Posts Tagged ‘disasters’

Things not to say when speaking at Microsoft

by Scott | 4/11/2009 | 8 Comments »

I was invited to speak at Microsoft’s Asian Pacific Leadership conference last week, an internal employee only event, and spoke in the McKinley room to a swell crowd of about 300 people. It was a nice event – kudos to all the organizers.

At the end of the talk, late in Q&A, someone asked about schedule estimation. You know, tricks for how to better predict how long things take.

After hemming and hawing, I mentioned wideband delphi, a good technique for teams.

The gentleman asking the question looked confused. I asked the audience. No one had heard of it either.

So I then say the last thing you should say:

“Oh. Just Google it.”

The entire crowd gave me a good spirited “booooo”.   Had there been a list of 5 things not to say, other than to ask about Vista PR or Zune marketshare,  this would have been top of the list.

Which I thought was embarrassing, but funny. I find it funny when I do really innocent, but stupid things.  I apologized, and felt bad, but it is in it’s way, comedy. A few people yelled out “Live Search!” to try and help me out. But I’d already blown it.

Hey, this stuff happens, especially during the spontiniety of Q&A.


Learning from Jeffrey Veen

by Scott | 4/6/2009 | 5 Comments »

Recently I interviewed Jeffrey Veen about his many experiences as a public speaker. He’s the author of two popular books on design, founding partner of adaptive path, and now member of small batch inc. which recently launched

Process: Veen’s background is in journalism and it’s no surprise his process is anchored by writing. He writes out his material first, working approximately like a speech writer, thinking about how the words will be spoken as he goes.  But once the material is right, he never uses the script. It’s simply an anchor for developing and learning the material, he think’s it’s important not to be scripted.

Ideas:  He often asks the question “Could this be part of a talk?” when hearing interesting stories, and keeps a folder of stories, both images and text, that he suspects might be of use. It’s a resource of interesting stuff to play with when he’s asked to do a new talk.

Performance:  Veen described focusing on transitions, knowing how to get from one slide to the next, as being a key factor in looking smooth and telling good stories.  And thinking like a writer he considers ways to build tension and release it periodically through his talk.

How to make any topic interesting:  He suggested one kind of narrative than anyone can create:  Talk about 1) where you struggled with a topic, 2) the principles that helped, and 3) what interesting observations you made.  If you speak of your own struggles you become instantly relatable and interesting, even if the topic is boring.

Disaster story: While speaking at Web Directions in Australia, he got to his second slide and the projector system froze.  He quickly let the audience know that it really wasn’t his fault (it wasn’t!) and improvised until they fixed the problem.

Here’s Jeff in good form, telling some great stories about design and innovation at Startup2Startup. It’s only 20 minutes long, which he thinks is a sweet spot for lectures: