concise (adj.) marked by the use of few words to convey much information or meaning

I’ll be brief” adds two minutes to presentation, “we are running late, so I’ll be brief” adds five to ten. What can you do when your presentation space shrinks from decent 15 minutes to five? Be concise not brief

Craft your presentation or speech in a scalable way. Have 🌟 a memorable opening, 1️⃣2️⃣3️⃣ up to three points and 🎁 a memorable closing. One way is to have a summary version of presentation at the begging of your slides.

Reiterate your point (but don’t be boring). ☝ Tell them what you are going to tel. ✌ Tell it. 🖖Summarize what you just told.

Focus on the powerful closing. Your goal is not to show the last slide. Your goal is to make your point. So, reiterate it in 🎁 a memorable closing and make a pause 🧘‍♀️ to allow your final point to sink in.

Let me ask you…

Public speaking could be a misleading term, it is less about speaking and more about communication. Questions are incredibly versatile tools for making presentations more effective and engaging. Questions could be used for building intrigue, inviting audience engagement, helping you remember what to say and even calming your anxiety.

🤩 Rhetorical questions build intrigue and prompts audience to think about the issue. “But why, some say, the moon? And they may well ask why climb the highest mountain? Why, 35 years ago, fly the Atlantic? Why does Rice play Texas?” asked JFK in his Moon Speech

🙋‍♀️ Polling questions make the audience part of your point, shared experience is a great connection builder. It works well both in-person and on-line—”please raise your hand if you ever…” or “please vote with smile emoji if you ever…” Stand up artists and showrunners use it all the time

🔀 Outline the talk using questions and regulate the flow of the presentation. List questions which could serve as prompts for what you intend to say. It will help you to navigate speech without memorizing it word-by-word. In turn, it makes speech more conversational and engaging—you are simply answering your audience’s unasked questions.

Read more about Questions as a Speaker’s Best Tool here

Hidden human capital and cost of staff turnover

More than century ago Henry Ford made an unusual offer. He guaranteed pay $5 per day (around $150 per day in today’s dollars) for eight hours of assembly line work for all workers at his production plant. At the time the offer was surprising and created a lot of hype. It was quite generous, roughly doubled workers’ pay. It went against common wisdom—labour is abundant, you could fire and replace workers in no time. Ford had his own views, based on the issue he faced. Ford standardised products and production processes at plants. The workers were not, turnover was high, and quality of products varied. Generous wage offer aimed at reducing workers turnover and maintaining this hidden human capital. Arguably, it paid off in a long run.

Century later economists got data to confirm Ford’s intuition and quantify the hidden cost of worker turnover. Recent article in Management Science “The Hidden Cost of Worker Turnover: Attributing Product Reliability to the Turnover of Factory Workers” combined data on weekly workers turnover at major electronic producer plant, and data on field failures of their electronic products. Result? For Each percentage point increase in the weekly rate of workers quitting from an assembly line, field failures increase by 0.74%–0.79%. These extra failures could total to striking 10.2% in the high-turnover weeks following paydays. The associated costs amount to hundreds of millions of U.S. dollars.

The issue seems to be even worse in new sectors economy, knowledge based. Search Cloud provider Sinequa published findings from a survey of 1,000 IT managers at large organizations in the UK and US to explore the impact the Great Resignation has on employee experience, productivity, and organizational risk. It showed that 64% felt that their organization already has experienced loss of knowledge due to people leaving the company. There is a concern that turnover could have a cumulative effect—56% of surveyed managers agreed it will hurt the organization’s ability to onboard new employees. Hidden human capital is not that visible, highly underappreciated, and could be quite costly to replace.

If data are not persuasive enough, here is a nice meme on newbie dealing with legacy products.

Be better, one thing at the time

You have to improve structure of the speech, also your body language, and vocal variety, and…” Have you ever felt overwhelmed by suggestions for improvement—clearly, well intentioned? They provide a good map of improvements. You should tackle them one at a time, by focusing on one thing to be improved and letting other things be as they are.

Want to improve vocal variety? Drop the speech writing and read a famous speech or letter. Interpretive reading is a great opportunity to practice your vocal skills and it is fun. Moreover, you could find many examples to learn from. My favourite is Benedict Cumberbatch reading Sol LeWitt’s letter to Eva Hesse, what is yours?

Want to improve speech structure and content? Guineapig it on colleagues, family, your dog! Don’t worry much about other features, like posture and vocal variety. Open Mic is a great model for testing material, which is used by experienced speakers.

Want to pump your impromptu speaking? Volunteer for Table Topic Sessions at Toastmasters Club Meeting, they are often open to guests, or attend (run?) a Table Topic Marathon. Your learning goal is to start speaking on the spot, so practice this and only this.

Want to give a helpful speech evaluation? Limit your suggestions to 1 or 2 points maximum. I prefer “3-2-1” evaluation scheme: three observations on achievements, two suggestions for improvement, one takeaway.

Practice makes you better. Just keep going. One step at a time.

Shades of Informality

Informal employment attracts a lot of attention, because it is widespread but associated with risks. It lacks of insurance against shocks, and therefore directly related to vulnerability to poverty. Many Social-Economic Impact Assessments of COVID-19 showed that informal workers were particularly hit hard by turbulence in 2020-21. However, measurement of informality is not that simple. Most often used definition is lack of social and/or health insurance. Meanwhile, research has shown that formalization does not automatically lead to poverty reduction.

While there are many reasons why this link does not work automatically—flexibility of informal arrangements, hidden costs of formalization—one reason could be how we measure informality. We usually measure welfare on the family level, using household income or expenditure and assuming that families share these. However, informality is usually measured and analysed on individual level—individual workers, family firm, the household head—without making assumptions how risks and benefits of informality are shared in family. (There is a rich and growing body of literature on migration as a risk sharing, for instance “Risk Sharing and Internal Migration”) As a result, policies related to poverty reduction and reducing the risks of informality are often designed with different groups in mind—families and single individuals respectively.

This chart of the week comes from a recent paper “Welfare and the depth of informality. Evidence from five African countries”. It shows that there are shades of “informality”, rather than simply “Yes” / “No” dichotomy. The paper further investigates the relationship between welfare and informality at the household level. The findings confirm the nonlinear relationship between welfare and informality—families with some formal incomes are as well off as families with only formal income. Moreover, paper suggests that moving to full formality only translates to meaningful welfare improvements if the household income gain is sufficiently large.

Avoiding ‘Badjectives’ in Communication

One common comment I usually get from a Grammarian is to replace ‘very’ word with stronger alternatives, and there is no lack of good synonyms. However, it could be vital to avoid “badjectives”—adjectives so generic and broad that they have virtually no impact (as Joel Schwartzberg calls them These are used so broadly, that they are trivialized and lost any meaning—all ideas are “great”, impact is “amazing”, products are “innovative”, name it. We use them for a simple reason, they are readily available, instant and easy to use.

Going from “adjectives” to more impactful adjectives is simple—just to ask and answer WHY? question and then choose the most meaningful. An example:

Great job, Lisa!

❔ WHY was Lisa’s accomplishment “great?” Because it could lead to a new revenue stream.

Wow, Lisa, the new market you discovered could result in an entirely new revenue stream! 👉

Cultural shifts for asynchronous work

Focus comics by Monkeyuser

“It changes everything!” say remote work enthusiasts. Shining new technologies make online work possible and offer opportunities for asynchronous interactions. However, it appears that the problem is not technological, but rather social. We’re still stuck in old patterns of work and habits of presenteeism. What is worse, technology is aggravating things.

Recent study “Killing Time at Work” by Qatalog x GitLab brought some interesting figures. Good news—people do value flexibility and asynchronous work and believe this way is beneficial for both outputs and wellbeing. Some 80% of people believe they are more productive and create higher quality output when they have more flexibility over when they work. People are ready to resign if flexibility is limited (66%) and ready to accept lower paid roles with greater flexibility (43%). This shift is already in progress—two-third of responded said they have more flexibility compared to before the pandemic.

Bad news, people still spend striking 67 minutes, 13% of workday, in a “productivity theater,” showing their colleagues and managers they are present and ‘working’. Usually, it happens by signaling online presence at certain times of the day, but quite often (73%) it implies replying to notifications outside of the working hours. Multiplication of notifications is striking—the average knowledge worker now receives notifications from six applications. What is worse, by default notifications are noisy and competing for your attention by blinking, blipping, and buzzing. The cost of interruptions is well know—it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back to the task . In many cases managers and leaders are sending mixed messages , officially encouraging flexible arrangements, while signaling the virtue of presenteeism and connecteism (in worst cases peppering calendar with mandatory meetings). The result is poisonous work-life blur, lack of control over your time, burnout and ultimately exodus of annoyed employees.

Way forward towards asynchronous work requires intentional culture shifts, which combine technological and cultural responses, suggests Qatalog x GitLab study. For instance, team could agree on minimizing distractions by agreeing to use less applications and setting up expectations—e.g. response to email is expected with 24 hrs, and one (and only ONE) instant messaging app is used for urgent (and really URGENT) conversations. Meetings and synchronous communication should be used more deliberately, less frequently but with a specific purpose.

7 Mistakes Making Your Speech Less Confident

📜 Being too scripted. An overly scripted speech sounds robotic and rarely captures people attention. Better to create a presentation and leave room for improvisation

🤐 Using too many filler words. Filler words—and, but, so, you know, ah, um—dilute your message and distract audience. Good news—you could improve signal-to-noise ratio by practicing. At Toastmasters we have special role ‘Ah-Counter’ to help people to improve

Using question inflections. Question could be a great tool to engage audience. Hovered, adding a question inflection to a statement makes you sound unsure of yourself. So, choose your questions wisely

💃 Swaying or standing too still. Body language is crucial for enforcing your message, however try to avoid two extremes—standing too still or swaying all the time.

🤩 Avoiding eye contact. Maintaining eye contact is vital for engaging audience. Online and hybrid meetings made it harder to keep eye contact. Two possible solutions—scan the faces through screen and look at the camera when you are speaking. Try and practice.

📊 Misusing visual aids. Visual aids are great, and online meeting offer new ways to use them. But please, refrain from walking them through the talk verbatim.

Mismanaging time. “I will be short” is THE worst opening phrase, as it guarantees overtime. Be on time, respect your audience.


Gimble in the Wabe

Recent developments in AI resulted in impressive tools, like a model for image generation. For instance, DALL-E 2 grabbed many headlines, as it can create realistic images and art from a description in natural language. While the generated images are impressive, basic questions remains unanswered—how does the model grasp relations between objects and agents? Relations are fundamental for human reasoning and cognition. Hence, machine models that aim to human-level perception and reasoning should have the ability to recognize relations and adequately reflect them in generative models.

Recent paper “Testing Relational Understanding in Text-Guided Image Generation” puts this assumption in test. The researchers generated galleries of DALL-E 2 images, using sentences with basic relationships—e.g. “a child touching a bowl” or “a cup on a spoon”. Then they showed images and prompt sentences to 169 participants and asked them to select images that match prompt. Only some 20% of images were perceived to be relevant to their associated prompts, across the 75 distinct prompts. Agentic prompts (somebody is doing something) generated slightly higher agreement, 28%. Physical prompts (X position in relation to Y) showed even lower agreement, 16%. The chart shows the proportion of participants reporting agreement between image and prompt, by the specific relation being tested. Only 3 relations entail agreement significantly above 25% (“touching”, “helping”, and “kicking”), and no relations entail agreement above 50%.

The results suggest that the model do not yet have a grasp of even basic relations involving simple objects and agents. Second, model has a special difficulty with imagination, i.e. ability to combine elements previously not combined in training datasets. For instance, the prompt “a child touching a bowl” generate images with high agreement (87%), while “a monkey touching an iguana” show worse results (11%). “A spoon in a cup” is easily generated, but not “a cup on a spoon”, reflecting effects of training data on model success.