Its my choice Let the Road Pave Itself (Audio CD)


The review about this product

Customer review from the Amazon Vine Program (What's this?) These songs are okay but Larue's lyrics are not particularly well-defined. If one attempts to isolate precisely what Phillip Larue is crooning about it might just take awhile. As I listened, I never could ascertain a strong link with Christianity in his music -- the themes of these tunes are really just a bit nebulous.

That brings me to my chief point, the most unfortunate and prevalent of any that I make in my brief review: the instrumentation pretty much obliterates the vocals. Whomever engineered the master of this particular CD must either lack experience or (surely not!) they didn't care much for Larue's vocals and cut them back way too far.

Larue has a somewhat groaning, Dylan-ish approach to singing... a folksy ambiance. And the actuality of that combination makes it especially imperative that the songs present the listener with a robust message which can be clearly heard, hopefully above the volume of the instruments. That did not happen in this instance.

These twelve Christian/rock/folk cuts aren't actually hateful --I just found them to be generally uninspired in character, a caveat which is clearly essential to this musical genre.

Get This One Let the Road Pave Itself (Audio CD)


Great Product To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others (Hardcover)


The review about this product

First, some disclosure: I received an advanced copy of "To Sell is Human," and I interviewed Daniel Pink on my podcast "Social Triggers Insider." That said, there are three main reasons why this book is a must-read:

1. Even though the official statistic is "1 in 9 people" are in sales, the truth is, everyone is in sales. 1 in 9 people earn a commission for it, the other 8 live and die by their ability to sell... and they don't even realize it. Whether they're negotiating a raise from their boss, convincing their child to do homework, or turning a prospect into a client, their success depends on their ability to sell someone on something--and Dan Pink shows those people how to do it.

2. There are some huckster salesman that give honest people like a bad rep. What's weird is, I thought these hucksters were just bad people, but I've come to discover otherwise. It turns out there are sales trainers who teach their students to lie to get the sale, but this book will shows the liars that there's a better way.

3. Many mainstream books like this are "high level." They tell a great story, share interesting research, and give you ideas on how oyu may apply this to your life. Dan Pink's book is different. Between the "frames" for selling, and the 6 new types of pitches (they replace the elevator pitch), you get a complete tool-belt of strategies and tactics that you can begin using TODAY. Additionally, he's got these great "Sample Cases" mixed throughout his book where he shows you exactly how to use some of the tactics and strategies he shares.

That all said, I'm happy to have read this book, not once, but twice. I also admire the fact that he paid special attention to all of his sourcing because I'm the type of guy who reads all the source material..

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Great Product Confessions of a Public Speaker (Hardcover)


Its a review about this product

I have been reading Scott Berkun's Confessions of a Public Speaker (O'Reilly, 2009) for literally two months now. It isn't that it is hard to read, or boring, as it is neither of these. In fact, the reason is that I keep finding things I want to follow up, or to try out myself, and in doing so I frequently set the book down and actually went out and did things. That is the highest form of praise I can give for Confessions. Let me explain.

Scott Berkun was a Microsoft flunky for many years, and worked on the Internet Explorer team in its earlier days. However, he eventually found his calling as a business analyst, and has since combined this knowledge with a natural flair for the written word and become a top business author, writing most often on project management and innovation. He is also well-known for being an engaging public speaker, and has given advice to many sectors, from Fortune 500 companies to Ignite! crowds.

Somewhere along the way, it occurred to him to write a book on public speaking, a subject in which everyone I know in my industry (computer software) could use some pointers. Everyone. When I saw on O'Reilly's site that this book was coming out in November, I actually pre-ordered it, knowing that conference season was approaching and that hopefully I could gain some tips that would help my somewhat-feeble presentations. I actually got a lot more than I had planned.

To be fair, as Scott says in the book, the bar for public speaking is rather low, and he explains in great detail why this is. Writing from memory, what I have taken from the book is that speakers often fail to inspire their crowds because:

* they concentrate more on their slides than on knowledge of the subject material
* they read from their slides
* they don't practice
* they don't take steps (like exercising first) to relax onstage

This list is not exhaustive, but they are the ones that stuck in my mind. Not only am I guilty of all of these, but nearly every college professor and conference speaker I have encountered does them all the time. There is positive advice, as well (this list is also not exhaustive):

* study good public speakers, both in your sphere (Dirk Hohndel and Jono Bacon are good ones in the Linux world) and outside it (comedians rank much higher than politicians!)
* know your material by practicing. seriously.
* make 5 points, memorize what they are, and separate them from the arguments that support them, so that even if your laptop explodes you can still make your points and walk away
* the audience is far more forgiving of your talk than you are
* make your points and finish early, don't fill time

Obviously I took away much more of the positive than the negative.

One thing I found fascinating was that very little of the discussion is new. Most of it can be found in Dale Carnegie's books, and the rest can be learned from a handful of visits to your local Toastmasters group. The magic in Scott's book is not that the material is new, but that his naturally approachable tone and his credentials as a geek spoke to me in a way that Carnegie never could.

So what things did I go out and do? The first thing I did was to look at the last talk I gave, and reduced the material by half. I realized that I only had one point to make with it, but I thought that I had to fill up time in order to justify my existence. In doing so, I'm sure I must have bored the crowd to tears. I also took a look at the slide deck from a talk I gave a few years ago, and found that I really liked it--but then I took a look at the video of it and was horrified that I looked like a robot! No wonder so many people went to sleep. Now I have a flip camera and a willingness to use it.

The only thing I found missing from the book was a "how to create fantastic slides" section, though this omission was not an oversight on his part. His point in the book is that being engaging as a speaker is far more important than having eloquent slides, and I take his point readily. However, I do want to create engaging slides as well, as many people will download my slides to read after the conference and will never have the chance to hear me talk about them. For that, I am also reading Nancy Duarte's slide:ology (O'Reilly, 2009).

And yes, I do have a vested interest in promoting these books, though it isn't quite what you might think. My motivation for reviewing them is even more selfish than that--with the advent of conference season, I want to see more engaging presentations! So many of them have fascinating material that is given in an unapproachable way, through no fault of the speaker. I am hopeful that getting the word out about these books will help change that.

So what about that highest praise? I think Scott would agree that the most important part of improving onesself as a public speaker is to go out and do something, not to sit around and read. I heard Scott speak at a Creative Techs event last night, and he made the point that actors go onstage prepared--they rehearse, they get into character. If someone gave me a good book on how to play the guitar, I could read it forward and backward and never actually learn how to play. Confessions has actually inspired me to DO, not just to read, and that is a very beneficial thing.

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