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Most presentations aren’t bullet proof

  • Bullets do not save time. Memos save time. Presentations aren't about the most concise exposition of facts, they are about changing minds.
  • Bullets are actually aggressive, they're gotchas lying in wait to be brought up later, either by an observer calling you out or a presenter reminding us he told us so.
  • Bullets do not make it easier to remember what's being said.
  • Bullets create tension about what the next bullet is going to say, instead of actually communicating your idea. When we see a bullet, we check it off and stop paying attention until the next one appears.
  • Bullets are almost always misused. If you have a finite number of points, each of which supports the other, one can imagine that they help us fit the puzzle together. But that's not how they're used, are they? Most people use them the way I'm using them now, as a disorderly almost random list.
  • You've already forgotten the second bullet, haven't you? That's because bullets don't naturally map to the way we process and remember ideas.
  • If bullets are the official style of your organization, using them is a form of being invisible.
  • Without a doubt, bullets make it far easier to read your presentation to people in the room. For those with no time to practice or unable to say what's in their heart, bullets are perfect.

PS several people asked for my bulletless alternative. Here it is, from seven years ago.

When is Mother’s Day?

It's sort of a silly question. After all, you and your mom can celebrate it whenever you want, not when everyone else tells you to.

My mom never liked it very much. She told us it was a silly commercial exercise. On the other hand, any excuse to express gratitude is a good one.

I published Sarah's book in memory of my mom. I figured today was a good day to remind you of it.

Origin stories

The Grateful Dead had their breakthrough at Ken Kesey's acid test parties.

Superman was raised by George and Martha Kent.

Hewlett Packard started in a garage.

We hear origin stories all the time. They're magnetic enough that we write books and make movies about them.

Here's the thing: The only thing they have in common is that they are all different.

You can't reverse engineer success by researching origin stories. You can't follow the same path as those you admire and expect you'll end up in the same place.

Everything worthwhile has an origin, but those origins aren't the reason that they are worthwhile.

Embracing the power user

Zipf's law applies to more than just the letters in the alphabet. In just about every system and every market, a power law is in force.

Heavy users make markets work. There are a few people who eat out every night, or go to 30 Broadway shows a year, or send 200 greeting cards annually or buy $100,000 worth of jewelry at a shot. There are people who tweet every three minutes, individuals who work to have tens of thousands of Facebook fans or work overtime to be the top of the heap at door-to-door selling.

This is a given. Your power users will account for a disproportionate amount of your usage and attention.

The question is this: Is your project organized so that it benefits from the power users? (And so it benefits them in return?)

In the case of Broadway shows, not at all. Frequent ticket buyers do nothing at all to help the marketing or impact of a typical show. On the other hand, Twitter is designed from the ground up to grow as their power users push it forward. Wikipedia thrives on the work of just 5,000 power editors. eBay grew because just a few thousand home businesses used it as a platform to bring in millions of buyers.

Power users can pay you more or they can build infrastructure, or they can do outreach for you. The challenge is in finding them, embracing them and giving them tools to accomplish their goals as you reach yours.

The short game, the long game and the infinite game

How long is your long run? I know people who measure the world in ten second flashes, and they’re happy to do something they call generous for six seconds, as long as they get a payback before the ten seconds are up.

More common and more celebrated are people who play a longer game. They build an asset, earn trust, give before getting, and then, after paying their dues, win.

There’s something else available, though, something James Carse calls an infinite game.

In finite games (short and long) there are players, there are rules and there are winners. The game is designed to end, and it’s based on scarcity.

In the infinite game, though, something completely different is going on. In the infinite game, the point is to keep playing, not to win. In the infinite game, the journey is all there is. And so, players in an infinite game never stop giving so they can take. Players in this game throw a slower pitch so the batter can hit it, because a no-hitter shutout has no real upside.

A good mom, of course, always plays the infinite game. But it turns out that it’s possible to build an organization or even a country that does this as well. Build hospitals and schools instead of forts and barricades…

You certainly know people who play this game, you may well have been touched by them, inspired by them and taught by them. The wrong question to ask is, “but how do they win?” The right way to understand it is, “but is it worth playing?”

Get rich (quick)

Enrich your world by creating value for others.

Enrich your health by walking twenty minutes a day.

Enrich your community by contributing to someone, without keeping score.

Enrich your relationships by saying what needs to be said.

Enrich your standing by trusting someone else.

Enrich your organization by doing more than you're asked.

Enrich your skills by learning something new, something scary.

Enrich your productivity by rejecting false shortcuts.

Enrich your peace of mind by being trusted.

The connection economy pays dividends in ways that the industrial one rarely did.