Raise You Game 2013

Once again, Asia Professional Speakers – Singapore (APSS) is hosting its annual Raise Your Game event at the Holiday Inn Orchard Road on Thursday, February 21. The full day seminar will feature ten top speakers presenting on a variety of topics to help you achieve greater personal and professional success. I will be presenting “The XI Commandments of Negotiating” and will call on at least a dozen volunteers from the audience during my highly interactive session. Sign up now at www.asiaspeakers.org


Every comma counts

I recently told a few people that I enjoyed a short vacation with the family in Hong Kong. They invariably asked me how I liked Hong Kong. Then I had to repeat myself very carefully: “I enjoyed a short vacation, comma, with the family in Hong Kong. The family went. I stayed home. That was my vacation!”

I was in Hong Kong two years ago, with the family. I saw no need to go back. For one thing, I don’t really like to see my air before I breathe it. I’m a trusting guy, and I trust that when I inhale I will get two lungs full of air every time. It hasn’t failed yet.

Here’s the beauty of my solo staycation: I did everything differently. I ate food I would not normally eat with my wife and daughter, I did no “work” but worked on a few projects not related to my usual routine, I took a different route on my morning walk, and I dabbled (and dribbled) with paints. It was as if I had a different life for three days. It was a creative and liberating experience. I highly recommend it.

The state of communication

My sister-in-law, Sally, is a big Groupon fan. She invited us to dinner on Saturday night at a trendy little restaurant in an area of trendy nightspots. This place had sofas and ottomans clustered around low coffee tables rather than traditional dining tables and chairs. It was more comfortable for casual conversation than formal dining. There were not that many other diners, and nearly all had printouts from Groupon with them, leading me to believe the restaurant was not doing well. Most of the other patrons were trendy young couples of well-groomed women and their male companions with carefully tended bedheads.

I mention this because as a married man with a young child I don’t get out to trendy places very often. The thing that struck me the most was that all of these trendy youngsters were more occupied with their electronic devices – phones and iPads – than with their dates. I was out of the dating game before I got my first mobile phone. But I never brought an Etch A Sketch with me on a date to play around with during dinner. On a positive note, some of the couples were engaged with the same device, rather than each going his or her own electronic way.

Sunday afternoon found me browsing YouTube (though I was not on a date). As usually happens with YouTube I ended up in an unexpected corner of cyberspace far astray from where I started. I found myself watching clips from the old TV series “What’s My Line.” In this show a panel of four celebrities are blindfolded and have to ask yes/no questions to try to guess the identity of a celebrity guest. Some of the mystery guests were star architect Frank Lloyd Wright, jazz great Louis Armstrong, comedian Jerry Lewis, basketball legend Wilt Chamberlain, and hot babe Raquel Welch. I was struck by how well-dressed, articulate, and gracious all of these people were. It seemed like they were not only from another age, but from another planet! I wonder whether any of the bedheads sitting around the coffee tables had even heard of any of these famous people.

I am not going to say communication is dead. It is alive and well, but very different. Fifty years ago people communicated for depth, exploring a subject for several minutes or more at a time. Now it’s more about breadth, about how many apps we can experience in a short span of time. Conversation is superficial, as it must be in the few seconds devoted to it before the subject, channel, or medium changes.

We’re all products of our times, and times are changing faster and faster. Change will continue ever more rapidly, and that will not change. I can’t imagine what the next generation will be like. I just know they will adapt just fine, and they will leave the bedheads’ heads spinning.

Book Launch

We have just launched 88 Essential Secrets for Achieving Greater Success at Work. Edited by Shirley Taylor, it features contributions by me and 21 of my friends and colleagues from the Asia Professional Speakers Singapore (APSS). I wrote chapter 14, Persuade with Power, with four ‘secrets’ about framing, persuading with data and stories (two very separate tips), and creating a money phrase. My friends Rob Salisbury, Pamela Wigglesworth, Heather Hansen, Karen Leong, Bob Feldman, and others too numerous to mention also have some great stuff in there.

Published by Marshall Cavendish, the book is available at bookstores throughout Singapore. The distinctive blue and gold cover really stands out among all the student assessments, stationery, and other non-book items that Singapore bookstores sell. (When ebooks finally wipe out all the other bookstores the Singapore bookstores will not miss a beat!) Soon it will be available throughout southeast Asia and beyond. Grab your copy now!

Raise Your Game 2012

I am helping to organize a very special one-day event called Raise Your Game 2012. It will be held on 16 February 2012 at the Holiday Inn Orchard Hotel. Last year’s event was excellent, and it should be even better this year.

This event is organized by APSS (Asia Professional Speakers Singapore), the preeminent organization of professional speakers in Singapore. I am very proud to be a professional member of this fine group. We have eight keynote speakers lined up, as well as two special panel sessions. I will be participating on a panel this year.

I promise you this will be a powerful day of learning and sharing and a fabulous way to kick start the new year! I hope to see you there.

If you have any questions, please go to the APSS website at http://www.asiaspeakers.org.

There are no bad words

The valedictorian of a university in Singapore made news recently. She concluded her commencement address with an apparently ad-libbed expression of jubilation: “We f***ing did it!” There has been a good deal of debate about how to make sure such a transgression never happens again.

I won’t use her name here, not to spare her from further embarrassment but to avoid giving her any further undeserved recognition. In my July 11 post (“American Gladiators”) I observed that the bar to standing out is constantly being raised, and the trend of stronger, more expressive language will continue and even accelerate. I don’t know what this young woman plans to do with her life, but I’m quite certain that this episode will not hurt her prospects. In fact, I won’t be surprised to see her capitalize on her fifteen minutes of fame.

My wife nearly went ballistic when our seven-year-old daughter spouted the F-word. She spells it “f-u-k” and I am relieved to say she learned it from a classmate, not me. While every word has a time and place, there are some words that little girls should never say.

Mark Twain was a master wordsmith who never seemed to use vulgarity in his writing. However, he did use colorful language in his speech. After one outburst of cursing, his wife gave him a taste of his own medicine. Twain allegedly replied, “You have the words, my dear, but I’m afraid you’ll never master the tune.”

Every word exists for a purpose. Sometimes the best word just happens to be a vulgarity – no polite word will serve as well. To paraphrase the greeting card company, there are occasions “when you care enough to say the very worst.” As I explained to my daughter after her own outburst, the only bad words are “I can’t.”

Curb their enthusiasm – kicked out of a free preview

I like to attend free previews for various seminars (forex trading, get-rich-quick trading options, start your own internet business, time-share offers, etc.). It’s like working in a laboratory for me – I get to see what techniques the persuaders behind these programs are using.

My wife recently told me I would be accompanying her to what seemed like a time-share pitch, though the promoter insisted it was not a time-share. The promoter was offering an expense paid trip for two to various Asian destinations, including airfare on an undesignated carrier and accommodations, plus a tablet PC of dubious origins. All we had to do to collect was show up at their offices and listen for ninety minutes. The rationale was simple: instead of spending huge sums of money on newspaper ads that might not generate much interest, the company chose to spend it on gifts to bring in prospects from a carefully chosen market segment. I suspect the real reason was that such extravagant (though not necessarily expensive) gifts would create a strong sense of obligation in the recipients.

We showed up at their offices in a large bank building. The paint on the walls looked fresh, though I could not actually smell it. I reminded myself that anyone could rent space in an impressive building, put up a sign, and look like a respectable business. A pretty young woman in a sexy black dress brought us to a small round table in a large room full of other round tables and couples chatting with pretty women in sexy black dresses. She began to soften us up with small talk. The other couples were chatting and laughing comfortably. We were sitting there guardedly, and I was still trying to detect the odor of fresh paint.

A short time later the ‘man in the suit’ relieved the young beauty. “I can see you’re not comfortable here,” he said to us. “I’m just wondering what this is all about,” I replied. “No, you really don’t want to be here,” he insisted. “That’s fine, we’ll organize your gift, but I know you’d rather be doing something else this afternoon, so we won’t keep you here.” I really did want to see how this seeming time-share pitch was not about time-shares, and what other smooth moves they had planned for us, but the suit was adamant. He wanted us out.

My wife thought he was afraid I might ask some pointed questions. I don’t believe that was it. Surely he was prepared for any objection I might raise. (In fact, I had no intention of asking any questions, I was there to observe.) No, he was afraid that my skeptical demeanor would infect the atmosphere of the room and diminish the enthusiasm of the other couples. I think he made the right move, though I would have loved to see their pitch.

A carefully designed pitch contains many elements of persuasion. You must manage them carefully. Aside from the free gift to create an obligation to reciprocate, the friendly approach to tap into the likeability factor, the impressive signage and surroundings, and so on, our friend the suit was attentive to our body language, the interpersonal dynamics, and the mood of the room.

Persuasion is more about guidelines than rules. Guidelines require you to exercise judgment. Observe, consider, experiment – there is always more to learn.