face this unusual status regularly since the creation of the first tools that drove mankind into our days.

I estimate the problem residing at the design and concept teams who since the beginning thought of solutions in favour of a certain productivity rather than seeking what and how people would feel using the components. Of course I do concede that the 20th century’s inventions such as machinery, homeware, were meant to ease the life of workers and people (essentially women at that time) for an easier life reducing time and effort. It remains though these inventions were “invented” between 4 walls under the supervision of specialists and skilled designers who did not necessarily used these components. Therefore unwillingly creating “things” people needed to adapt to instead of the opposite.

So saying that People, being part of the equation as Humanware are missing most of the time from the process. Missing alas from the needs analysis till the delivery, leaving to market studies and its experts the task to develop such markets motivating clients to be willing to buy these products.

We do not need to have rocket science expertise to find in our daily activities how many useful products were meant for people yet people had to adapt to using these.

A simple example, I went through myself when I went to the pharmacy to pick up my prescription. The pharmacist was all smiles announcing their national banner decided to change the model and the way to open the vial. Looking at the little container I found it somehow intriguing trying to guess how I could open it in a snap as the pharmacist was saying. After trying a couple of times, she smiles at me and offered to show me how. Two attempts later I managed to open the vial, phew! That was something! Looking et my smiling young pharmacist, I thought about the people who cannot afford using easily their fingers as it should to open the bottle and wondered how would they do. Would they give up and put their health in jeopardy or would they need to ask for help all the time?

On my way back home, I felt enough puzzled to wonder how the people who designed this type of vial did think their idea, the ergonomics and usability of the bottle, was it designed just for those who could easily use their hands, being enough skilled to synchronize the two steps in one to open the bottle.

With all due respect to the good intentions of the designers, I think they missed a certain point: bring in their team the user experience element, that Humanware that obviously was missing here.

How we were forced, unlike our natural abilities, to change these in order to be able to use these objects that lacked such fine touch in their design.

I am part of the people who are left handed, those who are had no choice but to adapt, luckily the further we moved into our timeline some of these objects we conceived a bit more accommodating, maybe among the designers was a left-handed person that certainly helped! Not to say about the scissors, the spout of a saucepan manufactured only for right handers, etc.

I know there are compromises to be done from both sides, yet when it is related to the comfort of a person, I think regardless of any other consideration, people matter before processes and schemes.

The concept if Humanware is not of my creation, it became part of my professional culture, my social presence among peers and people, Humanware was to me a stunning discovery when I started developing teaching and educational programs. A fortunate encounter, 10 years ago with the author Ulf L. Andersson and his book: “Humanware practical usability engineering” made me understand how important people are in every solution.

Not only about manufacturing or engineering utilities and goods, but also in education, social life, politics, and more. People first, people at the core of every solution, people matter, these slogans say what should be seen in practical life. There is a long way to go before these altruistic slogans and mottos become reality.

Our digital reality has brought a new challenging layer on the real importance of people in today’s history of humankind. When virtual reality tends to keep us alone though connected to the planet, we need more than ever to remind ourselves, we, the humans, count first not the other way!

Until our next chat,

Michel – August 10, 2015


Picture: A courtesy from the site: El Mundo Del Humaware

Please do not keep your knowledge to yourself!

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Knowledge is power. Information is power. The secreting or hoarding of knowledge or information may be an act of tyranny camouflaged as humility. Robin Morgan[I]


 

There were many changes during the communication era, the power of knowledge and the value of what it can provide not only to individuals but for humanity. Today, we stepped into the times of connecting among each other a step far above information, and communication. The admitted and promoted purposes were stated by many leaders, experts, people of interest and influence. Initially such promised knowledge is supposed  to serve the wellbeing of populations. At the same time, globalization was sold to people as the solution for that wellbeing.

There are still too many countries struggling with internal issues such as starvation, lack of basic quality of life, poor education, difficulties accessing essential resources, and so more disappointing results. Ones may say not to blame it on globalization! I would fully agree and support such idea if it weren’t at start that the whole idea of a Healthy globalization did not carry a hidden agenda that would empower more than ever the key players who are building their wealth at the expense of less fortunate populations.

I am a true believer that we, the people living on this planet, can solve our own problems and fix all the things that aren’t really Okay! We can stop wars, provide food and education to whom has none, build true relationship among nations, and still strive to advance in technologies and reach places no one has ever imagined. I know it takes the will to do it, but I am also convinced that nations in need, have to take care of themselves according to their traditions and cultures. For that to happen, they need knowledge. Knowledge that is abundant for some, let’s admit it, less fortunate people do not need international aid programs, nor blankets or wheat even milk or baby food. What they really need is the knowledge to take care of themselves, to learn how to manage their water, their fields, their basic resources.

I once saw a documentary that seemed to hit a wow among viewers, showing an international aid team going to a country where the access to milk and its derivatives to build a factory to collect milk and transform it to various sub-products. One little thing the documentary did not say: there weren’t any cows in that country!

Sharing our knowledge and skills is critical to our own kind and oddly such thing would cost ways less than sending cargos of emergency supplies to the same people in need.

Our journey in this life is relatively too short if we compare it to the timeline of our history, shall we burry this richness in our minds, vaults and servers and pretend we want to help humankind?

Until our next chat,

Michel – August 7, 2015


The picture is from the Blog site of Women in Business


[i] Robin Morgan American Poet

Robin Morgan is an American poet, author, political theorist and activist, journalist, lecturer, and former child actor. Since the early 1960s she has been a key radical feminist member of the American Women’s Movement, and a leader in the international feminist movement. Her 1970 anthology Sisterhood is Powerful has been widely credited with helping to start the second wave feminist movement in the US, and was cited by the New York Public Library as “One of the 100 most influential Books of the 20th Century.” She has written more than 20 books of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction, and is also known as the editor of Ms. Magazine.

How Much is Knowledge Worth?

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I wash my hands of those who
imagine chattering to be knowledge.
Silence to be ignorance,
and affection to be art
– Gibran Khalil Gibran


 

It has been said that knowledge is a matter of people, it has been also said that the amount of knowledge we share is about 20% where the other 80% remain untold and unshared hidden in our minds, I personally believe that to be true.

Knowledge is luckily unique, even for people working the same kind of job, skills or trades. As long as it is a matter of people, each person collects and retain that knowledge accordingly to nature, personality and comprehension, we may also add according to the nature of exposure, etc.

Our knowledge is similar to a bank account, the savings start at birth and keep growing as our mind and consciousness is nurtured at home, school, social and professional steps in our lives.

When a senior goes on retirement we tend to think the loss is the employer’s in the case there is no mechanism to retain such critical knowledge that would benefit the industry. I do agree, yet I believe that the person who leaves for retirement is also losing an occasion to make this valuable knowledge benefit other people as well.

If some think that storing information is collecting knowledge, thus keeping safe important information for a business, to tell you honestly it would be burying tons of files and documents into these ultra-sophisticated virtual vaults for no benefits at all. How many people within the organization would be aware, would be able to reach such information. The person who made me discover the principles of Knowledge Culture used to say (repeatedly) “once knowledge is confined in a document it is virtually lost, keep in mind Knowledge is a matter of people talking to people”.

I confess I felt annoyed at first to hear that same phrase on and on, but soon I found out how right he was! I’ll explain using a simple example. I do not like tinkering, thus I call the plumber or the electrician when I need to make some repairs at my place. I once called for an electrician, a senior guy came, amazingly knowledgeable, a person who spent a lifetime fixing, helping desperate clients, but also a person who learned will the bells and whistles of the trade, those “thingies” no book or no course will ever teach. During the time he spent to finish the repair, during the time we had a little chat at the end he expressed his disappointment, calling it his “failure”, as we was on his last couple of years before retirement but had no apprentice whom he had trained and made sure his trade will continue. It is hard for a senior specialist to admit, in such cases, his own responsibility.

I kept thinking about this incident, trivial in appearance but how critical and important: a wealth of know-how was a risk to be lost.

The words my mentor used to drown me with, came back, Knowledge is a matter of people speaking to people.

Every person owns a fair amount of knowledge, every person needs to care sharing it with others (peers) also before such knowledge becomes obsolete… Knowledge culture is dynamic, there are almost no records stating knowledge is stored for the centuries to come.

I like the expression: Pay it forward, it describes in simple words the true sense of Knowledge Culture.

So who is next?

Until the next chat,

Michel – July 3, 2015

It’s About Time!

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“Because today we live in a society in which spurious realities are manufactured by the media, by governments, by big corporations, by religious groups, political groups… So I ask, in my writing, what is real? Because unceasingly we are bombarded with pseudo-realities manufactured by very sophisticated people using very sophisticated electronic mechanisms.
I do not distrust their motives; I distrust their power.
They have a lot of it. And it is an astonishing power: that of creating whole universes, universes of the mind. I ought to know. I do the same thing.”
― Philip K. Dick


 

If my blogs and papers were written using an assertive tone, if I used to push imperative advice and straight forward ideas, if … I am pretty sure I would had a larger audience, and that is a relief it is not the case, as I would feel so not myself!

What would it take to news networks, medias, and social forums to advocate for social good, what would it take to public opinion to read and listen to positive news at least once every 24 hours! Could they for once in a while turn these many deaths from statistics to tragedies and seek how to prevent such to happen?

Don’t we have enough of covering the wars, deaths, destruction just for the wars, deaths and destruction? Someone told me one day it was a necessity to cover and expose publicly such horrors and stop hiding ourselves from the reality! Yes, maybe! But is that our own reality? Is human kind meant only for that?

We live in a world of many contradictions. Since our first steps in life we are cared for, taught and educated to good, to live well, enjoy family and receive from our parents and caretakers all the love, the attention that can exist. Going to school, among other benefits, we start learning to meet with other people than mom and dad, we learn how to cope with our school friends, some will remain our friend from childhood, and the many will remain in the backyard of our memories if not forgotten, but they will remain people we met sometime during our lives. Schooling years also teach us to become good students, the education model aims to make us become the future good citizens. At the end of our school path we are supposedly fit for the world, get a job, settle down, and of course make a good life, in other words fulfill our dreams.

How confusing it could be to the minds of people to expect attaining such humanistic goals when at the same time they are exposed to the daily horrors of wars, killings and desperation of other people! What kind of model will they follow?

Something is wrong! Something is very wrong! I do not need to summarize what is happening in the world, not only in countries far from ours, but in our own schools, our neighbourhoods, our own communities.

Do not take me wrong, hiding such news is not my intention, but covering such events in a different manner is – at least to my opinion – what we are badly missing! What would it take to make that effort instead of falling into the scoopmania? How much percent does a national network cover good or positive events? I do not have the number but I doubt someone would ever venture to say there is a noticeable one!

Keeping people on alert through negative and horror stories will impact their daily life, it is not rocket science to note how individualistic we became: advertisement, consuming strategies, wellbeing promises, mostly address the individual instead of people in general. If people are free to choose they absolutely need to know what they can choose from, don’t you agree?

Medias have a responsibility towards their audience that is to provide trusted information, on the other hand, outstanding media have a greater responsibility that is to promote what people strive for! People have a responsibility too, that is to follow the media that will respect and provide what it takes to make the right choice of opinion!

Until our next chat,

Michel – June 29, 2015

If Knowledge is Power, Trusted Knowledge is Priceless!

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In the Information Age, the first step to sanity is FILTERING. Filter the information: extract for knowledge. Filter first for substance. Filter second for significance. These filters protect against advertising. Filter third for reliability. This filter protects against politicians.

― Marc Stiegler, David’s Sling


One of the biggest challenges we do face in every part of our life, business, social, or education is to use and collect trusted knowledge. It is not a new thing that I am revealing, yet I find that our consumption of “Junk Knowledge” is making us unhealthy to a limit we might suffer from a unstoppable bulimia wich will lead us soon or later to the intellectual obesity!

News Networks, specialized magazines, newsletters, and experts provide information that most people may take as Knowledge. It is unfortunate to notice that we do not take all the necessary measures and enough time to ensure we are collecting real knowledge and not information and on the second hand we can make sure such is considered trusted knowledge!

Adding references to a paper does not entitle the content to be validated, especially when the reference is not clear and does not state who, where when in addition to cross-validated references… This will seem tedious and very complicated for many (that includes me too).

A funny reflex I have developed through the past years working with knowledge, specialists and trusted sources was to implement a mental alert that became with time a “natural” thing in me. When a text starts with “It looks that…” or “It appears that…” My first reaction is to ask the author mentally “Where are you going with that?”

I know there is some subjectivity behaving like this, yet it helped me avoiding major embarrassment when I was tempted to use references with minimal validation.

Of course until proven wrong governmental sources can be considered as trusted universities, research centers, and more of the kind. Yet to me trusted means a concept of a simpler manner (maybe harder to find too). As humans we identify ourselves to other peers who experiment similar experiences in their lives, whether it is at work, on an industrial site, social, family or public. We also tend to be focus about what people live and how they solved a certain issue that speaks to us. Such sharing are among the most trusted sources besides what we learn or hear is no information but knowledge: the how I did it thing! Or what did I learn for a better result?

People like to learn from their peers. I spent many years in creating adult educational program, I have to admit the best sources of knowledge were those people (people from the industry) who were feeding the true knowledge at the core going beyond all user guides, manuals, and sometimes experts.

It will never be said enough that Knowledge is a matter of people talking to people, sharing their past experiences. Knowledge built on theoretical thinking is incomplete, therefore not trusted, if it is not based on experiments and sharing with other peers.

Stating something as Knowledge is also a matter of responsibility, in the same manner that we do have responsivities and obligations towards our social environment. One needs to understand and feel accountable for every piece of knowledge he or she delivers to others, else it may induce the people into dramatic disappointments and critical misjudgments.

There is no need to become experts to provide and share trusted knowledge, we are more knowledgeable than we think!

Until our next chat,

Michel – June 22, 2015


 

The picture is a courtesy from the site Active Rain

Can Technologies Solve the Crisis of Education?

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“It is important to remember that educational software,
like textbooks, is only one tool in the learning process.
Neither can be a substitute for well-trained teachers,
leadership, and parental involvement.”
– Keith Krueger


 

I love this question because, at least for me, there are no clean cut answers. Adopting technologies is the natural course of things that walks with us, humans, in our own historical timeline. From the first educational model to the 21st century, technologies have always provoked passionate discussions the pro-technologies and the anti-technologies, surprisingly these opinions may have been flawed in a way; from the certainty saying technologies will solve the education crisis to the argument that technologies will never replace the human impact (educators) let’s admit, all may be right as all may be wrong.

Believing in such statement, seems to me, a simplistic attitude, comparing and measuring people’s faculty to deduct and reason to the automated functionalities of tools programmed by humans!

When people will feel less unsecure about technologies and when they will see these as the providing means to bring people to a higher level of comprehension and learning, then we can look at technologies as means to solve the crisis of education. People fall under the charm of the wow for each piece of tool when it allows them to “do” things they always dreamed of, still these tools need to express human brain intelligence never their own.

The crisis of education is a people’s matter. People who definitely have to speak to people if they want to bring the level of education to respond to students’ true needs. The principles of education have slowly drifted into a sort of stagnation since the first model, and has little walked the pace of the continuous evolution of people’s direct needs. It is not adding technologies that may bring the change, it is more the manner we look at both as what we ought to do!

Yes technologies may solve the crisis of education if both the top and the base of people meet and start learning from each other, and No technologies will never solve any crisis, they will simply postpone the inevitable disconnection between the model and the learners! Education is a matter of people, as long as this component is missing the more learners will drop out! Bringing learners into the solution of educational issues has never been so urgent as before. Young students are the best contributors to reduce the existing gap between the present model and the technical trends, they are naturally inclined to share their knowledge. The actual paradigm is stalling (if not already totally stalled), injecting adrenaline – new technological tools – without a healthy regimen, cannot suffice anymore.

Let us stop extending the non-solving attitude, let us stop considering education as a privilege for an elite, let us stop considering education as a cost in national budgets, it is time to consider education as an obligation for each government to prioritize.

Can technologies solve the crisis of education? I think they can once people start considering people and not people being demographic statistics within the system of education.

If we all agree that education is in need of an important review, and probably a major update in its various mechanisms, it is useless to think this can only happen through technologies; I am inclined to think people who lead education need to change the prevailing business model and remind themselves that their real employer are the students!

Until our next chat,

Michel – June 4, 2015