Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Pin Drop Principle

A Book Review of The Pin Drop Principle by David Lewis and G. Riley Mills

 A guest blog post by Bernadette Davis, aspiring author.

Imagine standing in front of a group of people and having the ability to captivate their attention such that a pin drop breaks the silence of the attentive listeners. Upon reading The Pin Drop Principle - Captivate, influence, and Communicate Better Using the Time-Tested methods of professional Performers by David Lewis and G. Riley Mills, this dream can become reality. 

The book’s name comes from the idea that if you effectively utilize the suggestions offered throughout the chapters, you will be able to have such command over a group of listeners that you can hear a pin drop. Is this theory truly possible? So many people can speak eloquently, but they may lack that vital spark needed to hold an audience’s interest completely. In an audience of people, there is always that select group of people that have let their mind roam elsewhere. People have constantly analyzed poor speaking habits and decided that well-worded prose is only a component to charming listeners. Even John Locke discusses reasons why people fail to communicate effectively in his Essay On Human Understanding. However, only rarely do writers and philosophers such as Locke offer valuable solutions. Lewis and Mills present their own well-organized, highly educational method that answers the question: how can I become more compelling and engaging in my communication? 

This book is not your typical self-help book. The Pin Drop Principle radiates tips on how you can improve your communication skills through a unique and unexpected lens. It inspires you to hone your communicating techniques as professional actors have done for centuries. Drawing from their experience in acting, they explain how and when to employ performance techniques to put passion and purpose behind your words. The book also has a myriad of exercises that reinforce the tips that it teaches.

I think that the one fault among many strengths in this book is that there are too many examples. After the second example, I have a clear understanding of what the author explains. Offering five examples and explanations is excessive. I felt that the extra time that it took me to read all of the extra examples and explanations took away from the time that I could be out practicing my effective communication. However, this does not take away from the overall message of the book. I highly recommend it to anyone who looks to add excellent communication to his or her list of skills and assets.

The Pin Drop Principle is not just for someone who is looking to pursue a career in public speaking. This book is a must buy for anyone who is looking to improve his or her communication. This book empowers you to effectively convey the message you desire your audience to receive so the audience responds to this message as you want. This audience can vary from a stadium full of people, a classroom full of college students, and your ten-year-old son. Any person wishing to communicate better can use the techniques brought forth in The Pin Drop Principle. 

I challenge you to read this book and connect better with your listeners!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Found Time

My 4:30 Flight yesterday was cancelled so I rebooked on the 6:30 which was also cancelled (the glamour of business travel).  So could not make my board meeting today in person.   And worse, I had another meeting scheduled that I was so much looking forward to.  So I was upset.

I wasted time driving to the airport, waiting in lines, more lines, security just to drive home.

But I gained time waiting.  And I saved the actual flight time and renting the car etc.

The message is "it is not what happens, it is how we react".  It is much more positive for me to think of the saved time than the lost time.

I am now going to dial in for a 6 hour board meeting.  Perhaps I will use the power of while and pace the halls thus getting exercise.


Book review - Sales Growth - Five Proven Strategies from the World's Sales Leaders

My experience in business is that sales can make or break a company.

The book comes at an important time for large corporations that are facing a challenging global market - how to grow sales. The book is written by three McKinsey and Company partners so the analysis is clean and full of good data but dry. The value of the book is designed for large, established companies. Over 120 Sales executives from Coca Cola,, BMW and others are included in the book, in fact each chapter ends with an interview with one of those executives. The foreword was written by Marc Benioff, the CEO and Founder of - his personal story is very compelling.

The five proven strategies are not surprising, but it's the examples and interviews that provide the most important insights. The strategies are:

1. Find growth before your competitors do
2. Sell the way your customers want
3. Soup up your sales engine (support sales with good technology and corporate resources)
4. Focus on your people
5. Lead sales growth (sales executives have to be on the front lines)

The book has a big focus on emerging markets and relates a sales joke that is worth retelling (you may have heard it before). It's about two sales people for a shoe company sent to an emerging market for research. One person comes back and says that there is no opportunity in the market because no one wears shoes. The other person comes back excited saying the opportunity is immense because "no one wears shoes." This joke starts a chapter called "Sell Like a Local in Emerging Markets" which goes into detail on the risks and strategies for growing sales in emerging markets.

This book would be most helpful for readers with a general interest in sales strategies for large companies or for sales people in such companies. The interviews and comments from the 120 executives is the most interesting aspect of the book.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Random thoughts

I am having Blogger guilt.  I have not posted for a while.

I have been traveling and despite my best efforts to be productive on the road, I am always a bit less productive.  Travel is inefficient regardless how it is done.

Canrock Ventures is investing in Hyperdrive - a sprint start up program.


The garden is lush.  Still eating asparagus, lots of strawberries, a bit of rhubarb (plants are not well established yet so not picking much) and tonight - beet greens (just thinning the beets).  I love beet greens and thought they were a delicacy until I served them to a guest and discovered they are an acquired taste.

My time saving gardening technique of the day - pull weeds with 2 hands at once.  Works great when weeds are as lush as they are here.

I am fighting an attack by cucumber beetles.  Not on cucumbers (not growing them this year) but on the squash, pumpkin, zucchini, and melons.  I try of garden organically so have been picking them off by hand.  I also just planted some radishes in the hills and spread some onion skins around the plants (these were all ideas on the internet).


Still reading lots.  One non-business one that was moving is Behind Our Doors by Bill Butt (who I loosely knew when growing up).  This is the true story of Esther Warmerdam, a Dutch Catholic child during WWII and how her family smuggled and hid hundreds of Jews.

And of course Josh is growing like the weeds.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Winner's Brain

I have always had a keen interest in the brain -  how it works and how to improve it.

I read a great book The Winner's Brain - 8 Strategies Great Minds Use to Achieve Success by Jeff Brown and Mark Fenske.  It is about maximizing the brain for success.

One of the points is the ability to thrive despite adversity.  I have always ascribed to Fail Often, Fail Fast, Fail Cheap.   And having a failure does not make you a failure.  True failure is not trying.  Although I ascribe to those, it is always worthwhile to have practical tips to make these sayings become reality.

The Winner's Brain single tasks.  It is great at shutting out distraction.  I am not yet as good at this as I will be.  "Office workers switch tasks every 3 minutes."

One place I like to practice this is in airports.  I say to myself that there is a lot of hustle and bustle that focus can allow me to shut out.  Interestingly, airport distraction is easy because none of it matters to me.  Unlike when I am in my office and the phone rings, someone stops by or even email comes in.

A bigger concept I am working on is saying no.  I can be great on ignoring small distractions but kill my productivity by meeting with and speaking to everyone who asks for my time.  I see a need to become more rude (which is not easily in my nature).

Motivation is one key to a winner's brain.  I know when I am inspired, I am ten times as powerful and productive.

Winner's brains have good emotional control.  I am great at that trait.  So one out of 8 is not bad.

And of course there was a section on brain care.  Brain care is basically body care.  Exercise, eat right, sleep properly.  And consume omega 3's which you will get if you eat right which typically includes lots of fish and some nuts.

Garden is great.  Asparagus and parsley winding down.  Strawberries just beginning.

Monday, May 07, 2012

Niche can be a Competitive Advantage

I have been a niche player all of my life.   I choose small markets and learn to be dominant in them.    I prefer to be big in a small market.

Working in a niche allows focus on specialties.  The more you do of the same specialty, the easier, cheaper and faster you get.

As I grow, the niches get bigger and bigger.   Just because you are a niche player does not mean you need to be small.

I wrote a blog entry on the Canrock blog called "A Fat Wallet is the Enemy of High Investment Returns" (this is a Warren Buffett quote).  In that, I talk about the advantages of being small (like the Canrock Ventures fund).


My 95 year old inlaws just got email for the first time.   They rank among my idols.  My hope is I can keep doing new things into my 90s.

I worry I will need to send them my blog entry on Limit computer usage.   Would not want them to lose productivity.


And back by popular demand - the one and only Josh:

Thursday, May 03, 2012

How to improve Klout Score

 When I first heard about Klout I naturally assumed it was KKK speak for someone in the Klan with power.  Or perhaps the Klan enforcer who clouts people.

Klout is a scoring system that weighs influence in social media.

There is a great book Return on Influence - The revolutionary Power of Klout, Social Scoring, and Influence Marketing by Mark Schaeffer that inspired this post.  His book explains Klout and how it works in detail (although the nature of these things is they always keep a mystery about how they arrive at the numbers and they always change).

My Klout score is 43 and in reading what I have influence in I surprised myself.  When I look at Klout they say I have influence in Ernest Hemingway, Religion and Spirituality, retirement (?), Pablo Picasso and William Shakespeare.  I feel positively cultured.  Perhaps my eldest daughter (who has a PhD in English Literature) should check my Klout just to know who she should call when she has a question.

 Klout did find other things that I feel I do have knowledge on like social media, venture capital, entrepreneurship etc. 

So why those scores for me?  It seems they weigh Twitter and Facebook higher than blogging?  On my update stream which I send to Twitter, Linkedin, Facebook and a Tumblr, I send mostly quotations.  Or course, many of those are quotes from famous authors.

How is Klout used?  This is all about the desire of brands to know who their influencers are.   The theory is then they can "buy" them to increase the buzz about their products.  So brands pay for lists of influencers and then try to get them to speak about them by giving them coupons and free products.

The Problems with Klout.

The downside I see to publishing a Klout Score is people may greatly increase their volume in a world that already has too much information volume.  In my opinion, more people need to "do not speak unless you can improve the silence".  I even worry myself that sometimes my contribution is not needed or not adding value.

I worry that what get measured gets attention so people may focus too much on social media and not enough on real interaction.

I worry that people might spend too much time on social media.

As with SEO, I worry people will try to figure out how to game the system.

Top 4 ways to increase Klout Score (if you even care about increasing it)

1 - Say interesting things.  Klout is a lot about people saying things about what you said and about how much amplification you get around your messages.  Include links.  Be social as in social media.  Share.

2 - Be there.  Klout does grade for just being in the conversation.   Interact with others.  Do not just try to speak.  Have conversations.

3 - Do not try to game the system.  I only add this because systems like these spend lots of time trying to figure out how people are gaming them.  And like Google, they will ban or penalize the cheaters in the long term.

4 - Grow your network.  Reach out to people and connect.  The more your connections, the greater your influence (according to Klout) and the greater your chance of being retweeted or talked about. 

Please tweet this blog post and retweet all the @jimestill you can.  Oops sorry - forgot rule 3.


I contributed a chapter on Venture Funding in an eBook.  Wonder if that will improve my Klout score.


It has been overcast and raining a bit for the past couple of days.   I say good because I am a gardener and we need the rain.  Weather moods depend on outlook which is a choice.

And yes, the parsley diet continues.  My lunch: