Who inspires you in the Technology arena?

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Written by: Oscar Santolalla

Last year I became particularly interested in public speaking, and as many of you, I work in the technology sector; so I started paying attention to who speaks well, who is inspiring, and who can explain complex things in easy and enjoyable words. I tried to find some article or “top ten” in Google, and I only found lists of keynote speakers, unknown guys that can come to a big IT company’s headquarters and supposedly motivate all the employees gathered during a special event. I was not looking for this, however. I wanted to know about the real experts in technology and business, those whose innovation spirit, experience and expertise, drive the industry and have the power to change our world and way of thinking and teach us in what direction the wind of change blows.
I then decided to write a list myself. What do the people on my list have in common? The unequivocal answer is Experience. All these personages have been around for many years. Surely the list covers only those who speak in English, and whose focus is mostly Information Technology and Clean Tech. My selection also emphasizes speakers who have been active and relevant in the past two years.
This Top 8 list is shown in alphabetical order.

1. Jeff Bezos (Amazon)

(Jeff Bezos delivers graduation speech at Princeton University)

Amazon’s CEO is a very mature speaker, unarguably one of the best on this list. His drive made Amazon.com the most prominent survivor of the 90s’ dot coms. The company has evolved, continuously transformed its business model and reached a privileged position today. Even in the hardest and most uncertain times, Bezos has managed to convince investors on how his ideas would become successful products and services. If you see him speaking, you will clearly understand why.  As a public speaker, Jeff has a special power and expressiveness that is rare to find and hard to ignore.

Strengths: Great body language and effective vocal variety while speaking.

2. Steve Blank (Independent author)

(Days of Future Past)

Do you think you know Silicon Valley’s history? No matter what you answered, you should hear it from Steve Blank’s mouth. His long experience as a technology entrepreneur makes him the best in the topic. Now retired, Blank is a very inspiring author and keynote speaker. When you listen to him, you can hear the voice of an extraordinary educator. And indeed he also spends his time teaching in Stanford and Berkeley, where students can learn his “scientific method” on how to manage a startup.

Strengths: Elegant, educational style of speaking. Use of stories.

3. Jack Dorsey (Square, Twitter)

(The Power of Curiosity and Inspiration)

Few tech entrepreneurs can count on their records having created two awesome and revolutionary products in few years. Jack is one of them. Now he is CEO of Square and executive chairman of Twitter. Not a small thing. In spite of his youth, his presentations and public appearances show both maturity and high confidence that inspire people. I find particularly remarkable his use of stories to present technical ideas and to show how they have a meaning for the society. Dorsey will have a lot to show us in the future.

Strengths: Use of stories. High confidence.

4. Bill Gross (Idealab)

(Learning From Failure. 20 Years of Entrepreneurial Lessons in 20 Minutes)

Idealab‘s CEO has been both an entrepreneur and inventor since he was in high school.  He is the only one of this list who is more focused on clean tech than on IT. Bill always explains to us with endless enthusiasm his proposals on how to face today’s energy challenges. His fluency is extraordinary; few people can impeccably speak technically complex topics at that pace. Good humor is another salient ingredient of any Gross’ speeches.

Strengths: Great sense of humor. Capacity of explaining hard concepts in an enjoyable way.

5. Mikko Hyppönen (F-Secure)

(Fighting viruses, defending the net)

Have you thought that a presentation about information security has to be boring? If you said yes it is because you have never seen and listened to Mikko Hyppönen, Chief Research Officer at F-Secure. He is a real showman who is up to date in all the aspects of this branch of technology. His always creative presentations combine well-designed slides with impressive demos, and make you realize how important security is in today’s life.

Strengths: Excellent use of visualizations in slides. Easiness of saying complex concepts in a clear way.

6. Steve Jobs (Apple)

(Launch of MacBook Air)

He is not with us anymore, but the former Apple’s CEO has been probably the most admired person of the most recent years. In every new product’s keynote presentation, he showed us not only a product but a dream. Do you remember when he unveiled MacBook Air from a manila envelope? Steve Jobs was a showman at the stage: minimalistic, calm, but extremely powerful. I particularly liked his inspirational campaigns such as his “Think different” series of videos, which made him a naturally inspiring person.

Strengths: Minimalistic slides. Spectacular style of showing new products. Inspirational way of speaking.

7. Guy Kawasaki (Garage Technology Ventures)

(The Art of Enchantment)

He started a technology career as Macintosh Chief Evangelist in the early 80s. Nowadays he leads Garage Technology Ventures, and he is also author of great books such as “The art of the start” and “Enchantment”. The latter is an excellent guide of how to convince people of your ideas by saying the right words and by shipping great products. When you see him before an audience you clearly realize how mature speaker he is, and how his humor makes any of his appearances enjoyable.

Strengths: Great sense of humor. Maturity in public speaking.

8. Mark Templeton (Citrix)

(XenClient announcements during Synergy 2011 keynote)

Citrix Systems is nowadays a company leader in virtualization and cloud computing, but not long ago it struggled to survive. One of the biggest orchestrators of this transformation has been Templeton’s leadership and vision. He is an example of how a mid-level manager can become a CEO thanks to his excellence in communication. His use of body language is also a characteristic hard to ignore from him. Mark is mentioned as a Case Study in the famous book “Slideology“, by Nancy Duarte. In any of his presentations, we can see his innate gift to think visually.

Strengths: Powerful body language. Use of minimalistic slides and other visual aids.

These speakers are fantastic paradigms for any technical pitch. I am positive that, regardless of your taste, you will find excellent models to follow on this Top 8 list. Observe every guy’s best skills, and learn from the Masters!

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Say it to me, as a friend

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Few days ago, I saw Tom Hooper’s much acclaimed “The Kings’ speech”, the astonishing true story of King George VI who once feared being called George the Stammer wouldn’t he have found his “voice” thanks to the unconventional methods of an Australian “speech therapist” who gradually turned into a friend, Lionel Hogue.  This movie is a must-see not only because of Colin Firth’s (George VI) and Geoffrey Rush’s (Lionel Logue) outstanding interpretations and the uniqueness of their characters’ relationship, but also because it can only touch us in the heart of our communication and leadership aspirations. King George VI’s handicap was of such nature that it indeed required an adapted therapy for curing, but many scenes reminded me of the regular training provided by Toastmasters and the efforts we produce in order to ameliorate the quality of our lives as communication beings.

1) to improve your public speaking skills, listen to yourself

For improving our ability to speak, we have to listen first and listen to the only voice we would generally prefer not to listen to: our own. At times, it is a cruel exercise as it might reveal a person in which we do not recognize ourselves. Acknowledging own strengths and weaknesses is however a first and indispensable step in bettering our way of delivering speeches. “The King’s speech” shows it in the most dramatic way when Lionel Logue suggests the at the time Duke of York to tape his voice and listen to it.

I don’t want to reveal more about the result and subsequent challenges inherent to this exercise because the story is so appealing that you really should see the movie to discover what happened, but it stroke me that taping own voice was an incredibly innovative technology at the time, and that the wide availability and variety of affordable technologies for taping and videotaping  at our disposal nowadays have not equally prompted their use for the purpose of perfecting our persuasiveness and expressiveness (such technologies are supported by e.g. http://audacity.sourceforge.net/ or http://www.youtube.com)… Wouldn’t it be wiser to give it a try at least – and I address here to my fellow Toastmasters particularly?

2) to improve your public speaking skills, get feedback from your audiences

Listening is also the main task of any audience. George VI’s attempts to tame his tottering in such unusual situations as addressing a full Wembley Stadium during his first oration – broadcasted by radio to the entire British Empire involving thus an audience of several millions auditors – can only fill us with a sense of relief when it comes to our Toastmasters first public speech called the “icebreaker”… Unlike George VI, we are fortunate to have an emphatic and interactive audience at Toastmasters: people who share the same objectives (improving their communication and leadership skills) and who will give us feedback on every aspect of our performance in a structured and easy way (body language, eye contact, voice, tone, rhythm, grammar, structure, etc…).

Geoffrey Rush’s line as Lionel Logue “Say it to me, as friend” encompasses everything about the unique environment Toastmasters creates for us to meliorate this fantastic ability to tell things and have people listen to us!

3) to improve your public speaking skills, relentlessly train

There is no secret: to become a great public speaker, we have to train, and train again because by training we gain confidence from practicing rather than from absorbing all possible self help books on the topic. The result of such training is often perceivable in our renewed ability to catch an audience’s attention with the real us – rather than with a book formatted us. The movie “The King’s Speech” shows it beautifully as the King rehearses his speeches with the support of those who believe in him and he gradually grows into the person he was meant to be: serving his nation as a hero king, being an entertaining father and husband, forcing the admiration of all.

To conclude, I would say this:

1) GO and see the movie “The King’s speech” and if you recognize some areas in your public speaking you would like to improve, then…

2) JOIN a Toastmasters meeting to find a Toastmasters group in your town, use the locator function on www.toastmasters.org (Meetings in Finland are also taken on this blog and on www.toastmasters.fi) . Attending as a guest is free of charge and you will then be in a position to decide if Toastmasters can help you improving in the areas you are planning to improve and especially gain in terms of eloquence.

3) TAPE your training and post it on this blog for feedback: if you are preparing for a speech, tape yourself in the format you feel most comfortable with and ask for feedback on this blog. We will make sure some experienced Toastmasters will give you feedback on how to improve it… how does that sound?

4) Be the first to fully review this text and win a Finnkino movie ticket (valid for one person, one session, in Finnkino cinema’s in Finland until May 2011): as my text proves, I am not a native English speaker but I am always very pleased to receive suggestions for correction. If you are the first to suggest a full set of corrections to the above text (vocabulary,  grammar) in a comment to this post, you will get a ticket to go to the movies (and who knows maybe see “the King’s speech”?)…

Article by Ruxandra Balboa-Pöysti

Start the year by joining a Toastmasters meeting!

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The great thing about our times is that, more than ever before, IF WE WANT TO, IT IS POSSIBLE! In the context of the beginning of the year, where we are pressed to produce our New Year’s resolutions list on the pattern of a strategical report we shall commit to all throughout the year, such sentence might sound phony – such resolutions being at best wishful thinking.

a Toastmaster (TM) in action

At Toastmasters it is made very easy to improve our communication and leadership skills, if we only take this first step of acknowledging how essential their improvement are in building of a successful professional career and a fulfilling life – and then act upon it. To those who share this belief, the different Toastmasters groups in Finland (see list at end of this post) are sending them the following invitation: JOIN a toastmasters meeting this year – for free as a guest – and form your own opinion about how this organization and its training in public speaking could support your aspirations. Wouldn’t it be fantastic it helps you to reach your self development goals in communication and leadership as it helped millions of people around the world? Wouldn’t it be fantastic you end up being a “competent communicator” at your own pace? The only think you need to do is try once and decide…

Group of TM members

So, here is a calendar of the Toastmasters sessions organized all throughout Finland in the beginning of this year. If you like the principle, you might consider joining Toastmasters as a member or implementing the scheme within your company or in your city. What is certain, is that you will find people who share the same goals as you and who are ready to help you reach yours!

  • Helsinki

Group 1: Stadi Talkers, 10th January, 24th January, 7th February, 21st February 18:00-19:40 at the Dubliner’s, Mannerheimintie

To register and obtain more details about one of the above Stadi Talkers meetings, please go to: http://district59.eu/profile.php?mode=email&u=4966

Group 2: Helsinki Toastmasters, 20th January, 3rd February, 17th February 17:15-19:00 in Keiluranta

To register and obtain more details about one of the above Helsinki Toastmasters meetings, please go to: http://helsinki.toastmasters.fi/index.php?q=TM_attendance:

  • Hyvinkää

    Annie Peng, Hyvinkää Toastmasters

     

13th January, 17th January, 10th February, 24th February 16:30-18:00 at KoneCranes

To register and obtain more details about one of the above Hyvinkää Toastmasters meetings, please go to: http://district59.eu/profile.php?mode=email&u=8670

  • Tampere

13th January, 17th January, 10th February, 24th February 17:30-19:00 at TAKK – Tampere Vocational Adult Education Centre

To register and obtain more details about one the above Tampere Toastmasters meetings, go to: http://district59.eu/profile.php?mode=email&u=8167

  • Nokia (company group)

TM Tuire

 

If you attend one of these meetings, do not hesitate to comment on this post and share your opinion about the benefits and possible improvements to the Toastmasters meetings!

Article by Ruxandra Balboa-Pöysti