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Why You Should Stop Using PowerPoint — Book Review: Real Leaders Don’t Do PowerPoint

Real Leaders Don’t Do PowerPoint: How to Sell Yourself and Your Ideas by Christopher Witt with Dale Fetherling (Crown Business, 2009)

Christopher Witt, speech consultant and president of Witt Communications, says that leaders owe their audience more than a PowerPoint presentation. This book is as much about leadership as it is about presenting.

Every time a leader speaks they want to either identify, influence or inspire (pg. 19). “Real leaders” aren’t trying to just convey information, which is what most people use PowerPoint for; instead, they’re interested in persuading people. This is essential because leaders take stands (pg. 27).

In addition to the philosophical principles of presenting, Witt offers some practical, yet uncommon, advice. For example, he lists all the questions you should ask before presenting (pg. 52). (I would have never thought to ask how the room is set up that I’m presenting in—outside of asking if there will be a projector.) (more…)

Getting People to Adopt Your Ideas — Book Review: Made to Stick

Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Chip Heath and Dan Heath (New York: Random House, 2007, 2008).

In Made to Stick, Chip and Dan Heath offer a very practical and well-researched guide to creating ideas that will penetrate the market and produce profit. Chip, a professor of organizational behavior (Stanford) and Dan, a consultant to the Policy Program at the Aspen Institute, are well positioned to offer insights on this subject.

The Heath brothers’ tips can be applied to several areas of business—writing, marketing, strategy and even running effective meetings. The Heath brothers summarize sticky ideas with the acronym SUCCES (the last “S” is intentionally missing): Simplicity, Unexpectedness, Concreteness, Credibility, Emotional and Stories. (more…)

Could You Be the Next Cornelius Vanderbilt? Book Review: The First Tycoon

The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt by T. J. Stiles (Knopf, 2009)

T. J. Stiles has taught at Columbia University and held the Gilder Lehrman Fellowship in American History. He won the 2010 Pulitzer Prize in Biography for his work on The First Tycoon.

Biographies generally fall into two categories: exciting or boring. The First Tycoon is riveting.

Vanderbilt may be the most-driven, power hungry, greedy, and downright ruthless businessman who has ever lived. And in the process of being so, he destroyed monopolies owned by aristocrats, essentially paved the way for the modern American corporation, and brought progress to not just New York, but America at large. He even helped win the Civil War for the Union, and through guiding military operations ensured that his businesses could operate in Nicaragua (pg. 299, 343). The ironic part: As Vanderbilt toppled monopolies, he gladly became one, several times over. (more…)

Overcoming Obstacles to True Inspiration: Book Review of Creativity, Inc.

Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces that Stand in the Way of True Inspiration by Ed Catmull with Amy Wallace (Random House, 2014)

Creativity, Inc. profoundly articulates how to lead people who are paid to be creative. Author Ed Catmull is co-founder of Pixar Animation Studios. Catmull was at the University of Utah as the internet came into existence. After receiving his PhD, he led a tech company in New York City before going to work for George Lucas. Later, Catmull was integral to Steve Jobs acquiring Pixar from Lucas. Eventually, he worked alongside Jobs to sell Pixar to Disney. Today, he is President of Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios.

The message of Creativity, Inc. is simple and it is full of actionable ideas. As part memoir part practical business advice, this book is special. It deploys narrative arc, takes you inside the wonderful world of Pixar and Disney, and is hard to put down. Probably the biggest message in Creativity, Inc. is the need to not just suggest but also facilitate an environment of honesty and candor because “when it comes to creative inspiration, job titles and hierarchy are meaningless. … Unhindered communication [is] key, no matter what your position” (chapter one).

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