I love my cat, Miss Marple. But I also love this Mark Twain quote: “A man who carries a cat by the tail learns something he can learn in no other way.”
It’s unclear what Twain believed someone might learn in this bizarre and presumably cruel manner, but this much is sure: using someone else’s colorful quote in a presentation is certainly one way to draw an audience’s attention to the point you’re trying to make.
During our presentation skills coaching workshops, I usually challenge participants to find a way to do that with Twain’s cat quote, but so far no one has risen to the challenge.
Lately, I’ve become hooked on Grammar Girl, the moniker of Mignon Fogarty who blogs and podcasts about the rules of English usage. I find her tips helpful, interesting and often funny. And the podcasts are typically in the eight to twelve minute range, so I can usually catch up on four of five on my morning walks with Duffy, our Scottish Terror.
When I was a news reporter, we called it “burying the lead.” A producer (like my business partner and friend, Barb Haig!) would accuse me of doing this if I put the most important or most interesting part of my story anywhere other than at the top.
I hadn’t thought about “burying the lead” for a long time, until recently as I watched a presenter do it in such spectacular fashion.
I was at an awards luncheon and he was the keynote speaker. Following a brief introduction, he started with, “It’s always good to be here,” but then had to add, “although I’ve never actually been to Milwaukee before.” Awkward groans from the audience.
What in the world is he talking about?
That question popped into my head the other day when major Microsoft investor David Einhorn accused Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer of engaging in “Charlie Brown management.”
As it turns out, I wasn’t alone. A visitor to an “English Language and Usage” blog was wondering what the phrase meant - as I'm sure many other readers were. The answer: Charlie Brown fails at everything he attempts, thus Einhorn was criticizing Ballmer for, in his view, mismanaging Microsoft.
I enjoy a challenge as much as you do, but this one was freaky.
A client and friend asked me if I could help her boss – the CEO of a large, global company – improve the “state of the business” speeches he presented once a year to hundreds of employees at each company location.
She said some employees were actually offended by the speech he gave last year, and she asked me to review the video to see if I could figure out why.
As he and his fellow golfers walked to the first tee, they passed the practice green, where Tom Watson was hitting a big bucket of balls out of a greenside trap.
For the average weekend hacker like my friend (and me, for that matter!), seeing a golf legend like Tom Watson up close is a pretty big deal, but it’s not the best part of the story.
What blew my friend away is that when they finished their round some four hours later, guess who was still in the trap, hitting one ball after another out of the sand?
A couple years ago, at a meeting of the GreenBiz Executive Network — our membership-based learning forum for chief sustainability executives — we began the meeting by asking each attendee to present “one great idea” from their company. It was an ice-breaker of sorts, a way for everyone to weigh in on something they were doing that was exciting, different, making a difference.
We budgeted 45 minutes for this. Five and a half hours later, we got to the second item on the agenda.