Friday, January 29, 2010

Nothing but Dust

"OMG, it's Friday, and we still need some more material to pump up our presentations!!!!"

Well, here's another dose of dynamic material that can really hype up our upcoming presentations. Take a look at the photos to the right. Cool, huh? Click here for the other two.

What exactly do these four photos show? That the passage of time hasn't really altered much. What was there in the past is more or less present now.

It's this type of cosmic awareness that really enables an Ekantik Bhakta to maintain equality amidst the panchvishays.

While we might be enamored by how attractive something looks now be it cars, clothes, or straight cash, the Ekantik Bhakta enlightenment reveals the true nature of all these things to be material and simplistic.
And now the icing on the cake, a prasang that makes this example concrete and brings the point home.
Once while in New York, some of us yuvaks and devotees went to see the Empire State Building in Manhattan. On our way back, we discussed amongst ourselves the fascinating features of the amazing building.
In the sabha that night, Swamishri put everything back into perspective for us. He said, "Just as in our country the buildings are made out of dust and gravel and bricks and stones, these buildings here are made out of the same bricks and dust. Yet we are fascinated by what we see here. But don't forget, this will all be destroyed one day too. People are amazed when they see these buildings, but in reality, all it is, is nothing but dust."
Show these pictures in sabha and make the link. Let us know how it goes on Sunday.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Essence of Superbowl

How much time in a televised football game is actually spent showing football being played. From the Wall Street Journal it turns out to be 11 minutes. So what happens the other 174 minutes of the game? There is about an hour of commercial. Alot of footage showing players standing around. There is even more time spent showing replays than actual plays! So the essence of a football game can be distilled into 11 minutes. In those 11 minutes the winner and looser are determined.

In a similar way many people worship God, but there are differences from one person to the next. In Ghadhada I-27 (which is part of this weeks Kishori/Kishore syllabus) Maharaj distills the essence of a devotee in which God resides eternally. Reading the Vachnamrut we see that through this distillation we arrive at the Satpurush. Try using the 11 minute fact about to introduce the concepts in the Vachnamrut. The unexpected aspect of it will get people listening. It also leads to a very good way to give one (there are others) simple message embedded in this Vachnamrut - if we distill the essence of devotee in which God resides eternally we find Bapa.

As the Superbowl approaches we thought this would be appropriate. We also wanted to share a common message many sticky presenters have sent in. Many mandals have taken to watching the big game together. However they already realized that really all it takes is 11 minutes. What to do with the rest of the time. One small step is to retake half time. Several people are going to spend the half time show going over sticky presentation skills. Others are spending the half time show doing some kind of team building. One group is going to try and have a half time goshti. All good ideas. Let us know how they turned out.

Attending to the Call of Nature

Distractions are the bane to any sticky sabha be it cell phones, texting, or the random uncle/auntie who walks in only to realize they are in the wrong place. But for some, it's a much more basic problem to which even a balak can relate - the bathroom run!

Now, let's imagine they could only use the stall below - would they even consider it? Suddenly, it can wait.

No joke, this stall is 100% legit in the name of art and was shared by a fellow reader. However, it's not all that bad because in reality, nobody can see you from the outside. The picture below shows a woman about to enter this bathroom. Basically you can see outside but everyone on the outside can only see their own reflection. Now ask yourself a questions - would you still go?

Going to the bathroom is one of the most basic things, we have been doing it literally all of our lives. But if we change the setting even a little - it becomes difficult, we become uncomfortable. We become aware of our body and ourselves. This is the power of maya.

A fellow sticky sabha presenter sent us the following link about this bathroom. It turns out that this viral email claiming that this bathroom is in Houston is a hoax. We find it interesting that the fake story of the bathroom is making the email forward rounds, but the real story of the bathroom as an art installation does not get any email forwarding love.

In the same way we hear about maya many times in sabha, but it does not get forwarded to our memory, it does not stick. Try showing this bathroom to explain maya - it may stick.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Monti Storytelling

You may have heard of The Moth which features story slams - stories told live with no notes. They have a great archive of podcasts. It is great to listen to these since it distills storytelling to it's core. Now north maybe a direction, but the South is a destination. And in the South, we have our own version of story slams called Monti. The following link has a few stories and a dissection of what makes them so captivating. It is well worth a listen - maybe during your next commute.

To summarize some of the points:
  • Storytelling is not trivial, it is an art, but it can be learned.
  • The first story is a great example of building up your characters before launching into the anecdote. P. Santo do this many times as well. They will talk about Muktanandan Swami's mahima before launching into a prasang about him. Similarly when we are a presentation full of prasangs, some background work describing (in an unexpected way) the main person in those prasangs will bring the audience in.
  • Many people have a habit, sometimes a nervous habit, of asking simple questions during their talk, e.g. Who is the President? They may fall into the trap of asking this question and then seeing what people say - the question does not engage the audience, but you asked it - so now what do you do. The second story shows how to ask such questions and still make things sticky. [For those who are not going to listen to the link, the trick is to answer it yourself in a way that creates emotion.]
  • The second talk is all about emotion.
  • Humor is used liberally through out.
  • What else did we miss?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Literally, Oneness is Sweet!

Here's a find submitted to us by a fellow reader whose katha-listening habits helped her dig this one example out.
The topic of Akshar is referred to in different ways, but the adjectives used to describe Akshar are very similar to those used to describe Purushottam. How do we intellectually differentiate between the two?
P. Brahmavihari Swami sheds light on this during his Kath Upanishad parayan. He asks the question of what different mithai taste like ("how do penda taste? sweet. How does gulab jambu taste? sweet. How does jalebi taste? Sweet.). Although the adjectives used to describe these items is the same (i.e. sweet), by tasting them, we each have personal favorites (I'll take my sister's cheesecake over jalebi anyday). We can tell the difference due to our personal experience.
[Similarly], his point is that... only through personal experience can one articulate the difference between Akshar and Purushottam. Maharaj did so for us in the Vachanamrit and other scriptures; Gunatitanand Swami articulated these characteristics in his Vatu and Swamishri lives these characteristics today. By studying these characteristics and imbibing them, or even meditating upon these characteristics, we can achieve the state of becoming 'brahmarup'. His example was super sticky and I'll never forget it. Pass it on :)
It's hard to forget an example so mouth-watering as this one making it an unexpected asset in our presentation toolbox.

Again, we laud our readers for keeping up with our posts and sharing their feedback, and we encourage it. It's like dessert - who can pass it up?

Oneness is...?

We've been ruminating over this next presentation's theme and were wondering...

What is the Gujarati word for oneness?

Please help us out by commenting - thanks!

Current Example of Oneness

It seems as we think about oneness, Swamibapa decided to show us an example of oneness.

The following link is a picture story that clearly shows that the quality that Shastriji Maharaj had for Maharaj and his guru, Swamishri has for Shastriji Maharaj.

Pac Man On the Wall

Pac Man is iconic. You may have never played the game but you know about it. Every time you see three quarters of a circle that is yellow you cannot help but think Pac Man. For anyone growing up in the 80s, Pac Man was the big thing. So it comes as no surprise that the kids from the 80s have grown up and bought a house and painted Pac Man scenes in their basement. But how did they get one image in the whole room? It really looks like they did something with photoshop or final cut pro. Click on the video and be amazed by the power of anamorphic projections - really clever ways of painting on different walls to make it seem like one picture.

So this is really interesting, now what can we do we do with it. A central concept within satsang is to become one with the Satpurush, or the fact that our guru parampara had oneness with Maharaj. This idea of oneness is sometimes glossed over in an introduction and then we say a few prasangs and hope everyone connects the dots. This weeks kishore/kishori sabha talks about the oneness of Maharaj and Shatriji Maharaj. Try starting with something unexpected and show this clip. From here there are many ways you can go. Here is one. When seen from just the right angle we see the Pac Man image, all other angles we just see random blue lines. When we explore oneness we see that if we keep our focus (or from last week vrutti) firmly in a single direction we attain oneness with Maharaj. Which direction? The direction of Satpurush, the reason for his agna and niyams.

The simple message is all about the idea of oneness, akhand vrutti on Maharaj and Swami. The concrete examples can be taken from the prasangs. The video is something unexpected. You are on your way to a sticky sabha.

Seva, The MLK Way

Yeah, we know, the holiday is over, and you'll be back to school, work, etc. as you read this one, but we figure in honor of the great leader, we would throw out a post in his name thanks to one of our fellow readers.

This video (more so audio) examines Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s take on service. His definition can be adapted to how we should do seva. Aside from the content, the audio is amazing to listen to and really sets a note for how we'd like to craft our speaking style to better retain the attention of our audience members.

Feel free to this video as a point of discussion in ghosti or even as an unexpected sabha opener on the timeless topic of seva.

Again, thanks for your contributions; keep 'em coming!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Bhakti Without Expectations: The Tale of the Seal

Sunday is just around the corner, and before the presentation panic mode activates, we have yet another example that we can perhaps squeeze into our presentations.

National Geographic photographer Paul Nicklen had an unusual encounter with a leopard seal while out photographing Antarctic wildlife. Watch him recount his story below.

The link? Just as the seal continued to try to feed Paul for four days, it did so without expectation. It was trying to provide for Paul regardless of receiving something in return. That principle encompasses the bhakti of Akshar, namely Gunatitanand Swami.

Another way this video could be used is in explaining the nurturing relationship of our guru and how relentless he is in taking care of us. I mean, the seal kept up its attempts for four days!

Talk about Mother Nature.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Coke, Soda, Pop, or Cold Drink?

Where you grew up really influences what you call a refreshing aerated beverage. The following map was created using crowdsourcing to discover what the majority of people say when offering a drink. There is a site dedicated to this with really interesting information. We find it fascinating (maybe too much so) that sugar water can be so universal, have so many different labels, and cause such passion in so many people.

During the month of January Yuva syllabus is exploring the basics of Akshar. We thought a great unexpected way to start such a talk would be to poll everyone and see how they would label sugar water in a can - Soda? Pop? Coke? Cold Drink? - depending on where your audience grew up any of these may come up as an answer. You can show this infographic to show that the same thing can be called multiple names - but it is essentially one entity. A great way to introduce Akshar - one entity with two different forms - sakar and nirakar. Moreover the sakar form has several different names: Gunatitanand Swami, Bhagatji Maharaj, Shastriji Mahraj, Yogiji Maharaj, and Pramkh Swami Maharaj. In this case it is not where you grew up, but when you grew up that determines what name you associate Akshar with. Try starting sabha with this idea and you will notice at least for the next ten minutes more people paying attention to your next point.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Justice #2: How to Measure Pleasure

Dull, dry, uncomfortable - while these words could accurately describe a host of gross medical conditions, that's what we're not referring to here, thankfully. Instead, these words describe seem to reflect common complaints about ghosti. If you've encountered this situation, keep reading.

We first posted this neat find about a week ago, but in case you missed it, we have an update. In short, Justice is the name of a class taught by Dr. Michael Sandel at Harvard University, and it's so good, they've posted full lectures online. He's excellent at asking questions and garnering feedback from his students.

The second lecture delves into utilitarianism, the idea if faced with options, we should select the one that gives us the greatest happiness or pleasure (utility).

However, we know that pleasure is not always accurate in taking account our goals and priorities; for instance, it may be awesome to watch a 12-hour marathon of House, MD but that to-do list wouldn't clean itself up.

So how can we better define pleasure?

Dr. Sandel provides in the answer in an sticky way, from 38:55-48:21. Watch below to see what we mean.

Here's our dissection.
  • Simple - The educated are able to discern higher and lower pleasures. 
  • Unexpected - Use of video clips breaks people's expectations of boring old philosophy.
  • Concrete - He references and reiterates key examples.
  • Credible - You bet - they're discussing one of the great utilitarian philosophers of all time!
  • Emotion - There was some humor.
  • Stories - It was missing but could have been integrated.
Best yet - it's an easy link to answering the age-old question, "How can anyone enjoy niyams?" Essentially, our understanding is lacking; we lack that spiritual enlightenment.John Stuart Mills, that great utilitarian philosopher from above, writes,
It is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied. Better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied.
What do you think?

Chart Wars!

The following clips combines several things we really like all in once 5 minute video.
Sticky Talks
Ignite Talks

  • Sticky Presentation - The talk is really sticky. Unexpected, simple message, stories, concrete and credible examples - a little emotion (humor) thrown in as well.
  • Ignite Talk - We REALLY dig the concept of ignite talks - especially after spending countless hours on a conference call or meeting listening to people trying to make a point. The idea is simple, you have 5 minutes, maximum of 20 slides, slides are on auto so you cannot say next, it is evenly timed through out the talk. Now go make your point. We have used this in a few meetings and it has worked really well. It will take time for everyone to understand this concept, but it will pay dividends in the future.
  • Infographics - The content of the talk is all about infographics. How to display data so that it is not misleading and make sense.
NOTE: There is one bad word in this talk. NSFW.

Animal Instincts

The following is a great school day talk (similar to commencement talk). The ties to satsang are pretty evident - controlling vishays. If we do not we are just like any other animal. Interestingly Dr. Sapolsky shows how we are in many ways similar to any other mammal, we just take things to an extreme. You may also notice that he does not really follow the no bullets power point guidelines espoused by many who believe in sticky presentations. I think his power point really detracts from this talk, however he makes up for this with his very strong storytelling. The lesson here is that in the Made To Stick hierarchy being strong in one aspect can overcome being weak in another.

This talk is really interesting, but quite long. It may not be suitable for a sabha talk or even an introduction to a goshti. You can always show a clip or cut and paste an abridged version. We have found showing clips can sometimes be a distraction - you have to get the video setup, pause hit play - all for 30 second clip. Another idea would be to simply restate his stories in your own words. Just by citing his work, you get instant Crediblity, tying it to a real world issue (which he does) gives Concreteness, and you are saying a Story that many people will find Unexpected in the context of sabha - this hits 4 out of the 6 MtS SUCCES metrics. How else do you think can this be used?

Monday, January 11, 2010

Akhand Vrutti - One year in 60 seconds

Akhand Vrutti is mentioned in the very first Vachnamrut. It is also mentioned in next weeks Kishore/Kishori syllabus regarding one of the qualities of Gunatitanand Swami. The idea of always having all your sense at any time on Maharaj and Swami is key to many things we talk about. How do you make that idea stick. Here is an analogy that you may want to use. It will take about a minute to show (there is a two minute version as well).

Here is the link to the page with other version as well as a tutorial on how to do time lapse videos.

So what is the link between these two. Our idea was that over time you see the changes happening but if you concentrate you always see the trees, you never say that tree is not a tree. Yogi Bapa used to say (it's in the Yogi Gita, this is not an exact quote - anyone know the exact quote?) that mango trees change but even if they loose their leave and branches we never loose faith (nishchay) in that it is a mango tree. In the same way over time things change, but we should not loose faith in Maharaj being Bhagwan and Swami being the Sat-purush. Things may change over time but our vrutti needs to remain with them.

This is a subtle "unexpected" so you may need to play to that. This was what we came up with this week, do you have something else? Also let us know if there is a better way to tie this in, it would really help us out. Happy presenting.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Here Fishy, Fishy, Fishy...

Wait where did fishy go? Check out the graph below from this report.

Yep, fishy is being cooked and eaten in ever-increasing quantities. Maybe it's the craze for omega-3 fatty acids though they can also be found in flaxseed. Guilty Planet's Jennifer Jacquet writes,

Seafood is not as healthy as people think (more on this to come). Aside from having to deal with the dangers of accumulation of mercury and PCBs prevalent in marine carnivores, several medical studies came out this year affirming that, at best, fish oils are just one factor of many that may reduce health ailments, such as heart disease. The medical researchers found that people who do not eat fish, such as vegetarians, are not at any greater risk of illness.
In conclusion, we should consider giving up seafood for the following reasons:

Based on the first satsang exam, we're sure Ghanshyam Maharaj would toss in His two cents.

Friday, January 8, 2010

It's all on the Internet

Treasure Chest of Matter (Unexpected, Stories, Concrete, Emotion, Credibility) All can be found here.


The Aspen Ideas Festival

Seed Salon
Presentation Creation Tools

Let us know if you have anymore great sources.

UPDATE: From the comments (you have to click the link below, but here it is)
Anonymous said...
Here are 2 online presentation creation tools, which I came across:

Commencement Speeches

We just reviewed (literally) a few of the past posts on commencement talks. Which got us to thinking about really great commencement talks. Here are a few. Read Guy Kawasaki's talk - it does not get any stickier.
We really, really like this form of sticky talks. (We have been to our share of them - good, bad, ugly). Let's us know if you have one that needs to be on this list.

This is unbelievable, it gave me goosebumps. The power of the pentatonic scale!

There things we really look forward to: TED Talks, This American Life, Mind Magazine, and now Current TV. We enjoy these things because well they are sticky, they give us ideas we can use in sabha, and they make us smile. We like smiling. Check out this video - this would be a great way to start ANY sabha - especially for a joint sabha of all ages. This can tie into Ek Parivaar, samp, ekta, working together, vasudev kutumbhakaran - we are all one family. Watch the video and join the family. Do you think you could use this in sabha? Let us know.

World Science Festival 2009: Bobby McFerrin Demonstrates the Power of the Pentatonic Scale from World Science Festival on Vimeo.

Seth Godin: What Matters Now

Seth Godin is a namesake on this blog, and a fellow sticky presenter brought to our attention that he's got something new as 2009 comes to a close.
Hey guys,
Jai Swaminarayan! You may know how much I like Seth Godin's stuff, he is a mover and shaker. He just put out a new e-book that really goes over a lot of the things we've started conversations about...
Here is an excerpt:
Speaking soon? Keep this in mind: people at events are hungry for authenticity. Saying something you might not have said elsewhere is a good way to find your authentic voice.
For my own conference, I often give advice to speakers before they come on stage. Here’s an exercise for anyone who wants to connect with an audience.
A few weeks before the event, when you start preparing the talk, write out everything you spend your time doing - professional work, side projects at home, everything.
Now pick the one thing you’re most excited about.
Now consider: why is that so important to you?
Design your talk from that point, as if you started by saying, “My name is X, and I’m passionate about XYZ because...”
The rest of your talk should fall into place easily enough. Yes, it’s important to know your audience, use A/V materials wisely, watch your time, and so on. But you have to build the talk around your passion.
Here’s the final measure of your success as a speaker: Did you change something? Are attendees leaving with a new idea, some new inspiration, perhaps a renewed commitment to their work or to the world?
Be honest, be authentic, and speak from your passion. Yes, it means taking a risk. But the results might surprise you.
Mark Hurst runs Gel and founded Creative Good, a customer experience consultancy.
This does not do this eBook justice, it is REALLY good. You can read one page in about four minutes!

Link: 5 Tips to Improve Your Public Speaking Skills (12/11/09)

While some principles are universal, some aren't when it comes to pinpointing the traits of an effective speaker/presenter. Jessica Cam Wong noted five:
Engage your audience
Get to know your audience
Stay positive
Be concise
Give your work a captivating title
That picture got you itching for more? Read the article in full below.


Lone Gunman: Eliciting Quality Feedback (12/9/09)

The writer Oscar Wilde once said, "True friends stab you in the front." When it comes to speaking, feedback is integral to our improvement, but figuring out how to collect that information is a task in itself.

To help us out is Lone Gunman's Lloyd Morgan's post below.


The Story of India

As 2009 rolls to a close we have a few more weeks to make an amazing talk in any sabha. We had set the goal of doing 10 amazing talks in 2009. With the time remaining let's try to make one more amazing talk before 2009 comes to an end.

We thought it would befit us to end on a bit of a challenge - which of the following talks is the most stickiest?

Our first challenger, Shashi Tharoor, hails from the TED India Conference held in November. You may not agree with his thesis, but you will notice that talk is enjoyable. He is essentially following the SUCCES steps to making a sticky talk; he's entertaining.
  • Simple: India is gaining soft power.
  • Unexpected: His examples (more cell phones in India / per month are sold than anywhere in the world).
  • Credible: Examples back up the stats
  • Concrete: Stats paint a picture that backs up his main idea.
  • Emotion: Though his weakest point, it comes through how and what he says.
  • Stories: MOST importantly, he is telling story after story.

Contestant #2 is also from the same conference. He's Nandan Nilekani and speaks about India's future. A fellow presenter mentions to us - "would like to comment that [Shashi Tharoor's] talk is a bit sugary and could have been better if there were substantial numbers to convince people. I would [reply with Nilekani's] talk."

BUT wait - yet another sticky presenter thinks that this talk given by Prof. Ashok Jhunjhunwala outdoes the other two.

Who is the winner? Let us know what you decide!

TED: Rory Sutherland: Life lessons from an ad man

Another great post from one of our sticky presenters - a Canadian no less!
As 2009 draws to a close, most of us are thinking about ways to improve in 2010; especially in the context of project marketing. Below is a link for a talk given by Rory Sutherland asserting that a change in perceived value can be just as satisfying as what we consider 'real' value. It may sound manipulative when put as such, but he speaks on topics, such as rebranding, that I think are valuable and valid in our current discussions.
Hope you find it thought provoking and inspiring in your planning, if nothing else, the last example provides a good laugh [and that's coming from a Canadian :)].


Made to Stick: Deconstructing The Girl Effect (7/18/08)

Developing presentation/speaking skills can be difficult, but exercises like these are of great help.

Shown at an RCT meeting awhile back, this video worked well in kicking it off.

What made it so good? Dan Heath, one of the authors of our ever-favorite Made to Stick, deconstructs and answers that very question below.


BusinessWeek: Steve Jobs' Presentation Secrets (10/6/09)

Macs, iPods, iPhones - Apple has left its mark in the products we buy and so has Steve Jobs. Take a look at this slideshow by Carmine Gallo who analyzes what makes this guy so powerful.

Tickled by Life: Avoiding Death by PowerPoint!

Shalu Wasu's article tackles the age-old issue of sprucing up Powerpoint.

Here's a snippet - how do the great model their Powerpoints? As we can see, the styles vary dramatically.
  • Lawrence Lessig: He is a monster slider! He can use up to 200 slides for a 10 minute presentation and he makes them really good.
  • Seth Godin: He follows a style which has a lot of visuals, little text and likes to surprise the audience.
  • Guy Kawasaki: 10 slides, 10 ideas, one idea per slide, not more than 20 minutes.
  • Takahashi: Super size font sizes (more than 120) and obviously very little text
The last point?
Do not stick to your story. Make the story sticky. Try to follow at least 4 out of the 6 essentials that Chip and Dan Heath talk about in their book Made to Stick. Here is a quick summary.
Made to Stick strikes again!

BNET Team Taskmaster: Please, No More Death by PowerPoint! (9/15/09)

A common presentation tactic is to use the handy dandy Powerpoint. Who can beat those seamless slide transitions with words and pictures flying onto our slides?

To juice up our presentations, take a look at this post by CC Holland.
Oh, you want me to join your meeting for a quick info download? Great. Don’t forget to tell me to build a PowerPoint presentation.
Instead of letting me speak to the group for three minutes to explain the new initiative, make me present a slide deck. With bullet points. And, preferably, with cutesy little graphics. Bonus points for animated slides.
Make sure we take time to futz with the A/V setup, pull the blinds, and make sure everyone in the room has a good sightline. Burn a little time by making me stand up in front of the group and assigning some random person to click through my presentation for me.
By all means, have me read verbatim from the PowerPoint slides. After all, it would be heresy for me to be spontaneous, natural, or (God forbid) collaborative with my audience.
Remind me to make 14 hard copies of the slide deck to pass out at the conclusion of my talk, which has now taken 20 minutes instead of the anticipated three. Why? Because no one was paying attention to the presentation anyway, so they might want to read it later.
Also, it makes people feel important to walk away from a meeting with a sheaf of paper. Let’s not worry about the trees or the company’s “Go Green!” initiatives.
And above all, never mind that it took me a grand total of two hours — building the slide deck, making copies, and presenting — to convey information that, again, should’ve taken three minutes, max.
What a great use of my time and a fabulous way to boost my productivity! The corporate reliance on PowerPoint for all purposes is clearly a wonderful, wonderful thing.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Harvard Magazine: The Fringe Benefits of Failure, and the Importance of Imagination (6/5/08)

"What we achieve inwardly will change outer reality." - Plutarch

We all know her as the talented and prolific writer behind the Harry Potter series, but J.K. Rowling really packs a punch in this commencement speech given to the Harvard Alumni Association. She talks about the advantages of failing along with the power of creativity as reflected by her life experiences since graduating college.

This speech can be used at any karyakar meeting and even sabhas. Let us know how it worked for you!

J.K. Rowling Speaks at Harvard Commencement from Harvard Magazine on Vimeo.


Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Mindfulness: Positive Thought (1/5/2010)

We always struggle to find good activities for our sabha presentations. Here's one that can be used for any presentation dealing with positive thinking shared by an instructor teaching high schoolers meditation.
An Anecdote –
Upon introducing a meditation class at the Mission High School health fair, I was blown away by the degree to which these kids were disengaged. After teaching in Juvenile Halls, were there is at least an attentive audience due to an extreme lack of alternative stimulation, the kids I faced in high school were basically looking at me with one question. What can you do for me in this second? They assumed, ‘nothing’.
I ended up doing an exercise where I wrote on the board two words. ‘Like’ and ‘dislike’. I asked them to tell me all the things they liked, and all the things they did not, without holding back. Their faces lit up, they looked at me instead of away from me, and started calling out various things that I proceeded to write on the board. At the end, we did an exercise in which we concentrated on each side, first ‘dislike’ and then ‘like’ for about 30 seconds each. ‘Like’ made them feel good, relaxed, content, excited and ‘dislike’ made them angry, tense, and sad. In doing this, they immediately saw the power of thoughts over their body and mind. They were introduced to the power of their mind. However, this exercise revealed something different to me. It revealed that these kids have interests, passions, and inspirations, and that they yearn for an environment in which they can express them. We as educators need to tap into this, honor their yearning and offer them healthy ways to both express it, and along the way, become more self-aware. The self-awareness holds the key to knowing who we are and dealing with life’s challenges in a healthy way.


If all the lectures at Harvard are this good, I really wished I would have done better in high school. Listen to this just the first 15 minutes of this and there is no way a sticky presenter will not smile. This has many implications for sabha topics: karma, why do bad things happen to good people, sarva karta, prarabhda, free choice.

More importantly notice how well he is working the room with questions. This is really key. Many times in a sabha that misses the presenter resorts to questions - but he/she already has an answer, he/she does not want to explore. For example, the presenter might say "Who is the President of the United States?" That question serves no purpose other than to ensure that one person is paying attention. Another question would be "What is Karma?" Again this is not a great question since there is an answer that you are looking for and if someone strays from that answer you have to scramble to push back in the flow of your presentation. The questions being asked here are AWESOME. They are thought out. There is no one answer. He uses the questions to start with something unexpected and to get the audience to think.

He is also very encouraging to anyone who answers. He is not intimidating. He is free with praise for any answer. Depending on the audience and the speaker this is a valuable lesson.

Watch this, 15 minutes, it will make you smile. If you want more episodes, be sure to check out the site.


Monday, January 4, 2010

Sticky Shibir Talk

A fellow sticky presenter used the SUCCES method to make a shibir talk stiky. Here is his take on the process.

"So I had to do this talk a few months back on balancing Satsang and education. Thanks to some presentation hits and misses, I knew the first thing I had to do was think of the audience -- K2 kishores. K2 kishores are very different from K1 kishores. I can play a red-light-green-light game with K1 kishores and they'll be satisfied. K2 kishores like to be treated as adults and they like to be talked to as adults. I've generally found discussion-based learning to be more effective with K2, but that wasn't an option for a general talk like the one I was to give.

I decided that the best way to get their attention was to push the envelope. I wanted to "get noticed" by the audience, so within the first two minutes I shared some ridiculous goals I had set as a kishore in high school after a priority-setting presentation done by a yuvak, which included going to Harvard or Stanford, becoming an international man of mystery, marrying a pretty girl, and benching 300 lbs. These initial goals ended up sticking with the audience really well, and also got a lot of laughs. They were bought in by then.

The rest of my presentation relied on pathos and self-reflection. I incorporated A LOT of personal stories that I knew would resonate with everyone. I even talked about girls (carefully, of course) -- I figured it would have offended the kishores more if I pretended that this wasn't a big deal. This too ended up being sticky (unexpected).

I decided on a very simple, image-driven slideshow to accompany my talk. My last slide had three takeaways -- if they didn't pay attention to any of my presentation, those three points could sum it up well enough. I also had an easy-to-understand venn diagram to support a few of my points.

I think the most important thing I did in the talk was play on their emotions by doing two things. First, I took time to explain to them how their friends might be making them feel guilty about doing Satsang. Many kishores came up to me to talk about this point after the presentation, unsolicited. I also ended with some lines from an email sent by a sadhak about buying into Satsang (many people may have seen it already).

This write-up really doesn't do justice to the format and delivery of the content. But I did look back at the book and realized that I had inadvertently made this talk sticky -- it was simple, unexpected, emotional, credible, concrete and filled with personal stories. And if I were to work backward and apply this model to every talk, this is what I would do:

1. Come up with the takeaways (no more than three)
2. Find a lot of stories around those takeaways, some that push the envelope or really encourage reflection
3. Make sure you have a strong, attention-grabbing introduction

The rest of the sticky points just fall in place. I tried this for a karyakar goshti and it went really well too, even though I wasn't doing all of the talking."

Have you given any sticky talks lately? Let us know so we can share our SUCCES-es.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Six Minutes: Public Speaking Tips: Weekend Review [2010-01-02]

Here is a blog devoted just to the art of speaking, and this post summarizes the best and worst of 2009.

Here's a sampling...
I think these John Zimmer extracts speaking habits from Kate Mosse’s writing tips.
  1. Do something every day.
  2. Set goals.
  3. Have a structure.
  4. Carry a notebook.
  5. Be comfortable.

SciAm: A tool-wielding octopus? This invertebrate builds armor from coconut halves (12/14/09)

Yep, your eyes didn't fool you. It's an octopus sitting in a coconut shell. This critter has enough intelligence and strength!
"While I have observed and videoed octopuses hiding in shells many times, I never expected to find an octopus that stacks multiple coconut shells and jogs across the seafloor carrying them," Julian Finn, of the Museum Victoria in Australia...said in a prepared statement.
Hard to believe? Check out the video below.

SciAm 60-Second Science: Powerful and Bad in 2009 (12/31/09)

Spiderman, the web-slinging hero we all just can't help but adore, always remembered, "With great power comes great responsibility." Here's one study that reiterates the importance of Spidey's wisdom.
Researchers assigned 172 subjects high-power roles (prime minister) and low-power roles (civil servant.) The subjects had to consider a series of moral dilemmas involving stolen bikes, breaking traffic rules, and instituting taxes.
In each of five experiments the more powerful characters consistently showed moral hypocrisy.  They disapproved of immoral behavior (e.g., the over-reporting of expenses) and yet behaved badly themselves.
Full Story

SciAm: Undertakers' New Year's message to drunk drivers: It's your own funeral (12/31/09)

Unexpected and catchy - what an effective way to combat drunk driving.
In the days leading up to New Year's Eve, people in Rome, Georgia, outside Atlanta, could see an unusual type of campaign to discourage drunk driving. TV stations and newspapers are announcing that, between 9 A.M. on December 28 and noon on December 31, the local McGuire, Jennings and Miller funeral homes will sign a contract with anyone who plans to drink or use drugs and drive on New Year's Eve. The contract states that, if the person dies in a car accident on the 31st, he or she will get a free funeral.
How do people respond? Check out the full story below.

Full Story: