Wednesday, January 26, 2011

In praise of words

"as contentious and frustrating and messy as our democracy can sometimes be, I know there isn't a person here who would trade places with any other nation on Earth."

This was my favorite phrase in last night's State of the Union. Why? Because the words are so great. For one thing, they're plain old garden variety anyone with a seventh grade education can understand them words. For another thing; they're accurate. Certainly when speaking to a room full of public servants. (OK, that moniker may not seem so accurate to you, but I digress.)

I absolutely LOVE words like "messy" in a speech. Messy says something, it's wonderfully descriptive. We ALL know from messy, whether we are messy or not. The word "messy" is not a word typically associated with the pomp and circumstance with our Congress, or the building in which its work is done. Yet when people with strongly held opposing views try and hammer out policies and laws, messy is probably all over the place.

Here's my point: if our president can use a word like "messy" in his most high profile presentation, why can't we? Ditch the five syllable super smarty pants words for your next presentation. Use juicy, real, descriptive ones instead. You'll have the audience eating out of your hand.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

carrot! carrot! carrot!

After reading some of the mini hoopla about the "tiger mom" and her daughter's rebuttal, I came up as I usually do, a big fan of the carrot versus the stick. (the idea that you can get a mule to move faster if you dangle a carrot in front of his nose than if you beat him with a stick.)

The carrot as motivator worked for me as a kid, worked for my own kids and works for audiences as well. Put another way, I believe in inspiration, aspiration over guilt and fear any day of the week. Here's why.

Guilt and fear may move an audience emotionally, but I'm not convinced it will move them literally. Think about it. Too much doom and gloom just makes us feel bad, scared and hopeless. Tell us what we can do to make something better, solve a problem, (and what the happy result will be) and we're up and out the door on our way to ACT.

If we make our kids, or our audience, feel bad about themselves, their situation, their future, how energized are they going to be to move in the direction we want them to go? Plus, how much more will we have to "beat" them to get them there? Yuch.

I say build them up. show them what they can aspire to and why and how they can get there. Then you stand in the background and cheer them on. Remind them of the "payoff" at the finish line. How much better does everyone feel? How much farther, faster, do you think they'll go?

Monday, January 17, 2011

A missed opportunity; Robert De Niro and the Cecli B DeMille Lifetime Acheivement Award

Watching the Golden Globes last night, I was thrilled to see Robert De Niro given the Cecil B DeMille life time acheivement award and then stunned as I listened to him give his acceptance speech. Didn't hear it? (click here) Worse than him reading it, obviously unrehearsed, from the teleprompter, was what he was reading. The text sounded like a script, written by a "comedy" writer, and not a great one at that. (In fact less than 24 hours later the blogosphere is heating up about a whole bit he did about deportation...totally UNfunny.) Where was the sincerity? Where was the humility? Where was the thanks?

We've all seen Mr. De Niro be very very funny, (Analyze This comes to mind) and a funny comment or two would have been in keeping with the evening and taken the edge off what is typically a very emotional speech. (It's a lifetime acheivement award, for heaven's sake.) What was missing was a glimpse of heartfelt anything, especially gratitude, not only to the Hollywood Foreign Press, but also to those with whom he has made movies and (p.s.) to his family.

I don't have any way of knowing at this posting if the contents of Mr. De Niro's speech were self written or ghost written, but either way he missed an opportunity to show his gratitude.

In my opinion the chance to show your appreciation to your peers, those you love and the world at large is an opportunity not to be missed. These kinds of speeches, when delivered from the heart, are inspiring and moving for the speaker and the audience. Mr. De Niro missed this opportunity last night.