Musings by Tom Neilssen, co-founder of BrightSight Group
I’ve been representing speakers for a bit over 27 years now and as I gray and my time on this planet becomes shorter (Life is Fatal), I realize more and more, that what we say, the way we think, and what we hear really matters – it’s not all just meaningless words. As our agency tends to manage a more intelligent/substantive type of speaker, I often feel like I’m pushing a boulder up a hill, as numerous groups, in my humble opinion, book a speaker for all the wrong reasons. I’ve heard it all – “we needed a female”, “he’s a recognized name”, “I watched his dvd” (the possibility that our business is nothing more than the Gong Show or Netflix has crossed my mind on numerous occasions) and then hear the same post-event results over and over. Attendance did not go up, or down (even after spending six figures plus reimburse the expenses for an entourage worthy of a Saudi prince); the audience enjoyed watching the speaker, but couldn’t recall the core idea or message, etc. Before arteriosclerosis creeps any further into our industry, please, stop and think about what we are all collectively doing. There is a huge cost to taking up an hour of a busy executives time with unintelligible ramblings, or worse the equivalent of verbal Chinese food.
I’ve been thinking about posting the above for some time - but I was prompted to do so after reading Susan Jacoby’s, new best-seller, The Age of American Unreason. It’s a devastating account of the intellectual laziness most of us Americans have become susceptible to. Clearly she must have thinking of the speaking profession while writing this book.
On a more upbeat note – Fred Krupp’s new book,
Earth: The Sequel: The Race to Reinvent Energy and Stop Global Warming is off to a very good start. His book explores new technologies that can save us all from a melting planet. There seems to be a silver lining, so I won’t sell my beach-house just yet. Fred is the President of the Environmental Defense Fund, one of the most respected environmental think tanks in the country.
I believe that many of us, from the speakers agents, to the speaker buyers, don’t do our best to bring the best and the brightest to our deserving audiences.
The No Impact Man aka Colin Beavan was on WNYC’s Brian Lehrer Show discussing the latest controversy about the pro’s and con’s of drinking bottled water vs. tap (which may contain trace amount of pharmaceuticals). Colin’s perspectives on why tap is still the way to go can be heard here.
BrightSight Group speaker Kevin Coyne is quoted extensively in today’s Wall Street Journal Theory & Practice article on determining whether and when to replace lieutenants. Timing is critical. Move too fast and managers risk dumping valuable institutional memory. But move too slow and they may delay much-needed changes.
From the article,
“Kevin Coyne, a management consultant and a professor at Emory University’s business school, says new CEOs usually decide whom to replace within the first 60 days. CEOs assess lieutenants and place them in one of four categories: stars who will be key aides; other keepers who aren’t stars; people to replace eventually but not immediately; and those who should go immediately.
Mr. Coyne says the most common regret among CEOs in hindsight is not replacing mediocre people — those in the third category — fast enough. “They wish they had been one step harsher,” he says. “Most of them say, ‘I was too forgiving.’ “
Mr. Coyne says CEOs tell him they hesitated for a variety of reasons: The executive was well-liked inside the company; the CEO feared firing too many people too quickly; or the CEO believed the deputy would ultimately come around to his vision for the company.
When the university kicked off its 2nd annual Entrepreneurship Week on Friday, Feb. 22, Stanford also launched the global Innovation Tournament, a fast and furious competition to see who could create the most value from rubber bands in only five days. Students were told on Friday afternoon that they had until Thursday morning to conceive and deliver their value and submit a short video online to present their results. They could form a team of any size, use as many rubber bands as they wanted and define value in any way they chose. Approximately 300 student teams from universities around the globe participated.
The results were remarkable: a new, more effective and inexpensive mosquito net design for impoverished areas battling malaria; the “Do Bands” campaign to inspire people to get things done, which raised over $500 for charity and spawned a new social network online; hilarious, late-night infomercial spoofs touting new products such as “Shoe Bands” and “The Habit Breaker;” a model used to teach aspects of Einstein’s theory of relativity; a new painting technique; a community art project; and so much more. Winning submissions can be viewed at http://eweek.stanford.edu
All entries were viewed and judged by a panel of prestigious Silicon Valley leaders that included inventors, venture capitalists, journalists and executives. They awarded an array of unique, experiential prizes that included dinners and meetings with top executives at Silicon Valley companies; yachting on the San Francisco Bay; the opportunity to see Al Gore speak in person; box seats to a professional hockey game; a handmade guitar worth more than $2,000; and other special awards.
According to Tina Seelig, executive director of the Stanford Technology Ventures Program and the director of the Stanford Entrepreneurship Network, “If a bunch of students can generate this much impact in their spare time in only five days with basically no resources, there is no limit to the problems they can solve if they put their minds to it. Entrepreneurship is essentially about identifying opportunities, leveraging limited resources and creating value – and these students proved it.”
Entrepreneurship is of enormous interest on campus, because the Stanford community recognizes that the 21st century will belong to innovators who can turn ideas into action. Stanford believes that entrepreneurship can, indeed, be taught and that the learning process should be experiential. The Innovation Tournament was created to give students an entrepreneurship immersion experience by allowing them to simulate the value creation process of a start-up in a condensed time frame.
It was all part of Entrepreneurship Week hosted by the Stanford Entrepreneurship Network, a federation of organizations across campus. The week’s events included presentations by prestigious speakers; roundtable discussions; mixers; Venture Capital/student “speed dating” allowing students to pitch their ideas; and a start-up job fair. The high-energy documentary film, Imagine It!, also made its world premiere; it captures the dreams and excitement of last year’s Innovation Tournament featuring Post-It Notes® as the challenge object and stars student teams from Stanford and around the world. It can be viewed or downloaded from http://www.imagineitproject.com.
EARTH: The Sequel – The Race to Reinvent Energy and Stop Global Warming is 800 CEO READ’s Featured Reading
BrightSight Group speaker Fred Krupp ‘s book, EARTH: The Sequel – The Race to Reinvent Energy and Stop Global Warming is featured on 800 CEO READ’s featured reading page.
800 CEO READ’s best selling books for March 2008 include titles by three of BrightSight Group’s speakers and thought leaders.
Jim Parker is the author of Do the Right Thing: How Dedicated Employees Create Loyal Customers and Large Profits
Bill George is the author of True North: Discover Your Authentic Leadership
Chip Conley is the author of Peak: How Great Companies Get Their Mojo from Maslow