Performance Challenges: What To Do with Your Hands?

On any day—in any given event—you have to believe in yourself and back yourself 100%.” –Rasheed Ogunlaru

Ianspeaking  Even the most confident people sometimes fall apart when it comes to performing—whether that’s giving a public talk, delivering to a camera, or even giving a report to a group of peers.

I’ve seen award-winning professors lose the tango with their nerves. In conversation, they used their hands just like you would expect them to. But turn on the camera, and suddenly I’d see them rubbing their ears, swinging their arms, or shoving their hands deeply in their pockets and rocking back and forth on their heels.

People get self-conscious about their hands, but hands are an enormous asset in reinforcing symbolic, emotional, or descriptive points.

Fortunately, all it takes is some direction for what to do with hands, writing cues into scripts, and practicing to restore confidence and improve presentation. Here are some tips.

Write Crappy First Drafts!

The first draft of anything is shit.”

–Ernest Hemingway

“I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.”

–Douglas Adams, The Salmon of Doubt

“Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft.”

–Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

Blank Word document  Who likes facing the blank page?


Starting on a writing project is as much fun as scrubbing the toilet with a toothbrush. Even if you’ve been dreaming about the moment when you’ll get to start writing, once you actually sit down, crickets show up. That’s when the notion that you can write crappy first drafts comes in handy.

Does Your Content Put People to Sleep?

You can forgive if the shot is not right, or the lighting is a bit off, but not if the writing is bad.”

Moran Atlas

One day in a literature class, I felt my pen slide across the page. I jerked awake and my pen made a jagged ridgeline in my notes. When I tried to read them later, I found them nearly illegible because I had fallen asleep so many times.

IMG_20150513_153748820-2  Have you ever fallen asleep in class? It’s particularly embarrassing when you sit in front, as I always did. My professor told endless anecdotes that were not only irrelevant, but also incomprehensible. And definitely dull.

He often started in an imaginative way, but he just couldn’t hold onto his subject matter without letting it get flabby. He was in serious need of toning up his middle.

Today we’re going to talk about how to win the battle of the bulge when it’s your subject matter and your audience’s engagement on the line. I’m focusing the conversation on classes, but the takeaways apply to all writing that goes soft in the middle.

Riding off into the Sunset—How to Close with a Bang, not a Whimper

 The opposite of the happy ending is actually the unsatisfying ending.”

―Orson Scott Card

In my last blog, I told the story of my mother being trapped on the second floor with two babies while the first floor was engulfed in flames. I deliberately left the story hanging—almost literally a cliffhanger, since my mother was standing on the roof when last we saw her.

fire_flames_building   I was one of those babies, and I was thrown off the roof to a neighbor, who, thank God, caught me. He also caught my brother, also safely. But what about my mother? Surely she didn’t fling herself into the neighbor’s arms as well?

Here’s the truth of the matter: I don’t know how she got down.

There’s something about ending the story this way that is dissatisfying. How the heck did she get down?

“Save My Babies!” 7 Ways to Make Your Students Care about Your Online Course

“Never believe that a few caring people can’t change the world. For, indeed, that’s all who ever have.” –Margaret Meadfire_flames_building

True story. My mother was napping with my younger brother and me, both of us still babies.

Downstairs, my older brother discovered the thrill of playing with matches. While we slept, he caught the closet on fire and soon the first floor was in flames. He hid outside under the front stoop. My mother awoke to the smell of smoke and realized we were trapped upstairs.

She gathered the two of us in her arms and climbed out the window onto the roof. She spied a neighbor and shouted to him. “Help! Save my babies!” And she tossed us off the roof into his arms.

You know I lived. But did my brother?