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January 2007

Can I trust you if you do not trust me?

Trust Many years ago a Japanese friend of mine was dining in Tokyo with her mother in a famous five-star hotel. After they paid and lingered a bit in the elegant lobby, they began walking out the front door when the assistant manager came and stopped them asking them if they had paid for their meal, subtly implying that they had not. They were taken aback by this and shocked that they had to explain that they had of course paid. After some conversation the assistant manager accepted their word. But it was too late. The joy of the mother-daughter birthday lunch was now replaced by a very bad taste indeed. Later the hotel would try to apologies by phone (but only after the daughter wrote a formal letter of complaint), but even screwed that up by "appearing insincere," she said. Today my friend will not only never enter that hotel again (in any country) but has since influenced many of her friends with her story. "They didn't trust me and my mother," she said "so why should I give them my business ever again? I hate the very thought of that place." Trust is a big deal, and what a fragile thing it is.

What got me thinking about this, of all things, was the anti-Vista protests by Defective by Design and Bad Vista activists in New York City today. Take a look at this related short animated video presentation below by Lutz Vogel and Benjamin Stephan where they present their general point with words, graphics, and narration. The video presentation is not perfect (and there is a least one typo), but it provides at least a compelling introduction to the DRM/TPM issues. It may even give you some ideas for presenting your own story with words and graphics. (Original source of the video.)
Defective by design?

Drm_protestMy point here is not to comment on the DRM issue specifically (that's a bit outside the scope of this website). However, the work by the Defective By Design group is a good reminder for all of us to ask ourselves how our own services, processes, designs, etc. may be fundamentally "defective by design" in ways we had not realized. Trust is one very important feature we sometimes over look. Yet it's paramount. Sometimes we have to put ourselves in the shoes of our customers (or students, etc.) to see the fragility of the relationship vis-à-vis trust. Trust is such a fundamental aspect of design and simplicity, for example, that John Maeda devoted an entire chapter to trust (Law 8: In Simplicity we Trust) in his book The Laws of Simplicity which I talked about before.

All the services you offer, all the hours spent on employee training, and all the details your business or organization sweats can all be for naught if people sense you do not trust them. Trust is not everything in a relationship, but it's the first thing. Interpersonal relationships without trust fade away pretty quickly. Can not this apply even to teachers and professors? Will not even the best lesson plan fail if a student feels that the teacher does not trust the student. If you don't trust me, how can I trust you?

Your trust (in me) is inspiring
When I was in college a local tennis shop let me take out 3-4 new rackets at a time over night for my girlfriend and me to "test drive" on the courts near our dorm on the OSU campus, an hour's drive from the shop. No deposit, just trust. I ended up being an evangelist for this pro shop almost entirely because of the way he treated me and the trust he showed in me. Of course we brought the rackets back and of course we purchased all equipment from them. This was over twenty years ago and I have never forgotten that shop or the way he put trust in his customers, all tennis enthusiasts. My default is to trust, yet this is a risky and fragile thing. As John Maeda points out in his book, "[I] trust unquestionably...but I am open to UNDO-ing that trust whenever deserved."

Update: A reader suggested I mention the name of the shop. To be honest I was not sure if they were still in business since I left Oregon so many years ago. How ironic, then, that I find that not only are they (Courtside Tennis) still in business but that they have grown and they even mention "trust" and "friendship before business" as being a big part of who they are. I swear I found that tidbit after I wrote the post. Just underscores my point: trust is big. For many customers like me, it was an emotional differentiator that said everything about that business I needed to know (and it was remarkable). I might mention that I remember them not charging for shipping and throwing things in free like socks and wrist bands, etc. This is when they were small in the '80s. Were they the cheapest? I had no idea, didn't matter even though I was a "poor student." I trusted them because they trusted me. Today they are "big" but seem to adhere to "John Moore's Law" of "acting small."

Japanese Health Minister calls women "birth-giving machines" in speech

Over the weekend the 71-year-old Japanese Health Minister Hakuo Yanagisawa caused quite a stir in the media by referring to women as "birth-giving machines" (kodomo o umu kikai) during his speech to local assembly members of the LDP in Matsue. While talking about the declining birthrate in Japan the health minister said (Japanese text):

"The number of women aged between 15 and 50 is fixed. Because the number of birth-giving machines and devices is fixed, all we can ask for is for them to do their best per head, although it may not be so appropriate to call them machines."

Jpn_family2 To many here the minister's comments would still have been seen as sexist and missing the point even if he had not called women "birth-giving machines." Most people feel that a woman does not have any obligation to produce children, of course, and that the real discussion should be on how to improve work-life balance in Japan and improve support for families who would like to have children (or more children) and keep on working but can not due to a lack of day care facilities and myriad other difficulties. One of Japan's leading writers, Izumi Momose, said that she is "extremely provoked" by the minister's comments and went on to say that "Women have children not because they want to resolve the declining birthrate issue but because they want to feel happy by having children."

Jpn_family The health minister is getting slammed in the media today and has since apologized for his remark, though he says he used the term to make it "easier for people to understand the demographic situation." He said he spoke metaphorically, referring to women as "birth-giving machines," to make his point easier to understand. But did this subject need to be simplified in such a manner? Unless he was speaking to a group of small children, who in the audience would not understand the issue of a declining birthrate, and that the remedy (in terms only of numbers) is that women and families will need to have more children on average if the birth rate is to increase over time?  Women feel insulted though because the solution to the problem — assuming you think it is a problem — is far more complicated than asking women to do their best to have more children.

Colbert "clarifies" Cingular name change

It appears that Cingular will actually be rebranded under the AT&T name early this year. Was this clear to everyone who watched Stan Sigman speak during the Macworld keynote? Even after I watched his six-minute speech on stage I wasn't sure if Cingular was going to change its name to AT&T or not. I remember Mr. Sigman saying the deal with Apple "...lets Cingular be Cingular." (At least until they change their name to AT&T?). It really does not matter I suppose; there is no branding on the iPhone itself from Cingular (I mean AT&T...I think). Perhaps Cingular should have asked Stephen Colbert to come on stage and explain the Cingular AT&T deal. Stephen Colbert, with tongue firmly planted in cheek, did in 30 seconds what the Cingular CEO couldn't do in six minutes: make a clear, memorable point. (Watch Colbert video on YouTube). Yes, it's a satirical point, but a memorable point nonetheless.

Colbert could've made his point sans the use of any graphics, but this is a pretty good example of how graphics can enhance one's message. "The point" in this case was a gag, and of course the crude, old PowerPoint-like graphics fit the sardonic commentary well.

Cingular_1   New_att_1
Above left: Actual pic from Macworld keynote. Above right: How it may have looked if the Colbert graphics team worked on Mr. Sigman's slides.

This is not related to presentation, but below Colbert gives two "wags of the finger" to Apple and iPhone related to simplicity, complexity, and convergence. Well...sort of, but it's good for a laugh anyway.

Steve Jobs talks about iPhone on ABC's Nightline (video)
CBS News on iPhone (video)
Conan on iPhone (satirical video)
Craig Ferguson comments on iPhone, Zune ("comedy" video)
SNL "News" piece on iPhone (satirical video)
Mad TV on Steve Jobs/iPhone ("comedy" video)
Amateur satire piece on industry response to iPhone (video)
"Cingular Brand Transition to Begin Soon" (AT&T website)
Engadget article on Cingular rebranding

Love thy competitor! (And it wouldn't hurt to say nice things about them either)

Steve_b An interview clip featuring an interview with Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer giving his impressions on the Apple iPhone announcement has been generating a lot of buzz over the weekend. Many people who viewed the clip felt that Ballmer was "laughing at" Apple's latest product announcement. It was not really what he said (although there were some arguably misleading statements), but the way he responded (with a laugh) that to some came across as dismissive and disrespectful of a competitor (and in some cases a partner). Some felt the laughter, misleading comments, and dismissive tone were a case of "whistling in the dark." Other's felt it was a sign of either over confidence or fear. Of course, others felt his comments were fair and balanced and that the iPhone is indeed too expensive, etc. (Steve Ballmer comments on the iPhone in video below).

Should you say "nice things" about competitors?
I didn't find Steve Ballmer's response particularly egregious, though he did work hard to avoid talking about the company from Cupertino. I think his smile/laugh and other nonverbals were a sign of some discomfort with the question. Frankly, Ballmer reacted pretty much like I expected him to. I've become quite used to his talks about "capable products," and Microsoft's "agenda for driving synergy and unique innovations," etc. Nonetheless, I would have been flat-out blown away and quite impressed indeed if he had been complimentary of Apple instead of answering the question about the iPhone with a laugh about the price followed quickly by a commercial for Microsoft strategy. But it is the reaction to Ballmer's comments that I find so fascinating. It is the big response to Steve Ballmer's little comments got me thinking: Should you say "nice things" about competitors?

Good bloggers are like good presenters
Robert_1 I have said before that good presenting has many things in common with good blogging. The bloggers and corporate blogs, for example, that we trust are the ones that are not afraid to be "linky" and in fact often link to their competition or similar blogs, etc. Good bloggers operate from an "abundance mentality" rather than a "scarcity mentality." They are more concerned with being linky than being sticky. Readers trust a blog that happily points them to other cool and useful sites. Likewise, people respect someone who has enough confidence in themselves that they are not afraid to introduce you to others who are perhaps even more talented than themselves. Former Microsoft blogger Robert Scoble included this idea in his Corporate Blogging Manifesto:

"Link to your competitors and say nice things about them. Remember, you're part of an industry and if the entire industry gets bigger, you'll probably win more than your fair share of business and you'll get bigger too. Be better than your competitors -- people remember that. I remember sending lots of customers over to the camera shop that competed with me and many of those folks came back to me and said 'I'd rather buy it from you, can you get me that?'"                  
                                            — Robert Scoble

By putting a human face on the company, Robert did much to make Microsoft seem "less evil" in his three years with the company. Although he was a Microsoft employee and used and even loved many of its products, he also criticized the company and often praised its rivals. To many this made him more trustworthy that Bill, Steve B. or the Microsoft PR machine.

What about presentations?
How about in a presentation situation? If, for example, you admire a similar product from the competition, should you not say so if asked? If not, why not? If you flat out dismiss the competitor's product no one really believes you anyway as they realize you have a very obvious conflict of interest. However, if you can compliment the competition and be completely respectful of them, doesn't that give you more credibility when you later go on to say why your product/service absolutely kicks butt? Isn't it our job to explain how our product/service (or research results, etc.) is different and great on its own merits? I am not saying you should go out of your way to glorify the accomplishments of your competitor, but if the issue comes up in a live presentation, I personally have much more respect for the presenter who speaks in a tone that is respectful of the competitor.

Tom Peters: Loving your enemy is good business
Tom Peters had a great post in December about this very same issue. Tom's point? It's simply good business to embrace the competition and to help others in your field succeed:

"I think that when one badmouths one's competitors or tries to limit their activities, the 'word gets around.' And one develops a reputation as prickly and egocentric—and, well, as a selfish jerk."    
                                                 — Tom Peters

Management guru Tom Asaker took a little different take on this. Asaker said that the truly successful ones are too busy focusing on their own customers and products to even care much about the competition including "bad mouthing" them:

"The word competition literally means, 'seeking together,' and 'choosing to run in the same race.' Great people and great brands don't care about their competitors. They don't define themselves by competitive movements. They are simply not on the same track (mentally)."                           
— Tom Asacker

Japanese culture and humility
Bow_1 Many of the ideals of the way of the Samurai or Bushido (way of the warrior) are still very much a part of Japanese culture today. Yes, there are egotistical business people in Japan just as anywhere else, but it is generally considered very bad form to speak disparagingly about your competition or rivals. Good advice for presenting in Japan — and I think it applies globally — is not to speak ill of your competitor in a public forum. Perhaps you could get away with this if you are already well known and trusted, but if you are new and still in "the trust me phase," verbally disrespecting your rivals is a red flag for those evaluating your potential as a partner.

A dose of humility goes a long way
Only the ignoble (and foolish) man would disrespect an opponent, let alone publicly disrespect one's rival or competitor. If one bad mouths a competitor in Japan they shame not only themselves but the group to which they belong. One who speaks poorly of others is not to be trusted. Speaking ill of a competitor, especially a smaller one who may not (yet) be at your level, shows a lack of humility. A wise man (or woman) knows that "ten thousand things become my teacher." We can learn from anyone or anything if our eyes are not clouded by pride, arrogance, or fear. Once we think we have arrived, the old saying goes, we have already begun our descent to failure. Humility keeps us aware and grounded in the real world. Tenets of humility include respect, politeness, compassion, self-discipline, etc. When one remembers that there is no end to mastery — that one can and must be better the next day and the day after that (and the day after that) — then it is foolish indeed to ever look down one's nose to anyone, especially our rivals. Ultimately, the real rival is within us anyway.

Update: Yes, this goes for Apple too
My aim in pointing to the Steve Ballmer video was not to get into a whole Apple vs. MS thing, nor was my point really to criticize Ballmer (as if he were somehow the only CEO to dismiss the competition). My main point was to suggest rather that it is far better if we, in a similar situation, respond differently.

And yes, Steve Jobs (and other Apple execs) have recently taken some pretty good verbal jabs at Microsoft (e.g., ’06 Developers Conference). Those jabs play well to many in the Mac community, but I personally would rather they not make fun of Vista, Zune , etc. publicly. You could say that it is OK for them because they after all are the "David" to Microsoft's "Goliath." Apple is just a very odd company (mostly in a good way) and its products have a way of making users evangelical supporters. I mean what other tech company has attractive young women singing love songs for their products and putting them on YouTube? Nonetheless, I think keeping to the high road is always a good rule of thumb. The problem with Apple is that they may respect Microsoft's business expertise but do not respect Microsoft's ability to make insanely great products (see this older video for example). Maybe Jobs can simply remember what all our mother's told us: If you don't have anything nice to say about someone, say nothing at all. That's one I have to remember too.

Film explores the omnipresent PowerPoint culture in search of its philosophical potential

A PZ reader yesterday pointed me to a very cool online video — a short film really — which many of you will surely enjoy. If you are interested in visual communication, PowerPoint/slides, and appreciate a good fix of irony, then you will love this creation from two very clever design students studying at the Linz Kunstuniversität, Clemens Kogler and Karo Szmit (narration by Andre Tschinder). Here's what Clemens says about the visual presentation called Le Grand Content:

Le Grand Content examines the omnipresent PowerPoint-culture in search for its philosophical potential. Intersections and diagrams are assembled to form a grand 'association-chain-massacre'. which challenges itself to answer all questions of the universe and some more. Of course, it totally fails this assignment, but in its failure it still manages to produce some magical nuance and shades between the great topics death, cable tv, emotions and hamsters.

Maybe I've just had too much coffee this morning (curse those ¥100 refills at Starbucks!), but I find this short four-minute presentation absolutely brilliant (and hilarious). Watch below on Youtube, or go here to see the video directly on Clemens' site.

Read more about Le Grand content here. You'll also see many stills of the motion graphics used in the presentation (sample below).


You will see loads of diagrams in the presentation which they say were inspired by another very cool blog site called Indexed by Jessica Hagy. The diagrams on Jennifer's site are not only amusing, but they may give you some ideas for presenting your own information in a more visual way. Definitely adding Indexed to my RSS feed.

Words matter, but the message is King

Sj We know that the greatest assembly of words in the world does not matter much if it does not register with the audience, if it is not meaningful to them. But what of the words and the sentences themselves? Does it matter how many "difficult" words you use, how long your sentences are, and so on? Words matter of course, but it is the message, the structure, the delivery, the story, the connection, etc. that matter more (usually). Still, Seattle PI has an interesting post comparing the recent keynotes by Steve Jobs at Macworld and Bill Gates (and Michael Dell) at CES using an analysis of their respective keynote transcripts.

The results are not particularly surprising, though frankly they are a bit meaningless. It's fun to look at the results (man, Gates sure did say "Windows" and "Vista" a lot, and Jobs sure said "iPhone" and "Phone" often...hardly surprising since that was the focus of the keynote). If you look at the average words per sentence, lexical density, number of words with three or more syllables, etc. then it appears Steve Jobs had a much simpler talk. So Jobs' popular presentation was so interesting, memorable, enjoyable, etc. because the language he used was relatively simple? Is there a correlation between simple, easy-to-understand language and impact on an audience? Most communication experts say to keep the language as simple as possible (but not too simple). Here are a few quotes on simplicity with regards to writing or speaking (go here for more):

"The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one will do." — Thomas Jefferson

"The chief virtue that language can have is clearness, and nothing detracts from it so much as the use of unfamiliar words." — Hippocrates

"The trouble with so many of us is that we underestimate the power of simplicity." — Robert Stuberg

"Every word that is unnecessary only pours over the side of a brimming mind." — Cicero

"Any fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius-and a lot of courage-to move in the opposite direction." — Albert Einstein

Mlk_1 However, I can think of at least one popular speech that was easy to understand by a mass audience — it even moved a nation — but that is "more difficult" than the presentations by Jobs and Gates (and Dell) if one analyzed only the written transcripts. Obviously this is a long-winded way of me reminding you that today is the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther king, Jr., the man behind one of the greatest speeches in U.S. history, "I Have a Dream." If you just read the transcript of Dr. King's speech you may be moved or you may not, but I don't know how anyone can watch the entire speech on video and not be absolutely blown away. It is indeed the meaning of the words and the importance of the content, but it is the power of the conviction and the sincerity of the delivery and the amazing connection Dr. King made with the people that makes this a legendary speech.

I hope you can take a few moments today and watch this video of the "I Have a Dream" (March on Washington) speech from 1963. The video is 17-minutes long. If you are short on time, please at least watch the last three minutes. Amazing.

Steve Jobs at Macworld: "We come from different worlds"

Steve_2 Steve Jobs gave one of his best Macworld keynotes Tuesday in San Francisco in spite of a very minor technical glitch — a clicker problem that he recovered from well — and a seven-minute snoozefest by one of his honorable guest speakers. I've broken my comments on Steve's latest keynote into at least two post. I will not comment on the content of the presentation except to say that Steve was smart to limit his keynote to essentially one topic, the new Apple iPhone. Many presenters fail before they even start because they include too much information or cover too many topics. This is true whether the presentation is a 90-minute Macworld keynote or a 5-minute status report. You can go deep or you can go wide; it's nearly impossible to do both well. Choosing what to focus on and completely letting go of the rest (for that moment at least) is one of the hardest things to do.

A Singularly boring presentation
As Steve Jobs often does in his Macworld keynotes, he asked execs from a few key corporate partners to come up on stage and say a few encouraging words. This year there were three. First up was Google's CEO, Dr. Eric Shmidt, followed soon after by Yahoo co-founder Jerry Yang. A bit later Cingular CEO Stan Sigman took the stage. Both Schimdt and Yang were enthusiastic and energetic speakers who kept their comments upbeat, simple, and brief. When Stan Sigman came up on stage, however, the atmosphere soon changed. Stan Sigman strolled slowly across the stage, hands in his pockets, in a manner you might expect from, say, a legendary football coach from the SEC about to face the press before the big game. He spoke slowly with a friendly laid-back manner, and at first he spoke from the heart. Then the cue cards came out, the head went down, and it was all down hill after that.

Watch the Macworld keynote in Quicktime on the Apple website. (Go to the 1:34:40 mark in the video to watch Stan Sigman's speech, or catch Mr. Sigman's speech in this ten-minute clip on YouTube.)

Above: One of these presenters is not like the other. (Sometimes the nonverbal cues can tell you the whole story.)

How effective was Sigman's talk? One way to determine his effectiveness is to see what reporters covering the event live in San Francisco typed on their keyboards as they attempted to quickly summarize the key points as they occurred. Here's what the reporter for MacDailyNews pounded out on his laptop for each of the three guest speakers:

Google CEO Eric Schmidt takes stage: "If we merge the companies we can call it Applegoo, but you can actually merge without merging." Working well together...
Jerry Yang - Yahoo! - onstage: wants an Apple iPhone
Stan Sigman, CEO of Cingular, onstage... blah, blah, blah, and blah...

It's a bad sign when people summarize your speech in four "blahs." Here's how other news sites responded as the speech was occurring live:

Engadget: "Man this guy is a total snoozer...We've immediately dropped back into cue card keynote mode, stats on Cingular, stores, distribution, yada yada... Huzzah, he's off stage!"

MacUser: "...being treated to a very long and not particularly scintillating speech from Cingular's CEO."

Macobserver:  "His speech is painfully bad...."

Rex Hammock: "He introduces Stan Sigman who demonstrates how truly bad a CEO can blow a presentation by pulling out 4 x5 cards and reading the worst canned speech of all time — whoever at Cingular let this guy on the stage should be fired."

Shortly after the keynote ended, I received this note from Michael Amend, a PZ reader in Germany:

"Garr -- I'd like to point you to a remarkable event: the keynote of Apple introducing the iPhone. What makes it remarkable though is not the (unbelievable) product announced by Apple, but the incredible and noteworthy nosedive the overall performance took as soon as the CEO of Cingular, Stan Sigman, was on the stage...."

Even Seth Godin is wondering why Mr. Sigman was so unremarkable (or remarkably bad).

Just a case of "Old School" vs. "New School"?

StevenessAfter the Cingular CEO was done Jobs thanked him for his time on stage and then said that "We come from pretty different worlds..." Jobs was referring to the two very different industries that Apple and Cingular/AT&T come from. Yet Jobs could just as well have been talking about their two different communication styles as well. The approaches of Schimdt (Google) and Yang (Yahoo) were a good fit with Jobs' style. Having the Cingular CEO follow those three Silicon Valley fat cats provided quite the juxtaposition in communication styles...and it was not pretty.

Stev_stan I am tempted to call this the difference between "old school" business presentations (stiff, dull, cue-cards, etc.) and "new school" business presentations (passionate, interesting, conversational, etc.). But that would be a mistake because what seems like a "new school" approach is really not new at all. And what appears to be merely a conservative "old school" approach has never been recommended. Even Aristotle, for example, thought a presentation (speech) was effective only if it connected with the audience at a visceral level. Emotion (pathos) was one of the necessary conditions for an effective speech.

On using notes
Dale_carnegie Reading from notes like Mr. Sigman did on stage is usually a very bad idea. Abraham Linc
oln warned against using notes. "They always tend to tire and confuse the listener," he said. Another "old timer," 20th century communication guru Dale Carnegie, preached against the very same mistakes made by the Cingular CEO. Carnegie's advice from the 1930s is not new but it's as valuable today as it ever was. For example, Carnegie listed the following dangers to using notes (cue cards) in front of your audience (from page 62 of Public Speaking for Success):

Notes destroy fifty percent of the interest in your talk.

Notes prevent contact and intimacy with the audience.
Notes create and air of artificiality.
Notes make the speaker look less confident, less powerful.
Make lots of notes in the preparation of your talk, but use them only in the event of a total emergency.
If you must use notes make sure the audience does not see them. That is, "...endeavor to hide your weakness from the audience."

At any time Steve can glance at the current slide (large monitors) and the next slide (smaller monitors). In this way the slides on screen are visuals for the audience and the same image on the monitor are cues for the presenter. If you know your material well this is actually not difficult to pull off smoothly. Demoing is a different animal, however. In the case of a demo, it is a good idea to have notes to yourself (which the audience can not see) to keep you on track so you do not leave something out. These are not notes about how to use the product (you surely know that or you would not be on stage) but rather on the what's next or "don't forget to show this," etc. Steve referred to notes at various times while demoing, but you could hardly tell unless you were watching for it (most people are looking at the screen during a demo). Spymac has high-rez pictures of the demo "cue cards" used by Steve at Macworld. (Thanks André).

Does it really matter?

Stan_sigmanYou might say it does not really matter. So he's a boring speaker, that does not mean he's a bad CEO, right? Of course not. Stan Sigman is surely a smart, talented man, and a nice guy to boot. He may indeed be a model CEO, but he certainly is not a model public speaker. Mr. Sigman does not yearn to be in the public eye nor does he fancy himself a great communicator. "I would rather show what I can do rather than talk about what I can do," he said in an older interview. Fair enough, but don't business leaders also have to be great communicators? I respect his no-nonsense approach to the job, but killer presentation skills is not a frivolous thing. It matters.

My only point in highlighting his short speech was to show what the rest of us must never ever do. Like it or not, our customers, employees, and colleagues judge us in part on our ability to stand and deliver a successful talk. Stan Sigman's performance was a wonderful textbook example of what not to do. We must find our own voice and our own style, of course, but we must never make the same mistakes made by Mr. Sigman.

Most Apple customers did not know who Stan Sigman was before Tuesday. Now they know, and the first impression was not a great one. The difference in communication styles between the two CEOs is indeed worlds apart. According to an article from Reuters, this has some just a bit worried. (Below: excerpt from Will iPhone spark tech civil war? on the CNN International page). stiffly from a script, pausing awkwardly to consult notes. By contrast, the silver-tongued Jobs wore his trademark black turtleneck and faded blue jeans...Jobs is one of the best showmen in corporate America, rarely glancing at scripts and quick with off-the-cuff jokes.

Business experts say such contrasts may extend to the broader corporate cultures of Apple and AT&T, straining the tight collaboration needed to launch such a significant product.

"When you try to put together two companies with very different operating styles, you open up a Pandora's box for executives to miscommunicate or disagree," said Charles O'Reilly III, Stanford University professor of management.

I hope the Apple and Cingular/AT&T deal is a match made in heaven and that the iPhone is a smash hit (I think it will be). But Stan Sigman did not do anything on stage at Macworld that made me feel more confident about the deal, in fact, if anything I feel less confident. And who says presentation does not matter?

Next: "Jobs, Gates, and Burns." Until then, see Bert Decker's blog for more on the Steve Jobs keynote. Also checkout this post called "Who advised Stan?" on DC-Connect.

Odds and ends to kickoff the year

Hope your first week of 2007 has been a good one. I've been back in Japan since December 31 and enjoying the first week of the new year "off the (digital) grid." That's right, no checking "The Google" or "The Internets" for (gasp) an entire week. It's been wonderful. Before I get up and running in full blog mode, here are a few odds and ends to start the year.

New Year's in Japan
Shrine New Year's (Oshogatsu) is a big deal in Japan. It kind of reminds me of the feeling of "being home for Christmas" in the U.S. That is, it's a family time, a time to head back home and spend some time with those who matter most. New Year's eve is not really a time for parties and countdowns, although that happens a bit too in the city. Instead, in Japan we enjoy traditional New Year's Japanese dishes such as toshikoshi soba at home before going out to say a prayer or two at the local shrine sometime after midnight. Usually we visit a temple (Buddhist) before midnight and then pay a visit to a shrine (Shinto) early in the AM of January 1. However, this year I arrived in Japan from San Francisco just a few hours before midnight and fell asleep before the clock hit 12:00, though my wife did wake me long enough for me to peek out the window of our bedroom to see celebratory fireworks bursting in the air above Universal Studios Japan on the other side of the city. "Rock-n-roll," I said...and went back to sleep. The next morning we left the city and took a train over to Nara Prefecture (where my wife's parents live) for Osechi Ryori.  Later we went for a walk to the Ikoma Taisha Shrine and the Hozan-ji Temple.

I was going to share the video and the pics below just with family, but I thought you may appreciate a glimpse of New Year's in Japan as well.

Above: Giving a little prayer at the Ikoma Taisha Shrine (YouTube link).

A few pics from our New Year's morning (presented here in Slideshare).

It's customary in Japan to send New Year's cards -- customized postcards called "nengajo" -- to family, friends, and business associates. It's a bit like the custom of sending Christmas cards in other parts of the world except that it is not unusual for people to send and receive hundreds of nengajo. My father-in-law, a high school physics teacher and an amateur astronomer with some high-tech cameras, sent out the nengajo below. Actually my wife put it together in Adobe Illustrator for him as it's a composite of four different photos taken by her father (buildings, night sky, two shots of the moon) plus text. Below left you can see the sketch my father-in-law made on paper and on the right a jpeg of the final card my wife put together based on his design. Presentation visuals are also often made this way: first the "analog sketch" then the digital version in Key/PPT.

07_sketch Arrrow_1Nengajo_07

As the cards are often sent to people you can not see regularly, the card acts to update them on what's new in your life. It is common to send a nengajo featuring your family portrait or pictures of your children, especially if you have a new baby. As we just got married in 2006, my wife sent out this card. People also send cards with a picture of the year's zodiacal animal which for 2007 is a Boar or inoshishi. I was born in the year of the Ox, so I'm suppose to be good at public speaking and inspiring confidence in others.

Some links for the new year.

My buddy Bert Decker has his "Top Ten Best (and worst) Communicators of the year" out for 2006. Interesting stuff.
Seth Godin reminds us that it is not about being popular, it's about being remarkable. Then Seth tells us here just how to be remarkable. Can you not apply this bit of wisdom to presentations as well?
My Kyoto-based designer pal, Markuz Wernli, has posted his own cool video summarizing his latest art project. We're trying to set up a presentation in the SoHo Apple Store (NYC) if we can swing it as Markuz will be in New York in January and early February.
I wish I could buy this man a beer! Hats off to this regular working Joe who became a hero in an instant. Just a great story. And Mr. Autrey, a construction worker, does a great job in his interview on the Letterman Show, better than half the CEO-types interviewed on television (full Letterman interview). Right on Wesley!

The world lost one of the greatest performers of all time over the holidays, "The Godfather of Soul," Mr. James Brown. Now that man knew how to make a connection with an audience! Take a look at this older clip below if you don't believe me. And even in his 70s the "The Hardest Working Man in Show Business" still had it. (Here's a vintage clip from the '60s).

Above: James Brown gets the audience involved.

Steve Jobs' Macworld 2007 keynote today!

Can't wait to catch Steve's latest presentation live today which means I'll be up until 4:00am or so tonight here in Japan. Below is a video I made after I attended the Macworld Expo in 2000, seven years ago. Guess I used Adobe Premiere on OS 9 if I remember correctly. If you do not suffer from motion sickness (whoa, what was I thinking?) this may be a little walk down memory lane for you Mac fans out there. I used this video as part of a longer presentation and report on Macworld Expo I gave to my user group in Osaka back in 2000; I was president of the group before I joined Apple.

Above: Video taken at Macworld Expo 2000.

I'll be posting my comments on Steve's keynote later today.Checkout Engadget for the latest until then.