Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Sticky Stats

While the year and the decade is ending, it seems that we have to validate or negate those new ideas we rolled out over the course of the year. Number crunching may be no fun, but reading the results doesn't have to be.

The Heath brothers, authors of Made to Stick, write,
A good statistic is one that aids a decision or shapes an opinion. For a stat to do either of those, it must be dragged within the everyday. That's your job -- to do the dragging. In our world of billions and trillions, that can be a lot of manual labor. But it's worth it: A number people can grasp is a number that can make a difference.
See what they mean below.


Monday, December 21, 2009

We're Only Human: Savoring the passage of time (12/17/09)

Time flies when we're having fun, but it drags on when we're not. What gives? Since time doesn't pass any faster or slower irregularly, Dr. Aaron Sackett, a professor of marketing at the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis, sought an answer.
In one experiment, for example, Sackett and his colleagues put a group of men and women in two rooms, each without any clocks or watches or cell phones. They had them do a timed test, in which they had to read a text and underline certain words—so not particularly fun-filled, but not particularly aversive either. The scientists told the volunteers the test would take exactly ten minutes, and made a big show of starting a stopwatch as they left the room.
But the test didn’t take exactly ten minutes. For some, the scientists reentered after just five minutes, but acted as if the full ten minutes had passed; they even left the stopwatch conspicuously in view. For others, they didn’t reenter the room until 20 minutes had passed, but again they left the volunteers with the idea that ten minutes had passed. In other words, for some ten minutes seemed surprisingly long, while for others it seemed short—the lab equivalent of making time fly.
Then all the volunteers rated the experience for enjoyment, challenge, fun, engagement, and so forth. And the results were clear: If the ten minutes passed surprisingly quickly, volunteers found the word search task more pleasurable than if time seemed to drag. This doesn’t mean they found it exhilarating, or that the others found it crushingly boring—but their subjective experiences were definitely different on the pleasure scale.
But what if they had to tolerate something irritating or annoying?
In a second study, the scientists forced the volunteers to listen to a tape recording of a dot matrix printer for 30 seconds. Thirty seconds is not a long time, but apparently this was a really irritating noise. While they listened, they watched the elapsed time tick off on a screen-- except that, unbeknownst to the volunteers, the elapsing time was either too slow or too fast. So again, for some time flew, while for others time dragged.
And again, time perceptions shaped emotions. When time flew, the tedious listening experience seemed less tedious, more bearable. When it dragged, it was worse; these listeners said they would rather listen to an electric drill if given the option. They also ran the experiment with a pleasant audiotape—of a favorite song—and once again time distortions determined the pleasure of the listening experience. That is, a pleasant experience became more pleasant.
Basically, our perception of time controlled our emotions. If we thought time flew, the activity became enjoyable, but if we thought time dragged by slowly, the activity suddenly became atrocious.

Talk about food for thought the next time we sit in katha or a boring sabha!

Full Story

Psyblog: Ads For Unhealthy Foods Increase Children’s Consumption 45% (11/24/09)

So snack food advertising makes most people eat more. After viewing them children eat almost twice as much, adults (if they're women on a diet or men) eat around a third more and this effect carries over to foods other than those being advertised and after the adverts have finished. Simply avoiding snacking while watching TV isn't going to cut it.
Curious? Read onwards. The first experiment involved kids.
In their first experiment 118 kids, 7 to 11 years old, were sat down to watch a cartoon with advert breaks at the usual intervals. Each child was randomly assigned either to be shown four adverts for snack foods or four adverts for other non-food products aimed at children. The commercials used were taken from actual children's programming and the snack food adverts were all for unhealthy foods like sugary breakfast cereals and potato chips.
While they watched the cartoon, children had a bowl of cheddar cheese "goldfish" crackers in front of them which they were told they could snack on if they wished.
The experimenters were very thorough and collected all kinds of other information about the children like how hungry they were, how much television they normally watched, whether they happened to particularly like the snack that was used to measure eating behaviour, whether they were overweight, whether they had a TV in their room at home and a host of other variables.
Afterwards the experimenters measured how much of the snack the children had eaten and compared the two groups. Children who had watched the cartoon which included adverts for snack foods ate 45% more of the "goldfish" crackers than those who saw non-food adverts.
None of the other variables measured had a significant effect on how much the children ate, except their like (or dislike) of cheese crackers. It didn't matter if they watched more or less TV at home, were over- or under- weight, or how big their appetite was usually. Over and above anything else it was clear that the snack food advert caused children to eat much more of an unhealthy snack.
The second experiment involved adults, specifically college students aged 18 to 24 years old, some of which were also on diets. As one would figure, the dieters would be more likely to eat more.
For this experiment a more sophisticated set-up was required in which participants didn't have snacks in front of them while they watched TV, but snacks were presented to them afterwards in what was apparently an unrelated experiment.
This time instead of cartoons the participants were shown 'Whose Line Is It Anyway?', an improvisational comedy show. They were told the adverts had been left in because the psychologists were interested in the effects of TV on mood and they were in the 'comedy condition'. Actually, of course, everyone saw the same comedy show, it was just the intervening adverts that were different.
All the participants were randomised into one of three groups. In the first they saw adverts for snack foods, in the second they saw adverts for nutritional foods and in the third they saw adverts for non-food products. After watching the show they were taken to another room for what they were told was a different study involving tasting and rating some snack foods. The snack foods offered varied in healthiness: there were vegetables, multi-grain chips, cookies, trail mix and snack mix. Participants were told to taste each one but left to eat as much or as little as they liked. Afterwards the experimenters measured exactly how much each person had eaten.
Once again the snack-food ads had weaved their magic as those who had seen the snack ads ate significantly more than those who had seen either the nutrition ads or the non-food ads. But when the experimenters looked more closely at who had eaten more they found two particular groups were responsible: the restrained eaters and men (but not unrestrained women). Both had eaten, on average, about one-third more snack food if they had seen the snack ads compared with those who had seen either the nutrition ads or non-food ads.
Perhaps surprisingly the ads for unhealthy snack foods didn't only boost how much of the unhealthy snacks people ate, they boosted how much people ate across all the options available, healthy vegetables and semi-healthy trail mix included. The only exception was women who weren't on a diet who ate no more after being shown the snack food ads than other non-food ads.
Here's the kicker.
The vast majority of adults in the second study, when asked later, had no idea that watching snack food ads would make them eat more, despite the relationship being unremarkable in retrospect. And this is exactly what Harris and colleagues suggest is the key to defending oneself against adverts: understanding the powerful influence they can have on our behaviour, even without our knowledge.
Full Story

Wired Science: Dark Liquor Makes for Worse Hangovers (12/18/09)

How does liquor affect sleep? A study conducted by Damaris Rohsenow of Brown University may hold the answer.
The researchers recruited 95 healthy young adults, ages 21 to 33, and gave them caffeine-free cola mixed with bourbon, vodka or tonic water. The drinking ended when participants’ breath-alcohol concentrations hit an average of 0.11, well over the legal intoxication limit. Participants were then hooked up to sleep monitors, which record brain activity, and allowed to sleep it off. At 7 a.m. the next day, the researchers roused the subjects from bed (a wake-up that did not include coffee or aspirin) and asked them to rate the severity of their hangovers.
Both the bourbon drinkers and vodka drinkers slept poorly compared to the nondrinkers, the team found. The next morning, when the participants performed cognitive tests that required attention and quick reaction times, the drinkers performed worse than the nondrinkers, but the type of alcohol had no effect on performance. Both groups of drinkers were impaired equally.
Full Story

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Frontal Cortex: The Tiger Woods Effect (11/17/09)

We know what happens when we get psyched out by the competition. Well, it's quantifiable as shown by Dr. Jennifer Brown, a professor at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.

Brown demonstrated this psychological flaw by analyzing data from every player in every PGA tournament from 1999 to 2006. The reason she chose golf is that Tiger Woods is an undisputed superstar, the most intimidating competitor in modern sports. (In 2007, Golf Digest noted that Woods finished with 19.62 points in the World Golf Ranking, more than twice as many as his closest rival. This meant that "he had enough points to be both No. 1 and No. 2.") Brown also notes that "golf is an excellent setting in which to examine tournament theory and superstars in rank-order events, since effort relates relatively directly to scores and performance measures are not confounded by team dynamics." In other words, every golfer golfs alone.
Despite the individualistic nature of the sport, the presence of Woods in the tournament had a powerful effect. Interestingly, Brown found that playing against Woods resulted in significantly decreased performance. When the superstar entered a tournament, every other golfer took, on average, 0.8 more strokes. This effect was even more pronounced when Woods was playing well. Based on this data, Brown calculated that the superstar effect boosted Woods' PGA earnings by nearly five million dollars.
Why might that be the case? Increased self-consciousness, perhaps.
Sian Beilock, a professor of psychology at the University of Chicago, has helped illuminate the anatomy of choking. She uses golf as her experimental paradigm. When people are learning how to putt, it can seem daunting. There are just so many things to think about. Golfers need to assess the lay of the green, calculate the line of the ball, and get a feel for the grain of the turf. Then they have to monitor their putting motion and make sure that they hit the ball with a smooth, straight stroke. For an inexperienced player, a golf putt can seem unbearably hard, like a life-sized trigonometry problem.
But the mental exertion pays off, at least at first. Beilock has shown that novices hit better putts when they consciously reflect on their actions. The more time they spend thinking about the putt, the more likely they are to hole the ball. By concentrating on their game, by paying attention to the mechanics of their stroke, they can avoid beginner's mistakes.
A little experience, however, changes everything. After golfers have learned how to putt - once they have memorised the necessary movements - analysing the stroke is a waste of time. The brain already knows what to do. It automatically computes the slope of the green, settles on the best putting angle, and decides how hard to hit the ball. Bradley Hatfield, a professor of kinesiology and psychology at the University of Maryland, has monitored the brain wave activity of expert athletes during performance. (Because the subjects have to wear a bulky plastic cap full of electrodes, Hatfield can only study golfers, archers and Olympic rifle shooters.) While the brain waves of beginners show lots of erratic spikes and haphazard rhythms - this is the neural signature of a mind that is humming with conscious thoughts - the minds of expert athletes look strangely serene. When they are performing, they exhibit a rare mental tranquility, as their brain deliberately ignores interruptions from the outside world. This is neurological evidence, Hatfield says, of "the zone", that trance-like mindset which allows experts to perform at peak levels. (As the corporate motto says, the best athletes don't think: they just do it.)
Beilock's data further demonstrate the benefits of relying on the automatic brain when playing a familiar sport. She found that when experienced golfers are forced to think about their putts, they hit significantly worse shots. All those conscious thoughts erase their years of practice. "We bring expert golfers into our lab, we tell them to pay attention to a particular part of their swing, and they just screw up," Beilock says. "When you are at a high level, your skills become somewhat automated. You don't need to pay attention to every step in what you're doing."
This is what happens when people "choke". The part of their brain that monitors their behaviour starts to interfere with actions that are normally made without thinking. Performers begin second guessing skills that they have honed through years of practice. The worst part about choking is that it tends to spiral. The failures build upon each other, so a stressful situation is made more stressful.
Full Story:

The Frontal Cortex: Fourth Down (11/17/09)

On November 15th, 2009, the Patriots faced off against the Colts, and Coach Bill Belichick made a final call that cost his team the game though his call made sense statistically.
On 4th down, with 2 yards or fewer to go, New England has gained a first down on approximately 66% of its attempts with Tom Brady as quarterback. The Colts had one timeout. If the Patriots gain a first down, the game ends; they can slowly walk to burn a few seconds, then take a knee on each down to end the game. If they don't gain a first down, the Colts would still need to score a touchdown to win the game. Let's give the Colts a probability P of getting the six if the ball starts at the 28 yard line. So if the Patriots try for the first, their chance of losing is
(Probability of 4th down failure) x
(Probability of Colts scoring a TD from the 28 Yard line) = 0.33P
The average New England punt nets about 40 yards. Let's give the Colts a probability Q of scoring a TD on a driving starting at the Indianapolis 32. Then, the chance of the Patriots losing is simply Q. For Belichick's decision to make sense, we just have to believe that he gave his team a lower chance of losing. In math terms, that would mean 0.33P < Q. Doing some algebra leaves you with P < 3Q. In other words, for the Patriots to have made the right decision, we only have to believe the Colts odds of scoring a TD on a drive starting 28 yards from the end zone are less than three times the odds of the same outcome starting from 68 yards out. The win probability graph for the game suggests that, given 1st-and-10 from New England's 29, the Colts had roughly a 51% chance of winning in the actual situation. We have to believe that their chances under the punt scenario were above 17% for Belichick to have made a bad good decision. Considering the Colts' have scored touchdowns on 30% of their offensive possessions, my guess is that this was a good one.
However, it felt wrong in the emotional/gut-instinct sense. Many times, we want to follow the rules, but when they conflict with our biases or convictions, we make an exception and hope to follow the rules next time.

Maya anyone?

Full Story

Friday, December 18, 2009

The Situationist: The Situation of Violence (12/2/09)

In 1961, Yale University psychologist Stanley Milgram conducted an experiment to show how the right context can override an individual's values and morals. Watch below.

Full Story

SciAm 60-Second Science: Drink Now, Pay Later (9/23/09)

People who abuse alcohol when they’re young don’t always make good choices as adults. But it’s been unclear whether the drink gives them the stupids, or whether folks prone to poor choices are predisposed to drink.
One way to tackle the question is by studying alcohol intake in animals, like rats. But rats don’t like to drink. So to make the alcohol more palatable, scientists infused it into a tasty “gel matrix”. Yes, the researchers gave teenage rats Jello shots. And the animals’ decision-making ability stayed impaired well into adulthood…as measured by their tendency to chase after rewards with associated high risk rather than taking a sure thing. So, young party animals, remember the words of Faber’s Dean Wormer: “Drunk and stupid is no way to go through life, son.”

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Don't Talk To Cops

The following video may seem contrarian to many of the power point tips we have had so far. On closer look though we find some common themes:

1. Stories, stories, stories
2. Unexpected
3. Concrete and Credible examples

It also seems that the bulleted text is more for his own notes and not for the audience to read.

FYI this is long, but interesting. Something for the lawyers out there.

Can also be used in sabha, think creatively and it can tie into many presentation topics.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

WP: Bellying up to Environmentalism (11/16/09)

The livestock industry as a result of its reliance on corn and soy-based feed accounts for over half the synthetic fertilizer used in the United States, contributing more than any other sector to marine dead zones. It consumes 70 percent of the water in the American West -- water so heavily subsidized that if irrigation supports were removed, ground beef would cost $35 a pound. Livestock accounts for at least 21 percent of greenhouse-gas emissions globally -- more than all forms of transportation combined. Domestic animals -- most of them healthy -- consume about 70 percent of all the antibiotics produced. Undigested antibiotics leach from manure into freshwater systems and impair the sex organs of fish.
It takes a gallon of gasoline to produce a pound of conventional beef. If all the grain fed to animals went to people, you could feed China and India. That's just a start.
Meat that's raised according to "alternative" standards (about 1 percent of meat in the United States) might be a better choice but not nearly as much so as its privileged consumers would have us believe. "Free-range chickens" theoretically have access to the outdoors. But many "free-range" chickens never see the light of day because they cannot make it through the crowded shed to the aperture leading to a patch of cement.
"Grass-fed" beef produces four times the methane -- a greenhouse gas 21 times as powerful as carbon dioxide -- of grain-fed cows, and many grass-fed cows are raised on heavily fertilized and irrigated grass. Pastured pigs are still typically mutilated, fed commercial feed and prevented from rooting -- their most basic instinct besides sex.
Issues of animal welfare are equally implicated in all forms of meat production. Domestic animals suffer immensely, feel pain and may even be cognizant of the fate that awaits them. In an egg factory, male chicks (economically worthless) are summarily run through a grinder. Pigs are castrated without anesthesia, crated, tail-docked and nose-ringed. Milk cows are repeatedly impregnated through artificial insemination, confined to milking stalls and milked to yield 15 times the amount of milk they would produce under normal conditions. When calves are removed from their mothers at birth, the mothers mourn their loss with heart-rending moans.
Then comes the slaughterhouse, an operation that's left with millions of pounds of carcasses -- deadstock -- that are incinerated or dumped in landfills. (Rendering plants have taken a nose dive since mad cow disease.)
Full Story:

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

SciAm MIND: Parents & Peers

"There is no doubt that peers matter."

Duh - any parent or kid knows that - BUT...

"The research shows they matter more when the parents ignore their impact, do not address their impact or do not take actions to ameliorate negative impact."

Enter family time (i.e. ghar sabha).

Full Article: Scientific American Mind; Nov/Dec2009, Vol. 20 Issue 6, p4-4

SciAm MIND: Empathy Heals

"There was a direct relation between a physician's empathy level and his or her patient's level of IL-8, a chemical that summons immune system cells to fight microbial bad guys."

Full Article: Scientific American Mind; Nov/Dec2009, Vol. 20 Issue 6, p10-10.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Lifeline relationships

I stumbled upon this presentation by Ferrazzi - he wrote Never Eat Alone, a book my cousin gave me that exemplifies the power of networking (when done with heart). It maybe be useful to you as well. He takes the next step in this presentation focusing on what Gunatitanand Swami said - to remain strong in satsang one needs to keep the strong attachment with two sadhus and two satsangis - it is essentially a Lifeline Relationship. P. Mahant Swami use the same idea when he talks about mountain climbers tying ropes to each other to ensure that they do not fall.

Nice read. Useful for katha, presentations, or meetings. You may find it useful in seva, work, school.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Story-telling Master Class with Ira Glass

The following is a wonderful tribute to the second S in Made to Stick - stories. Ira Glass, producer and host of This American Life, arguably the best program on the radio today, explores in an almost tender manner the art of creating and telling a story. The GEL conference has other good speakers (some are hit or miss) - this one is a definite hit. Watch when you have time (actually you do not really have to watch you can just listen, Glass is a radio guy). It will require some thought on how to implement. Let us know how you incorporate any of this in your presentations.

GEL conference site does not have the video anymore but this blog has a back up video with some background information on GEL.

Friday, September 18, 2009

More Sticky Stats

Here are some great resources for delivering data while also energizing our audience.
We hope you find it useful in your reports and presentations!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Steve Rubel Lifestream: Stats: The Internet in Charts (9/16/09)

The "Did You Know?" video managed to hook kishores/kishoris in the summer shibir, but aside from the cool music and smooth transitions, it was just numbers!

As a karyakar, we may invariably face that situation where you're tasked with presenting a document of sorts at [insert "three-letter acronym for a meeting" here]. To keep our audience engaged, check out this post.

We know you can crunch the data, but let's see if you can communicate it.


(Image from Digital Inspiration)

Monday, August 31, 2009

Lone Gunman: Information Gaps and Knowledge Rewards (8/27/09)

One element of "stickiness" is unexpectedness. That's the reason why many of us flock to that random video or anecdote or activity in opening up our presentation; the audience just isn't ready for it, and we know that it will help in retaining audience attention.

But after that great bang of an opener, we see a flop. Without really understanding what went wrong, we may blame the topic, "Oh, how can you present well on that matter?" or even, "It's just the same old, same old."

Instant fix - Don't blame the topic, befriend it. This post by Lloyd Morgan can help.

Starting with two great examples of marketing through curiosity (the Hot Wheels mystery car and California Pizza Kitchen’s Don’t Open It thank you card), Stephen Anderson looks at how you can use ‘information gaps’ to drive curiosity and then interaction with your customers.
Information can be presented in a manner that is straightforward or curious. If we opt for the latter, we are guaranteed not only attention, but likely higher engagement as well—curiosity demands we know more! What was known information (a simple coupon or another toy car option) that might have been ignored has been converted into something unknown, something mysterious, something that demands resolution.
The article goes on to discuss George Loewenstein and his information-gap theory before offering some advice on inciting curiosity in your product:
If you want to make someone curious, make them aware of something they don’t know. Find that information you can use to tease people. Chances are, you’re either withholding all the specific information or giving it all away. To get attention and engage the senses, look for ways to turn these direct messages into a quest to be completed.
It’s no surprise that curiosity can be a powerful tool, as some recent research is suggesting that information is as much a reward as thirst, neurologically speaking.
Dopamine neurons are thought to be involved in learning about rewards – by adjusting the connections between other neurons, they “teach” the brain to seek basic rewards like food and water. Bromberg-Martin and Hikosaka think that these neurons also teach the brain to seek out information so that their activity becomes a sort of “common currency” that governs both basic needs and a quest for knowledge.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Lone Gunman: TED Speaking Guide (7/31/09)

So we've posted a bunch, and we may have seen them but they leave us hanging. What makes TEDTalks so great?

If you're patient, Lone Gunman's Lloyd Morgan cites an editorial on the TED phenomenon.
TED succeeds in part because participants are encouraged to talk about the unexpected. […] But perhaps the most critical key to success is the style of the talks. […]
The talks have a strict time limit of 18 minutes — no interaction with the audience, and no questions except the informal ones asked in the extended conversation breaks. […] For a general audience, 18 minutes is plenty for getting across context and key issues, while still forcing each speaker to focus on a message — whether it be advocacy or the celebration of new knowledge.
There is also a welcome absence of PowerPoint presentations. Instead there are plenty of images — but precious few professional scientific diagrams, which can quickly lose the audience’s attention. This forces speakers to craft talks that can engage sophisticated but scientifically untutored listeners at their level. And it also encourages speakers to try for a freely flowing, relaxed presentation style, without notes. […]
Scientists wishing to inspire non-scientists should look at a few of these talks online and learn a thing or two.
Bottom line, TED is great because...
  • "participants are encouraged to talk about the unexpected."
  • "the talks have a strict time limit of 18 minutes."
  • "there is also a welcome absence of PowerPoint presentations."
Some things just don't seem to change.


Monday, July 13, 2009

Lone Gunman: Story Types for Speeches (and TV) (7/13/09)

With exercise, we always manage to hit a plateau where we need to shake up our workout to keep up the physical challenge.

Similarly, we know that stories can make or break our presentation, so take a look at this post by Lloyd Morgan on how to best advantage of different types of stories.

After all, what is a prasang? A story!


Thursday, July 2, 2009

PBS Frontline: The Persuaders

Here's a great find sent to us by several sticky presenters who write, "Marketers make money by creating sticky messages. We could learn a thing or two about how they do things."

This particular show goes behind-the-scenes in the advertising business to see just what marketers do to sell their products.

The prospect of zeroing in on the right audience at the right time with the right message is irresistable to both marketers and politicians. Increasingly the techniques of persuading Americans to make choices in the marketplace of goods are spilling over into the techniques of persuading them to make choices in the marketplace of ideas. Commenting on this are Ohio State law professor Peter Swire; Frank Luntz, corporate and political consultant; Naomi Klein, author of No Logo; Bob Garfield, columnist for Advertising Age; and Mark Crispin Miller, media critic. These excerpts are drawn from their extended FRONTLINE interviews.

Hungry for more? Watch the full episode online below.

Full Link:

Monday, June 22, 2009

Paul Tudor Jones's Failure Speech (6/10/09)

Although I am a sucker for commencement speeches, the following talk really has many sticky aspects. Can be good for all the summer talks we may be giving in the next few weeks.
Paul Tudor Jones - Failure Speech June 2009

Friday, June 12, 2009

Lone Gunman: Presentation Masterclass (4/3/08)

Lloyd Morgan writes,
LifeHack has just started what I hope will become an informative and useful series entitled Presentation Masterclass, courtesy of Rowan Manahan.
Audiences are so deluged with advertising messages and radio jingles, with phone calls, voicemail, email, SMS and IM, with... stuff in their personal lives that unless you, the presenter, are wowing them with every word, you will lose their attention in a matter of seconds.
I am always striving to improve my public speaking and my presentation style, so this series is a welcome addition. I just hope it continues to be as good as the introductory article.
As a starting point, I recommend some detox to clear your body and mind from a lifetime of exposure to sucky presentations. I strongly recommend that you expose yourself to some great presenters:
Who did he mention? See for yourself at the link below.


Monday, June 8, 2009

A great talk for sabha

The following talk hits on many aspects: goals, determination, sarva karta, agna, shu na thai.

Please keep us updated on your talks and ideas that you use. We are compiling (now on this blog) all of them as they come. Happy Presenting.

[10 in 2009]
Goal for 2009: We all make 10 great talk by the end of the year.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

BNET Intercom: Speak and Sell Ideas like President Obama

The elements of a great speaker is not beyond reach as indicated by the following article by Karen Steen.
Every president hopes their administration will leave a lasting impact on the country. But what about a personal impact on individuals? If John F. Kennedy inspired public service, could President Obama inspire a generation of brilliant public speakers and persuasive influencers?
Whether you agree with his policies or not, there’s a lot you can learn from the suave stylings of the 44th president. I mean, the man won the Grammy for Best Spoken Word Album twice – in 2005 and again in 2008 — for reading his books on tape.
With the milestone of his First 100 Days in office coming up next week, there are two key areas where Obama has already proven worthy of emulation:
1. Public speaking. Executive speech coach Sims Wyeth shares “Five Ways to Speak Like Obama,” including tips on how to anticipate and incorporate opposition and how to pull off the president’s signature profound pause.
2. Selling an idea or proposal up the chain. BNET Blogger Stacy Blackman looks at a paper by two Stanford and Columbia professors on how Obama “marketed” the stimulus package to get it passed.
If, on the other hand, you want to learn how to get a senator to give you a cute dog, sorry — you’re on your own.

Notice that there is a great deal of overlap between this article, Made To Stick, and even satsang concepts. Thus, we could even start a talk by saying, "Obama must read Yogi Gita, because he avoids abhav avgun." 

Unexpected & unplanned - that's what captures the attention of our audience. 


Thursday, March 26, 2009

TED: John Wooden on true success

Just in time for March Madness!

Arguably one of the best coaches in college basketball ever, Coach John Wooden (now retired) of UCLA shares his definition of success in a talk with no PowerPoint slides. He narrates story after story each linked to his central message. He even quotes poetry without it seeming odd.

It would be interesting to deconstruct this talk based on Made to Stick's SUCCESS matrix (Simple, Unexpected, Concrete, Credible, Emotional, and Story). For the record, Credible it easy for him - it's John Wooden with a simple message to back him up.


Friday, March 13, 2009

"Sound Guy Neck Crane"

This is funny - read it it will make you laugh. You can use it in many ways in many talks, presentations, or newsletters. Link it to a Swami ni Vaat or Vachnamrut, and you get a nice article. There are many times Bapa has made fun of the microphone, most recently in London Diwali the mic kept moving, he mentioned that even the mic was telling him to go.

Enjoy - and remember, we'd love to know how you managed to tuck this one into your presentation.

Sound Guy Neck Crane
Microphones are Nastiks (Atheists). I can’t prove this scientifically, but I’m pretty sure it’s true. I think it’s because Maharaj doesn’t need them. When He speaks in the Vachnamrut, His voice is loud and carries naturally, or He uses samadhi and mukto and miracles to amplify His message. So I imagine that microphones feel slighted and decided long ago to wage a very public anti campaign against Maharaj and Swami.
How else can you explain the shenanigans that occur on Sunday afternoon in almost every sabha with the sound system? From microphones that work perfectly during sound check and then refuse to work during sabha to that loud ear-bursting feedback that blossoms during the most inappropriate times, like right before a prarthna, sound systems are always punking the Mandir. And when they do, it’s so easy to pull out a “sound guy neck crane.”
The sound guy neck crane is the first thing we all do when the sound goes bananas in the middle of sabha. It’s a simple move, but I’ll walk you through the steps:
  1. Sound messes up. 
  2. You quickly try to remember where the sound guy is stationed in the sabha.
  3. You crane your neck to his position and stare at him with eyes that say, “Do you not hear this? That microphone is on fire! Why do you want sabha to suck? Do you hate Maharaj and Swami? That’s it, isn’t it? You hate Maharaj. You sweaty Nastik.” 
  4. Sound is restored. You turn back around and silently thank yourself for contributing to the rectification of the problem by pointing it out with your sound guy neck crane.
I’m just as guilty of this as anyone else. The only problem is that at my local Mandir about 5 different sevaks help run the sound on any given Sunday sabha and same sit in the audio room way up high and in the back but a few are on one side of the stage and yet some others are sitting in audience. So my head has to bounce around like I’m watching a tennis match (or desi volleyball) if I want to bust out a sound guy neck crane. “I see you in the audio room. You down at the side of the stage. You up on the corner of the stage, I’m seeing you too, and I’m not happy.” Bounce, bounce, bounce, crane, crane, crane.
That’s part of the reason I’m going to retire my sound guy neck crane. It’s just too much work at my Mandir. It’s also kind of a jerk thing to do. And by “kind of” I mean “really,” and by “jerk” I mean “words I can’t type without crazy *&# symbols.” From now on, when the sound messes up, I’m going to just do a sitting pag e laag the person next to me and whisper politely, “Microphones hate Maharaj.” It will be awkward the first 2, 3, or 400 times, but people usually like sitting paag e laags, and it will put the blame where it belongs: on Maharaj-hatin’ sound equipment.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Change Blindness

Our brain doesn't bother to understand most of the time, it just looks. Someone can change a variable right under our nose and we won't notice the difference.

The broader implication of this is that the more we choose to focus on one thing over another (i.e. social life over satsang), the less likely we are to be attentive to the other, notice its intricacies, and appreciate it for what it is. Satsang just becomes a part of the background image -- the part that we conveniently don't really pay attention to even though we think we are (e.g. there is a difference between doing puja and focusing on puja).

In short, our brains are wired to do only so much at once; take a look at this Youtube video.


Friday, February 20, 2009

My Green Conscience: Dinner with a Stranger (2/1/09)

Here's a sticky way to raise some funds and learn about the world from someone else. Trust us, you'll enjoy reading about this one.


Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Matter Idea: Google Latitude

A thought below on some current day topics.

I am not sure about the utility of this in general. But I could see this as being a boon to people who misplace their phone. I mean I cannot find my phone, I need to look for it - where do I start - go to google and it says my phone is at home - so look at home.

Now, the interesting thing is that if people in your sabha like this idea, then it is very simple to tie this to a sabha presentation - Bapa is like Google Latitude, we want bliss, but where to look - Bapa tells us, etc. Many other ways as well. Think about it.

If you use something like this in sabha, please let me know how you did it and how it worked out.

This is a cool new feature that Google launched today.  I gotta admit, it's a little on the 'im gonna stalk you' side… you decide, whats your opinion?

TED: Elizabeth Gilbert on nurturing creativity

Powerpoint-addicts, there is hope. Here's a great speech that's both poignant and powerful because of the speaker's story; She spoke from the heart, spoke to change the world, very sticky.

Let's face it, slides would have diminished this talk.

It relates to many things (e.g. concept of sankhya, sarva karta, dharma, etc.), so how can you link it your presentation?


Thursday, January 29, 2009

Read Me: 3 Pages, 7.33 Minutes

It will take exactly 7.33 minutes to read the following 3 pages. (I timed myself so you have to read as slow as I do, I am sure your time will be faster). This will be the best 7.33 minutes you have spent on improving presentations skills. This little excerpt is that good. If you want to borrow a copy of the book or audio book that this came from send an email in the comments page and I will get it to you. Happy presenting. Goal for 2009: Each of us makes 10 amazing presentation before the end of the year.

This is the write up and book that started this whole thing so we owe a great debt of gratitude to the Heath brothers and their amazing book - "Made To Stick." (Click on the pictures above to read the pages).

Thursday, January 1, 2009


When you're looking for something in a mall, we look for the directory.
When you're looking for something in [A Stickier Sabha], you come to this post!

For the newcomer, this blog may be a bit intimidating, but our blog is organized by labels. They're on the left side of the screen, and below is a description of them. Some are self-explanatory, some are not.

Getting Better
Here are the labels devoted to helping you become a better speaker/presenter.
  • [10 in 2009] - Before this blog was this series of e-mails that aimed to help everyone give ten great talks in 2009. Though 2009 has come to an end, these posts are a great starting place.
  • Activity - Here are some unique items we can integrate into our presentations to capture the att
  • Humor - We all like a good laugh, so if your presentations are a bit too serious, here's a remedy.
  • Made to Stick - The book behind our mission - find everything related to it here.
  • Powerpoint - We know it as an invaluable tool, and these posts are devoted to how we can better utilize it.
  • Presenting better - A powerful presentation is only a click away as these posts will help you with the organization and development of a presentation.
  • Speaking better - Just as the name suggests, check out these posts to learn how to better deliver and articulate your speech.
  • Storytelling - Want to improve your prasang-varnan skills? These posts are jam-packed with examples and tips to deliver prasangs palatable to the audience's ear.
  • Statistics - Numbers are boring, but they don't have to be. Learn about it here.
  • Testimonials - We appreciate the advice and tips given to us by our sticky presenters, so we've posted them all here.

Maybe we're looking for something to supplement a presentation, so check out these labels for material related to specific concepts.

These tags correspond to the source type of our material.