chris anderson

On Confessions Of A Public Speaker

I just finished reading Confessions of a Public Speaker by Scott Berkun. This book was recommended to me by one of my mentors.

Below are key excerpts from the book that I found particularly insightful:

1) “Most people listening to presentations around the world right now are hoping their speakers will end soon. That’s all they want. They’re not judging as much ass you link, because they don’t care as much as you think. Knowing this helps enormously. If some disaster happens, something explodes or I trip and fall, I’ll have more attention from the audience than I probably had 30 seconds before. And if I don’t care that much about my disaster, I can use the attention I’ve earned and do letting good with it—whatever I say next, they are sure to remember. And if nothing else, my tragedy will give everyone in the audience a funny story to share. The laughter from that story will do more good for the world than anything my presentation,or any other that day, probably would have done anyway.”

2) “If you’d like to be good at something, the first thing to go out the window is the notion of perfection. Every time I get up to the front of the room, 1 know I will make mistakes. And this is OK. If you examine how we talk to one another every day, including people giving presentations, you’ll find that even the best speakers make tons of mistakes…If you listen to Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, or Winston Churchill, and then read the unedited transcripts of those same speeches, you’ll find mistakes. However, they’re mistakes we commonly ignore because we’re incredibly forgiving of spoken language.”

3) “If anything, making some mistakes or stumbling in a couple of places reminds everyone of how hard it is to stand up at the front of the room in the first place. Mistakes will happen—what matters more is how you frame your mistakes, and there are two ways to do this: I. Avoid the mistake of trying to make no mistakes. You should work hard to know your material, but also know you won’t be perfect. This way, you won’t be devastated when small things go wrong. 2. Know that your response to a mistake defines the audience’s response. If I respond to spilling water on my pants as if it were the sinking of the Titanic, the audience will see it, and me, as a tragedy. But if I’m cool, or better yet, find it funny, the audience will do the same.”

4) “And it’s often the case that the things speakers obsess about are the opposite of what the audience cares about. They want to be entertained. They want to learn. And most of all, they want you to do well. Many mistakes you can make while performing do not prevent those things from happening. It’s the mistakes you make before you even say a word that matter more. These include the mistakes of not having an interesting opinion, of not thinking clearly about your points, and of not planning ways to make those points relevant to your audience. Those are the ones that make the difference. If you can figure out how to get those right, not much else will matter.”

5) “f you pretend to have no fears of public speaking, you deny yourself the natural energy your body is giving you. Anxiety creates a kind of energy you can use, just as excitement does. Ian Tyson, a stand-up comedian and motivational speaker, offered this gem of advice: “The body’s reaction to fear and excitement is the same…so it becomes a mental decision: am I afraid or am I excited.^” If the body can’t tell the difference, it’s up to you to use your instincts to help rather than hurt you. The best way to do this is to plan before you speak. When you are actually giving a presentation, there are many variables out of your control—it’s OK and normal to have some fear of them. But in the days or hours beforehand, you can do many things to prepare yourself and take control of the factors you can do something about.”

6) “When I practice, especially with a draft of new material, I run into many issues. And when I stumble or get confused, I stop and make a choice: Can I make this work if I try it again? Does this slide or the previous one need to change? Can a photograph and a story replace all this text? Is there a better lead-in to this point from the previous point? Will things improve if I just rip this point/slide/idea out completely?”

7) “The solution to this, and to many other tough room problems, rests on the density theory of public speaking, a theory I discovered one day after repeating the Dallas experience in some other city, with some other embarrassingly small crowd in a ridiculously large room. I realized that the crowd size is irrelevant what matters is having a dense crowd. If ever you face a sparsely populated audience, do whatever you have to do to get them to move together. You want to create a packed crowd located as close as possible to the front of the room. This goes against most speakers’ instincts, which push them to just go on with the show and pretend not to notice it feels like they’re speaking at the Greyhound bus station at 3 a.m. on Christmas morning.”

8) “No matter what kind of speaking you are doing, there are only a few reasons people will be there. As you plan your talk, start with the goal of satisfying the things listed below. People come because they: Want to learn something Wish to be inspired 3- Hope to be entertained 4- Have a need they hope you will satisfy 5. Desire to meet other people interested in the subject 6. Seek a positive experience they can share with others 7- Are forced to be there by their bosses, parents, professors, or spouses 8. Have been handcuffed to their chairs and haven’t left the room for days. ”

9) “To prepare well, you must do four things: Take a strong position in the title. All talks and presentations have a point of view, and you need to know what yours is…Think carefully about your specific audience. Know why they are there, what their needs are, what background knowledge they have, the pet theories they believe in, and how they hope their world will be different after your lecture is over…3. Make your specific points as concise as possible. If it takes 10 minutes to explain what your point is, something is very wrong…4. Know the likely counterarguments from an intelligent, expert audience.”

10) “I usually present with slides. I love using images and movies to make points, but I never worry that these things won’t work. Having thought clearly through my points, even if 1 lose the specific way I had hoped to present them, 1 can still offer them to my audience. If I’m fluent in my research, I can offer those anecdotes naturally. In effect, by working hard on a clear, strong, well-reasoned outline, I’ve already built three versions of the talk: an elevator pitch (the title), a five-minute version (saying each point and a brief summary), and the full version (with slides, movies, and whatever else strengthens each point).”

11) “But there’s a solution. The answer to most attention problems is POWER…The setup for public speaking is beyond republican—in the political science sense of the word—it’s tyrannical. Only one person is on stage, only one person is given an introductory round of applause, and only one person gets the microphone. If the aliens landed during the TED Conference, they’d obviously assume the guy standing on stage holding the microphone was supreme overlord of the planet. For much of the history of civilization, the only ic speakers were chiefs, kings, and pharaohs. But few speakers use the enormous potential of this power. Most speakers are so afraid to do anything out of the ordinary that they squander the very power the audience hopes they will use.”

12) “There are three things my brother did that anyone trying to teach must do, and it’s no surprise that they’re easier to do with a smaller number of students: 1. Make it active and interesting. 2. Start with an insight that interests the student. 3. Adapt to how the student responds to #1 and #2. The bad news: applying these rules always takes more time. The good news: any time at all you spend pays off.”

13) “Finding and simplifying insights requires humility, something rarely attributed to experts and public speakers. Keep your hard-earned knowledge in mind, but simultaneously remember how it felt to be a complete novice. It’s rare to achieve this balance, but it’s what makes a teacher great. It turns out, my brother learned to drive stick the difficult, old-school way. Instead of passing on that misery to me, instead of projecting his own suffering onto me as a : of passage all drivers should endure, he chose to convert his misery into my delight. Teaching is a compassionate act. It transforms the confusing into the clear, the bad into the good. When it’s done well, and the insights are experienced not just by the teacher but by the students as well, everyone should feel good about what’s happened. It’s amazing how rare it is from many systems for the experience of learning to be a pleasurable thing.”

14) “Silence establishes a baseline of energy in the room. Sometimes when a room is silent, people pay more attention than when you are speaking (a fact many don’t know since they work so hard to prevent any silence when speaking). If y If you constantly fill the air with sounds, the audience members’ ears and minds never get a break.”

15) “Learning to stop saying “umm” requires only one thing: practice. People who sneak without saying “umm” weren’t born that way. They used to do it and have worked their way out of the habit. If you’re not sure whether or not you do it, you most likely do. And you’re probably in good company. Many famous politicians. celebrities, and executives are hard to listen to because of their annoying filler sounds. It’s an easy problem to have, since fixing it is a simple, fail-safe way to make all of your presentations better.”

16) “Medium list of little things: Umms and uhhs. Distractions and tics. Putting the audience behind you. Repetition. No eye contact. Discomfort.  Dispassionate. Referenced data. Inappropriate for this audience.”


Omar Halabieh

Confessions Of A Speaker


On Free

I recently finished reading Free – How Today’s Smartest Businesses Profit By Giving Something For Nothing – by Chris Anderson.

Below are key excerpts from the book that I found particularly insightful:

1- “The “free” part of freemium is simple, but the “premium” part is tricky. Every company and industry is different, and each business must figure out what its customers will pay for even as it uses Free to attract them in the first place. Although the book includes hundreds of examples of how successful firms found premiums to go with their frees, there are countless others. There is no silver bullet, no universal freemium model that can offer salvation to all. Making Free work is hard, which is why it’s sometimes so scary.”

2- “Those who understand the new Free will command tomorrow’s markets and disrupt today’s—indeed, they’re already doing it. This book is about them and what they’re teaching us. It is about the past and future of a radical price.”

3- “Today the most interesting business models are in finding ways to make money around Free. Sooner or later every company is going to have to figure out how to use Free or compete with Free, one way or another. This book is about how to do that.”

4- “Cross-subsidies can work in several different ways: Paid products subsidizing free products…Paying later subsidizing free now…Paying people subsidizing free people.”

5- “Most transactions have an upside and a downside, but when something is FREE! we forget the downside. FREE! gives us such an emotional charge that we perceive what is being offered a as immensely more valuable than it really is. Why? I think it’s because humans are intrinsically afraid of loss. The real allure of FREE! is tied to this fear. There’s no visible possibility of loss when we choose a FREE! item (it’s free). But suppose we choose the item that’s not free. Uh-oh, now there’s a risk of having made a poor decision—^the possibility of loss. And so, given the choice, we for what is free.”

6- “The lesson from Harris’s experience is that in a digital marketplace, Free is almost always a choice. If you don’t offer it explicitly, others will typically find a way to introduce it themselves. When the marginal cost of reproduction is zero, the barriers to Free are mostly psychological fear of breaking the law, a sense of fairness, an individual’s calculation on the value of his or her time, perhaps a habit of paying or ignorance that a free version can be obtained. Sooner or later, most producers in the digital realm will find themselves competing with Free. Harris understood that and figured out how to do it better. With his survey, he looked into the mind of the of the pirate and saw a paying customer looking for a reason to come out.”

7- “Commodity information (everybody gets the same version)  /ants to be free. Customized information (you get something unique and meaningful to you) wants to be expensive.”

8- “It’s easy to see e why this is scary for the industries that are losing their pricing power. “De-monetization” is traumatic for those affected. But pull back and you can see that the value is not so much lost as redistributed in ways that aren’t always measured in dollars and cents.”

9- “In 1971, at the dawning of the Information Age, the social scientist Herbert Simon wrote: In an information-rich world, the wealth of information meat a dearth of something else: a scarcity of whatever it is that information consumes. What information consumes is rather obvious: it consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention.”

10- “There is nothing new about this—people have always been creating and contributing for free. We didn’t call what they did “work” because it wasn’t paid, but every time you give someone free advice or volunteer for something, you’re doing something that in a different context could be somebody’s job. Now the professionals and amateurs are suddenly in the same marketplace of attention, and these parallel worlds are now in competition. And there are a lot more amateurs than professionals.”

11- “The idea that knockoffs can actually help the originals, especially ir the fashion business, isn’t new. In economics, it’s called the “piracy paradox,” a term coined by law professors Kal Raustiala and Christopher Sprigman. The paradox stems from the basic dilemma that underpins the economics of fashion: Consumers have to like this year’s designs, but also quickly become dissatisfied with them so they’ll buy next year’s design. Unlike technology, say, apparel companies can’t argue that next year’s models are functionally functionally better—they just look different. So they need some other reason  to get consumers to lose their infatuation with this year’s model. The solution: widespread copying that turns an exclusive design into a mass-market commodity. The designer mystique is destroyed by cheap ubiquity, and discriminating consumers have to go in search of something exclusive and new.”

12- “The lesson from fiction is that we can’t really imagine plenty properly. Our brains are wired for scarcity; we are focused on the things we have enough of, from time to money. That’s what gives us our drive. If we get what we’re seeking, we tend to quickly discount it and find a new scarcity to pursue. We are motivated by what we don’t have. not what we do have.”


Omar Halabieh


On The Master Switch

I recently finished reading The Master Switch – The Rise and Fall of Information Empires – by Tim Wu.

The main premise of the book, as stated by the author: “To understand the forces threatening the Internet as we know it, we must understand how information technologies give rise to industries, and industries to empires. In other words, we must understand the nature of the Cycle, its dynamics, what makes it go, and what can arrest it. As with any economic theory, there are no laboratories but past experience…The pattern is distinctive. Every few decades, a new communications technology appears, bright with promise and possibility. It inspires a generation to dream of a better society, new forms of expression, alternative types of journalism. Yet each new technology eventually reveals its flaws, kinks, and limitations. For consumers, the technical novelty can wear thin, giving way to various kinds of dissatisfaction with the quality of content (which may tend toward the chaotic and the vulgar) and the reliability or security of service. From industry’s perspective, the invention may inspire other dissatisfactions: a threat to the revenues of existing information channels that the new technology makes less essential, if not obsolete; a difficulty commoditizing (i.e., making a salable product out of) the technology’s potential; or too much variation in standards or protocols of use to allow one to market a high quality product that will answer the consumers’ dissatisfactions. “

Below are key excerpts from the book that I found particularly insightful:

1- “In fact, the place we find ourselves now is a place we have been before, albeit in different guise. And so understanding how the fate of the technologies of the twentieth century developed is important in making the twenty-first century better.”

2- “Schumpeter’s cycle of industrial life and death is an inspiration for this book. His thesis is that in the natural course of things, the new only rarely supplements the old; it usually destroys it. The old, however, doesn’t, as it were, simply give up but rather tries to forestall death or co-opt its usurper—a la Kronos—with important implications.”

3- “We have seen how important outsiders are to industrial innovation: they alone have the will or interest to challenge the dominant industry. And we have seen the power of considerations beyond wealth or security—factors outside the motivations of the ideal rational economic actor—in inspiring action to transform an industry.”

4- “Here, then, we come to the second weakness that afflicts centralized systems of innovation: the necessity, by definition, of placing all control in a few hands. This is not to say that doing so holds no benefit. To be sure, there is less “waste”: instead of ten companies competing to develop a better telephone—reinventing the wheel, as it were, every time—society’s resources can be synchronized in their pursuit of the common goal. There is no duplication of research, with many laboratories chasing the same invention. Yet if all resources for solving any problem are directed by a single, centralized intelligence. that mastermind has to be right in predicting the future if innovation is to proceed effectively. And that’s the problem: monopoly presumes a prescience that humans are seldom capable of. “

5- “For the combined forces of a dominant industry and the federal government can arrest the Cycle’s otherwise inexorable progress, intimating for the prevailing order something like Kronos’s fantasy of perpetual rule.”

6- “Whether sanctioned by the state or not, monopolies represent a special kind of industrial concentration, with special consequences flowing from their dissolution. Often the useful results are delayed and unpredictable, while the negative outcomes are immediate and obvious.”

7- “But what prevented monopoly and all centralized systems from realizing these efficiencies, in Hayek’s view, was a fundamental failure to appreciate human limitations. With perfect information, a central planner could effect the best of all possible arrangements, but no such planner could ever hope to have all the relevant facts of local, regional, and national conditions to arrive at an adequately informed, or right, decision.”

8- “As an object lesson in the way information networks can develop, it gives us occasion to consider what we truly want from our news and entertainment, as opposed to what sort of content we might be prepared to sustain, however passively, with our fleeting attention. For cable offered choices really only in the commercial range—(-enough, however, to suggest what a truly open medium could deliver to the nation, for better and for worse.”

9- “With its hefty capitalization, it offers the information industries financial stability, and potentially a great freedom to explore risky projects. Yet despite that promise, the conglomerate can as easily become a hidebound, stifling master, obsessed with maximizing the revenue potential and flow of its intellectual property. At its worst, such an organization can carry the logic of mass cultural production to any extreme of banality as long as it seems financially feasible.”

10- “For the information industries that now account for an ever increasing share of American and world GDP, the coming decade will be given over to a mighty effort to seize territory, to bolt the competition from its habitat. But this is not a case of one pack of wolves chasing another out of a prime valley. While it may sound fanciful, the contest in question is more like one of polar bears batting lions for domination of the world. Each animal, insuperably dominant in its natural element—the polar bear on ice and snow, the lion on the open plains—will undertake a land grab where it has no natural business being. The only practicable strategy will be a campaign of climate change, the polar bears seeking to cover as much of the world with snow as they can, while the lion tries to coax a savannah from the edges of a tundra. Sounds absurd, but for these mighty predators, it’s simply the law of nature.”

11- “The democratization of technological power has made the shape of the future hard to know, even for the best informed. The individual holds more power than at any time in the past century, and literally in the palm of his hand. Whether or not he can hold on to it is another matter.”

12- “The American political system is designed to prevent abuses of pubic power. But where it has proved less vigilant is in those areas where the political meets the economic realm, where private economic power comes to bear on public life…We like to believe that our safeguards against concentrated political power will ultimately protect us from the consequences of accumulated economic power. But this hasn’t always been so.”

13- “For history shows that in seeking to prevent the exercise of abusive power in the information industries, government is among those actors whose power must be restrained. Government may function as a check on abusive power, but government itself is a power that must be checked. What I propose is not a regulatory approach but rather a constitutional approach to the information economy. By that I mean a regime whose goal is to constrain and divide all power that derives from the control of information.”

14- “Let us. then, not fail to protect ourselves from the will of those who might seek domination of those resources we cannot do without. If we do not take this moment to secure our sovereignty over the choices that our information age has allowed us to enjoy, we cannot reasonably blame its loss on those who are free to enrich themselves by taking it from us in a manner history has foretold.”


Omar Halabieh

The Master Switch