Archive for the ‘communication’ Category

Technical Presentation Tips from a Keyboard Player – Part 1

Playing Keys

Playing Keys

Now, don’t get confused. While the blog explicitly says “bass player,” the fact is that I have gone back to playing the keyboard since this past summer. I have been privileged to play during Sunday services for myChurch here in Ottawa. Being a part of a great team of musicians and singers is really a wonderful opportunity for me to express my gifts and talents while serving God in a creative way. 

The last quarter of the year is usually the busiest time for me with regards to my speaking schedule. I usually call it my personal conference season – from the annual PASS Summit conference in Seattle, Live360 events in Orlando to the small user group meetings and SharePoint Saturday events happening within the last quarter of almost every year. Those who know me understand the amount of time, effort and resources that I put into preparing and delivering my presentations. And, I love going thru all of the work required to deliver a great presentation.

As a jazz musician myself, I find parallels in how artists think about their craft – how they prepare and deliver their art to the audience. Presentation expert Garr Reynolds (Twitter | blog), a jazz drummer  himself, wrote about how jazz relates to communication and presentations. I thought I’d share some of the things that I do both as a keyboard player and a technical presenter to deliver great technical presentations. If you are a technical professional – systems engineer, developer, database administrator, network engineer, etc. – looking to explore the world of presenting and speaking at events, read on.

      1. Really know your content. No, seriously, you have got to know your content really well. As a keyboard player, as soon as I get the list of songs from my musical director, I listen to it repeatedly – in the car, on my MP3 player, my phone, my laptop, etc. I remember having to use cassette tapes almost 20 years ago and repeatedly play and rewind songs until I can barely hear them. I listen repeatedly until it becomes LSS. Likewise, as a presenter, you should know your content really well that you can talk about it for hours non-stop. Since SQL Server high availability and disaster recovery is what I specialize on, I can talk about it for hours during whiteboard sessions, consulting engagements and, yes, even presentations.
      2. List and gather your props. Props are objects used on stage by actors during a performance. As a keyboard player, I have my trusty old Korg X50 music synthesizer that I use for basic playing. Earlier this year, I got introduced to the world of software synthesizers (synths) and started using Mainstage for the Mac. That means that I now have to carry both my MacBook and my Korg X50 during practices and performance. These in addition to the audio cables, audio digital interface, power adapters, etc. that go with playing keyboard using software synths. As a technical presenter, list down all of the things that you need during your presentation – be it the clicker for your presentation, a laptop running Microsoft PowerPoint or Apple Keynote, the demo workstation to show how things work, a USB thumb drive that contains a backup copy of your slides, etc. But here’s a secret that both great musicians and presenters know by heart. Legendary American jazz saxophonist and composer John Coltrane once said, “You can play a shoestring if you’re sincere.” It’s not about the tools that you use but rather how you use the tools that you have to deliver the message in a very sincere way.
      3. Organize your content. So, you’ve done your research, collected as much resources as you can, gathered all of the facts, included references, etc. You’ve got everything that you need to write an entire book. Unfortunately, you’re not writing a book (or in our context, producing an album.) You can only put so much content in your music and your presentation with the given amount of time you need to deliver it. When I search for information about a song that I need to play, I try to answer these basic questions:
        • FOUNDATION: “What really needs to be there?” Any piece of music will have melody which is identified by the chords and scales. This is a must and should not be  compromised. Similarly, a technical content needs to have the foundational information. Without the foundational information, the audience will get lost along the way. If advanced concepts need to be covered, don’t assume that everyone in the audience would know it but rather build it in implicitly without them knowing it. It’s like having kids do complex calculus by starting off with basic math.
        • THEME: “What message am I trying to convey?” Did you think that music is just an arrangement of notes organized to make you feel something when you hear it? Music is an expression of one’s self. That’s why there are lyrics that pertain to love, amusement, anger, etc. and they resonate within you when you hear them. That’s why there are theme songs for movies and advertisements. A technical presentation is no different. And that starts with the abstract. The abstract gives the audience a roadmap of what to expect in your content. This is also the reason why we have to really think about writing the abstract because it sets the audience up for the right expectations.
        • STORY:How does my story look like?” The best music that you will hear are the ones that have stories embedded within them. One example that I could think of is that of Bob Carlisle’s Butterfly Kisses.  Take a moment to listen to that song. It touches our heart because it resonates within us. Similarly, a technical presentation needs to have some story wrapped within it so that the attendees can connect with the presenter on a personal level. This is a very tough item to consider and, honestly, I still struggle with this even after more than 15 years of presenting.  I think because technical professionals are so wrapped within the confines of their work environment that it’s hard to find the emotional connection with servers and databases (although I know a few folks who fell in love with their database server that they wouldn’t want to replace them.)  But let me assure you that there is always a story that you can find and relate to your topic if you search hard enough, even if it isn’t our own story. One of the best story that I tell in my disaster recovery presentations was that of having to personally endure the effects of the second largest volcanic eruption in the 20th century.
        • TRIM:What can I exclude?” Great musicians know which notes NOT to play. Great leaders know which tasks NOT to do. “Are you saying that I just wasted all of that time and effort researching content that I am supposed to throw away?” Well, I didn’t say anything about throwing away content. All I said was EXCLUDE. It’s interesting to listen to music that consists of only 4 notes instead of 10. But those 4 notes are properly selected to sometimes produce sound that is way better than having 10 notes. In the same way, pick a handful of ideas from the content that you’ve already researched that your audience would consider the most important ones. Focus is key here. You would be surprised at how much your audience will appreciate the level of focus that you put into your content once your presentation is over. Oh, and about that content that you’ve researched? That will come in handy during the Q & A portion. It may end up being a topic for a blog post. In fact, you’re reading one right now.
        • GRAVY:What can I include that may not be as important but would spice up the content even more?” I keep this to a minimum as much as I can. In fact, I only consider this once I have addressed the first four. You can call this your Easter egg or embellishment. When playing a piece of music, I usually try to squeeze in an unusual chord or tone that would make the sound even better with anyone barely even noticing it unless it was recorded and intentionally analyzed. I do it mostly for fun and experimentation without leading the listeners away from enjoying the music. I do the same thing with my technical presentations – be it a picture in the slide deck or a text in my sample code that I’m demonstrating. People who are aware may be able to pick it up but don’t sweat it if nobody doesn’t. This is for me because I want to make delivering presentations fun.

Did I say “part 1” in the title? That’s because there really is a lot to consider whether you’re an aspiring musician or a technical presenter. We’ll continue on in the next blog post where I’ll talk about the other things that I do to deliver great presentations. You might want to hang in there a bit until the final part where I explain the process behind all of these. Stay tuned.


The Value of Engaging In Conversation Thru Feedback

I’ve been very busy with speaking and presenting at different events this year alone. As a speaker, I value great feedback especially when I know that I can take it to improve myself. While events and conference organizers provide feedback forms in both paper-based and online formats, I make it a point to ask attendees for their personal feedback after my presentations.

At the last PASS Summit in Charlotte, NC, I spent some time at the Community Zone to engage attendees in some conversation. Both first timers and alumni have their own different perspectives about the event. I was specifically interested in what the first time attendees had to say so I scanned name tags to see if they were indeed first timers. Conversations after conversations, my question simply boiled down to a single theme: How was the PASS Summit experience for you? The responses were similar, ranging from “Great” to “Wonderful,” but that wasn’t what I wanted to hear. I knew for a fact that these would be the common responses. That wasn’t the goal. The goal was to find out what specific details led them to saying it was a great experience.

I like asking WHY questions (Michael Hyatt wrote a blog post about 7 Suggestions for Asking More Powerful Questions.) Apart from the fact that I’m just really curious, the WHY questions lead to more WHY questions. This triggers the one answering the question to really think about and articulate their response. It also engages the individual in a conversation. Let’s be honest, we all feel like we have something to say. We sometimes just need an opportunity to be heard. That’s what I try to accomplish whenever I ask for (and provide) feedback. When I asked the conference attendees why they consider it a great experience, they started telling stories about their experience on how they felt being at home in a group of complete strangers. For the event organizers, this is a more detailed feedback about knowing that the feeling of community is something of importance to the attendees. Of course, my curiosity didn’t stop there. I asked what specific event that made them feel that way – Community Zone, speakers, SQLKaraoke, SQLRun, etc. These are just a handful of events happening within the context of the main event. Everyone of them made the attendees feel like they were a part of a bigger community.

Unfortunately, these types of detailed feedback go unaccounted for. Feedback forms are not made equal. What’s worse is that a lot of feedback forms are designed to capture scores and not engage in conversation. The challenge I see here is that it is difficult to automate the process of capturing meaningful feedback in free text format. Imagine trying to read every single comment from thousands of attendees. Even businesses who try to capture feedback from their customers have this challenge (Aaron Bertrand (blog | Twitter) provided some insights on the PASS Summit feedback for speakers.) What’s more important is to think about gathering (and providing) feedback in a way that engages conversation. Sam Walton, founder of Wal-Mart, was known for visiting stores and asking employees how they feel about the store and asking for suggestions to improve operations. While he could have afforded to pay consulting companies to design and implement the perfect feedback form, he opted to have a conversation. No scores nor numbers, just conversations and stories that he took from those he talked to.

Beyond scores and ratings, providing and gathering feedback should be a conversation. And when the conversation starts, meaningful insights emerge. No amount of business intelligence technologies can substitute for the insights gathered during meaningful conversations. What’s more, relationships are built which, for me, are the most important factor in the overall feedback system.

Leadership Lessons from Running a SQLSaturday Event

SQLSaturday Philippines

I’ve been involved with the SQL Server community ever since I can remember. I’ve been both a speaker and a volunteer and I know how it felt like to be on both sides of the fence. However, the one thing I haven’t been is an organizer myself. Until SQLSaturday218. This is the very first SQLSaturday event in the Philippines that was held last 9-Mar-2013.  Attendees, volunteers and speakers all claim that the event was a huge success and that they want it to be an annual event. But what they didn’t realize until the event was finally over was that SUCCESS always comes at a PRICE. The rewards of a champion only comes after the hard work and sacrifice, not before. SQLSaturday218 has reinforced a lot of leadership lessons that I have been practicing and teaching throughout the years.

  1. Find a higher purpose. I’ve blogged about this before and I’ve taught others about finding a higher purpose for things that we do.  SQLSaturday218 for me is more than just a SQL Server community event. It’s an attempt to express my patriotism in ways that I can do best. While most SQLSaturday organizers talk about technical education, I talk about loving my country. With the upcoming national elections in the Philippines, political candidates talk about bringing about change. I just made change happen thru SQLSaturday218. This wasn’t my original idea. Marlon Ribunal (blog | Twitter) and Justin Dearing (blog | Twitter) came up with the idea of running a SQLSaturday event in the Philippines. They included me in the conversation because they knew I was a die-hard FILIPINO. And the rest was history. My higher purpose helped me pursue even when the times are tough.
  2. Find allies, ignore detractors.  Every noble goal will have both. I always say that only fruitful trees get picked on. Nobody picks fruits on trees that don’t bear any. And, so be ready to have both allies and detractors. I heard a lot of folks tell me this is an insane idea. Nobody has ever organized a SQLSaturday event without physically being there. I was in Canada planning and organizing an event that was thousands of miles away from where I am, not to mention with a 12-hour time zone difference. I only knew (and have met) a handful of the volunteers. Regular SQLSaturday sponsors won’t fly to the Philippines just for this event. The odds are stacked up against me. I expected to have detractors. I was willing to take the stones that will get thrown at me. But I also did find allies. Niko Neugebauer  (blog | Twitter,) a fellow SQL Server MVP and PASS Community Evangelist was my greatest ally. He was the one who told me that it is possible and that I can make it happen because he was able to do it before. Allies will help you raise your shield when the detractors start throwing stones at you.
  3. Build a GREAT, UNITED team. People are what make things happen. That’s why you need to build a GREAT team. I’ve enlisted the help of people I knew who had the same passion for the community as I have. Culture is very important to me. That’s why I made sure that members of my team share the same values. They all went the extra mile to do things that I can’t because I wasn’t physically available. Some of my allies ended up being a part of the team.  And that’s why I brag about the people in my team who made SQLSaturday218 a huge success. But a great team will only go so far. A GREAT, UNITED team is unstoppable. In order to build a united team, they need to feel that they are a part of it in the first place. And building relationships is what makes that possible. Talk to team members. Understand what matters to them. Make them feel that they are special. Be willing to go the extra mile for them. If we are willing to do this for them now, imagine what they will be willing to do for you in the future.
  4. Over communicate.  It’s the leader’s job to keep the team informed. But sometimes, the same message has to be communicated several times in order for every one to get it. Over communication breeds clarity. It also addresses misunderstandings among those who receive the message. SQLSaturday has a website that organizers can use to do whatever they need to organize and run the event. While I maximized the use of the feature to send email communications to speakers, volunteers and registered attendees, I went the extra mile of sending personal emails. Every week for the past 6 weeks, I sent event updates to the registered attendees and those on the wait list. I also sent emails to the volunteers, giving them a picture of what to expect and what is expected of them. I also sent emails to my team about things that matter to us in order to make this event a success. I responded to emails, answered questions on instant messenger, did Skype calls, etc. in order to properly deliver the message.
  5. Ask for help but operate with a bootstrap mindset. My idea was to run SQLSaturday218 with very minimal to no sponsorship. That’s is because I wanted to create a mindset of creativity and resourcefulness. Plus, I also understand the challenges that most of the SQLSaturday sponsors have. It’s hard to spend money on sponsorships without the possibility of having immediate returns on their investments. I call myself the “self-proclaimed marketing guy” and I try to practice what I preach. I didn’t just go around asking for sponsorships. I only asked those who I believe will benefit from doing so. I even turned down several potential sponsors and explained why this would not benefit them. However, I didn’t just turn them down without offering them a long-term perspective of their marketing initiatives. And because we kept the bootstrap mindset, we operated as if we didn’t have resources. It’s amazing to see how people come up with creative ideas just because we don’t have the resources. So, when the resources became available, they were used to reward those who came up with creative ideas that got implemented.
  6. Have a detailed plan but be flexible enough when things don’t go as planned. I had a detailed project plan in place from start to finish. I shared it with my team and allowed them to make suggestions and modify it as necessary. But everyone knows that nobody can prepare and implement a perfect plan. Being flexible when things don’t go as planned is necessary for success.  We had delays with some of our deliverables. There were changes in the room assignments that affected the schedule and the signs that we printed out. But because everyone on the team understood what was expected, they all made things possible outside of the plan.
  7. Step back when necessary. Leaders have the tendency to do everything because they believe that success (and failure) lie in them. What they don’t realize is that not stepping back prevents potential rockstars to shine. At the day of the event, I knew exactly what I needed to do. Same thing with the volunteers. What’s really surprising is that I didn’t even have the chance to do a briefing session before we start doing the real work. All I did was shake their hands and introduced myself to them. Now, understand that these are people whom I haven’t personally met. But it’s as if they knew me very well and knew exactly what I expected of them. The volunteers were running on auto-pilot. That kept me focused on what I can do best. Had I not stepped back, I could have ruined the creative ideas that they were able to pull off and possibly discouraged them from trying again.
  8. Give as much A.I.R. as you possibly can. I blogged about giving appreciation, inspiration and recognition. As attendees were commenting on how great the event turned out to be, I took that opportunity to thank the sponsors, volunteers and speakers for making the event a huge success. At the volunteers’ and speakers’ dinner, I commented on the fact that I felt like having a great team from heaven. I sent emails to my contacts about how the event turned out to be, again, mentioning the fact that I had the best volunteers and speakers ever. I sent emails to the local sponsors, highlighting some of their staff who did a great job of volunteering at the event. I kept telling others, even sending personal emails and instant messages to the volunteers and speakers after the dinner, and constantly appreciating and recognizing their contributions. All of them wanted to be a part of next year’s SQLSaturday Philippines.

Leadership expert Dr. John C. Maxwell once said that “Everything rises and falls on leadership.” It’s one of the reasons why I’ve been a student of leadership for the past decade.  The lessons I’ve learned help make me become a much better leader and also inspires others to do the same. With the outcome of SQLSaturday218, I think this will become an annual event with the help of the local SQL Server user group.

Be Consistent With Your Brand

More Broken Glass

More Broken Glass by autowitch

Black baseball cap with a fashionable army jacket. That’s the image that people who know me recognize when they hear my name. When I started speaking at conferences and events here in North America, I became intentional about the image that I project. Let’s just say that everything started with a profile photo I gave Microsoft Singapore for use in their marketing collaterals. I couldn’t find a professional-looking profile photo when they asked for one back in 2007 for a conference I’m scheduled to speak at. So I gave them one that I have. I was wearing a baseball cap. That photo instantly became my official profile photo – from the book chapters I wrote to the case study documents from Microsoft Learning. And so I’ve decided to maintain that image and became very intentional about its consistency. I’ve also taught professionals how brand consistency helps in improving their career. A simple test that I do is perform a Google search on my name and check the results. If I get the results that I want consistently – be it the profile photos or keyword combinations – that means I have done a good job in creating the brand that I want.

I like doing experiments. I always like to try something new to test a hypothesis or just to break away from the rut. Several days ago at an event where I am supposed to speak at, I’ve decided to do a social experiment. I’ve decided to abandon the “baseball cap and the army jacket” image and just stick with my good old fashion self, the one where you can barely see hair on my head. On top of that, I’ve decided to include my new personal assistant – my eyeglasses – as part of my image. I wanted to test if I have successfully created a personal brand throughout these years. I knew the side effects of being inconsistent with my personal brand when I’ve decided to rename my LinkedIn and Twitter profiles several months ago. And so I went on with the experiment. The people who knew me well didn’t have much problems recognizing me. They were confused at first but have gotten over it. Moving on. I walked among the crowd. I heard people saying they wanted to attend my session. That’s not surprising since I knew many people wanted to learn more about the topic that I’m going to present on. What’s really surprising is what happened next. I heard people asking if they’ve already seen me. Some of the event organizers are starting to become restless because they couldn’t find me anywhere. Somebody told them that I was already at the venue. They just couldn’t find me. Or maybe they were looking for somebody else. Maybe they were looking for the guy wearing a baseball cap and the army jacket.

The experiment highlights few key points regarding branding:

  1. You/We are a brand. Whether we like it or not, our personalities are our brand. Same is true with companies, products and services. Quit avoiding the fact. You might as well do something about it and…
  2. Be intentional. Don’t wait for others to define your brand for you. You do not have control over that. Instead, define it for them. If you don’t define your brand, others will do it for you. I chose to be intentional about the brand that I have built over the years and I expect the results I’m getting.
  3. Know thy self. It’s hard to define something if you don’t even understand what it is. Whether it’s a person or a product, we need to know what it i and hat it stands for. Knowing one’s self takes time but it is key to successfully creating a brand.
  4. Be consistent. Imagine seeing a Coca-Cola logo with an orange colour. I can’t. That’s because I’m used to seeing it with the colour red. It becomes confusing when a brand is inconsistent. That’s the main point of my experiment. If we are inconsistent with our brand and our personality, others will be confused. Worst, they will eventually forget who you are.

If there’s one key point to consider when it comes to branding, that’s CONSISTENCY. And it doesn’t just work for branding. It does so too with leadership. You’ll earn the trust and respect of the people you lead.

Leadership By Conversation

January 22, 2013 1 comment

Connected by Conversation

Connected by Conversation by mikecogh

With all the travel that I’ve done for the past few years, I’ve learned how to pay attention to the people around me – how they talk,  act and even how they carry themselves. I’ve watched people talk to their kids, negotiate a seat on a plane, ask for favors, etc. I’ve learned a lot about people just by observing and watching them go about their life. One thing that caught my attention during my recent trip was how people like to engage in a conversation. I was on a flight from Charlotte to New York City getting ready to tighten my seat belt as I heard the flight attendant talk to one of the passengers aboard the plane (I was just a few feet away to hear their conversation.) The passenger happens to be another flight attendant who is on his way to Europe for a vacation. What’s very interesting is that their conversation evolved from the trip itinerary to the strategic approach that the airline can undertake to improve customer service and satisfaction. In a previous blog post, I’ve highlighted how merchandise staff who didn’t even go to college talked about strategic positioning of products for increased sales. This is the kind of information that leaders value. But why isn’t this kind of information making it’s way into the boardrooms? Let me tell you why. It’s because upper management have not taken that extra step of engaging their staff in conversations. Do you remember one of those conversations you’ve had with your close friends where you kept talking yet they weren’t paying any attention? I bet you stopped talking when you noticed (or maybe tried to do something to get their attention back.)

Leadership expert Dr.  John Maxwell said this in his book The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” Engaging people in conversations means more than just extracting information from individuals. It means paying attention to what matters to them. Even the small details matter. Sometimes, even as simple as listening could mean a lot. When we know that what we say matter to the listener, we’re more inclined to be open and speak more.

Leaders and managers have resorted to memos and emails to communicate their message to the organization. Unfortunately, this approach has created barriers in communication. As leaders, it is our responsibility to take that first step. Get out of your office, walk among the crowd and engage your staff in a conversation. Who knows, your next big product or service idea might come from the janitor.

The Pen and Paper in the Digital Age of Social Media

November 18, 2012 2 comments

I wanted to start this blog post with a reference to a TED Talk by Hannah Brencher about love letters to strangers.

In an earlier blog post, I talked about my experience with working on a large SharePoint 2010 upgrade and migration project for a Fortune 500 company. I’ve told people stories about why the project became very successful despite the different challenges and difficulties that we encountered along the way. The secret lies in the great and wonderful people I’ve worked with – from the project manager, the engineers and even the application testers. The project has given me he opportunity to establish meaningful relationships with those involved.

Several weeks after the project went live, I was having a conversation with the project manager about the way we manage our relationships and dialogues we have with the people that matter to us. She mentioned the fact that even after celebrating her birthday just a few days ago, most of the greetings that she received were all in digital format – text messages, emails, Facebook messages, etc. The conversation concluded with the fact that greeting cards have now joined the ranks of dinosaurs and the Dodo bird on being extinct. I have to admit that while I like sending hand-written notes and letters to people, I save the reader the agony of reading my hand writing. I still remember the gruelling writing exercises that I had to go thru in grade school just to improve my hand writing – write, scribble, erase, write, and so the cycle goes. And while most people say that practice makes perfect, I just couldn’t get my hand writing right. I can’t even read my own hand writing sometimes that I always resort to typing my notes after meetings so I could legibly read and recall the ideas I wrote.

A few weeks ago, I sent the project manager and one of the application testers books that I think would be valuable to them.  Dr. John Maxwell’s book  – Everyone Communicates Few Connect  – was the latest book that I have read from the author and decided to send a copy to the project manager. For the application tester,  sent a copy of the SharePoint 2010 branding book because I believe that the book would be very helpful in her day-to-day job. Included with the book was a hand-written note thanking them for their contribution to the success of the project and described how the book would help them improve their productivity at work. I think I’ve scribbled on a few sheets of paper before finally tucking one inside the envelope and headed over the post office. I was more concerned about the recipients having a hard time reading my handwriting than the impact that it would have in their lives.

In today’s digital age where social media has taken over our modes communication, it’s so easy to take for granted the value of  inter-personal relationship. It still amazes me how people in the workplace would send an email response to a colleague that’s a few cubicles away rather than take a few steps and have a face-to-face conversation. Oh, those lovely email threads spanning multiple responses when it could have been made even clear with a phone call. Social media and the digital age only thrives because they leverage on the most important ingredient in the marketplace : PEOPLE. We humans desire to feel special and important. We love receiving feedback for the work that we do and long to be connected with the people that matter to us. That’s why people flock to Facebook and Twitter. We want to join conversations, share our uniqueness and simply feel validated. And that’s why I feel that the pen-and-paper approach of connecting with people will never go out of style.

After coming back from the PASS Community Summit in Seattle, I received a hand-written card from the project manager thanking me for the wonderful gift. She was also a big fan of Dr. John Maxwell and his books. But what really struck me was how she related the story of the application tester who received the other book. The gift came at a time when she felt really discouraged and was starting to believe that her work in the company didn’t matter. The book and the hand-written note from me made in impact in her life: it validated her value. It didn’t just make her day, it literally ignited her to become excited again with the work that she does. Most importantly, I’ve gained another level of appreciation for the hand-written letters that I send out, knowing that they do have an impact on the lives of the recipients. I’ll still make sure that they’re legible before I send them out.

Question: Have you been encouraged recently by a hand-written note? When was the last time you sent out one? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Why Leaders Tell Stories

January 29, 2012 1 comment

“I realize the importance of having a story today is what really separates companies. People don’t just wear our shoes, they tell our story.”

Blake Mycoskie – CEO, Tom’s Shoes

Last week, I was privileged to be surrounded by several of the smartest and brightest minds in the global SQL Server community – Microsoft Most Valuable Professionals, certified trainers, consultants, community influencers, book authors. And when you’re with a group of highly intellectual individuals, one might think that the meaningful conversations will mostly revolve around their primary skillset, in this case, the SQL Server platform. Here are a few things that I have taken away from most of the conversations:

  • Theater arts is a great opportunity to express yourself
  • One can be in Canada for 20 years and still not be a Canadian citizen
  • We all have issues dealing with our health insurance policies
  • Growing an organization requires focusing on the important and saying “NO” to those that aren’t
  • You can tell your daughter that it’s OK to be a forensics expert
  • Filipinos genuinely care about others – not just in the Bay Area but everywhere they are
  • New year’s resolutions can include 1024 X 768
  • Smiling in a service oriented business really does generate profit
  • Technology gadgets – iPad, iPhone, XBox, tablets, etc. – are therapeutic

If you look at the list above, there isn’t anything in there that’s specific to SQL Server (although we did discuss a lot about the technology.)  They are, however, stories that matter to the us. In corporate environments where “companyspeak” jargon float around quarterly meetings and PowerPoint slides, most leaders forget about one of the most important tool that they can use to connect with their staff and influence them into action: storytelling.  When we were kids, we valued the importance of “tell me a story” whether be it inside the classroom or before bedtime, something that we took for granted as we became adults.  However, stories form a connection between the communicator and the listener.  It also gives the communicator and opportunity to be authentic to the listener, showing the human side of the individual.

A compelling message is one that touches both the hearts and the minds of people. So, whether you’re delivering a message about a radical organizational change, a technical presentation or simply teaching a lesson, try storytelling. Let me know how it worked for you. Post your comments here.