speaking

Better Communication with Dirty Rhetoric

Do you write? Present? Communicate with other humans? Need to persuade or share a compelling idea? (hint: the answer is “yes”). Read on.

It’s been said, “When Cicero spoke, people marveled. When Caesar spoke, people marched.” That’s how I want to write and present. I don’t want people to like my ideas, I want my ideas to inspire people.

If only… writing and speaking, communicating and persuading, are not easy. The difference between good and great, between marveling at a speech and marching because of it, is often subtle. Learning those nuances has been a bludgeoning task of trial and error for me. Hard knocks and underwhelming responses and I still have a long way to go.

So, I was stupidly, geekily excited to receive a set of Dirty Rhetoric cards in the mail. Yep, that’s actually the name and, no, it doesn’t come from an “adult” themed store. Rather, Peter Watts Paskale (@speak2all), a communications coach and analyst, and Gavin McMahon (@powerfulpoint), a communication and presentation consultant, created a card deck to quickly and easily teach the fundamentals of persuasive communication.

The cards are color coded into four categories – persuasion, scaling, description, and memory – and  each card describes one technique (53 in all). Along with the technique’s name in English and Latin, there are icons showing whether the technique connects to Ethos (belief/ideals/credibility), Logos (consistency/logic), or Pathos (emotions/imagination). Plus, each card has a rating system indicating the difficulty of the technique, a simple description, and two examples. Woof, that’s a lot of info on a card only slightly bigger than an average smart phone.

The instructions include six “games” to help incorporate the techniques into your messaging. For example, Aristotle’s Dilemma has you draw four cards from the color category matching the purpose of your speech (persuasion, description, etc.) and then find ways to incorporate those techniques into your draft. Writer’s Block focuses on learning the techniques and asks you to write a sentence or two, shuffle the cards, draw one from the deck, and apply that card’s technique to your writing. There are also games for four to six plus players.

Today is the first chance I’ve had to really open and look at the deck and I can hardly wait to really dig in. I love the premise of Dirty Rhetoric – a simple, practical way of learning and applying effective persuasive techniques to my writing and speaking.

Peter and Gavin were kind enough to send me a pre-production set for review. If you want to learn more or get your own set, check out the Dirty Rhetoric webpage, follow the #dirtyrhetoric hashtag on social media, or participate in the kickstarter campaign at https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/99144298/dirty-rhetoric .

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hr’s missed opportunity to generate revenue

Blatant product placement or morning prep to speak at #ilshrm13 ? Does Red Bull sponsor HR speakers? What if I promise to be “extreme”?

I posted this comment along with the picture at the right while waiting for my co-presenter so we could go over our notes before presenting later that morning at the Illinois SHRM conference (yes, those are my authentic, actual speaker notes). I thought it was really funny in a ridiculous sort of way. Red Bull sponsoring “extreme” HR? So many paradoxes and contradictions. They sponsor stunt planes, insane jumps on bicycles and motorcycles, parachuting from record heights. Their image is all about athletes pushing the boundaries of possibility, not the middle age guy talking about company culture. Funny, right?

Almost immediately, Kris Dunn (@kris_dunn) from HR Capitalist and Fistfull of Talent responded, “Hey Broc, believe it or not, at FOT we got contacted about placement… Workforce application of red bull, etc…

Apparently there is nothing so ludicrous that it isn’t true somewhere.

I think this just might be HR’s chance to generate revenue through product placement, sponsorships, and advertising. What are some of the natural fits? Pharmaceuticals, diet and fitness, health care? How about day care, dry cleaning, and maid service? Car dealers and home builders? Universities?

When it comes to placement or ads, there’s the obvious approach of putting posters in the hallways or covering our desks or company shirts with logos until they look like race cars straight outta NASCAR. But what about sponsoring company picnics and the requisite Christmas party? Attaching ads to the side of email like in gmail or Facebook like ad placement in the Learning Management System? What about training – there’s so much that could be done inside of training programs that it really feels like a missed opportunity.

What if we named HR programs after the sponsor? For example, we could have the University X Tuition Reimbursement Program. Could we take it to the policy level? Is any sponsor willing to slap their name on or in the handbook? Anyone want some publicity every time the dress code is mentioned? (“Sorry, that beard is in violation of the Sponsor Y Grooming Guidelines.”)

I’m going to stop myself right there. Before I close, I need to emphasize three points:

1. I’m kidding.

2. If companies are not already doing this, I’m confident we’ll be seeing it inside of three years. After all, it’s already in the school system with advertising sponsored “educational” news content.

3. Given points #1 and #2 and my love of paradox, if Red Bull wants to sponsor my global adventures as an HR speaker, I’m more than willing to talk. I already have a few ideas on which metal bands I want to have open for me…

hard won lessons on presenting

I really enjoy speaking and facilitating and wanted to share some of the things I’ve learned over the years.

It’s always about the participants. Always. The worst, most boring, least engaging presenters make it about themselves. And no one cares. The best presenters think through every single aspect from the participants’ point of view.

 They are participants, not an audience. This may be semantics, but in my mind participants are involved in understanding and applying the material to their own lives while an audience is passive and just along for the ride. Great presenters engage everyone in the room.

 The participants don’t know what they don’t know. This was the single most freeing concept I ever learned about speaking. The participants don’t know what you intended to say so they don’t know when you skipped something. No point in getting hung up on your mistake. If it’s important, loop it back in appropriately. If not, let it go.

 “Winging it” is for complete amateurs. There is a huuuuuuge difference between knowing your material so well you are able to adjust to audience needs on the fly and making it up as you go. Very, very few presenters are able to go off the cuff and those who are able to are tapping into years of experience and material. Some people complain that preparing makes it mechanical, but if your presentation is mechanical it means you haven’t prepared enough to truly own the material. Respect your participants (and yourself) enough to prepare.

 PowerPoint is a great enhancement, but a lousy focal point. The best speakers I’ve seen have very, very little content on their slides. By only having the most important points, the slides are used to support the mood and tone and enhance and underscore the most crucial information. Anything more risks becoming a distraction and a crutch. Think of it like a tie – it needs to match the suit, it can stand out but should never be the focal point, and if you took off the tie the suit should still look great without it.

 Technology breaks. I was at a conference recently and watched as a speaker went through three laptops, two connecting cables, and several staff and volunteers before he was able to get his slides on the screen. Fortunately, he wasn’t dependent on his slides and just rolled into the presentation while the staff and volunteers got his presentation to work. Once the projector was working, he smoothly transitioned to using it. Never rely on technology more sophisticated than flipchart and markers. Use the technology, but be ready and able to give a full presentation without it.

Everything has a purpose. Every-little-thing. Everything. Don’t do that activity, don’t tell that funny story, don’t show that slide unless it directly supports your presentation. If it doesn’t have a purpose don’t do it. Ever.

Introverts can be great presenters. Never confuse introversion with shyness. Some of the best presenters I know are introverts and they use it to their advantage because they are naturally good at staying on point, keeping the focus on the participants, and never talking just to hear themselves speak. Introversion doesn’t matter and it’s not an excuse. A good presenter is a good presenter.

Mistakes are the best teachers. We all screw up, forget stuff, get it out of sequence, and say just the wrong thing. I can say I’ve learned the most about presenting and made the biggest improvements to my presentations from my errors, not my successes.

Care. This one is simple. If you don’t care, neither will your participants.

Have fun. Relax and enjoy it. Once you get past the nervousness and adrenalin dump, presenting can be great fun. And your participants will reflect your energy. If you’re enjoying it, they will too.

Your thoughts?