From 1985 to 2004, Europe was the poster child of mobile technology innovation. Today, that is all but gone. Nokia was the last remnant of this era to disappear in flames. The brand is so damaged it's rumored it will be replaced by "Microsoft Mobile"... So what happened ? Here is my take on this self-inflicted disaster. In 2006, I remember going to Espoo Finland to show the then absolutely powerful Nokia a prototype of a new type of phone - that phone would just have a touch screen, be really easy to use and only do pictures, email, and music. You have to put this in perspective. At that time, the "it" phone of the day was the Motorola razr (In a nutshell, great hardware, and really bad software), the only thing that was close to a smartphone was the Palm Treo and or emails, your must have was Blackberry. If you wanted to play music, you needed an iPod. But back to my story in Espoo with this big hot shot Nokia SVP of "worldwide marketing". In retrospect, I did show him a working prototype of what turned out to be an early design of the type of phones we all use today (Those who know me know exactly what I am talking about). I got a really quick condescending look and, I quote:
"Mobile phones will *always* have a keypad. Touchscreens don't work for mobile. People have no interest in playing music on their phones, even less browsing the internet"
-By Philippe Mora (@philippemora)
San Francisco, <04/25/14> - Today I am telling this story to everyone who want to hear it. This story is very telling of how hubris and incompetence destroys great companies. You hear comments about "market disruption" and "horrible timing" but in the end it's really incompetence. C-Level should be sanctioned by a license that would be revoked when you f up that bad. Accountants do. Lawyers do. Doctors do. But for some reason, the current system actually rewards the ones whose only talent is to be great at navigating the ugly politics of the corner office. I do have a similar story with RIM, the Makers of Blackberry, in 2006 .... A few months after my Nokia/Espoo, Finland experience, I did go to Waterloo, Canada (Blackberry's HQ) to pitch the same smartphone prototype. I met with the big VP of Product Innovation. I was met with the same condescending look, and told, and I quote again:
"Blackberry will always be the ultimate email machine"
I came back to Silicon Valley very puzzled, because I could not believe that those highly paid, powerful executives had no idea that the shift towards software would happen soon (and look where we're at now with the giant SaaS bubble about to pop in San Francisco) and their "excellent hardware, really bad software" model would soon come with an end. They sincerely had no clue, and I believe they still don't. I did meet again in 2008 at Mobile World Congress with the same Nokia Executive, about a year after iPhone was launched. I was met with the same condescending attitude and heard that he was "smiling" at the Apple iPhone "experiment".
So coming back to the real reason why Europe was at the forefront of Mobile innovation for more than 20 years and today it is all but gone: Nokia built phones made by engineers for engineers. You needed a PhD to go through the 500 pages user manual, and you would not use more than 10 features out of 300 available on their devices. European mobile became a bureaucratic lair led by technocrats. What happened in 2007 was very simple: place the end user in the driving seat, and do the only few features that your customers really want and do them really well. Seriously, who cares today about the "SIMS toolkit" ?
That is a really simple law of high tech gravity ... I always ask people "Can you really tell me who is going to buy your product and why and for how much?" It's a really simple questions. When I get no answer I run in the opposite direction. I see a lot of this in San Francisco's market district today.
You never forget your first cellphone.
Mine was the Nokia 5190. By today's standards, it was bulky and embarrassingly lacking in features. It made phone calls and played the game "Snake." Forget a Retina Display; it boasted a monochromatic screen with a green backlight. And how's this for fashionable: It came with a freebie leather case and belt clip that I, regrettably, wore proudly.
It was perfect.
Nokia served as my ambassador to the wireless world, letting me experience for the first time what it truly meant to be unfettered from landlines and payphones (remember those?). It was a massive revelation for a young reporter on the road. For better or worse, Nokia helped set me on the path to becoming the gadget-obsessed geek I am today.
So it's with a fair bit of melancholy that I bid farewell to Nokia. On Friday, the once-staid Finnish company confirmed that it had completed the sale of substantially its entire devices and services business to Microsoft. Microsoft said the unit, now named Microsoft Mobile Oy, would fall under its devices group.
Today is an exciting day as we join the Microsoft family, and take the first, yet important, step in our long-term journey," said Stephen Elop, the former CEO of Nokia and the new head of devices at Microsoft, in a blog post.
Microsoft's $7.5 billion acquisition is a sobering reminder that even the strongest companies can fall.
Next to Motorola, which invented the mobile handset, there was no bigger name in the business than Nokia. The company has been on such a steady downward slide over the past six years that it's easy to forget how dominant and long-lasting its reign was over the cellphone business. Samsung Electronics is heralded as a titan with just over a quarter of the global handset market today; Nokia at its peak in 2007 controlled 41 percent of the market.
"It's hard to imagine any vendor reaching 41 percent share in today's world," said Ken Hyers, an analyst with Strategy Analytics.
Stephen Elop, former Nokia CEO and now head of Microsoft's devices business, speaking at Mobile World Congress last year.Stephen Shankland/CNETBy the end of last year, Nokia's market share still sat at 15 percent, thanks to a horde of cheaper basic phones, according to data compiled by Strategy Analytics. Its share of the smartphone market was in the low single-digits.
But when Nokia was on top, nobody could touch it. That kind of success eventually bred an obstinate attitude and vulnerability that was exposed first by the Motorola Razr, and then more fully by Apple's iPhone.
Floundering in a world that was moving forward without it, Nokia tapped outsider and Microsoft veteran Stephen Elop in 2010 to shake things up, which he promptly did with a controversial decision to drop the company's proprietary software and adopt Microsoft's Windows Phone mobile operating system. What followed was a three-year battle to gain acceptance for Windows Phone software and its Lumia phones.
Now, Nokia's devices and services business finds itself a part of the Microsoft family. "You forget when you see a giant fall, when you're that tall, that high, the collapse is pretty dramatic," Hyers said.
Nokia isn't going completely away. Beyond mobile devices, the company's telecom infrastructure business, mapping services, and advanced technology division will continue operating under the Nokia brand. It's the latest incarnation of a 150-year-old business that can trace its origins back to making rubber galoshes.
Nokia was an industrial conglomerate in multiple areas before Jorma Ollila took over as CEO in 1992. Prior to his appointment, Nokia was in shambles, having made several poor investments in new businesses -- all in an attempt to transform itself from a paper supplier. Those investments went sour after a massive recession hit Finland. At one point in the late '80s, the board had considered selling the fledgling mobile phone business.
Ollila, however, convinced Nokia to not only stick with the business, but to throw its full weight behind it and the telecommunications infrastructure unit. The company would go on to jettison the rubber, cable, and consumer electronics divisions in the subsequent years.
Ollila made a lot savvy bets early on. Nokia played a big part in the development of GSM wireless technology, a global phone standard still used today. He set up the company's internal manufacturing supply chain, allowing it to quickly and efficiently build its own phones.
The cellphone industry was highly fragmented with multiple vendors who looked at the market on a country-by-country basis. Nokia was one of the first to view the global market as a whole, building phones that worked in many countries at once. But at the same time, it recognized the importance of reaching every price tier. It established a strong presence in high-end Western markets, and saw one of its phone featured in films such as "The Matrix." It played well to audiences in emerging markets such as India, where phones would sold for as little as $40.
In 1998, Nokia overthrew Motorola to become the world's largest phone manufacturer. By the time I purchased the 5190 in a year later, Nokia supplied a little more than one out of every four phones in the market.
"Nokia was to mobile as Kleenex was to tissue paper," Hyers said. "That was how dominant they were."
It wasn't just the nuts and bolts that won Nokia praise. The phones looked great. And Nokia did a lot of work to reduce the size with each new generation. The Finnish design aesthetics worked for consumers. "Back then, cellphones were simple, but did they have style? No," said IDC analyst Ramon Llamas. "That was something Nokia was quick to pick up."
The company was in full expansion mode.
"Those first years were crazy," said Petra Soderling, a former Nokia employee who worked at the company between 2000 and 2012, and now runs a nonprofit software support community called Mobile Brain Bank. "New people were being hired from left and right...even the bust of the dotcom bubble didn't seem to have much impact on how fast mobile was growing."
Nokia embraced "Nokia DNA," a concept that its phones all have a distinct, but consistent look. While the company experimented with multiple designs, its engineers were wedded to the "candy bar" look.
That stubborn refusal to change the design turned out to be the first crack in its dominance.
Rise of the Razr
While most of the world was gobbling up Nokia's steady menu of candy bar-shaped cellphones, consumers in North America began eyeing flip phones, handsets with a clamshell design.
Motorola, mounting a comeback of its own, led the charge for flip phones, and cemented the trend with the debut of the ultra-slim Razr in late 2004. It remains one of the most successful cellphones ever, reigning as a top seller for nearly three years.
By the time I purchased a Razr through Verizon Wireless, the model was almost two years old. I was still excited to own one. And it had been years since I thought about Nokia.
Motorola's ultra-thin Razr.CNETNokia refused to succumb to the whims of a select region, instead pressing on with its candy bar designs featuring higher-end components such as metal ball-bearings found in luxury cars. I asked Nokia executives about the possibility of a flip phone several times in those years. They dismissed it as a fad.
Hyers recalled that a Nokia executive complained about how he couldn't open it up with a single hand. Meanwhile, the analyst and his colleagues were all using flip phones (which they had little trouble operating with one hand).
It was at this point that Nokia largely abandoned the US market. The US carriers were increasingly looking for vendors to supply customized phones, a request that upstarts Samsung and LG were all too happy to fill. The carriers backed away from Nokia, which maintained a niche presence in the US through a handful of boutique stores.
"Nokia wasn't delivering, or not delivering quickly enough," said Gartner analyst Tuong Nguyen. "The Korean vendors could deliver it faster, and they were able to pick up on (Nokia's) weaknesses."
Nokia's N95, for example, was hailed by the company's fans as the ultimate showcase device. But in the US, it was largely ignored because the carriers refused to sell it.
Motorola, fueled by the Razr, had taken the crown in the US, and then-Motorola CEO Ed Zander believed he had enough momentum to realistically gun for Nokia's global leadership position.
Ultimately, Motorola failed to build upon the success of the Razr. Nokia's decision to abandon the US market didn't have any immediate consequence; it continued to gain market share around the world and hit its peak until the second half of 2007. That was after the release of Apple's first iPhone.
Apple's smartphone revolution
Contrary to public misperception, Apple did not invent the smartphone. Before Steve Jobs' touchscreen powerhouse came on the scene, Nokia was the leader in the smartphone business, owning roughly half the market.
But what the iPhone brought to the market was a new sense of what a smartphone could do, and who could benefit from such a device: virtually everything and everyone. Apple led the charge in turning the smartphone into a consumer device from one primarily used in a corporate setting, a notion that then-Research in Motion had scratched at the year before with its compact and consumer friendly BlackBerry Pearl.
The original iPhone.Declan McCullagh/CNET News.comApple's slick iOS touchscreen-based software revolutionized how people interacted with their phones. In comparison, the slew of smartphones in the market worked on older, clunky operating systems. Nokia's Symbian software was no different, and it was starting to show its age just as the iPhone, and later Google's Android operating system, began to take off.
Still, Nokia refused to jump on the touchscreen bandwagon, again showing its inability to adapt to new trends. It waited a year after the original iPhone launched to unveil its first touchscreen phone, the Nokia 5800. Unfortunately, it was less a smartphone and more a handset optimized to play music.
Just as important was Apple's success in popularizing the concept of an app store. Nokia actually had a fairly robust app store, but it was geared to more technically savvy users, and not as easy to use as the iOS App Store. The app ecosystem is credited with locking customers into Apple's operating systems, firming its lead in the smartphone business.
In doing research for a profile on Nokia in late 2012, I had a chance to talk with a several former and current employees about what it was like at the company at that time. To many of them, it wasn't just arrogance that kept them rooted in Symbian, but the inability to take risks.
The first floor of Nokia House's central building houses the Cantina, the largest public space in the company's headquarters."There wasn't a sense of urgency," a former Nokia executive told me. When dealing with a machine that pumped out millions of phones, a single mistake or bad call could cost the company billions of dollars. As a result, management was structured around many layers of approval bodies and meetings. "The whole structure was built to prevent mistakes."
The lack of urgency is understandable; Nokia's share of both the smartphone and total cellphone markets were in decline, but the drop-off wasn't dramatic. In countless interviews with Nokia executives, they were quick to point to their market leadership as proof they were still in a strong position.
Nokia attempted to dress its Symbian platform with well-crafted hardware, using premium materials and high-end camera technology. But the company knew Symbian couldn't be its long-term software option, and was readying a next-generation platform, Meego, as its successor.
Aside from one commercial device, the N9, Meego was not to be.
Jumping off a "Burning Platform"
After four middling years with Nokia veteran Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo at the helm, the company's board opted to go with an outsider. In came former Microsoft executive Stephen Elop, who was unburdened with the institutional baggage that had developed at the company.
Just a few months after taking over in September 2010, Elop made waves with his infamous "Burning Platform" memo, which called for the company to take drastic action to change or die. That change came in the form of Nokia dumping Symbian and its burgeoning Meego platforms and betting on his former employer's Windows Phone platform for its high-end smartphones.
Nokia CEO Stephen Elop showing off a the Lumia 900.Josh Miller/CNETSome veteran Nokia employees were appalled. Others applauded the new direction.
Love or hate him, credit Elop for bringing a new sense of urgency to the company. My profile of Nokiafound a company whose employees were geared up for a startup mentality. There was a willingness to take risks. Some even allowed themselves to hope a comeback was possible.
Starting with the Lumia 800 and Lumia 710, which debuted in October 2011, Nokia began a long, slow battle to win fans over for its own phones. It also became Microsoft and Windows Phone's biggest cheerleader.
Innovating with Lumia
Roughly a year later, during the debut of the Lumia 920, Elop boldly touted the phone as the most innovative in the industry.
It wasn't simple marketing bluster. The Lumia 920 featured an ultra-sensitive touchscreen that your fingers could swipe even if you had gloves on. It was one of the first phones to popularize wireless charging - complete with color-coordinated wireless charging accessories.
Stephen Elop showing off the latest Lumia phone at Microsoft's Build developer conference.James Martin/CNETMost important was the optical image stabilization found in its "PureView" camera lens. Nokia had a heritage of strong camera phone technology, and the company continued to build upon that with a more stable camera that could also take low-light pictures. The following year, Nokia pushed the technology further by packing a 41-megapixel camera into the Lumia 1020, allowing for 3X zoom.
But all of those innovations did little to turn the heads of consumers, who were still gravitating toward the iPhone and the increasingly popular Samsung Galaxy S franchise. The first Lumia phone for the US, the Lumia 900, enjoyed a joint marketing push by Nokia, AT&T, and Microsoft, including a launch concert featuring Nikki Minaj in Manhattan's Times Square. Unfortunately, those efforts fizzled when it came to raising awareness.
The Nokia XL, a larger version of the company's Android-powered phone.CNETIt wasn't until Nokia began expanding its portfolio to include more affordable Lumia phones that its market share position began to tick up. The company pressed the affordable strategy at Mobile World Congress in February with the debut ofNokia X, an Android-powered smartphone priced around $120 without a contract.
"This is such an awesome opportunity," Llamas said.
The progress has been slow, but steady. In the US, Nokia finally overtook Motorola in market share in the third quarter of 2013 as the fourth-largest smartphone vendor - long overdue payback in the back-and-forth between these two storied, but dramatically diminished, companies (Google is in the midst of foisting money-losing Motorola on to Chinese vendor Lenovo).
Despite the work that went into reviving Nokia, the company couldn't pull itself out of the red. Microsoft, with far more financial resources, looks like a logical home.
I'm not alone in my melancholy. Former Nokia vet Soderling said she started feeling emotional today when her Facebook stream started filling with pictures of the glowing blue Nokia sign being taken down at the Espoo, Finland, headquarters, replaced with a white Microsoft logo.
That Nokia could fall so low serves as a lesson to all handset vendors. As dominant as Samsung and Apple are, Nokia was even bigger in its prime.
Perhaps Microsoft and Elop can continue to build the Lumia brand with more advanced bells and whistles. But sometimes, I do miss the simplicity of the 5190, stubby antenna and all.
[Read More Here > Thank You CNET April 2014]
Week-End Reading: http://philippemora.us > Also, find more on my pinterest boards. > By Philippe Mora (@philippemora)
See More Here.
Again and again, I see clients who come to us with the intent of saving themselves time (because making presentations is such an afterthought in many industries) and leave with the belief that great visuals are a very important part of their professional brand. Why is that? Because at Hughes Creative, we use the talent of great artists, photographers, and designers to create visuals. We help our clients frame and pace a talk and speakers avoid getting lost in jargon or overly intellectual language. We see mainly this on SlideShare: Flat, intellectual, pretentious. As an example, if you're a speaker, use Prezi because it offers a camera’s-eye view of a two-dimensional landscape. Instead of a flat sequence of images, you can move around the landscape and zoom in to it if need be. Used properly, such techniques can dramatically boost the visual punch of a talk and enhance its meaning.-By Philippe Mora (@philippemora)
London, <04/25/14> - There’s no way you can give a good talk unless you have something worth talking about. Conceptualizing and framing what you want to say is the most vital part of preparation. At Hughes Creative, in a matter of hours, a speaker’s content and delivery can be transformed from muddled to mesmerizing—whether it’s a CEO doing an IPO road show, a brand manager unveiling a new product, or a start-up pitching to VCs. Make them notice, you'll thank us later.
Little more than a year ago, on a trip to Nairobi, Kenya, some colleagues and I met a 12-year-old Masai boy named Richard Turere, who told us a fascinating story. His family raises livestock on the edge of a vast national park, and one of the biggest challenges is protecting the animals from lions—especially at night. Richard had noticed that placing lamps in a field didn’t deter lion attacks, but when he walked the field with a torch, the lions stayed away. From a young age, he’d been interested in electronics, teaching himself by, for example, taking apart his parents’ radio. He used that experience to devise a system of lights that would turn on and off in sequence—using solar panels, a car battery, and a motorcycle indicator box—and thereby create a sense of movement that he hoped would scare off the lions. He installed the lights, and the lions stopped attacking. Soon villages elsewhere in Kenya began installing Richard’s “lion lights.”
The story was inspiring and worthy of the broader audience that our TED conference could offer, but on the surface, Richard seemed an unlikely candidate to give a TED Talk. He was painfully shy. His English was halting. When he tried to describe his invention, the sentences tumbled out incoherently. And frankly, it was hard to imagine a preteenager standing on a stage in front of 1,400 people accustomed to hearing from polished speakers such as Bill Gates, Sir Ken Robinson, and Jill Bolte Taylor.
But Richard’s story was so compelling that we invited him to speak. In the months before the 2013 conference, we worked with him to frame his story—to find the right place to begin, and to develop a succinct and logical arc of events. On the back of his invention Richard had won a scholarship to one of Kenya’s best schools, and there he had the chance to practice the talk several times in front of a live audience. It was critical that he build his confidence to the point where his personality could shine through. When he finally gave his talk at TED, in Long Beach, you could tell he was nervous, but that only made him more engaging—people were hanging on his every word. The confidence was there, and every time Richard smiled, the audience melted. When he finished, the response was instantaneous: a sustained standing ovation.
Since the first TED conference, 30 years ago, speakers have run the gamut from political figures, musicians, and TV personalities who are completely at ease before a crowd to lesser-known academics, scientists, and writers—some of whom feel deeply uncomfortable giving presentations. Over the years, we’ve sought to develop a process for helping inexperienced presenters to frame, practice, and deliver talks that people enjoy watching. It typically begins six to nine months before the event, and involves cycles of devising (and revising) a script, repeated rehearsals, and plenty of fine-tuning. We’re continually tweaking our approach—because the art of public speaking is evolving in real time—but judging by public response, our basic regimen works well: Since we began putting TED Talks online, in 2006, they’ve been viewed more than one billion times.
On the basis of this experience, I’m convinced that giving a good talk is highly coachable. In a matter of hours, a speaker’s content and delivery can be transformed from muddled to mesmerizing. And while my team’s experience has focused on TED’s 18-minutes-or-shorter format, the lessons we’ve learned are surely useful to other presenters—whether it’s a CEO doing an IPO road show, a brand manager unveiling a new product, or a start-up pitching to VCs.
Frame Your Story
There’s no way you can give a good talk unless you have something worth talking about. Conceptualizing and framing what you want to say is the most vital part of preparation.
We all know that humans are wired to listen to stories, and metaphors abound for the narrative structures that work best to engage people. When I think about compelling presentations, I think about taking an audience on a journey. A successful talk is a little miracle—people see the world differently afterward.
If you frame the talk as a journey, the biggest decisions are figuring out where to start and where to end. To find the right place to start, consider what people in the audience already know about your subject—and how much they care about it. If you assume they have more knowledge or interest than they do, or if you start using jargon or get too technical, you’ll lose them. The most engaging speakers do a superb job of very quickly introducing the topic, explaining why they care so deeply about it, and convincing the audience members that they should, too.
The biggest problem I see in first drafts of presentations is that they try to cover too much ground. You can’t summarize an entire career in a single talk. If you try to cram in everything you know, you won’t have time to include key details, and your talk will disappear into abstract language that may make sense if your listeners are familiar with the subject matter but will be completely opaque if they’re new to it. You need specific examples to flesh out your ideas. So limit the scope of your talk to that which can be explained, and brought to life with examples, in the available time. Much of the early feedback we give aims to correct the impulse to sweep too broadly. Instead, go deeper. Give more detail. Don’t tell us about your entire field of study—tell us about your unique contribution.
Of course, it can be just as damaging to overexplain or painstakingly draw out the implications of a talk. And there the remedy is different: Remember that the people in the audience are intelligent. Let them figure some things out for themselves. Let them draw their own conclusions.
Many of the best talks have a narrative structure that loosely follows a detective story. The speaker starts out by presenting a problem and then describes the search for a solution. There’s an “aha” moment, and the audience’s perspective shifts in a meaningful way.
If a talk fails, it’s almost always because the speaker didn’t frame it correctly, misjudged the audience’s level of interest, or neglected to tell a story. Even if the topic is important, random pontification without narrative is always deeply unsatisfying. There’s no progression, and you don’t feel that you’re learning.
I was at an energy conference recently where two people—a city mayor and a former governor—gave back-to-back talks. The mayor’s talk was essentially a list of impressive projects his city had undertaken. It came off as boasting, like a report card or an advertisement for his reelection. It quickly got boring. When the governor spoke, she didn’t list achievements; instead, she shared an idea. Yes, she recounted anecdotes from her time in office, but the idea was central—and the stories explanatory or illustrative (and also funny). It was so much more interesting. The mayor’s underlying point seemed to be how great he was, while the governor’s message was “Here’s a compelling idea that would benefit us all.”
As a general rule, people are not very interested in talks about organizations or institutions (unless they’re members of them). Ideas and stories fascinate us; organizations bore us—they’re much harder to relate to. (Businesspeople especially take note: Don’t boast about your company; rather, tell us about the problem you’re solving.)
Plan Your Delivery
Once you’ve got the framing down, it’s time to focus on your delivery. There are three main ways to deliver a talk. You can read it directly off a script or a teleprompter. You can develop a set of bullet points that map out what you’re going to say in each section rather than scripting the whole thing word for word. Or you can memorize your talk, which entails rehearsing it to the point where you internalize every word—verbatim.
My advice: Don’t read it, and don’t use a teleprompter. It’s usually just too distancing—people will know you’re reading. And as soon as they sense it, the way they receive your talk will shift. Suddenly your intimate connection evaporates, and everything feels a lot more formal. We generally outlaw reading approaches of any kind at TED, though we made an exception a few years ago for a man who insisted on using a monitor. We set up a screen at the back of the auditorium, in the hope that the audience wouldn’t notice it. At first he spoke naturally. But soon he stiffened up, and you could see this horrible sinking feeling pass through the audience as people realized, “Oh, no, he’s reading to us!” The words were great, but the talk got poor ratings.
Many of our best and most popular TED Talks have been memorized word for word. If you’re giving an important talk and you have the time to do this, it’s the best way to go. But don’t underestimate the work involved. One of our most memorable speakers was Jill Bolte Taylor, a brain researcher who had suffered a stroke. She talked about what she learned during the eight years it took her to recover. After crafting her story and undertaking many hours of solo practice, she rehearsed her talk dozens of times in front of an audience to be sure she had it down.
Obviously, not every presentation is worth that kind of investment of time. But if you do decide to memorize your talk, be aware that there’s a predictable arc to the learning curve. Most people go through what I call the “valley of awkwardness,” where they haven’t quite memorized the talk. If they give the talk while stuck in that valley, the audience will sense it. Their words will sound recited, or there will be painful moments where they stare into the middle distance, or cast their eyes upward, as they struggle to remember their lines. This creates distance between the speaker and the audience.
Getting past this point is simple, fortunately. It’s just a matter of rehearsing enough times that the flow of words becomes second nature. Then you can focus on delivering the talk with meaning and authenticity. Don’t worry—you’ll get there.
But if you don’t have time to learn a speech thoroughly and get past that awkward valley, don’t try. Go with bullet points on note cards. As long as you know what you want to say for each one, you’ll be fine. Focus on remembering the transitions from one bullet point to the next.
Also pay attention to your tone. Some speakers may want to come across as authoritative or wise or powerful or passionate, but it’s usually much better to just sound conversational. Don’t force it. Don’t orate. Just be you.
If a successful talk is a journey, make sure you don’t start to annoy your travel companions along the way. Some speakers project too much ego. They sound condescending or full of themselves, and the audience shuts down. Don’t let that happen.
Develop Stage Presence
For inexperienced speakers, the physical act of being onstage can be the most difficult part of giving a presentation—but people tend to overestimate its importance. Getting the words, story, and substance right is a much bigger determinant of success or failure than how you stand or whether you’re visibly nervous. And when it comes to stage presence, a little coaching can go a long way.
The biggest mistake we see in early rehearsals is that people move their bodies too much. They sway from side to side, or shift their weight from one leg to the other. People do this naturally when they’re nervous, but it’s distracting and makes the speaker seem weak. Simply getting a person to keep his or her lower body motionless can dramatically improve stage presence. There are some people who are able to walk around a stage during a presentation, and that’s fine if it comes naturally. But the vast majority are better off standing still and relying on hand gestures for emphasis.
Perhaps the most important physical act onstage is making eye contact. Find five or six friendly-looking people in different parts of the audience and look them in the eye as you speak. Think of them as friends you haven’t seen in a year, whom you’re bringing up to date on your work. That eye contact is incredibly powerful, and it will do more than anything else to help your talk land. Even if you don’t have time to prepare fully and have to read from a script, looking up and making eye contact will make a huge difference.
Another big hurdle for inexperienced speakers is nervousness—both in advance of the talk and while they’re onstage. People deal with this in different ways. Many speakers stay out in the audience until the moment they go on; this can work well, because keeping your mind engaged in the earlier speakers can distract you and limit nervousness. Amy Cuddy, a Harvard Business School professor who studies how certain body poses can affect power, utilized one of the more unusual preparation techniques I’ve seen. She recommends that people spend time before a talk striding around, standing tall, and extending their bodies; these poses make you feel more powerful. It’s what she did before going onstage, and she delivered a phenomenal talk. But I think the single best advice is simply to breathe deeply before you go onstage. It works.
In general, people worry too much about nervousness. Nerves are not a disaster. The audienceexpects you to be nervous. It’s a natural body response that can actually improve your performance: It gives you energy to perform and keeps your mind sharp. Just keep breathing, and you’ll be fine.
Acknowledging nervousness can also create engagement. Showing your vulnerability, whether through nerves or tone of voice, is one of the most powerful ways to win over an audience, provided it is authentic. Susan Cain, who wrote a book about introverts and spoke at our 2012 conference, was terrified about giving her talk. You could feel her fragility onstage, and it created this dynamic where the audience was rooting for her—everybody wanted to hug her afterward. The fact that we knew she was fighting to keep herself up there made it beautiful, and it was the most popular talk that year.
Plan the Multimedia
With so much technology at our disposal, it may feel almost mandatory to use, at a minimum, presentation slides. By now most people have heard the advice about PowerPoint: Keep it simple; don’t use a slide deck as a substitute for notes (by, say, listing the bullet points you’ll discuss—those are best put on note cards); and don’t repeat out loud words that are on the slide. Not only is reciting slides a variation of the teleprompter problem—“Oh, no, she’s reading to us, too!”—but information is interesting only once, and hearing and seeing the same words feels repetitive. That advice may seem universal by now, but go into any company and you’ll see presenters violating it every day.
Many of the best TED speakers don’t use slides at all, and many talks don’t require them. If you have photographs or illustrations that make the topic come alive, then yes, show them. If not, consider doing without, at least for some parts of the presentation. And if you’re going to use slides, it’s worth exploring alternatives to PowerPoint. For instance, TED has invested in the company Prezi, which makes presentation software that offers a camera’s-eye view of a two-dimensional landscape. Instead of a flat sequence of images, you can move around the landscape and zoom in to it if need be. Used properly, such techniques can dramatically boost the visual punch of a talk and enhance its meaning.
Artists, architects, photographers, and designers have the best opportunity to use visuals. Slides can help frame and pace a talk and help speakers avoid getting lost in jargon or overly intellectual language. (Art can be hard to talk about—better to experience it visually.) I’ve seen great presentations in which the artist or designer put slides on an automatic timer so that the image changed every 15 seconds. I’ve also seen presenters give a talk accompanied by video, speaking along to it. That can help sustain momentum. The industrial designer Ross Lovegrove’s highly visual TED Talk, for instance, used this technique to bring the audience along on a remarkable creative journey.
Another approach creative types might consider is to build silence into their talks, and just let the work speak for itself. The kinetic sculptor Reuben Margolin used that approach to powerful effect. The idea is not to think “I’m giving a talk.” Instead, think “I want to give this audience a powerful experience of my work.” The single worst thing artists and architects can do is to retreat into abstract or conceptual language.
Video has obvious uses for many speakers. In a TED Talk about the intelligence of crows, for instance, the scientist showed a clip of a crow bending a hook to fish a piece of food out of a tube—essentially creating a tool. It illustrated his point far better than anything he could have said.
Used well, video can be very effective, but there are common mistakes that should be avoided. A clip needs to be short—if it’s more than 60 seconds, you risk losing people. Don’t use videos—particularly corporate ones—that sound self-promotional or like infomercials; people are conditioned to tune those out. Anything with a soundtrack can be dangerously off-putting. And whatever you do, don’t show a clip of yourself being interviewed on, say, CNN. I’ve seen speakers do this, and it’s a really bad idea—no one wants to go along with you on your ego trip. The people in your audience are already listening to you live; why would they want to simultaneously watch your talking-head clip on a screen?
Putting It Together
We start helping speakers prepare their talks six months (or more) in advance so that they’ll have plenty of time to practice. We want people’s talks to be in final form at least a month before the event. The more practice they can do in the final weeks, the better off they’ll be. Ideally, they’ll practice the talk on their own and in front of an audience.
The tricky part about rehearsing a presentation in front of other people is that they will feel obligated to offer feedback and constructive criticism. Often the feedback from different people will vary or directly conflict. This can be confusing or even paralyzing, which is why it’s important to be choosy about the people you use as a test audience, and whom you invite to offer feedback. In general, the more experience a person has as a presenter, the better the criticism he or she can offer.
I learned many of these lessons myself in 2011. My colleague Bruno Giussani, who curates our TEDGlobal event, pointed out that although I’d worked at TED for nine years, served as the emcee at our conferences, and introduced many of the speakers, I’d never actually given a TED Talk myself. So he invited me to give one, and I accepted.
It was more stressful than I’d expected. Even though I spend time helping others frame their stories, framing my own in a way that felt compelling was difficult. I decided to memorize my presentation, which was about how web video powers global innovation, and that was really hard: Even though I was putting in a lot of hours, and getting sound advice from my colleagues, I definitely hit a point where I didn’t quite have it down and began to doubt I ever would. I really thought I might bomb. I was nervous right up until the moment I took the stage. But it ended up going fine. It’s definitely not one of the all-time great TED Talks, but it got a positive reaction—and I survived the stress of going through it.
Ultimately I learned firsthand what our speakers have been discovering for three decades: Presentations rise or fall on the quality of the idea, the narrative, and the passion of the speaker. It’s about substance, not speaking style or multimedia pyrotechnics. It’s fairly easy to “coach out” the problems in a talk, but there’s no way to “coach in” the basic story—the presenter has to have the raw material. If you have something to say, you can build a great talk. But if the central theme isn’t there, you’re better off not speaking. Decline the invitation. Go back to work, and wait until you have a compelling idea that’s really worth sharing.
The single most important thing to remember is that there is no one good way to do a talk. The most memorable talks offer something fresh, something no one has seen before. The worst ones are those that feel formulaic. So do not on any account try to emulate every piece of advice I’ve offered here. Take the bulk of it on board, sure. But make the talk your own. You know what’s distinctive about you and your idea. Play to your strengths and give a talk that is truly authentic to you.
[Read More Here > Thank You HBR June 2013]
Industrial-era pyramidal organizational structures, aka Corporate America, seem to have become excellent at squandering everybody's time. It seems totally impossible to get things done when others volunteer your time for endless meetings, useless "discussions" and boring "seminars". Why is time your most important resource? Because once it is spent, it will never come back. You can acquire more time and store it somewhere for later consumption. While there are plenty of strategies to "manage meetings", from blocking calendar slots in order to manage to perhaps have a full day of work uninterrupted, there is a really obvious solution that is permeating very slowly: How about simplifying the organization? -By Philippe Mora (@philippemora)
San Francisco, <04/23/14> - The problem with industrial-era organizational structures is that, let's face it, they foster mediocrity and political behaviors: endless meetings, during which the strategy is to assign one's duties to others as "action items" (and taking credit for them later) are a byproduct of the structure. In the end, meetings are designed, in those organizations, to harvest one-sided commitments, with nothing in return. We are seeing today a lot of talk about commitment in organizations, as an alternative to traditional organizational structures. It is important to realize that commitment only, when it's only in one direction (example: "you commit to me with nothing in return) won't solve anything. What is necessary to implement a structure that does its best to foster bidirectional commitments. In node-based lattice structures when each person is a node, fostering and harvesting commitments only to his or hers 4-most closest nodes is simple and easy. This is new way of alignment manages time by itself and fosters trust and commitment to each other. This is how we're simplifying work today. More to come soon.
Most companies have elaborate procedures for managing capital. They require a compelling business case for any new investment. They set hurdle rates. They delegate authority carefully, prescribing spending limits for each level.
An organization’s time,in contrast, goes largely unmanaged. Although phone calls, e-mails, instant messages, meetings, and teleconferences eat up hours in every executive’s day, companies have few rules to govern those interactions. In fact, most companies have no clear understanding of how their leaders and employees are spending their collective time. Not surprisingly, that time is often squandered—on long e-mail chains, needless conference calls, and countless unproductive meetings. This takes a heavy toll. Time devoted to internal meetings detracts from time spent with customers. Organizations become bloated, bureaucratic, and slow, and their financial performance suffers. Employees spend an ever-increasing number of hours away from their families and friends, with little to show for it.
Most advice about managing time focuses on individual actions. Coaches tell us to reassert control over our e-mail, be far more selective about which meetings we attend, and so on. Such recommendations are worthwhile, but executives often discover that their best intentions are overwhelmed by the demands and practices of their organizations. The e-mails and IMs keep coming. So do the meeting invitations. Ignore too many and you risk alienating your coworkers or your boss. And if this steady flood of interactions is how your company gets its work done, you have little choice in the matter: You have to plunge in and swim your way to the other side as best you can.
Some forward-thinking companies have taken a different approach entirely. They expect their leaders to treat time as a scarce resource and to invest it prudently. They bring as much discipline to their time budgets as to their capital budgets. These organizations have not only lowered their overhead expenses; they have liberated countless hours of previously unproductive time for executives and employees, fueling innovation and accelerating profitable growth.
By the Numbers: How Organizational Time Is Squandered
Andy Grove, the former CEO of Intel, once wrote, “Just as you would not permit a fellow employee to steal a piece of office equipment, you shouldn’t let anyone walk away with the time of his fellow managers.” Of course, such thievery happens often, unintentionally. Meetings creep onto the calendar with no clear plan or priority. Initiatives crop up, demanding management attention.
But companies now have time-management tools that weren’t available in the past. With Microsoft Outlook, Google Calendar, iCal, and other scheduling and messaging applications, they can track where managers and employees are spending the organization’s collective time and thus investing its resources. The calendar data show how many meetings are occurring each week, month, or year and what kind they are. They show how many people are attending, by level and function within the organization. They even permit the tracking of certain organizational behaviors, such as parallel processing and double booking, that occur before, during, and after meetings. Of course, a company scrutinizing such data needs strong safeguards to protect employee privacy; nobody wants the feeling that Big Brother is watching his every move. But this information can paint a vivid and revealing picture of an organization’s time budget.
Bain & Company, using innovative people analytics tools from VoloMetrix (on whose board Chris Brahm sits), recently examined the time budgets of 17 large corporations. Here’s what we discovered:
Companies are awash in e-communications.
As the incremental cost of one-to-one and one-to-many communications has declined, the number of interactions has radically multiplied. Many executives now receive some 200 e-mails a day—more than 30,000 a year—and the increasing use of IM and crowdsourcing applications promises to compound the problem. (See the exhibit “The Dark Side of Metcalfe’s Law.”) If the trend is left unchecked, executives will soon be spending more than one day out of every week just managing electronic communications.
Meeting time has skyrocketed.
Executives are also attending more meetings. That’s partly because the cost of organizing them has dropped and partly because it’s far easier than in the past for attendees to take part via telephone, videoconferencing, screen sharing, and the like. On average, senior executives devote more than two days every week to meetings involving three or more coworkers, and 15% of an organization’s collective time is spent in meetings—a percentage that has increased every year since 2008. These gatherings proliferate: See the exhibit “Ripple Effects.”
Real collaboration is limited.
Although the number of one-to-one and one-to-many interactions has risen dramatically over the past two decades, up to 80% of the interactions we reviewed took place within departments, not between businesses, across functions, or between headquarters and other parts of the company. As for the interactions that did extend beyond an individual unit, analysis of their content suggests that many of them involved the wrong people or took place for the wrong reason—that is, they were primarily for sharing information rather than gathering input or brainstorming alternatives. In short, more time spent interacting has not produced significantly more collaboration outside organizational silos.
Dysfunctional meeting behavior is on the rise.
At most of the organizations we examined, participants routinely sent e-mails during meetings. At one company, in 22% of meetings participants sent three or more e-mails, on average, for every 30 minutes of meeting time. Furthermore, executives commonly double-booked meetings and decided later which one they would actually attend. Dysfunctional behaviors like these create a vicious circle: Parallel processing and double booking limit the effectiveness of meeting time, so the organization sets up more meetings to get the work done. Those meetings prompt more dysfunctional behavior, and on and on.
Formal controls are rare.
At most companies no real costs are associated with requesting coworkers’ time. If you want a meeting, your assistant merely sends out a meeting request or finds and fills an opening in the team’s calendar. If you identify a problem in need of fixing, you convene a task force to study it and, most likely, launch an initiative to address it. Such demands on the organization’s time typically undergo no review and require no formal approval.
There are few consequences.
In a recent Bain survey, senior executives rated more than half the meetings they attended as “ineffective” or “very ineffective.” Yet few organizations have established mechanisms for assessing the productivity of individual gatherings, not to mention clear penalties for unproductive sessions or rewards for particularly valuable ones.
It’s hard to know exactly how much of this squandered time could be rescued. But our data suggest that most companies have an opportunity to liberate at least 20% of their collective hours by bringing greater discipline to time management.
Eight Practices for Managing Organizational Time
A handful of companies have learned how to attack this problem directly. They create formal budgets to manage organizational time as the scarce resource it is. They purposefully curb demands on executive time. And they push their people to improve the productivity of meetings and other forms of collaboration. We find that the following eight practices pay big dividends:
Make the agenda clear and selective.
One hallmark of great leaders is their ability to separate the urgent from the merely important. They know that everyone must share an understanding of which activities are critical to success. We advocate broadening that understanding to include time priorities. Not only should people be crystal clear about how to spend any extra time they may find in their day, but they should know what they can safely postpone or ignore.
Perhaps no other executive managed organizational time more effectively than the late Steve Jobs. Focus was a key to Apple’s success. Each year Jobs took Apple’s top 100 executives off-site for a planning retreat and pushed them to identify the company’s leading 10 priorities for the coming year. Members of the group competed intensely to get their ideas on the short list. Then Jobs liked to take a marker and cross out the bottom seven. “We can only do three,” he would announce. His gesture made it clear to everyone present what the company would and would not take on. Jobs cut through the noise and enabled Apple to invest the time of its top talent strategically, without dilution or waste. This dramatically accelerated the pace of innovation at the company and helped it become one of the largest in the world by market capitalization.
Create a zero-based time budget.
Increasing workforce productivity requires that every organizational asset be carefully managed. Accordingly, many companies develop their operating and capital budgets from scratch each year, rather than taking the previous year’s budget as a starting point. The best companies have zero-based time budgets as well. Their mind-set is: We will invest no additional organizational time in meetings; we will “fund” all new meetings through “withdrawals” from our existing meeting “bank.”
Take Ford Motor Company.
When Alan Mulally became Ford’s CEO, in 2006, he discovered that the company’s most senior executives spent a lot of time in meetings. In fact, the top 35 executives assembled every month for what they called “meetings week”—five days devoted to discussing auto programs and reviewing performance. The direct and indirect costs of these sessions were significant—far more than the company could afford at the time.
In late 2006 Mulally asked his team to ruthlessly assess the efficiency and effectiveness of the company’s regular meetings. It quickly eliminated all unnecessary ones and shortened those that were unduly long, which forced people to maximize output per minute of meeting time. The team also became much more selective about requests for new meetings. Although individual managers at Ford are not required to eliminate one meeting before another can be scheduled, the company’s executives treat organizational time as fixed.
The centerpiece of Ford’s approach is a weekly session called the Business Plan Review (BPR), which has replaced meetings week. It brings together the company’s most senior executives in a focused four- to five-hour session each week to set strategy and review performance. Content for the session is standardized, reducing the extensive prep time previously required. The implementation of the BPR liberated thousands of hours at Ford, enabling the company to lower overhead costs at a time when rivals were seeking a government bailout. It also improved the quality and pace of decision making at the company, accelerating Ford’s turnaround.
Require business cases for all new projects.
Companies often fall victim to “initiative creep,” as seemingly sensible projects are added incrementally. Few if any of them are ever formally terminated. When Gary Goldberg became CEO at Newmont Mining, in March 2013, 87 initiatives were under way across the company, each demanding the time and attention of one or more members of Newmont’s executive leadership team (ELT). Many of those initiatives, including efforts to improve mine safety or increase operational efficiency, were valuable. Others were more questionable in terms of Newmont’s return on investment.
To gain control over initiative creep, Goldberg insisted that leaders develop formal business cases for all the company’s ongoing and proposed projects. Before investing any time in one of them, the ELT had to review the case and approve the effort. Each case had to specify the precise economic benefit the initiative would deliver and also its total cost—including the time of executive leaders. Every initiative was required to have an executive sponsor, who was accountable for managing its progress and keeping it on budget.
These requirements had the desired effect.
Many of the projects that had been under way when Goldberg took over were discontinued because no business cases were presented for them. Others were not approved. After less than three months, Newmont had scaled back the number of initiatives by a third and refocused its collective time on improving safety and operational efficiency.
Simplify the organization.
The more management layers between the CEO and the frontline worker, the slower the information flows and decision making. All managers know this, even if many fail to act on their understanding.
What they often don’t realize is that every additional supervisor adds costs well beyond his or her salary. Supervisors schedule meetings; those meetings require content that some people must generate and others must review; and each meeting typically spawns even more meetings. We have found that on average, adding a manager to an organization creates about 1.5 full-time-equivalent employees’ worth of new work—that is, his own plus 50% of another employee’s—and every additional senior vice president creates more than 2.6. The “caravan” of resources accompanying a manager or a senior executive, which may include an executive assistant or a chief of staff, adds further work and costs. (See the exhibit “The True Cost of Your Next Manager.”) As the work piles up, time grows ever shorter.
Given the direct and indirect costs of most supervisors, one way to improve organizational efficiency is to simplify, starting at the top. In 2010 the University of California at Berkeley was facing tremendous financial pressure: The state legislature had cut $150 million from Berkeley’s budget in response to a mounting deficit. To safeguard the funds needed to preserve the university’s reputation for excellence in teaching, research, and access, the administration had to find ways to streamline its cost structure.
In the summer of that year, Robert Birgeneau, then the university’s chancellor, launched what was known as Operational Excellence. The program’s objective was to dramatically improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the HR, finance, IT, and general administrative support provided to Berkeley’s 14 colleges and more than 100 departments. By standardizing and simplifying work by function and sharing management across those units, Operational Excellence removed hundreds of unnecessary supervisors and freed up an enormous amount of organizational time. The restructuring and simplification has saved the university some $120 million annually while enabling Berkeley to deliver more with less.
Clearly delegate authority for time investments.Most companies place few restrictions on who can organize a meeting. Decisions regarding how long the session should be, who should attend, and even whether participants must attend in person are frequently left up to low-level employees. The result: Costly meetings are scheduled without scrutiny.
For example, leaders at one large manufacturing company recently discovered that a regularly scheduled 90-minute meeting of midlevel managers cost more than $15 million annually. When asked “Who is responsible for approving this meeting?” the managers were at a loss. “No one,” they replied. “Tom’s assistant just schedules it and the team attends.” In effect, a junior VP’s administrative assistant was permitted to invest $15 million without supervisor approval. No such thing would ever happen with the company’s financial capital.
At another manufacturing company we worked with recently, the leadership team took two simple steps to rein in unproductive meeting time. First, it reduced the default meeting length from 60 minutes to 30 minutes. Second, it established a guideline limiting meetings to seven or fewer participants. Any meeting exceeding 90 minutes or including more than seven people had to be approved by the supervisor of the convener’s supervisor (two levels up). This cut the organizational time budget dramatically—by the equivalent of 200 full-time employees over a six-month period.
Standardize the decision process.
At many companies, decision rights and processes are so ill defined that the organization devotes more time to managing the matrix than to decision making and execution. In such cases, establishing an organization-wide approach to decision making can greatly improve efficiency and rescue time for other purposes.
Woodside, Australia’s largest independent oil and gas company, is illustrative. The company had been operating with a matrix structure for a number of years. Although the matrix was designed to foster greater collaboration across the company, decision authority and accountability were murky. As a result, the time spent coordinating across functions and business units was rising steeply, adding costs. In 2012 Woodside’s leadership explicitly defined a set of operating principles that spelled out responsibilities, authority, and accountability for the business units, the functions, and the corporate center. A broad training program helped ensure that the company’s top leaders understood the new principles and the implications for their units. A small network of navigators was established to help remove roadblocks and accelerate decision making across the company.
The impact of these changes has been profound. Given clarity on who is accountable for important decisions, executives at Woodside have streamlined how those decisions are made. A significant portion of the resulting saved time is now spent on efforts to improve execution and identify new growth opportunities.
Establish organization-wide time discipline.No company can eliminate all meetings—they are essential for fostering collaboration and making critical decisions. But most companies can dramatically improve the quality of the meetings they do hold by establishing a few simple norms:
Provide feedback to manage organizational load.It’s said that we can’t manage what we don’t measure. Yet few organizations routinely track the critical variables affecting human productivity, such as meeting time, meeting attendance, and e-mail volume. Without such monitoring, it is hard to manage those factors—or even to know the magnitude of your organization’s productivity problem. And without a baseline measure of productivity, it is impossible to set targets for improvement.
Many executives already review how much time they spend with various constituencies and on various issues, using just their own calendars. A few companies, including Seagate and Boeing, are experimenting with giving their executives feedback on the “load” they are putting on the organization in terms of meetings, e-mails, IMs, and so forth. At Seagate some senior managers participated in a program in which they routinely received reports quantifying their individual loads along with the average load generated by other executives at their level and in their function. This information, combined with guidelines from the top, encouraged them to modify their behavior.
Time is an organization’s scarcest—and most often squandered—resource. No amount of money can buy a 25-hour day or reclaim an hour lost in an unproductive meeting. To get the most out of your employees, you must treat their time as precious, creating disciplined time budgets and investing effort to generate the greatest possible value for your company.
[Read More Here > Thank You HBR May 2014]
i blog about the things I love: fitness, hacking work, tech, Experiences and anything holistic.
> Head of Digital Product at Nutrien