The Way We Think About Charity is Dead Wrong

November 11, 2016.
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Dan Pallotta:
The Way We Think About Charity is Dead Wrong

Dan Pallotta. Activist, fundraiser and author.  Founder of AIDS Rides, and president of Advertising for Humanity, which helps foundations and philanthropists grow their most promising grantees.  He has created multi-day charitable events, including Breast Cancer 3-Days walks and Out of the Darkness suicide prevention night walks.  Pallotta is also the founder and President of the Charity Defense Council, the mission of which is to change the way people think about changing the world.  He is also the author of three books: When Your Moment Comes (2000), Uncharitable (2008) and Charity Case (2012).

In the TED talk featured here, Pallotta looks at charities and the issues surrounding charitable giving, particularly in the USA.

Throughout his talk, Pallotta hardly moves from his starting position, avoiding unnecessary movement, other than with his hands, which he moves in an effective way.  He also continuously scans the audience, inviting them to feel part of the occasion.

He starts with a story, involving his children, which has an interesting twist to it, thereby getting the audience interested and attentive right from the start – an opening technique used by many of the best speakers.  Thereafter he goes on to lay out his view of the challenges faced by charities and the moral issues around charitable giving.

TED2013   4 million views on

Pallotta’s main point is that unless charities are judged by some of the same criteria as the ‘For Profit’ sector, the charities will not be able to tackle the many problems they have been set up to deal with as effectively as they could do.

In particular he highlights the widespread belief that charities’ main function is to keep overheads down – overheads being the costs of running the charity. “Too many nonprofits”, he says, “are rewarded for how little they spend — not for what they get done.”

He picks out five areas where he thinks judgements, that charities/NPOs should not spend money, are misplaced: incentivising staff through salaries, advertising costs, taking risks, taking time to build frameworks and creating profits to attract risk capital.

Using the examples of two of his own previous activities, the AIDs Rides and the Breast Cancer 3 Days events—which raised USD582 million—shows how relatively small initial risk capital investments can grow by hundreds or even thousands of times, over a relatively short period: by almost 2,000 times over nine years (1993-2002) in the case of the AIDs Rides and just over 550 times over five years (1998-2002) in the case of the Breast Cancer 3 Days.  In 2002 Pallotta’s company was forced to close, after its main sponsor withdrew.

Pallotta uses another story, about the first Puritans to cross the Atlantic, to speculate on why many people view charities the way they do, at least in the USA—and what he refers to as the confusion between ‘morality’ and ‘frugality’.

At the end of his talk he issues a ‘call to arms’ for a new way to look at social innovation and he brings his talk to a close by showing a video by his children, which links up with his opening story, and thereby neatly bookends his talk.

Whether or not you agree with Dan Pallotta’s opinions, this talk certainly raises issues that are highly relevant in today’s world, where there are so many charities/NPOs and so many social issues that need tackling.

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This article first appeared in the EMC Quest newsletter series.

Top Ten Reasons to Tell Stories

November 4, 2016.
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Paul Smith: Top 10 Reasons to Tell Stories

Paul Smith. MBA, Wharton Business School. Speaker, author, trainer, business storytelling consultant. Former Accenture consultant and Head of Consumer Research at Procter & Gamble.

Have you ever experienced a boring presentation—with lots of slides and long lists of bullet points?—Did you ever give one? I think we all have. However, this does not need to be the case.

Paul Smith AMACOM Books 2012

A powerful tool to make your presentations and marketing talks more inspiring and memorable is storytelling. If you want to understand storytelling in the wider context of business and why it is so effective, you are recommended to read Lead with a Story, a book by Paul Smith (2012).


Paul Smith lists a number of reasons why you should use stories in your business talks and presentations. Some key ones:

•    Stories inspire. Slides don’t.
•    Stories engage your audience.
•    Stories appeal to all kinds of learners.
•    Stories make your audience remember.

In the book we learn that facts are 20 times more likely to be remembered if they are part of a story – quoting New York University psychologist Jerome Bruner.

To illustrate its key points, the book is packed with 100 real stories from the business world – companies like Xerox, General Electric, Procter & Gamble, Bristol-Myers-Squibb, Nokia, Braun, and others.

A central principle of the book is the importance of storytelling for leadership – ‘great leaders tell great stories’.

‘Stories inspire, slides don’t.’ So, next time you give a speech or presentation – ‘Lead with a Story!’

Trond Varlid

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This article first appeared in the EMC Quest newsletter series.

What Makes a Good Life ?

October 28, 2016.
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Robert Waldinger:
What makes a good life ?  Lessons from the longest study on happiness

Robert Waldinger. Professor of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, and Director of the Harvard Study on Adult Development. He is the author of two books on psychiatry.

This TED talk by Robert Waldinger, delivered and released online in November 2015, has already attracted more than 11 million views on It could well be one of the TED talks to go viral online fastest on a such a scale. Having looked at hundreds of TED talks, including all the top 20 most viewed talks, I am not aware, at least, of any that reached such high viewing numbers so quickly.

This probably reflects a combination of this being a very interesting topic for most people, as well as Waldinger’s dynamic and engaging delivery.

The Harvard Study of Adult Development may be the longest and one of the most comprehensive of its kind in history. For over 75 years the study has been following the lives of 724 men in Boston and their adult development—their work, home lives and health; and the study is still continuing.


It highlights controllable and uncontrollable factors that affect healthy aging and happiness—and the findings include some surprising results, and new findings are continuing to emerge—without pre-empting too much of Waldinger’s talk here.

TEDxBeaconStreet Nov 2015 11.3 million views on

In his talk Waldinger shares three key lessons from the study as well as other insights on how to live a long and fulfilling life.

As mentioned, Waldinger’s presentation delivery is highly engaging and well worth studying in its own right.  Here are a few highlights:

Opening.  Note how he opens with a couple of questions to engage the audience. They are rhetorical, i.e. he does not expect people to raise their hand and answer—but the questions get them thinking on the subject that is going to be covered in his talk.

Posture.  Very centered and solid posture, and his position remains unchanged for much of his talk; little movement without purpose, a common mistake by many speakers. Overall this gives a very strong and confident impression, and adds to his perceived credibility and persuasive power.

Voice.  Although soft spoken, Waldinger keeps his voice at a low pitch, which makes it more resonant and persuasive. And note how he varies his voice throughout the talk—speaking in a natural, almost conversational style—making you feel he is talking directly talking to you, as if in a one-to-one conversation. He also makes great use of pace—speeding up and slowing down at appropriate points of his talk, making the talk more dynamic and interesting to listen to.

Hand Gestures & Eye Contact. As has been highlighted before, the use of hand gestures and continuous ‘scan and stop’ eye contact is essential for a dynamic delivery and close engagement with the audience. Waldinger uses both to great effect.

Pauses. Excellent and effective use of pauses—before and after important statements—for emphasis, to get attention, and to avoid stepping on people’s thoughts and laughter.

Slides. He makes limited, but effective, use of slides—thereby keeping the audience focus on him. For the most part his visuals are photos and simple images to illustrate what he is talking about, which are easy to grasp and provide minimum distraction for the audience.

An earlier article about this study appeared in the Harvard Gazette, which you can read here

Trond Varlid

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This article first appeared in the EMC Quest newsletter series.

Why You Think You’re Right – Even If You’re Wrong

October 21, 2016.
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Julia Galef:
Why You Think You’re Right—Even If You’re Wrong

Julia Galef. President and Co-founder of the Center For Applied Rationality (CFAR), a non-profit organization helping people improve their reasoning and decision making—with the particular aim of addressing global problems. She is also a speaker and writer on topics of rationality, science, technology and design. Her background is originally in statistics and she has done social science research at Columbia and Harvard Business School.

Have you ever been in situations where you thought you were right, but turned out to be wrong? And made a decision you thought was made on a rational basis, but in fact may have been strongly influenced by irrational factors?

Our way of thinking and how we make decisions are issues that have been the focus of an increasing amount of research over the years—as our societies and business environment have also become more complex, causing decision making to become more challenging.

In her TED talk, Julia Galef focuses on the question of why we often think we are right even if we are wrong. What are the reasons behind this common phenomenon? As she says—are you a soldier, prone to defending your views at all costs—or a scout, spurred on by curiosity? She examines the motivations behind these two mindsets and how they influence the way we interpret information.

TEDxPSU  February 2016

The stated mission of the Center For Applied Rationality is ‘using decision science to help the world’. To that end they spread information about available research, books and other resources on decision making and cognitive biases, conduct their own, or support other, new research on these topics, and provide various kinds of public training.

Other people who have studied these and related issues that affect our thinking, decision making and how we persuade or are persuaded, include Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman, author of Thinking, Fast and Slow, Robert B. Cialdini, author of INFLUENCE:The Psychology of Persuasion, considered a classic in its field and based on over 30 years of research, and Scott Plous who wrote Judgement of Psychology & Decision Making.

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This article first appeared in the EMC Quest newsletter series.

How Eye Contact Can Transform Your Speaking

October 14, 2016.

How Eye Contact Can Transform Your Speaking
From World Class Speaking in Action, Chapter 29 by Willie Joe Robinson Jr.

Making eye contact with your audience is one of the most underutilized, or incorrectly used, elements of public speaking.  But if used effectively it can help you develop a rapport with your audience, as if you are in a one-to-one conversation with each of them, which will build trust and create an uplifting experience.

As the saying goes: ‘The eyes are the windows of the soul’, and eye contact is one of the key non-verbal ways that we all use to help us assess other people.  It varies from culture to culture, but in many cases looking directly at the person you are talking to creates a sense of trust and integrity and the speaker is more likely to give listeners the impression of honesty and trustworthiness.

It also has the benefit of helping settle the nerves of the speakers themselves because it is as if they are speaking on a one-to-one basis—and that tends to be less nerve-wracking than talking to an audience.

Eye contact enables you to get feedback from the audience on how you are doing, whether you are on the right track or not, as well as creating a feeling of mutual interest between you and the audience.  Eye contact also makes the talk more conversational and speakers tend to slow their pace in the process, which gives them more time to think as they talk.

Try to make eye contact with as many people as possible, and resist the temptation to focus on friends, or familiar faces, for example if you are speaking at an internal company meeting.

If the audience is large, you might find it easier to break it up into zones and establish eye contact with just one or two people in each zone, rather than trying to scan everyone.

For eye contact to work effectively, you have to know your speech well, otherwise you will be constantly looking down at your notes—but if you don’t have time to learn your speech thoroughly then at least try to look up from time to time.

Try to smile, especially at the beginning, as this will put the audience at their ease.  When scanning the audience, don’t just move your eyes from side to side, move your head from side to side as well – but not too much, otherwise people might only be able to see the back of your head.  Then make eye contact for the length of one complete thought or sentence, around three to five seconds, before looking at someone else.

If you are asking questions, or being asked questions, maintain eye contact for the duration of the question and hold it until you get a response – you can encourage this by also nodding and making comments like: ‘Don’t you agree ?’

In some cultures it is considered impolite to look people directly in the eye.  In these situations you can look at a point just above people’s heads – this respects the culture, whilst still allowing you to interact with the audience.

If you know the venue where you will be giving the speech then while rehearsing you could try to visualise the lay-out of the room and where the audience will be sitting.  When presenting to an unfamiliar audience, you should arrive early and introduce yourself to people—which will give you some faces to make eye contact with in the early stages of your speech, to help get things going.

Acquiring effective eye contact techniques takes practice—and if you feel nervous, then practicing, perhaps on a one-to-one basis with friends at first, will help build your confidence—or you could video yourself.

The effort is well worth it, because used well, eye contact creates a positive and engaged feeling in your audience and gives you vital feedback on how you are performing, resulting in a more memorable experience.

World Class Speaking in Action, Craig Valentine & Mitch Meyerson, Morgan James Publishing, 2014.

This article first appeared in the EMC Quest newsletter series.

The Power of Vulnerability

October 7, 2016.
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Brené Brown:
The Power of Vulnerability

Brené Brown. Author. PhD, Professor at University of Houston. Has spent over 10 years conducting groundbreaking research on vulnerability, courage, authenticity, and shame.

Have you ever been in situations where you worried about “What will people think?”—or tried to pretend to be the kind of person you might not actually be? Most of us have. In fact, you would be pretty rare if you have not had such feelings at some point.

And are you able to acknowledge your own vulnerability and even show it to other people? If you do or you don’t—how might that affect your relations with friends or colleagues, or members of your team? As Brown says—”vulnerability is our most accurate measure of courage”. Her research shows that how you cope with such issues can greatly affect your well being, creativity and ability to lead.

Brené Brown’s highly engaging TED talk is the 4th most viewed TED talk of all time. She is known for being a great storyteller and in this talk uses many stories to illustrate her points and engage her audience.

You should also note her use of voice pitch, pace, eye contact, hand movements and stage movement—as well as her very effective use of pauses, a much underutilized speaking tool.

TEDxHouston 2010     26.7 million views on

Brown is a pioneer and thought leader in her field and has so far published six books, including THE GIFTS OF IMPERFECTION: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are. Published in 2010, the book is still a #1 bestseller on Amazon with over 2,800 reviews.


In her book she describes ten guide posts for how you can cultivate courage, compassion and connection with other people—for your own and their well-being, and for your ability to perform and lead.

Brown’s most recent book is DARING GREATLY: How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent and Lead (2015). The book became a #1 New York Times bestseller and has already attracted more than 2,300 reviews on Amazon where it is currently a #2 bestseller in Interpersonal Relations.


Trond Varlid

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This article first appeared in the EMC Quest newsletter series.

The Secret to Self Control

September 30, 2016.
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Jonathan Bricker:
The Secret to Self Control

Jonathan Bricker. PhD, behavioural scientist, Founder and Leader of the Tobacco & Health Behavior Science Group. Bricker has degrees in psychology from UC Berkeley and the University of Washington.  He is a faculty member at the University of Washington and Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, where he specialises in helping people break free of their addictions and fears.  His research focuses on the development and testing of innovative interventions for health behaviour change.

One of the recent inventions based on his research is the SmartQuit smoking-cessation app. The results of smokers using this app are already so promising that Bricker and his team received a USD3 million grant in 2015 for a large-scale clinical trial of the app.


Traditionally, efforts to get people to give up smoking have focused on encouraging people to resist their craving to smoke.  Research carried out by Bricker and others in various clinical trials has shown, however, that letting people acknowledge their craving is twice as effective in stopping people smoking as resisting their craving is.  A method he mentions is keeping a daily journal of when you feel the urge to smoke, which can then help reduce that craving.

In this TED talk Bricker looks at two very different approaches to treating addiction, particularly for those trying to give up smoking, and he compares the effects of resisting your cravings with the effects of being willing to accept them.

TEDxRainier 2014

Bricker starts his TED talk with a personal story, about his parents’ different interests when he was young, which not only captures the audience’s attention right from the start, but also sets the scene for the main topic, which forms the rest of the talk.

Initially Bricker stands in one place, avoiding unnecessary movement, except of his hands which he moves in a way that many of the best speakers do.  When he changes to a new part of his talk, however, he walks a short distance to a new spot on the stage and then stays there until the next change.  This is a great example of effective use of the stage—using movement and positioning to neatly divide up his talk into its parts and allows the audience to ready themselves for the next part.

Throughout his talk Bricker uses humour, for example, with a picture of freshly baked cookies, which highlight the strength of cravings, and the difficulty in resisting them.  He then ends with a comment about the lunch break following his talk, which reinforces his point and elegantly ties up his presentation.

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This article first appeared in the EMC Quest newsletter series.

The Twelve Competencies of World Class Speaking

September 23, 2016.

The 12 Competencies of World Class Speaking

The book World Class Speaking in Action, by renowned World Champion of Public Speaking, Craig Valentine, and founder of Guerrilla Marketing Coaching, Mitch Meyerson, is an Amazon #1 bestseller.  But why ?  What can you gain from reading and studying this book that makes it so important ?

You can gain the tools and techniques that have been tried and tested by world class speakers.  Here is a short summary of the 12 World Class Speaking Competencies:

1. STORYTELLING. Telling stories helps you make your points and keeps your audience engaged.

2. SELLING.  Presentations are about selling something, whether a product or an idea, and getting your audience to listen to your message.

3. PROCESS DRIVEN. Focus on how good your product or process is, not on how great you yourself or your company are.

4. NEXT STEPS. Don’t just finish your presentation and leave it at that—make sure you get your audience to take the next step!

5. ANCHOR DRIVEN. Anchor you message using visuals, stories, analogies, and other techniques to ensure it is not forgotten by your audience.

6. BEGIN WITH A BANG. People’s first impressions are formed within seconds, so make sure you open in a way that is memorable and gets the attention of your audience.

7. SUCCINCT. Trying to get too much information across can be counter-productive— keep your presentation focused. As Craig Valentine says, “if you squeeze too much information in, you squeeze your audience out.”

8. YOU FOCUSED. Don’t make it all about you, but engage your audience by focusing on them.

9. DYNAMIC DELIVERY. Don’t present in the same style throughout your presentation—vary the level of energy with which you deliver, use eye contact, your voice and body language.

10. INVOLVEMENT. Get your audience involved and make them feel part of the process, and they are more likely to buy into your message.

11. STAGING. Using the stage and moving with purpose is an underutilized, but highly effective, technique while speaking—helping make your presentation more memorable and keep the attention of your audience.

12. RESEARCH YOUR AUDIENCES. Research your audience beforehand and keep assessing their reaction during your presentation.

It is often said that, ‘practice makes perfect’, but practicing with the wrong tools can just reinforce bad habits.

These 12 World Class Speaking competencies are used by world class speakers—so why would you not want to practice using these whenever you get the chance ?

This article first appeared in the EMC Quest newsletter series.

How to Start a Movement

September 16, 2016.
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Derek Sivers:
How to Start a Movement
(Hint: It takes two.)

Derek Sivers. Musician, programmer, entrepreneur and author, having published over 30 books.

Originally a professional musician, Sivers established CD Baby in 1998 which became the largest seller of independent music online with more than 150,000 musician clients. He sold it in 2008 and gave the proceeds to a charitable trust for music education. Sivers writes regularly on creativity, entrepreneurship and music.

Sivers’ latest venture is MuckWork—a managed team of assistants that specialize in helping musicians with their uncreative dirty work.

In this inspiring and highly entertaining TED talk, which received a standing ovation—Sivers shows some surprising video footage that leads to interesting reflections and insights on leadership, and how you start a movement—with important implications also for how you may achieve change in your team or organization.

TED2010 5.6 million views on

In 2011 he published Anything You Want: 40 Lessons for a New Kind of Entrepreneur which quickly became a best seller—in which he shares lessons learned when he became an entrepreneur.


Sivers has been called the entrepreneurs’ entrepreneur—and sees it as his mission in life to help musicians and other groups of people. As he says in the book—”In the end, it’s about what you want to be, not what you want to have.”

You can find more information about Sivers and enjoy his many interesting articles on entrepreneurship, creativity and music on his blog:

Trond Varlid

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This article first appeared in the EMC Quest newsletter series.

Storytelling with Data

September 9, 2016.
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Cole Nussbaumer Knaflic@Google Talks:
Storytelling with Data

Cole Nussbaumer Knaflic. Author, speaker, former Analytics Manager at Google. Specialist on data visualization and storytelling with data, has conducted data workshops for organizations like Adobe, Genentech, Mastercard, Target, the World Bank, and Google.

Although nobody would intentionally make a confusing graph or diagram, it happens surprisingly often—and I think we have all created some, or even many, of those!

When we go to school, maths and languages are key subjects.  However, the two are rarely combined—says Nussbaumer Knaflic: “we don’t learn how to make stories out of numbers or how to enable data to speak“.

She has made it her mission in life to help people tell stories with data. Her book, Storytelling with Data: A Data Visualization Guide for Business Professionals, was published last year (2015) and currently remains a No. 1 Best Seller on Amazon in Information Management.


Following the publication of her book she gave the following presentation at the global Google headquarters in Mountain View, California, in November 2015:

On YouTube you can also find a number of short videos featuring Nussbaumer Knaflic—where she provides practical advice on presenting data.  One of these is: ‘How to Remove Clutter in Your Data’

You may also want to check out her Web site which has a wealth of interesting information on the subject of presentations and storytelling with data:

Trond Varlid

This article first appeared in the EMC Quest newsletter series.