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January 2006

Contrasts in presentation style: Yoda vs. Darth Vader

Edward Tufte says: "PowerPoint is Evil." This got me thinking... What if Darth Vader — my favorite fictional bad guy — gave a formal presentation? How would it look? How would it compare to the presentation style of Yoda, the wise Jedi master?

Darth_2    
In this horribly embellished image above, Darth tries to get Luke to capitulate and join forces by presenting in an "evil PowerPoint style." We know in this galaxy, though, that this approach never really works.

Yoda    
Size and age matter not. Might Yoda take a more "naked" analog approach?


The "Lessig Method" and sharing presentations over the web

LessigI'm a big fan of the "Lessig Method" of presentation. Though Prof. Lessig's style and his method are certainly not for everyone (nor appropriate for every situation), there is much to like about his approach. This presentation is a good example of his style. The content, too, is especially relevant and important since many of you are bloggers, use images for your presentations, etc. Whether you agree with him or not, his ideas are worthy of discussion (debate?). See his presentation entitled: Is Google Book Search "Fair Use"? The video is linked from Lessig's blog, or go directly to the video here at YouTube. Leon Felipe Sanchez has a version of Lessig's presentation for your iPod.

I'm not suggesting that you copy Prof. Lessig's method. But there may be aspects of it that you can emulate or parts you can incorporate into your talks when using slideware. Lessig's method works best for him live when he is situated very close to the screen so that the audience can easily see the screen and prof. Lessig. But for on-line representation of the live presentation, Lessig's slides in sync with his words is certainly better than viewing a PowerPoint deck alone.

Good methods for sharing presentations?
We all agree that PowerPoint or Keynote slides are not a presentation. But for those who could not witness our presentation in person, it is helpful if we can share the message on the web.
A common method of making the presentation available is simply to save the PowerPoint deck to the web (easily done in PowerPoint). But if your slides were effective in the life presentation, those slides will be of little use by themselves. In this case, a written handout of your talk with expanded detail and support may be much better.

What's the best way to share a presentation on the web?
I believe the best methods will allow the viewer to see the person speaking as well as hear them, and be able to see the slides in sync with the narration. Seeing the presenter is important. Facial expressions, for example, are a very important channel for non-verbal communication. I'd mentioned this before when I urged presenters to get out of the dark. Good slides synched with good narration, like Lessig's on-line versions of his presentations, are not bad at all. But would it be even better if we could see Lessig actually speaking, at least part of the time?

Lewis_blogOne of my favorite methods for sharing on the web is the method Lewis PR did here. Although, since our eyes are conditioned to scan back to the left and the strongest part of a screen is often the upper left, I wonder if it would be better to have the speaker appear on the left and graphics on the right? Also, the three Lewis examples have too much extraneous graphics above and below the slides and video. I like the method (and Flash), but a simpler interface — slides and video — would be even better.

Apple does a pretty good job of making Steve Job's keynote's available on the web. I like the way you can see Steve (most of the time) and the slides (most of the time). Sometimes this is done with a split screen or a single shot which frames both Steve and the slide image.

  Steve_left
Above: Split screen allows viewer to see presenter and slides.

  Stevefront
Above: Here we can see both presenter and slides in the same frame.

Easy method for sharing?
I'm interested to hear what you think are the best methods for sharing presentations over the web. Please feel free to point to effective on-line examples of taking a live presentation and making it available for the web.


Dealing with presentation anxiety

Sex_stressMost people get nervous at the thought of having to present in front of a crowd. Is there something in our DNA that makes us fear crowds? Perhaps there was (is?) an evolutionary advantage to staying low and not being noticed by predators, including the human variety. No matter the reason, it's a fact that standing in front of a group of people is freighting to many and provokes varying degrees of anxiety among the rest, including seasoned presenters and entertainers. So what can you do to calm your nerves?

Have sex?
The BBC reports today on some new research that says "Sex cuts public speaking stress." Interesting, but I think we already know that sex can reduce stress (depending on the circumstance). But as Peter Bull, a psychologist from the University of York who was interviewed for the BBC article said, "You are probably better off thinking about what you are going to say and preparing thoroughly." (Thanks, Colm, for the link).

Preparedness and practice create confidence and reduce anxiety
Here's what I said on my website about confidence and presentation anxiety: The more you are on top of your material the less nervous you will be. If you have taken the time to build the logical flow of your presentation, designed supporting materials that are professional and appropriate, there is much less to be nervous about. And, if you have then rehearsed with an actual computer and projector (assuming you are using slideware) several times, your nervousness should all but melt away. We fear what we do not know. If we know our material well and have rehearsed the flow, know what slide is next in the deck, and have anticipated questions, then we have eliminated much (but not all) of the unknown. When you remove the unknown and reduce anxiety and nervousness, then confidence is something that will naturally take the place of your anxiety.

Exercise matters
No amount of sex the night before will make you a better presenter if you are not prepared (obviously). And I would take this study reported on by the BBC with a grain of salt. Still, if you are well prepared, exercise including a swim in the hotel pool, yoga, or a jog in the park (etc.) followed by a good night's sleep can be a huge help. If I'm on the road I go for a long jog/walk in the AM as well. This reduces stress and also allows me time to visualize the presentation, to anticipate questions, etc.

Other tips for dealing with presentation anxiety? Love to hear what's worked for you.


Where to get quotations for presentations?

Tea_womanbwIn my presentations, I may have several slides which feature a quote from a famous (sometimes not so famous) individual in the field. The quote may be a springboard into the topic or serve as support or reinforcement for the particular point I'm making. A typical Tom Peters presentation at one of his seminars, for example, may include dozens of slides with quotes. "I say that my conclusions are much more credible when I back them up with great sources," Tom says in this post from May, 2005. (I talked about using quotes a few months back here with examples.)

Like everything else, quotations work best when not over done. Too many quotes or quotes which are too long may bog down your presentation. And of course, if your quote is inaccurate or completely irrelevant to your point, it may undermine your efforts in a big way.

Where to get quotes?
Personally, I do not search for quotations on the internet very often. I almost always get mine straight from material I have read directly. My books for, example, are filled with tags and pages full of my comments and highlighter marks. I sketch a star and write a note to myself next to great passages for future reference. It's kind of messy, but it works for me. Still, there may be occasions when poking around one of the quotations pages may be of help. So below I have listed a few of the many places you can check for quotations. I'm certain there are even better resources, so please let me know and I'll update this post to make it better.

Tom Peters' slides from his website
As Tom says "we post all my slide shows so attendees can go back at their leisure and recall the logic of the presentation and "steal" some cool quotes to use in their presentations!" If nothing else, a look at the sources in Tom's slides may point you to the original material for deeper research.
Tom Peters' "Top 41" quotes and other free stuff
Various PDFs from TP. Excellent.

Wikiquote
Quotes, proverbs, etc. in several languages (thanks, Pawel!).
Yahoo's list of quotation sites
One of the best places to start. You can search sites on Yahoo popularity or alphabetically.
The brainy quote
Thousands of quotes by thousands of authors. Search by topic, author, or profession.
Famousquotations.com
Good selection. Searchable.
The Quotations page
Over 24,000 quotes, 2,700 authors
Quoteland.com
Many categories.
Quotationreference.com
Searchable by author or subject.
Famous quotes and quotations
Searchable and organized in a few broad categories.
Quotelady.com   
Organized by category here.
Great-Quotes.com
Over 54,000 famous sayings, proverbs, and quotes.
Quotation resources by about.com
Different.
Bartlett's Quotations
11,000 searchable quotations from literature
Business-related
Not great, but may be some gems in there.
Stupid Quotes About Hurricane Katrina
By Daniel Kurtzman
Dr. Gabriel Robins' "Good quotations by famous people"
Interesting list by a CS prof.
Positive Atheism's Big List of Quotations
A lot of categories but especially philosophy, religion, politics...
World's best quotes in 1-10 words
I like this short list from Career Lab.
Zen Quotes
A few quote from the world of Zen
Using quotes effectively
A few tips from the Idea Bank

Note: The photo of the woman making tea in the sample slide above was snapped by me about a year ago in Kobe. (You may notice something a bit odd about it — extra points for anyone who can guess what it is...).

 


Presentations and "the beginner's mind"

Sam Kaplan has his own consulting company, Sam Kaplan Computing. Sam's a huge Steve Jobs fan and has worked hard to refine his own presentation style, incorporating many of the techniques used by Jobs. Sam is apparently a fantastic, engaging presenter. But he didn't get that way without a lot of hard work. Sam recently gave a presentation in the Apple Store theatre in Chicago on the topic of Pages, a part of Apple's software package called iWork. This was a great opportunity for him to share his knowledge and demonstrate his solid communication skills. In preparation for the presentation, though, Sam rehearsed a lot. Sam's parents, too, worked closely with him, offering many tips and helpful guidance. Sam Kaplan...is nine years old.

  Sam_r_1
I learned about Sam's presentation in the Apple Store from Lucy Gray. Ms. Gray is a middle school computer science teacher and an Apple Distinguished Educator.
Ms. Gray is one of Sam's teachers in the after school program, Generation Yes, a program that promotes student empowerment by teaching kids technology and leadership skills. "Sam did a fabulous job," she said. "I was impressed with his poise and expressive manner."

Opportunities and experience are key
I asked Ms. Gray how Sam became a good presenter at such a young age. Parent support, practice, and opportunities "to shine" are clearly important:

"I ran into his mom this morning and I asked her about the role of rehearsal in all of this, and she said that they spent a lot of time on the presentation and that Sam learned a lot from the actual experience. The keyword in our conversation was experience and it's also the very cornerstone of our school's philosophy. As our founder, John Dewey, believed a hundred plus years ago, the families and teachers at Lab feel that the most meaningful learning experiences come from students' natural interests and interactions within a learning environment."

     — Lucy Gray
        Teacher and Apple Distinguished Educator

The beginner's mind
Seeing the wonderful picture of young Sam Kaplan looking confident and happy — almost Steve-Jobs like — in front of his audience, reminds me of the importance for all of us to keep a "beginner's mind" as we strive to improve our presentations (or any other aspect of our lives). Zen teachings often speak to the idea of the "beginner's mind." Like a child, one who approaches life with a "beginner's mind" is fresh, enthusiastic in approach and open to the vast possibilities before them. One who possess a "beginner's mind" is not burdened by old habits or obsessed about "the way things are done around here" or with the way things could have or should have been. When we approach new challenges as true "beginners" (even if we are seasoned adults) we need not be saddled with fear of failure or of making mistakes. As children, people like Yo Yo Ma (and many others less known) made thousands of mistakes along their path to greatness. With an open mind and childlike optimism about what we can become, learning and improvement can be quite remarkable.

Children like Sam remind us that we can learn new skills, including the art of presentation, no matter how old (or young) we may be.

A big thank you to Sam's parents and to Ms. Gray for allowing me to use the picture from the Apple Store.


On the lighter side

Pcweenies_pptSometimes slideware presentations are so inappropriate and off kilter that you just have to laugh to keep from crying (sleeping?). In the cartoon here you can see how the strip "PC Weenies" makes light of a situation many of us have been in far too often (click for larger image on their site). I've printed this cartoon and stuck in on my wall as a reminder to always ask myself: "Are my visuals really effective?" Are my visuals (paraphrasing Einstein) "...as simple as possible, but no simpler"? Or am I guilty of creating a big duck? Checkout PC Weenies for more on the lighter side of computer and technology.

Krishna M. Sadasivam, an animator/illustrator in the United States, is the creator of "The PC Weeneies." Go here to meet the characters in the strip.

Thanks to PC Weenies for sharing your talent.


Jazz and the art of connections

ShukaymanTonight we're going to hear another concert in Osaka, a cool new jazz trio called "Shukayman." I met the band when they were performing at a night club in Kyoto in November. The piano player, Shusei Murai, studied music at Berklee in the U.S. (and the drummer's mom is a friend of the family). When I saw them in November, I was impressed with their musicality as well as their ability to connect to and engage with the audience. Their music was out of sight, but it was their way of talking with the audience, their smiles, and their little bits of subtle, self-deprecating humor that made the two-set performance outstanding. Proof again to me how important spontaneity and emotional connections are with an audience. It's not just about notes on a page, it's about telling a story and sending a message with your music — right here and right now — with this audience.

Shusei, the piano player, is sort of a Japanese version of the U.S. jazz artist, Tom Grant. Tom, based in Portland, Oregon, is a bit of a legend in the U.S. Pacific Northwest and you can catch his songs on soft jazz stations on the radio or internet. Tom's a great musician, of course, but what I always liked about his live performances was his warmth and his friendly, engaging style that just made the connection with the audience so much better.

The lesson I've learned from watching great musical performances live is that the music plus the artists' ability to convey their (musical) message and connect with the audience is what it's all about. If done well, the end result is far more than just the notes played. A true performance transcends the simple act of artists playing music and people listening. It's bigger than that.

Tom_grant_2Here is a short video clip of Tom Grant talking about connecting. If you didn't know he was a musician, you might think he was talking about the art of presentation. But in a sense he is, because the art of musical performance and the art of presentation share the same essence. That is, it's always about bridging the distance between artist/speaker (physically and otherwise) and the audience to make a real connection. If there's no connection, there can be no conversation. This is true whether you're pitching a new technology, explaining a new medical treatment, or playing at Carnegie Hall.

"They're waiting for you to show yourself to them..."

                                                    — Tom Grant

To Tom Grant, performance is not an exhibition — I perform you listen. Tom clearly feels it's a two-way encounter. Here's what Tom said in an interview (scroll down) from March of 2005 (emphasis mine):

“There is joy in music for the player and for the receiver. I play music because it is my calling in life. I hope it conveys a joy and benevolence that people can apply to their own lives and thus improve, if only in the tiniest way, the quality of life on earth.”

Are not presentations about the player (speaker) and the receiver? A good tip to remember: It's not about us, it's about them. And about the message.

By the way, if you're interested in jazz, you might like this album by Tom Grant.


Where can you find good images?

Elvis

A lot of people ask me where they can get good-quality images, so I thought it would be good to have one post that I could bookmark and send out to people. I mentioned before that I use iStockphoto.com the most (as well as more expensive sites — though I do that much less now — and high-quality photo discs from Japan). A few people gave links to their favorite free or inexpensive sites as well. Below, then, are links to both inexpensive sites and sites offering free images in searchable databases (but check terms of use). The quality ranges from "excellent" to "not too bad." If you can suggest some other sites which have worked well for you (free or inexpensive "but good"), please let me know and I'll add them below after I check them out. The sites below are not necessarily in order of quality, though iStock is my favorite.
(Updated August 22, 2006)

Inexpensive (but good)
(1) iStockphoto.com

One dollar for low-rez images and two-three dollars for higher-rez images. This is my favorite site.
(2) Dreams Time
About one dollar for high-rez images for members.
(3) Shutterstock
750 royalty-free downloads per month for $139 (US) subscription.
(4) Fotolia
One or two bucks an image.
(5) Japanese Streets

Excellent source for Japanese fashion, street scenes, people, and much more from right here in Osaka. About $1.50 per pic via paypal. 
(6) Photocase. A German site (English and German versions). Low-cost download options.
(7) Stockxpert. Great pricing and great images. Easy-to-use site. Uses credit system.
(8) ShutterMap.com. From $1USD to $4USD for high-rez.
(9) Creative Express (Getty Images). With Getty's Creative Express you can buy one-month or one-year subscriptions and download up to 50 stunning images a day. The Express catalog has 75,000 great Getty images. The license works differently for subscription, but this may be a wonderful option for the right project (check out the FAQ). I will be using this for certain.

Free (but not bad)
(1) Morgue File
Providing "...free image reference material for use in all creative pursuits.
(2) Flickr's Creative Commons pool
Search the myriad photos people are sharing on flickr by the type of CC license.
(3) Image*After
From their site: "Image*After is a large online free photo collection. You can download and use any image or texture...and use it in your own work, either personal or commercial."
(4) Stock.xchng
Close to 200,000 photos. Some gems in there if you look.

(5) Everystockphoto. Indexing over 283,000 free photos.
(6) Studio.25: Digital Resource Bank.
(7) Freepixels. About 2000 photos.
(8) The Photoshop tutorial blog. This cool blog has a laundry list of free photo sites.
(9) Robin Good has a good page dedicated to helping you find good images.
 

Fonts (free or cheap)
(1) 1001 Fonts.com. A lot of free fonts. You get what you pay for, but many are pretty good. Find by most popular, highest rated. Articles, message board, etc.
(2) 1001freefonts.com. 4000 fonts for $9.95 (download).
(3) iFree. This Australian site links to free stuff in Australia and worldwide, like fonts, freeware, etc.
(4) Indezine on fonts. There are so many font sites out there, I trust the folks at Indezine to narrow it down. They list about ten.
(5) HighFonts.com. Database of about 3000 free fonts.

("Elvis" image from iStockphoto.com)


2-D or not 2-D? (That is the question)

Steve_jobsWe can learn how to be better presenters by observing the masters. I often say, for example, that we can improve our presentations by emulating certain aspects of Steve Jobs' presentation style. Today, though, I'd like to talk about one aspect of Steve's presentation Tuesday that we can learn from by not emulating. And that is the use of 3-D charts to represent 2-D data.

At Tuesday's Macworld keynote, Steve announced — almost parenthetically — that many new features have been added to the newest version of Apple's presentation software, Keynote. Long before the announcement, however, it was apparent that something was different about the slideware Steve was using. The first indication came when he showed a 3-D pie chart (complete with a wood-like texture) representing the market share for iTunes. Although the iTunes market share figure was the point, it was the pie chart that people seemed to notice more. Many of the new Keynote features are quite useful, but the 3-D tool, which was not available in previous versions, is one I could do very well without.

2-D simplicity

One idea I keep coming back to here is the notion of simplicity. But taking 2-D data and creating a 3-D chart does not simplify. In The Zen of Creativity, author John Daido Loori, commenting on simplicity, says that the Zen aesthetic "...reflects a simplicity that allows our attention to be drawn to that which is essential, stripping away the extra." What is essential and what is extra is up to you to decide, but stripping away the extra ink that 3-D charts introduce seems like a good place to start. 3-D representation of 2-D data increases what Tufte calls the "ratio of ink-to-data."

One reason why Keynote charts looked so good in the past, even if people were not conscious of the reason, was because graphs and charts were always 2-D. Users had no choice. Now Keynote users will have a choice. And while it's nice to have a choice perhaps, 2-D charts and graphs will almost always be a better solution. 3-D charts appear less accurate and can be difficult to comprehend. The angular relationship of the 3-D charts often make it hard to see where data points sit on an axis.

Is it decoration or is it design?
Slapping on tired textures such as marble and wood is not only decorative, it is ugly. I have received several emails and comments since Tuesday about the 3-D charts in the keynote. "It's so '90s PowerPoint," said one woman. "It's so non-Apple looking," said another. "Yuck!!!" wrote yet another reader.

Gary Klass, from Illinois State University, has an older article called "How to Construct Bad Charts and Graphs" which is a summary of Tufte's ideas on this issue. Pay particular attention to the section on "Data Distraction" which compares a 3-D column bar with a 2-D bar. Here's an excerpt from the article:

"The primary source of extraneous lines in charting graphics today are the 3-D options offered by conventional spreadsheet graphics. These 3-D options serve no useful purpose; they add only ink to the chart, and more often than not make it more difficult to estimate the values represented. Even worse are the spreadsheet options that allow one to rotate the perspective."

                                                      — Gary Klass

Data is not to be feared
From the Keynote section of Apple's website: "Now neither you nor your audience need fear the appearance of a chart or two. Designing eye-catching (3-D) charts in Keynote 3 is as easy as creating them." What are they saying? That our heretofore 2-D visual representations of our data were necessarily intimidating? That our audiences are stupid? Apple seems to be saying that our audiences now "need not fear the appearance of a chart or two" because we can now make things easier to understand visually in 3-D. But 3-D charts do not simplify, they complicate, distort, and can give false impressions.

Blame it on marketing?
Software companies have to keep improving their products and feel the need to add "new and improved" features. Otherwise, why buy the latest version, right? Perhaps the inclusion of 3-D charting capability comes down to marketing and perception. For example, now no one can say "Keynote's no good — it can't even do 3-D charts!" Now it can.

Except for the three slides with 3-D charts in Steve's presentation, his visuals were good overall. Perhaps Steve used 3-D charts in the course of his presentation to not-so-subtly highlight Keynote's new capabilities. No matter the reason, we can take the occasion here to learn from this minor design miscue.

   3d_slide2
Above: Is this a pie chart or a picture of a coffee table gone bad? A skewed perspective and as aesthetically pleasing as brown shoes with a black tuxedo.

  Pie_color_1     Pie_wood
Above: A couple of simpler options which took about 30 seconds to make in Keynote. These are not necessarily perfect either (e.g., do the shadows add to the perceived area of the largest slice? Does the texture help or hurt? Contrast? etc.).

  Watt_large
Above: Steve discusses how they've been trying to shoehorn a G5 into the PowerBook, but have been unable to do so due to the power consumption of the chip. It was not just about performance but "performance per watt," he said. The G4 chip has 0.27 "performance per watt." The Intel Core Duo has a much better "performance per watt." The third bar really "towers" over the other two in part due to the  higher position of the baseline on the right. But the first bar can also appear larger than the data would support since it appears closer and has a visible top.

  Chart1   Chart2
Above: Two possible treatments in 2-D (generated in moments in Keynote 2). Again, these are not without issues either (personally, I am not a fan of textures in bar charts). One option was to group the two bars on the left as they are of the same family (PPC). The point of the chart was to show the difference between the PPC chips and the new Intel chip in terms of performance per watt.

  3d_slide
Above: This chart was on screen for about 12 seconds (built bar by bar). This chart is aesthetically challenged (though that may be a matter of taste) and has the usual problems of distortion and an increased "ink-to-data ratio" as a result of the 3-D perspective.

We also must be careful not to exaggerate differences by shifting the baseline to a higher number. In the chart above, Steve is showing Mac sales over the past year. To be sure, it was a very good year for Apple and Mac sales were up over the previous year (and iPod sales were up even more). But the chart exaggerates the growth which took place from quarter to quarter. It visually seems very dramatic because 1,000,000 is used for the baseline. As a result, it seems that 1.25 million units in Q4 is more than double the 1.07 million units sold in Q1.

  Baseline_1m   Baseline_0_1
Above: On the left is a 2-D version of the same data on Mac sales by quarter with a baseline of 1,000,000. On the right you can see how less dramatic the increase appears quarter to quarter when the data are displayed in a more straight forward manner (baseline is 0).

If it walks like a duck...
Don't let the visual display of your data turn into a "Big Duck." The term "duck" was inspired by the Big Duck and was used originally "to describe a building in which the architecture is subordinate to the overall symbolic form." In The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, Edward Tufte uses the term to refer to graphical decoration and visual noise:

"When a graphic is taken over by decorative forms of computer debris, when the data measures and structures become Design Elements, when the overall design purveys Graphical Style rather than quantitative information, then the graphic may be called a duck in honor of the duck-form store..."

                                               — Edward Tufte

3-D charts can be stylistic, but mostly they are misleading. If you are considering using 3-D charts, always ask yourself "does this treatment help or does it just result in a 'big duck?'" In Visual Explanations, Tufte has many good examples on when and how to implement 3-D graphics. 3-D representations of cloud formations or spaces, etc. can be very useful.


The power of passion

PassionWe have all seen professional actors pitching products on late-night infomercials. Their presentations are well rehearsed and polished. Yet, they are also clearly "fake." Even though the actor/presenter may have followed "all the rules" about presenting, you can feel something missing. A professional presenter can try to look sincere and look excited about their topic, but you can't fool people (at least not most people), if it's "just an act," people will know. Genuine interest and true passion for your topic has to come from your gut, from your heart and soul. Maybe A-list actors like Al Pacino can pull it off, but most of us can't. We can't fake passion.

You can't fake it
The best presenters I have ever seen were not trained actors or professional presenters (though they may indeed present a lot). The best presentations I have seen were from everyday business people, designers, or researchers who (1) had a clear interest in their topic and about sharing it with the audience, (2) had their material down clearly and accurately in their minds and in their visuals, and (3) they displayed a clear passion for the material and made warm connections with their audience, connections that were undoubtedly sincere.

It's not about being perfect
I don't recall ever seeing a great presentation that was absolutely perfect (from the point of view of a communications coach, for example). The data and the visuals (if any) need to be perfectly accurate, but it is not possible for the "live performance" to be perfect. In fact, you show me a perfect live sales pitch, for example, and I'll show you a fake TV infomercial.

Passion matters
All of this is just a long way of me saying what a *%$#@&! blast we had at the Earth Wind & Fire concert last night in Osaka. Our seats were great: first row of the center balcony. This allowed the perfect vantage point to observe one of the most passionate performers (without a mic) I have ever seen. You probably have never heard of him: His name is Verdine White, the bassist for EWF and original member of the group (his older brother Maurice is the founder of the group). Verdine is an incredible musician with more funk and soul in his little finger than I have in my entire body. He is absolutely crucial to the EWF sound. But what Verdine taught me last night is how unbelievably Powerful a sincere display of genuine passion can be. Verdine just does not play bass, he communicates and connects with his "ax" as if it were an extension of himself. Verdine never stops bouncing, running, and seemingly flying across the stage all the while displaying one of the brightest, most infectious smiles you will ever see on a stage. Oh, and by the way, he'll turn 55 this summer. What energy!

    Verdine
Above: Verdine White with EWF at the Yahoo! Year End Party '05 (man, I should have worked for Yahoo!). Photo by "maidelba."

That's the way of the world
I had a feeling the EWF concert would prove inspiring. The personal qualities which Verdine's performance had, which even our presentations must have, are these: (1) Energy. (2) Passion. (3) Sincerity. (4) Smile. And (5) get out there front and center (naked) and connect.

Now an R&B/Soul musical performance is different from a business presentation, of course. But in a very real sense, they are both about (sincere) performance. It's not just my opinion, Dale Carnegie says essentially the same thing in the book, How to Develop Self-Confidence & Influence People by Public Speaking. Here are a few related bits from Mr. Carnegie's book:

"Put your heart and soul into your talking. Real emotional sincerity will help more than all the rules [in the world]."

Carnegie stresses the importance of exuding energy in your talk. About energy he says:

"It is magnetic. People cluster around an energetic speaker like geese around of field of autumn wheat."

Carnegie goes on to talk about the importance of a sincere smile and displaying an interest in your audience."Like begets like," he says. "If we are interested in our audience...our audience will be interested in us."

These words apply to the art of presentation, both business presentations and musical ones. Specific implementations depend simply on the context and the audience. EWF and Verdine White reminded me that Talent + Passion is a powerfully creative formula.

Finally, this from Maurice White (from the inside jacket of the latest EWF CD, Illumination). Maurice did not travel to Japan with the group this time, but he is the heart and soul of the band and co-executive producer of the album:

"The message...

"The path of illumination is achieved by living day to day. Take responsibility for every moment and thus we reach illumination."

Peace

M.W.

"Searching for the light"

 (Ok, tomorrow I really will post the follow up on Steve Jobs' keynote....)