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The #1 Reason Your Presentation Sucks

They say that public speaking is more terrifying than death for many people and this is the same reason why, more often than not, your presentations are terrible.

It’s not that you don’t know your subject matter. You probably know it better than the back of your hand.

It’s not that you aren’t prepared, either. Most likely you’re not only studied-up, but probably spent a little too much time hitting the books before your big Ted Talk or senior briefing.

The problem has nothing to do with you. The truth is that while some of us are clearly more theatrical than others, presentation skill is a skill that can be learned.

So why are you so bad at it? Why is your audience changing the channel, at least mentally, for 99% of your talk?

The issue is a basic flaw in your thinking. Please, rinse and repeat the following four words:




If you get up there thinking about yourself, I can tell you right now: your talk will have zero impact. Or worse.

The reason great speakers affect us so much is that they are totally swept up in the power of their message.

It is impossible to focus on yourself and also put the spotlight on a topic that matters.

Fear of public speaking is a sign that you’re definitely making this mistake. Your negative emotional investment is a gigantic red flag, signaling that your talk is wrapped around your ego.

The next time you have to give a talk, subtract yourself from the equation. You can prepare to do this in a very simple way — start doing videos.

No, you don’t have to publish them on YouTube or Periscope or wherever.

You should however practice the art of speaking into the camera, on a regular basis. And then play back the video, to see what you look like while talking.

The point is not to evaluate your performance as a speaker.

It’s also not to gauge whether you know what the hell you’re talking about.

Rather, it’s about getting used to the fact that you actually look pretty bad on video.

Once you accept and get over that fact, and also manage to swallow your many flaws as a speaker, you’ll get past your preoccupation with self altogether.

The truth is that the thing you fear the most is actually very real. You aren’t all that good, you have a million flaws, and when you stand up there people know it.

It’s ceasing to care that allows you to focus on the topic at hand.

I am Jewish, and I happen to have a big nose. It used to embarrass me and I seriously considered a nose job.

Now I like to laugh. That’s me, that’s my schnozz, that’s the sun dancing off my wrinkles.

It’s okay to go gray and to grow a potbelly, too.

What people really do care about is the beating heart inside you.

Good intentions, married with good thinking, is what carries society forward.

Our most pro-social instincts go to work when we see you on stage.

Be a part of the solution and not the problem.

Get over your ego and put your message out front.


Posted by Dannielle Blumenthal on September 15, 2017. All opinions are the author’s own. This post is hereby released into the public domain. Graphic by geralt via Pixabay (Public Domain).

Blaming & Shaming At Work: Breaking The Destructive Cycle

Recently I started reading the book Crucial Accountability: Tools for Resolving Violated Expectations, Broken Commitments, and Bad Behavior (Patterson et al., 2013). 
The main idea I've gotten from the book so far is that cooperation breaks down when 2 conditions are present:
  • The other person thinks you're disrespecting them.
  • The other person thinks that working with you will cause them some form of harm.
If this theory holds true, then the formula for getting people to work with you is this:
  • Show them respect AND
  • Focus on a mutual goal -- meaning, it has to benefit both of you.
How this works in the real world:
  • Respect is shown through word and deed. It is what you say. It is your eye contact. It is your demeanor. It is your body language. It is listening. It is time. It is giving people credit for good ideas and good work. Etc.
  • Focusing on a mutual goal is shown through appreciative inquiry. What do you want or need? What do I want or need? Where do the two intersect?
If you don't know how to start changing dysfunctional dynamics at work, start with customer service. It's a goal that everyone can relate to, and a positive outcome benefits everyone as well. Like this:
  • Think about this: How do my colleagues contribute to serving the customer? Reflecting on others' roles is a way of stepping into their shoes, and that mental awareness will in turn help you to approach them with a respectful attitude.
  • Act on this: "We don't want any complaints coming in, that's for sure." With those words, you're saying, "You and I both need to deliver excellent customer service, because the outside world only sees one face. When we get good ratings, it reflects well on all of us."
Unfortunately, very often, we don't have conversations about good working relationships until something has fallen apart.
Focusing on respect and win-win cooperation can prevent a crisis from coming up in the first place, and can also help repair the damage once it has occurred.
By Dannielle (Dossy) Blumenthal, Ph.D. All opinions are the author's own. This blog is hereby released into the public domain.

10 Real-World Self Defense Tips — From A Lecture By A Survivor

On Wednesday, September 13, 2017, I was fortunate enough to hear a lecture by sexual assault and domestic abuse survivor Dr. Sophia Marjanovic, on the subject of self-defense for women.

Also in attendance was Tori Garten, assistant instructor at the Barton Mixed Martial Arts Studio in Glenmont, MD. She teaches self-defense for women on a regular basis, and has a special understanding of its psychological benefits.

The class ran for two hours and was extremely informative. Though it is impossible to capture everything that was said (and demonstrated physically), here are some key points:
  1. People who commit sexual assault are predators. They are not normal.
  2. Predators are generally not strangers. They are people you know and who are close enough to get into your space, gain your trust and disarm you sufficiently to attack.
  3. Predators are generally Caucasian and they are male.
  4. Predators tend to attack over and over again. You are not special — they do not love you — they only want prey.
  5. Predators use an array of tricks that can be identified and avoided. One example is telling you too much about themselves when they first meet you — getting much too close too soon. Another is “teaming” with you against the world. A third is telling you that “you’re a bitch” or “you’re so stuck up” in order to get you to act the opposite, and succumb to their pressure. Remember, if they can pressure you then they don’t have to use force. But the behavior is predatory nevertheless.
  6. You’re not paranoid. If you get a bad feeling, avoid the person.
  7. Predators will do anything not to get caught. So they prefer to work alone and get you alone. Don’t go to isolated places with someone who gives you a bad feeling.
  8. Law enforcement and other authoritarian professions attract predators. Women who are stuck in domestic abuse situations with police officers are in a living hell of assault and inability to escape someone who lives off of controlling every aspect of their lives, to the point where they will even follow them to the women’s shelter.
  9. The court system is not set up to favor the victim.
  10. In every scenario, your best defense is avoidance. If you spot predatory behavior, avoid the person, avoid being physically near them, and run away from them if you can. However, if you cannot avoid a problem and you are being attacked by a predator, know that they can overpower you by sheer force of adrenaline. Be ready to gouge their eyes out or worse. You don’t want to do it, but if your life is at stake, know that and be ready to save yourself.
A single session obviously isn’t enough to convey all the training a person needs in order to protect themselves. So it’s worth it, if you can, to take the time and learn how to deal with an attacker physically.

I personally found the practicing portion to be very upsetting — especially the part where Sophia and Tori showed us what to do if someone is dragging you away (wrap your leg around their calf from the outside so they can’t walk). But the discomfort is all the more reason to get educated.

Someone pointed out that it’s important to know who will help you in times of crisis. I thought that was a great point. It isn’t just about defending yourself, but also about finding a network and a community of supportive people.

At the end of the day, we have to look out for ourselves, and one another.

This isn’t a theoretical matter. It is the real reason why God put each of us on this Earth.


All opinions my own. This blog is hereby released to the public domain. Photo by dmitrisvetsikas1969 via Flickr (Public Domain).

The Best Internal Communication Is No Internal Communication

From my own experience and observation, the best way to connect staff is to provide them with an internal Facebook type platform and mostly leave them alone to talk. There are two caveats:
  • Leadership should get involved now and then to share key messages and to respond to issues of significant concern.
  • You can’t penalize people for expressing strong negative opinions.
 We could debate whether the internal conversation platform needs to have a project management component. I personally think the two should be firewalled from one another to promote the idea of a safe space for watercooler discussion.
The higher level strategy behind letting people have “complaint sessions” within the firewall, safely, is that you’re actually hearing what they perceive rather than issuing missives from an echo chamber on high. If you take the time to create a true environment of trust, my guess is that people will also take the time to listen to leadership messages that clarify misperceptions. They will also be less likely to seek solace by giving anonymous interviews to the media.
It should also be considered that a “true environment of trust” requires skillful partnering and buy-in among all leaders and managers as well as the subject matter experts connected to human capital. All of these parties not only need to understand “how people are thinking and feeling about work” but also need to participate in framing a rules-based environment for discussion so that it does not degenerate into a free-for-all.
The software itself will likely be a difficult learning curve for some and attention will need to be paid to ambassadors whose entire role for the better part of a year is to train people in its adoption. 
Give them the tools, give them the rules, get out of the way, but be ready to step in when there’s a problem.
By Dannielle (Dossy) Blumenthal, Ph.D. All opinions are the author's own. This blog is hereby released into the public domain.

7 Reasons to Establish the National Institutes of Manufacturing (NIM)

This morning I did a brief video on the need for a National Institute of Manufacturing. More specifically, we should have the National Institutes (plural) of Manufacturing (NIM), with centers dedicated to specific subject matter with the potential to help promote economic prosperity and security for our Nation.

Why is the NIM so important? The Godly purpose and the promise of manufacturing is to provide us a level of material comfort sufficient that we can house, clothe and feed ourselves. At that point we can focus on what really matters — taking care of our families, helping others in the community, and contributing to a Nation that is strong and proud and capable of supporting the goal of a peaceful and stable world.

Key points:
  1. We’re Leaving Money On The Table: I was sensitized to the importance of manufacturing when I served as Associate Director for Communications at the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation, out of NIST (now called Manufacturing USA). In that position, I learned that the United States is at tremendous risk of losing its competitive advantage in manufacturing as other countries bring new ideas to the lab and then to market.
  2. Other Countries Are Doing It: Other countries are taking manufacturing seriously enough that they are investing in manufacturing directly and deliberately. It makes logical sense to do so: What better way to serve the people than to learn how to feed, house, clothe, transport and defend them efficiently and cheaply?
  3. We Didn’t Debate The Different Models Fully Enough: The Obama program is a set of public-private partnerships. The business model was defended not only on its merits (that they would be uniquely situated to promote innovation gains) but also that the American people did not want to hear about yet another centralized government program (i.e. a centrally funded manufacturing agency). However, by keeping the concept of the National Institutes of Manufacturing (NIM) off the table, we lost the opportunity to debate whether such a structure would ultimately be more beneficial to Americans. My personal opinion is that we do need a centralized government structure, similar to the National Institutes of Health, which funds basic research and which makes the results of that research available for the benefit of Americans regardless of their affiliation with the program.
  4. Financial Accountability: The Obama-era program was stood up in great haste. It is not an exaggeration to say that hundreds of millions of dollars went towards it. Though the people involved are extraordinarily smart and no doubt motivated to promote national innovation and prosperity, the lack of a defined accountability structure and the involvement of extra-governmental parties promotes a lack of transparency and accountability. Having the NIM located within government would make Congressional oversight far more effective.
  5. A Government Institute Can Better Control Intellectual Property: Other nations are taking our money as they copy our inventions. A government-run institute can control IP and stage the release of information so that that Americans have the advantage for a certain period of time before others (frankly, our enemies) can get their hands on it.
  6. Sharing The Wealth Happens Eventually Anyway: The point of the NIM is not to prevent the rest of the world from recognizing the gains of innovation. The point is that Americans need to manufacture food, housing, cars — we need to manufacture wealth — in order to be effective at taking care of our people.
  7. The Pie Grows Bigger: Innovation comes from God, and God can create infinite wealth. The false belief that “there’s only so much” leads to a competitive mentality that limits our opportunity to innovate. The NIM would help us to grow wealth for the benefit of all, and to apply our resources more intelligently.
The fact of the matter is that many kids in America are going to school hungry, and their parents are living on ramen noodles. We can and should get to the point where the manufacture and distribution of food and other necessities is a top national priority.


Photo credit: kallu/Flickr (Creative Commons). Posted by Dr. Dannielle Blumenthal on September 13, 2017. All opinions are the author’s own and do not represent any agency, organization, entity or individual. The written content of this post is hereby released into the public domain.

Why Organizations Innovate (Brief Comment)

As an innovator I find that the incentive for organizations to take the risk is usually crisis. Not PR. 

I have failed a lot and been punished a lot when the organization wasn't in enough pain to want a pain in the ass around. 

Conversely I have been patted on the back when the concept delivered had the potential to avert a major or minor disaster. In these instances the innovation is not so much the "what" but the "how" -- can you help me get it done faster better cheaper or show me how we didn't need to waste time on it in the first place? 

Alternatively -- can you explain someone else's innovation to me in a way that I can understand it (CRYPTO!) 

There is also huge role and appreciation for people who can mainstream other people's innovation. Let's face it the "what" is a dime a dozen, everybody's got an idea, but not everybody has the skill to make it real.


Originally posted to LinkedIn 9/11/2017 by Dannielle (Dossy) Blumenthal, Ph.D. All opinions are the author's own. This content is hereby released into the public domain.

The 5 Things Government Needs To Say

The fact of the matter is that we live in a deeply divided, even incendiary political climate in which the news has become more of a weapon than a medium for conveying facts of importance to citizens. 

In such an environment, it is literally dangerous to utter a single word, no matter how benign, lest it be twisted into something that the speaker never intended to say. 

Nevertheless, the government must continue to communicate. In fact, it must overcommunicate, to ensure that the public has the information it wants, needs and is entitled to. By this I mean that communication happens on Department and agency websites as well as through social media. 

Not only should all channels be used, but information should be made readily available to all parties -- journalists, citizen bloggers, users of social media, as well as employees -- and they should be encouraged to use it.

There are five areas, or themes, that ought to be prioritized in this process focus of attention:
  • Crisis response: Right now all eyes are on Hurricane Irene as it barrels into South Florida. We hope and pray for the well-being of its residents. But as we do so, we need to know what is happening down there. Everything from how many people have lost power and where; to how many people have been rescued; to the moment-by-moment recovery effort must be documented in full.  
  • Controversy: The people inside an agency are well-positioned to understand the technicalities of an issue in ways that most members of the public simply do not have access to. It is therefore critically important that the government take extra steps to educate and inform people about the facts behind an issue, not in a partisan way, but in a way that sheds light on its complexity. For there is no controversy that lacks a very complex origin and history.
  • Data: For obvious reasons, the government has a colossal amount of information on just about any subject under the sun. The communication task--I would argue, duty--is to make that information (documents, photos, videos, and so on) as easy as possible for the public to find. I have seen instances where data was held up out of fear that it wasn't accurate enough, or that it would be misused. But if the information is public, the government should release it, and not in a dense way but in a manner that is easy to find and understand.
  • Services: This much should be obvious, but the public should not have to buy books and access private services in order to understand the services that the government makes available, very often for free. Providing information about how the public can help themselves, using the services the government provides, should be a given.
  • Requirements: Government is a bureaucracy, and the bureaucracy is incredibly hard to understand for all but the most educated and experienced technical experts. Telling people how to comply with laws, regulations, policies, rules and requirements--again, in a way that is accessible to the average, high-school educated person--is a basic communication duty.
Communicating well and often this is not only the right thing for the government to do. It also helps reverse the historically low level of trust that the public holds toward the government. 

With the right communication, not to mention the right actions to support it, it is possible for the government to have credibility when it says: "We are here to help."


By Dannielle (Dossy) Blumenthal, Ph.D. All opinions are the author's own. This blog is hereby released into the public domain. Image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images/29611 via Pixabay.

The Art of the Deal With God

This is a difficult topic to discuss but I will just put it right out there: I am going through menopause.

Going through menopause means that you will, at any given time: have hot flashes, be irritable, get dizzy, be tired, and lots of other fun stuff I will leave it to you to look up and memorize at such time that it is your turn.

As things stand it appears that menopause is quite the taboo topic. You are allowed to discuss it with: your mother.

Also you can discuss it with any people of the female persuasion (are we still allowed to say female or is that politically incorrect now?) who appear to be in their late 40s-early 50s.

When I tried this exercise with a friend at synagogue she said OH MY GOD, I FEEL YOUR PAIN DANNIELLE and then laughed a wild, loud laugh.

“You gotta get yourself a lotta, lotta herbs, my friend.”

“More herbs? I have a cabinet full.”

“Yesssssss,” she replied. “And soy milk. Lots, and lots of soymilk.”


My other friend, from work, also happens to be going through “the changes.”

How do I know this?

She walked in to a meeting — it was freezing cold — and stood there mopping sweat off her brow.

Like a drug dealer I sidled up to her and whispered, a little too loud:

“Soymilk? Soy pills? Hormone replacement therapy?”

“Nah, I don’t like any of that stuff,” and waved me off. “I would rather sit here and SWEAT.”

To each her own, to each his own.

But God has not forgotten me.

I went to synagogue yesterday sick again from the faintness.

At one point in my life a rabbi suggested that He has better things to do than “micromanage our lives.”

Maybe this is true, but God’s infinitely loving and caring micromanagement was fully on display yesterday, in what could only be a miracle.

I went back home, not able to sit in the service at all.

I sat on a chair in the kitchen, defeated.

Every week I go to synagogue. It’s part of my personal 3-step recovery program, what I call “Back to Faith.” Now bear in mind I don’t do any of these perfectly, but they are the observances I focus on:
  • Observe the Sabbath.
  • Keep kosher.
  • Go to synagogue with my family every week.
Inevitably every week, something comes up to block me from going to synagogue. A minor spat, a bit of rain, over-involvement with whatever I’m doing at the moment, excuse after excuse.

This week it was menopause.

So I’d been defeated by the gremlin of anti-religion, at least for the moment.

And then a thought came to me, seemingly out of nowhere:

“Boil four eggs and eat them. You can go back to shul (synagogue).”

Instantly I knew that God had made a miracle.

The dizziness that made me unsteady on my feet was caused by a hormonal imbalance.

Looking it up quickly online confirmed it: Eggs have progesterone. Eat eggs to combat the dizziness. (Here’s a page with Chinese change-of-life remedies, including that one. Don’t use this advice as a substitute for seeing a doctor, please.)

I boiled four eggs and they came out perfect. I ate them hurriedly, not wanting the family to come home before I had a chance to return.

I was scared to go back. What if the eggs didn’t work?

So I waited five minutes.

Within five minutes, I was fine.

This isn’t the beginning or the end of the miracles. There are too many to count. I know them, I feel them almost daily.

I understand that the fact I am alive, that God keeps me here to do what needs doing and to take care of my family, is a miracle in and of itself.

My daughter asked me yesterday:

“What does observance mean to you? How do you decide which things to keep and not keep?”

“It wasn’t my decision,” I explained to her.

“Left to my own devices, I wouldn’t have been religious.”

“Then what is it?” she asked.

“God has made it clear to me, I have no choice.”

“What does that mean?” she said, her eyes dark and worried.

“Either I find my way back, or He’s taking me.”

There is a strange joy in knowing that God cares about you so much He will go to any length to keep you on the straight and narrow.

It is a strange but very real journey I am on.

I tell you the truth as it appears to me.

What you do with that information is always your choice.

As the Jewish New Year comes upon us, may God bless us all, with good health, peace and prosperity.


Posted by Dannielle (Dossy) Blumenthal September 10, 2017. All opinions are the author’s own. This post is hereby released into the public domain. Photo by Ruth Lindsay via Pixabay.