A call for moderation

Being a panel moderator is the hardest easy job in public speaking.

I’ve moderated, conservatively, more than one hundred panels over three decades (I started as a teen at science-fiction conventions). Aside from the aforementioned fan gatherings, there have been professional panels at events ranging from E3 Expo to technology industry conferences to book and education industry trade shows.

In the spirit of earlier tips for types of public speaking not everyone does, here are nine things you should know about being a good moderator, if you’re ever called to serve: Continue reading A call for moderation

Auction mentality

Ever go to a charity auction and think, “Hey, this is a lot like eBay — why don’t they just put it all online?”

Because odds are it wouldn’t work nearly as well or raise as much money for the cause. It’s a matter of individual and group psychology.

This past spring, as a favor to a colleague, I dipped back into the world of charity auction emceeing for a night at Villa Academy in Seattle. In 2003 and 2004 I regularly emceed charity auctions as a feel-good sideline through Stokes Auction Group (which provides auctioneers and auction services exclusively for charities). This gave me insight into auctions for organizations including the American Heart Association, YouthCare, Boys and Girls Clubs, Young Life, Skiforall, and the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, which does the delightfully named “Tennis Ball.” I gave it up when my travel schedule and new position made committing to an auction schedule impossible.

There’s a lot of planning and psychology that goes into a charity auction, from the smallest private school to the largest non-profit. Continue reading Auction mentality

Just my type(writer)

From the delightful anachronism category, I present the gift I received from my wife Denise on the recent occasion of my XLVIIIth birthday. It is a Smith Corona manual portable typewriter, recently reconditioned, with a new ribbon.typewriter-786021

In my teen years, my mother — knowing of my desire to be a writer — gave me a Smith Corona Electra 120. It was a pseudo-electric typewriter. I say “pseudo” because it was electric except for the carriage return, which was still manual. But it served me for many years until I purchased my first computer, an Apple IIe with a daisy-wheel printer and the fabled 80-column card (if I had to explain today what an 80-column card did, you wouldn’t be impressed).

This Smith Corona will occupy a functional place of honor near my 1948 Webster’s New International Dictionary Second Edition, Unabridged.

Some may wonder why I wax ecstatic over these anachronisms. Continue reading Just my type(writer)

Business cards: consulting years

For a dozen years, I was a marketing consultant and tech industry analyst. I worked with a variety of clients. Sometimes, a short-term project would extend into a long-term interim executive assignment … and with that, would come a business card for a year or so. This is the third of three parts (including media and tech) of how business cards and contact info evolved over 30 years, this one covering the consulting years 1992 to 2004. Continue reading Business cards: consulting years

Business cards: tech years

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, saying you worked in “personal computers” was akin to saying you work in genetics today. It sounded cool, but few folks completely understood it. Personal computers and their software were still not affordable for the masses; these were the days when a copy of PowerPoint, by itself, was $400.

Still, from 1987 through 1992, I moved from covering technology as a broadcaster to promoting it at two different companies. And I was doing so in a field — consumer technology marketing — for which there was no formal training and, in reality, no template as to what worked and what didn’t. It was pretty damned exciting.

This is the second of three parts of a look at how business cards evolved, starting with the media years and continuing through the consulting years — three decades’ worth. Continue reading Business cards: tech years

Business cards: media years

There are few descriptions of a career more sterile than a resume.

Resumes are text. Resumes are written and rewritten. Resumes exist for one purpose only: to help get that next job. They do little to capture the character of a position as it was being held. Yet for many, they’re the only document that bolts one job onto the next in the construction of a working life.

There is another kind of document that can both trace a career path, and help recall feelings a position evoked. It is the business card. Continue reading Business cards: media years

When dinosaurs ruled the airwaves

The following originally appeared as a “State of the Art” essay in Analog Science Fiction & Fact’s July 1992 issue. Portions were later excerpted in the Seattle Times in October 1992.

Though 2004 is a dozen years later and some of the names of the players have changed, much of the game being played remains the same today. When it comes to news and the human capacity to make sense of it, filters are important since more broad-based information gathering and dissemination mechanisms — up to and including the latest darling, Web logs — don’t change the limits of the human attention span. And mass media continue to have increasingly less mass.

Back in 1992, this was considered farsighted heresy. Now, it’s happened. Continue reading When dinosaurs ruled the airwaves

When companies collide

(The following essay originally appeared as a Special Letter in the March 4, 2004 issue of STRATEGIC NEWS SERVICE, published by Mark R. Anderson. For more information on the SNS newsletter, please visit www.stratnews.com.)

Pop quiz: What is a computer? For extra credit: What is a consumer electronics device? What is a toy?

Or, more to the point: define what makes a firm a computer company, consumer electronics company or toy company.

This would have been an easy quiz a decade or even five years ago. Computer companies sold big, expensive ($2,000 and up) multifunction boxes with microprocessors inside. Consumer electronics companies sold single-purpose devices at sub-$200 price points. Toy companies sold stuff that was fun to play with, usually for under $100, and rarely had any advanced technology in it (unless, like me as a kid, you were fascinated with how an Easy Bake Oven could actually cook anything edible). Continue reading When companies collide

Sam the polydactyl torby

This morning, I went though my usual routine: Make coffee. Open freezer. Grab ice cube tray. Remove one tuna cube and place in bowl. Microwave for 20 seconds. Add cold canned mystery chicken parts mix from refrigerator. Microwave for 10 seconds. Grab container of lactulose, measure 2cc into a syringe, and release over tuna-chicken mixture.

Give to wide-eyed feline. Did I mention wide-eyed, radioactive, occasionally-exploding feline? Continue reading Sam the polydactyl torby

Strategic advice, analysis and insight.