Saturday, December 14, 2013

How to give a great talk (even if your not giving it at TED).

Sam Horn from Fast Company gives an overview on how to give a killer TED Talk complete with videos below. Many great ideas that overlap with Made to Stick - with a change in words. Clear == Simple, Compelling == Unexpected, Current == Credible. 
It's been said that there are no original ideas. But what may seem like old hat to you could become the next compelling TED talk.
You can transform your presentations by mining your expertise, experience, and epiphanies. Start by writing down things about your work; your best practices, non-negotiables, and the things you'd like to pass on that you think would open people's minds and get them talking.
Next, take those ideas and run them through the “Seven Cs of Original Messaging.” These criteria can be used both as a guide and a litmus test to come up with a big idea that pops you out of the pack.


A Hollywood producer once told me that directors can predict when their movies will make money. How? Simple. Do people walk out of the theater repeating something they heard word for word? If so, they become word-of-mouth advertisers. When people ask, “Seen any good movies lately?” they’re talking about your movie and marketing it to profitability.
The same applies to your TED talk. Can listeners repeat your big idea word for word? If they can, they’ll become your advocates. If they can’t, your big idea will be in one ear, out the other.
Neil Gaiman’s 2012 commencement speech for Philadelphia’s University for the Artsshows the payoff of distilling your big idea into a crystal-clear sound bite. "Make Good Art" resonated so powerfully with the initial audience of hundreds, the video went viral within days and was turned into a best-selling book.


You’ve got 60 seconds to capture an audience's attention or else they’ll start checking email.
No perfunctory opening. No, “I’m glad to be here today and want to thank the organizer for inviting me.” That’s predictable, and predictable is boring. Pleasantly surprise everyone by jumping right into your origin story or into a compelling, counterintuitive insight that flies in the face of current beliefs.
Test your premise beforehand with colleagues. If they say, “I already know that,” it’s back to the drawing board. Or, as comedian George Carlin said, “What did we go back to before there were drawing boards?” Keep tweaking your idea until people’s eyebrows go up (a sure sign of curiosity) and they say, “Hmmm. That’s interesting. Tell me more.”


The keynote speaker at a recent conference used the often-referenced “Pygmalion in the Classroom” study of how teachers’ expectations affect student performance as the basis for her presentation. Really?! That study was done in 1989! She couldn’t find any current studies to make her case? Referencing such an outdated source undermined her credibility.
Recency = relevancy. What just-released report can you reference to prove your point? Recent research will get their attention, and respect.


After you’ve come up with a big idea, run it by your gut. Ask yourself, “Is this congruent with my voice, my vision, my values? If someone suggests a topic, but it doesn’t feel right, it’s wrong for you. A TED talk is your point of view, not someone else’s. What doyou passionately believe? What is a heartfelt legacy message that sums up what you’velearned from life?
An executive called me a week before his program and said, “I hope you can help. I’ve been traveling almost nonstop, so I asked our company speechwriter to help prepare my talk. It’s well-done, it just doesn’t sound like me.”
I told him, “You’re right. A TED talk has got to be your voice. Get a recorder and ask someone to take notes while you read the script. Every time you read something and think, ‘I would never say it that way,’ say out loud how you would say it. Don’t censure or second-guess yourself, don’t try to be eloquent, and don’t overthink it. Just keep moving forward, rewording it into your natural voice. Ask your assistant to integrateyour phrasing into a new version and then read it out loud again until you wouldn’t change a word. Now, it’s your talk.”


The purpose of a TED talk is not to sell your products or services, and it shouldn't be your first concern. The fact is, though, an excellent talk will scale your visibility and viability. It will drive business to you.
Witness what’s happened to BrenĂ© Brown. BrenĂ© was a professor when she spoke for TEDx-Houston. She was popular at her university, but hardly a household name. Her talk on vulnerability was so evocative, it was quickly uploaded to the site and has since received 11 million views. Her resulting Oprah appearances have made her an international fan favorite, generating lucrative book deals and high-five-figure keynotes.


It’s important for your TED talk to be consistent with your brand positioning and primary focus. Ask yourself, “What do I want my next one to three years of my life to look like?”
For example, a colleague was asked to give a TEDx talk about bullying since she’d had a horrific experience being bullied at work. She feels strongly about this issue, and has a lot to say about the importance of speaking up instead of waiting for HR to rescue you (not going to happen). But she is a management consultant. She doesn’t want to keep reliving that negative experience by speaking, consulting, and doing media interviews on it. It wouldn't serve her goals to drive demand that’s inconsistent with her priorities and the quality of life she seeks. It’s smarter to select an idea that’s in alignment with what she wants to accomplish the next few years.


I had an opportunity to hear the Physics Nobel Laureate Dr. John Mather speak recently. Following his talk, I asked him, “What’s your next “big idea?” He said, “I’ve got one, but I’m researching to see if anyone else has gotten there first.”
Exactly. Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead said, “It’s not enough to be the best at what you do; you must be perceived to be the only one who does what you do.” Once you have a clear, compelling, current, consistent, congruent, commercially viable idea, Google it to see if anyone else has gotten there first. If they have, it doesn’t necessarily mean you should abandon the idea; it just means you should design a provocative premise around it that hasn’t been shared before.
For example, watch Sir Ken Robinson, the most-watched TED talk of all time. Certainly, other experts have talked about the need for creativity in our schools, but no one does it quite like Ken.
Does your big idea meet all seven C criteria of Original Messaging? If so, great. If not, invest the effort to craft an original idea worth repeating. Your audience, career, and legacy will thank you.

Even the President needs feedback

Fast Company takes a very high level look at the steps President Obama took to improve his debating skills after a poor showing in his first debate with Mitt Romney. The read is good through out with may Made to Stick reminders - keep it simple and practice, practice, practice. However we have been really thinking about improving sabha review so the following caught our attention.
Forage for Feedback 
Good presenters don’t totally rely on their own assessments of themselves. Instead, they seek honest feedback from trusted friends, co-workers, and family members. After each practice debate, Obama solicited opinions from his trainers, and they responded with honest feedback. 
“We’re not going to get there by continuing to grind away and marginally improve,” lead debate coach Ron Klain told him after one lackluster rehearsal. “This is not about changing the words in your debate book…this is about style, engagement, speed, presentation, attitude.”
The idea of foraging for feedback makes sense. If everyone says you did good (and does not give specifics of what the good was) or lists the many things you did wrong, that does not really help. We have to find our trusted group, our board of advisors to give us King of Ayodhya style feedback.

What's the best way to give feedback?

That is the question David Rock explores in his book Your Brain at Work: Strategies for Overcoming Distractions, Regaining Focus, and Working Smarter All Day Long.  This is a great counterpart to our previous post on feedback.  Here we mentioned that people may get angry or upset with feedback. We see this sometimes during sabha review. So instead of the compliment sandwich what if we try being the coach. From the book:

The source of the difficulty here lies in who comes up with the solution. Paul’s suggestion makes him look smarter, and Eric less smart. This impacts their relative status, which Eric is likely to fight against. The better Paul’s answer is, the more likely Eric might resist it. It’s bizarre… Paul’s giving out suggestions also threatens Eric’s autonomy: it’s no longer Eric’s choice to follow a specific path.
So how do you get around this? Don’t give a solution, ask questions and have Eric come up with the answer himself.
Eric isn’t going to take action until he has an idea that fits with his own thinking. In his current over-aroused state, he quickly rejects external ideas. Given that Eric is at an impasse, Paul needs to help him find an insight to solve this problem. If Paul can’t make direct suggestions, why can’t he just give Eric some clues about what to think about, perhaps posing a good suggestion as a question?
If you merely guide with questions, but they come up with the solution themselves, they’re less likely to feel threatened and more likely to follow through:
Instead of your looking for a gap in the form of the source of another person’s problem, the other person is finding a gap in his own thinking process. It’s not you searching for problems; it’s him searching for gaps in his thinking process. You want people to look for assumptions or decisions that don’t make sense upon further reflection.
The more you can help people find their own insights, the easier it will be to help others be effective, even when someone has lost the plot on an important project. Bringing other people to insight means letting go of “constructive performance feedback,” and replacing it with “facilitating positive change.” Instead of thinking about people’s problems and giving feedback or making suggestions, change can be facilitated faster in many instances if you think about people’s thinking, and help others think about their own thinking better. However, letting go of the default approach to problem-solving requires working against the way your brain wants to go.
When done correctly this is how sabha review should really work. The proverbial teaching someone to farm instead of giving them food. As all of us who have tried to do a sabha review understand full well - this is easier said than done. It really takes time and practice to do feedback well. If you sabha review is going well, you may want to just talk with the main speaker or work with the sabha sanchalak to practice this ask many question approach to feedback.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Body Language

The following infographic can be found at this website. There are some very interesting insights into body language and speaking. We particularly like number 7 - point directly at and look at the screen. PowerPoints can be good or bad. We have talked extensively about death by bullet points. One way to overcome this is to interact with the text as you speak. This gives some creedence to those words and could go a long way to keeping attention and convey our message. With all these ideas we have to find what works for us. However we also need to try different things so we can refine our speaking skills but also we do not want to become predicable. Click here to see a larger version.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013


Becoming better at speaking takes practice. However thoughtful practice enables us to improve much faster. This is why we have coaches in sports. They figure out where we need the most help and focus our attention there. They also help us accentuate our strengths. So getting better at giving a sticky talk involves first giving as many talks as we can - just putting ourselves out there. To improve rapidly involves having a coach (or a mentor) give us feedback.

Feedback is a wonderful tool if done correctly. If we are not harsh about it, point out positives as well as areas of improvement, and give specific examples of what to do better and why, feedback can work wonders. This is why many centers conduct sabha review. It is a chance to get better. The mood should be congenial and be one of learning and helping.

Feedback done incorrectly can be insufferable. We have all sat through feedback sessions where each person gives their version of the following feedback: "The talk was good." The small positive here is that it goes fast and the person who gave the talk does not feel bad. Even worse is the feedback where the person can't wait to list all the things the speaker did incorrectly. This takes for ever and the person who gave the talk usually never wants to give a talk again.

P. Santo give us guidance on giving feedback. They mention to praise the person. "You did good." This phrase has good intentions, but rings hollow. Specific praise works better. "When  you incorporated a personal prasang in your talk it really moved me and drove home the point you were making." That is much better praise - it is more heart-felt. It is specific. We can use the SUS paradigm from Made to Stick to give feedback. Comment on how well the person got their simple message across. When telling someone where to improve it is best to choose one or maybe two items that the person should focus on. Giving a laundry list will not help them and may deflate them.

Tim Harford gives a great example of this on his blog. It is exerted here:
 ‘Feedback is standard in certain environments … But it is rare for criticism to be quite so practical’
I recently gave a talk at a large venue to nearly 1,000 people. It seemed to go well but who am I to judge? The experience of giving a speech is radically different from the experience of listening to one. An adrenalin-drenched emotional rollercoaster for a nervous speaker may nevertheless be unbearably tedious for the listeners. A superbly honed performance may produce a sense of suspense, surprise and delight for the audience; the result of many hours of rehearsal and repetition for the speaker. Yet it can be very hard indeed for the speaker to know what worked and what didn’t.
Audience comments aren’t much help, either. People are polite, and they know that giving a speech is difficult, so a handshake and a “well done” could mean anything from “you moved me to tears” to “you bored me to tears”. A speaker can float through talk after talk in a warm bath of gently encouraging remarks.
On this particular day, though, I was in for less of a warm bath, more of a bracing shower. The Geoffrey Boycott of personal financial advisers was in the audience – a tall Yorkshireman with lots of unvarnished opinions that he felt duty-bound to share with me in the lobby afterwards.
“For a start, I kept wanting to offer you my tie. Next time, wear one. And your shoes – I notice things like that.” He gestured towards my evidently slightly-too-comfortable footwear.
“But that’s not what I wanted to tell you,” he continued. I waited, a little bemused. “Your first slide, instead of just telling us that it was John Maynard Keynes, you could have asked, ‘Does anyone know who this is? Anyone?’ It just gets your audience a bit more involved. I teach public speaking, you see.”
I nodded and thanked him for the suggestion but the flow of comments was relentless. “Don’t get me wrong, I liked it. But then, what you could have done was … ”
As a piece of rhetorical advice, it was too much “public speaking for beginners” to take entirely seriously. But the conversation was an absolute masterclass in how to give feedback: arresting, friendly, frank – and above all specific. My self-appointed speaking coach had identified a set of particular points he wanted done differently, and listed them clearly, with reasons, examples and the occasional word of encouragement.
Such feedback is standard in certain environments – Olympic coaches, editors on deadline and schoolteachers all provide focused constructive feedback if they’re any good. But it is rare for criticism to be quite so practical: it’s usually vague and verging on flattery or cruelty.
An alternative is the “praise sandwich”, a thin but chewy sliver of specific feedback, squeezed between two thick, doughy slabs of praise. This seems like a common sense way to combine criticism with kindness but it is not always helpful. The economist Richard Thaler once posited the idea that we practise “hedonic editing” – lumping together good and bad news to make ourselves feel better. (An example: why fret that I lost my wallet, when my house gained thousands of pounds in value just this month?) Hedonic editing allows us to take the rough with the smooth; but that makes it a dangerous way to process critical comments. It helps us feel better but it doesn’t help us perform better.
Yet there’s no use blaming the critics for being too vague: they’re vague because they know that specific criticism is not always welcome. I have taken to seeking out specific suggestions for improvement, when I can muster the courage.
It’s draining to ask for such comments. It is also difficult to provide them: if you ask people to think hard about something you should have done differently, they will often be lost for words. But there are certain, glorious exceptions. If they don’t buttonhole you in the lobby, they’re worth seeking out.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The concept of Maya explained by Batman and the Joker

Last week in Bal Sabha one industrious presenter used many unexpected ideas to bring home the notion of friends. He talked about the Luke and Leia being being friends and helping each other. I am pretty sure he does not even remember the Star Wars storyline, but the presenter knew one thing for sure - every kid knew the Star Wars storyline. Disney just spent $4 billion dollars to buy the rights to Star Wars, every kid is going to know about this storyline for the foreseeable future. (As a total side note if you're interested Star Wars has taken a great deal from Hinduism.) What this presenter did was leverage all this effort that other people are doing creating a message and diverting it to capturethe attention of his audience and then telling his own message. I talked with the kids a few days later and all of them remember the talk. The most important thing is that they remember the take home message of true friendship. They even remembered the stories told as the parables in the talk.

Unexpected grants us attention.
We then have the privilege of sharing the ideas in the syllabus with our audience.

If you ever want to explain the concept of maya and karma to older kids and want them to remember the prasang of Yogi Bapa telling the kathakar that maya is anything that comes between you and worshipping God. Maybe start with this short comic of Batman and Joker to get that attention first.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Bane of Sabha - Boredom

The academic, who has previously studied the impact of television and videos on children's writing, said: "When children have nothing to do now, they immediately switch on the TV, the computer, the phone or some kind of screen. The time they spend on these things has increased.
"But children need to have stand-and-stare time, time imagining and pursuing their own thinking processes or assimilating their experiences through play or just observing the world around them." 
It is this sort of thing that stimulates the imagination, she said, while the screen "tends to short circuit that process and the development of creative capacity".
This applies to our sabha as well. When kids are bored at the Mandir now, they have a phone or gadget they can turn on and tune out the boredom. Kids misbehave, want to go to the bathroom, don't want to go to the Mandir, in general are apathetic - because they are bored and not engaged.  If they have a phone or an iGadget of some sort, then problem solved. But only in the short term. Taking away the gadget does not solve the problem of lack of engagement. Having the gadget be used while the boring stuff gets done also does not solve the problem of lack of engagement. Only engaging this group solves this problem.

A leader once told us, "I will work with the people who will work with me." Implying that it did not matter that the people around him were not focused on engaging the disengaged. As long as he was able to get along with his working group, and there was an influx of people in the Mandir (through immigration) everything would work out. Implicit in this line of thinking is the lack of importance given to engaging the disengaged. It is implicitly stating that we don't really care about the bored kids at the Mandir. We don't really care about the disenfranchised. We will give a few resources but not really focus on this issue. It is too difficult for us. It requires too much change.

By making sabha engaging we are putting our resources to changing this attitude that many implicitly have. We are forcing a change at the local / grass roots level. We are stating explicitly that the we care about the bored kids, who are bright and have an affinity for Satsang and Bapa. We are not solving the problem with an iBandaid.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Booringgg / Don't Question me

When my mom asked my nephew and niece if they wanted to take violin classes they both sang in unison, "Boooringggg." Visions of Carnegie Hall that my mom may have had disappeared precipitously. I happened to agree with my niece and nephews assessment of the instrument - it can be monotonous. However hindsight being 20/20 I was glad my parents "encouraged" me to play.  With my two kids we never mentioned instrument instruction, however they discovered my old violin hidden somewhere in a closet. One of their friends at school plays the instrument and this discovery fascinated them. They attempted playing, tuning, discovered one of the strings missing. They looked up videos on how to play. Fast forward one month and now they are asking for violin classes. It is interesting that essentially the same demographic of kids have polar opposite reactions.

The perception of boredom is much worse than actually giving a bad talk. In fact the best talk may sometimes be no talk at all. When kids discover on their own they find things naturally interesting. This was the case with our kids and the violin. How do we replicate this in sabha? Many people feel asking questions is the way to go. Ask many many questions. The kids will "discover" the answer. The talk will be interactive. If you have ever thought this or done this, please as a personal favor stop. Don't ever do this again. This one of the two most common ways to make any topic boring (the other is reading off the paper). When we ask questions that are simplistic (even in Bal/Balika 1) the kids don't answer because they understand that there is no point in answering. There was a talk on Maya in Bal 1 that started with: "What is Maya?" One of the precocious balaks (and future sanchalak in my opinion) replied, "Isn't that what you are supposed to tell us?" There was a talk during a KarCon a while back where one of the speakers asked, "Who is the President of the United States?" Nobody answered. These were yuvatis. They knew the answer. It was just not worth their while to answer. Or they may answer in ways which to us may not be the "correct" answer and it impedes our talk.

It is not to say that asking questions is always a bad idea. Sometimes they work wonderfully. During a informal kids talk many years ago (where all ages from shishu to yuvak/yuvati were in attendance). One Sant narrated the story of Shravan and then asked, "Do you think Shravan ever argued with his parents?" This was a wonderful question since it required thought. Not just on the part of the audience, but on the part of the presenter as well. He spend time thinking about what question to ask. He did not use the question as a crutch, he used it as a tool.

Gretchen Rubin shares a blog post on learning to detect if you are boring someone. While it is aimed at conversation, parts are applicable to presentations as well. This is important, since learning to notice boredom in our audience can help us combat it - hopefully by not asking inane questions.

6. Body position. People with a good connection generally turn fully to face each other. A person who is partially turned away isn’t fully embracing the conversation. I pay special attention to body position when I’m in a meeting and trying to show (or feign) interest: I sit forward in my chair, and keep my attention obviously focused on whoever is speaking, instead of looking down at papers, gazing into space, or checking my phone (!).
Along the same lines, if you’re a speaker trying to figure out if an audience is interested in what you’re saying:
7. Audience posture. Back in 1885, Sir Francis Galton wrote a paper in 1885 called “The Measurement of Fidget.” He determined that people slouch and lean when bored, so a speaker can measure the boredom of an audience by seeing how far from vertically upright they are. Also, attentive people fidget less; bored people fidget more. An audience that’s upright and still is interested, while an audience that’s horizontal and squirmy is bored.
I also remind myself of La Rochefoucauld's observation: “We are always bored by those whom we bore.” If I’m bored, there’s a good chance the other person is bored, too. Time to find a different subject.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Bully for Upasaana

A conundrum we all face is to take powerful prasangs from our sanstha and make them relevant to our audience. In Made to Stick parlance - how do we tie our unexpected and simple message into something that will stick. This is compounded when we are using a story (prasang) that everyone in the audience has heard several times before. Now we need to work twice as hard to keep everyone engaged so we have their permission and attention when making our simple statement. A fellow Sabhaologist offers his ideas on how to do this with this weeks syllabus.

It's very unlikely that any of us with start an organization from scratch, build five mandirs with barely any resources, or travel from gaam to gaam in India to spread the Akshar Purushottam Upasana. So how can kishores and kishoris relate to the hardships that Shastriji Maharaj went through?  How can they connect through the harassment he was regularly exposed to?  Will they be able to contextualize what Shastriji Maharaj had to overcome to convert BAPS from an idea into a sanstha?  

One type of difficulty that everyone can relate to is being bullied.  Be it at school for how you look, the tilak chandlo on your forehead as your walking down the street, or anything else, being made fun of for a differing characteristic or belief is an experience that a majority of the population can relate to - and that's essentially what happened to Shastriji Maharaj. The unexpected and simple message is: we can all relate to bullying and this was exactly what Shastriji Maharaj went through.

Here is a video that illustrates the impact of bullying.

But what propelled Shastriji Maharaj to overcome that bullying was his core belief, what he left Vadtal for, what he wanted everyone to learn and weave into the fabric of their life - the Akshar Purushottam Upasana.  It's this core that drove his decisions, decided how he'd react, and inspired some many dedicate themselves to such a powerful guru.  

The prasangs in this week's presentation correspond directly with the thoughts that run through many of our minds when we're bullied: 
  1. Sentiments towards those who bully us:  Usually we'll feel like retaliating against those who ridicule us, but regardless how how Shastriji Maharaj was treated by others, he was willing to suffer anything to spread satsang and didn't feel ill will towards anyone
  2. How we feel when we're bullied:  A fire can burn within us when we're made fun of, but when Shastriji Maharaj was in a building that was physically on fire, his heart didn't burn with rage towards anyone.
  3. Continually remembering our core:  May times we need encouragement if bullied, but even though he was continuously bullied, Shastriji Maharaj remembered his core principles, who he had, and reminded others about their cause to stay firm in their efforts. 
So even though we may never live through the same hardships that Shastriji Maharaj faced, we still look into the eyes of adversity everyday.  When we do face that adversity, just as Shriji Maharaj explains in Gad I-74, it's only during times of hardship will our faith and true colors be tested.  So the next time you're bullied or are challenged by some type of adversity, then remember how Shastriji Maharaj reacted dealing with people who hated and wanted to kill him.  

Tuesday, February 12, 2013


Simple, Unexpected, Stories (SUS) have been the staple elements upon which we have been exploring the method of making talks that resonate with our audience. Many of us are now very familiar with the basics, the past posts are full of them. In this post we want to delve further and see how we can refine these ideas.

We have stated the difficulty in crafting the simple statement as it requires us to consolidate all the material provided to us into one sentence. However it is critical to crystallize this idea since this is the message we want everyone to leave with. We have noticed that when implementing SUS, we start off with a great unexpected and everyone is engaged. We then try to parlay this engagement into our simple and stories and prasangs. However after the initial excitement we find that the audience tends to loose focus.

We believe that the next step in SUS should be: Connecting the simple to the unexpected. This will require thought, but will increase the engagement from beyond the thought provoking idea of funny story of the unexpected to the core of the simple message and prasangs.

Let's look at two examples we saw over the last two weeks.

Example #1
On Superbowl weekend, the kishore/kishori sabha topic dealt with samp, suhradhyabhaav, and ektaa. The presenter opened it up by talking about an Arctic explorer who came across a bag of cheese doodles that he himself had buried prior to his trip and the his reaction. Take a look (note this was also referenced on RadioLab).

After setting up and showing the clip everyone was engaged and laughing. Now the presenter started to tie this unexpected to his simple message. There was a small discussion (question / answer really): when have you ever been this happy before, when we walk into the Mandir and do darshan do we scream like him, five year olds scream like that all the time why don't we, etc. He then mentioned the following: this explorer put himself in this position of being very tired and hungry (walking for over 40 days) all alone so that when he discovered something he already had, something he had put in the ground himself - he experienced bliss. For us to experience bliss in satsang we too need to be put in situations where we face hardships - where we are tested. He then moved on to ask would the explorer's journey have been easier or harder with another person or a group? A group may have given him company, but they may have also got on each others nerves. If you were that hungry would you want to split those cheese doodles? He then moved to his simple: Samp, Suradhyabhav, and Ekta cause us to be in in difficult situations so that we can experience happiness. This line and the reference to the cheese doodles were then used to compare almost every story.

Example #2
Just yesterday in the same sabha, the topic was sadhutaa. The presenter opened it up with a story where he asked everyone to visualize playing in the Mandir parking lot and getting hit by a car. Then a question, "Would you want someone to perform CPR on you?" Of course, the majority of the sabha raised their hands, but the unexpectedness of the question came through when he played the clip (again from from a recent episode of Radiolab) in which the doctors interviewed pointed out that only 8% benefit from CPR (3% regain normal function, 2% remain as a "vegetable," and 2% remain comatose) while 92% die. The interview also revealed that TV shows depict CPR working on average 75% of the time thus shaping the public's opinion of the maneuver and that most doctors would refuse CPR for themselves.

He then tried to link it accordingly:

  • We did not realize how we had been fed a lie. 
  • Only when we realize the niyams we have can we understand what it means to be a sadhu.
  • Sadhutaa is about pushing forward,
Unfortunately, the last point, his simple statement, did not connect so well to the unexpected. How could he have done it better?

  • Sure, doctors would have not wanted it for themselves.
  • Now let's say their patient was their child.
  • Would they still elect for CPR despite the data?
  • They would because it's a deep relationship that they are not willing to forego.
  • To keep pushing forward out of our relationship with God and our guru - that's sadhutaa.
This relationship proves crucial to the presentation because it is the point that is reiterated over and over throughout the talk.

We can  find cool things to use in our presentation, but it's equally important that we take the time to link the elements up, in this case the simple and the unexpected. The stories should also be connected to the simpl and can then be used to drive home the connection.

Monday, February 4, 2013

The Pravachan Jitters

Our scriptures note the particular significance of mantra-jap in its ability to steady our mind, yet the mantra of syllables we utter when nerves compromise our ability to communicate does anything but strengthen our resolve.

Photo Credit: andres.thor via Compfight cc

Stuttering stands to dilute a sticky message but can be reigned thanks to a few tips shared by an article on Duarte:
  1. Visualize Something Positive. Visualizing something that makes you happy is known to help you relax and thereby reduce stuttering. Imagine something that you love is in the room with you, or even keep a picture of something you love on the podium, or in your pocket. I’ve seen great speakers keep images of their children on their teleprompter because of this technique.
  2. Get Familiar. To this day, I visit a venue a few days before a show. I’ll soak in the details and reduce future distractions that can cause my mind to wander. I don’t know if it’s ADD, but I get those “Ooh shiny object!” moments when performing, and I seem to stutter after those distractions occur. So I try to familiarize myself with my surroundings, and if possible, rehearse in the venue so that it becomes second nature. This familiarity reduces heart rate and irregular breathing which are muscular triggers that can lead to stuttering.
  3. Rehearse, Rehearse, Rehearse. My professor used to tell us to rehearse our lines in a dark, quiet room, laying on our backs. This forces you to focus only on your voice and what you’re saying. Sometimes when I present, I’ll wear earplugs so that I can hear my voice, and focus on my projection and articulation. Perhaps you can’t memorize your whole presentation, but I would suggest rehearsing your opening and closing with this technique.
  4. Take a Deep Breath, or a Lot of Them. Before you go on stage, focus on the pace of your breathing until you can slow it down and reduce your heart rate. Once I get a controlled rate of breathing, I try to be conscious of it when I’m on stage. If not, the adrenaline kicks in, my heart races, and I talk so fast that no one can understand me.
  5. Pace Yourself. I mean actually pace – move around a bit onstage. A slow, steady walk across the stage can set a rhythm, that will help slow down your thinking and your speech, and reduce the confusion that often leads to stuttering. My instructor once made me recite four pages of a play while walking around the campus with her. I didn’t stutter once! But when I stood still on a stage in front of a large group, I stuttered and mumbled like a madman. The pace of my walking helped control the mechanics of it all.
  6. Get Some Sleep. For a long time, I tried cramming lines and content up the last minute of the performance. Staying up all night rehearsing and memorizing. I was a wreck. My professor told me, “Rehearse and study, but the night before, sleep, a lot!”
Let's face it, nobody likes to panic before a pravachan, but when we introspect, we realize the angst stems from whether or not we will defy the audience's expectations.

Ambition - now that's something worth contemplation.