Bob Metcalfe on Good Public Speaking

Bob Metcalfe (co-inventor of Ethernet and founder of 3Com) offers his tips to UT students on how to speak well when giving a talk:

    Our daughter Julia just got promoted at Facebook and asked me for advice on giving talks. I hope she doesn’t mind that I’m sharing my advice with you. Listening is my real specialty, with writing in second place, but here is stuff that works in speaking; note that I have written it down: Speak on what you know. Prepare by collecting and organizing your thoughts in writing, say on 3X5 cards for small groups, 5X7 index cards for larger audiences (that’s humor), or Powerpoint. Start preparation by asking who your audience is and why they will be listening to you. Show respect by over-dressing your audience. Smile and say thank you. Summarize what you are going to say, say it, then summarize what you said. Speak slowly and clearly, pausing now and then at carefully chosen places, to let people process what you’ve said. If at all possible, take questions from the start and continuously through your talk. After promising at the start to end on time, end on time. End on time. Early is better.

    Keep in mind that generally your audience wants you to succeed — they are rooting for you. Bless their hearts, but audiences generally do not realize that you can see them, so for impact make some eye contact and smile. Be funny, especially if the topic isn’t. Look at your audience when speaking to them — pick out friendly faces in the audience here and there, move your eyes from one to the other. If people start to tune out, notice, stop talking and ask if they are still interested or have questions, you do not want to waste their time.

    When you make lists, three items is best. Start a list with your second strongest item, end with your strongest. When someone seems to want to ask a question, stop talking immediately, invite them, and reward them by listening carefully to their question, asking for clarification if needed. If someone asks a question you cannot answer, say the words “I don’t know” and make a big show of writing it down and promising to get back on that. If an audience member misbehaves, walk toward them and that usually quiets them down. Be sure to have fun speaking; audiences can smell fear. Get good at it by practicing — get gigs regularly. If someone makes a video of your talk, watch it twice and take notes on how to improve. Speaking is the most fun you can have standing up.

Good stuff.

Open Coffee Austin, Rebooted

Back in August, I started an Open Coffee for entrepreneurs and the like just to encourage stronger connections amongst those in the Austin entrepreneurial community. The attendance was mixed…very strong the first day (we had 30 attendees) and weaker on subsequent months. The last time attendance was so low, most likely due to cold weather and the holiday period being extra busy. I personally have missed 2 of the 5 events due to work commitments so the timing of it has actually been really poor for me. This is too bad because I really look forward to the event and building into something great.

I think there are a few reasons why the event has struggled to build a more consistent following and I have a few proposals to fix these issues. Everything we do is a bit of an experiment anyway, now isn’t it. Let’s see if we can learn and adapt here to make things mo’ better.

The 2010 meetup:

  1. began at the ungodly hour of 7:30am
  2. was on a Wednesday, directly after many Tuesday night events
  3. was always held in the downtown area

The event started at 7:30am to try to give folks a chance to stop by before work in case they needed to go in to an office by 8 or 8:30. Given the fact that many of the crowd are software developers and entrepreneurs on their own schedule, asking this was quite a stretch.

Many of us attend tech events on Tuesdays such as Refresh Austin, WordPress Austin Meetup, Austin on Rails, or Cafe Bedouins. To ask people who stayed out late the night before hitting some tech event to show up way early the next day only allowed for the insanely dedicated to make the morning event.

Finally, the reason why it was set in the downtown area is that I personally do not spend much time downtown and I wanted to meet more of the crowd who lives/works/hangs out in the downtown area. It’s also a logical “city center” for everyone to gather. The reality is, though, especially very early in the morning, that it takes considerable effort to get downtown if you live way South or way North (as I do). Some even drove in from as far away as Cedar Park, Round Rock, and Buda. I think downtown is a perfect place to have open coffee discussions, but I’m also open to the idea that we should spread the love around. As I’ve learned running Cafe Bedouins, different geographic areas draw out different crowds. Changing the location of an informal coffee meetup can radically alter who attends the event, and sometimes dramatically increase it!

Given all this, I’d like to make a proposal for Open Coffee Austin going forward:

  1. We alter the time to 8:30-10:30am
  2. We shift the day from Wednesday to Thursday
  3. We alternate Open Coffee locations weekly bi-weekly

I believe that these changes will allow more people to connect and reduce some of the stressors that plagued the prior event setup.

The first three Open Coffees of the new and improved 2011 schedule are now set up on Facebook:

Are you interested in this kind of thing? Do these changes make you more or less likely to attend?

Let me know what’s what.

UPDATE: The turnout was extremely light for the North one (and sadly, Sodade coffee shop closed), so I’m going to cancel it for now.  We’ll meet up bi-weekly, alternating between Downtown and Central Austin.

Brad Feld on Building Entrepreneurial Communities Like Austin

At Tahoe Tech Talk 2010, a question came up during Q&A about building up entrepreneurial communities outside of Silicon Valley. Brad Feld, a well-known venture capitalist in Boulder was asked to come up on stage to share a few of his thoughts.

(video clip shared with Brad’s permission)

Brad essentially made three main points:

  1. Don’t try to be Silicon Valley.
  2. You need at least half a dozen leaders to stay consistent over a period of 20 years.
  3. Engage the entire entrepreneurial community. This includes students, first timers, serial entrepreneurs, etc.

Join us this Wednesday morning downtown at Jo’s Coffee for Open Coffee Austin. We meet up for good coffee, making connections, and conversation centered around building businesses in Austin. We meet on the First Wednesday of each month.

Open Coffee Club Austin

An open space to meet Austin entrepreneurs and investors

First Wednesdays – Jo’s Coffee* on 2nd St – 7:30-9:30a

The time for this has been adjusted, please see the reboot post for more info!

While reading through David Walker’s Born Entrepreneur blog recently, I noticed a old post about the Open Coffee Club Movement:

The idea is simple. Events are arranged on a set date in a set location. Entrepreneurs and people interested in the industry come along to chat, discuss their ideas, and build relationships. VCs also come along and entrepreneurs have a chance to pitch their ideas to them – and discuss whether they might be interested in funding them etc.

It’s such a simple and obvious idea, I thought that surely Austin must have one and that I just didn’t know about it.  It turns out that Bryan Jones and Nick Ducoff did actually start and run one in 2007 when the idea first surfaced, but they don’t meet anymore.  I’ve spoken with Nick and he was quite supportive of starting this up again.

When I first raised the idea, I was given various pieces of advice which largely centered around who would or wouldn’t come to this kind of thing.  I like the idea of a consistent meeting time that has no set agenda, no politics, and no real structure.  It’s open and that means that quite literally anyone can come by. Sure, there may be some bozos from time to time, but in general I think we’re at a point as a larger entrepreneurial community where we could stand to get to know each other better in an informal setting.  So walk up to Jo’s, grab a coffee, and find someone interesting to talk to.  And for heaven’s sakes, please be interesting! 😉

The recent AustinStartup article Wherefore Art Thou, Austin Investors spawned a lot of varied commentary, but not much real understanding about the investor perspective.  I hope that if we can attract quality entrepreneurs to meet up and connect in this open space, that we will also attract some open-minded investors who will join us and share their unique perspective with us.  There are benefits to both sides to be more open with each other and a cup of coffee seems like a good place to start.

We are going to meet on First Wednesdays at 7:30am in downtown Austin:

Jo's Coffee on 2nd

Think you can make it to the first open coffee this Wednesday?  If so, click “count me in” on the Plancast site to show others that you plan to attend.

If you want to keep up with the event as we forge ahead, you can check out the Open Coffee Austin web site for updates.

Look forward to meeting you!

*Good news about the parking situation. Jo’s can validate your City Hall parking spot!

Help Me Pick a Logo

For the longest time, I’ve been meaning to develop a brand that is different than my personal brand for the work that I do building apps.  The applications I’ve created so far have been about building something that I wanted for myself and something that is useful.  SnapTweet was created as a way to easily bridge Flickr and Twitter for picture posting, DoesFollow (and now the Twitter List membership check) were built out of frustration with the inconvenience of Twitter’s interface for determining followership (especially with large follower counts).  Finally, WhereBeYou was a Cafe Bedouins evening hack to do the reverse geo lookup for accounts which set geo coordinates instead of city/state for the Twitter Location field.  I got tired of seeing geo coordinates and wondering…now where the hell are these people anyway…?

I’ve got a list of ideas, most of which have not yet been documented on my blog and a couple of these are under development.  As slow as the progress is sometimes, I know that I will continue to make more useful things as the years go on and I want to have a place to bring those things together under one name and that brand is Podlabs.  Any web apps that I build will have a branding stripe somewhere on the page saying something to the effect of “A Podlabs Production”.  My iPhone Developer Program registration for iPad and iPhone development is under Podlabs as well.

I’m working with Scott Butler of Scott Butler Design on the logo and together we’ve developed some mockups of a concept.  Originally, the POD in Podlabs was referring to iPod, as, back in 2005, I had the idea for a wine application for iPod (that required a companion Mac app).  These days, iPod has morphed into iPod Touch, iPhone, and the soon-to-be-released iPad, so the POD part needs to be more broad than just iPod.  I think the pod motif can still work as it suggests futuristic, space, sleek, self-contained, etc.   The current logo concept is a sleep pod looking thing with an electrical cord and connection point.  Below, I’ve included 7 different variations on the theme and I’d like to know what feedback you have on the choices.

podlabs logo #1

podlabs logo #1

podlabs logo #2

podlabs logo #2

podlabs logo #3

podlabs logo #3

podlabs logo #4

podlabs logo #4

podlabs logo #5

podlabs logo #5

podlabs logo #6

podlabs logo #6

podlabs logo #7

podlabs logo #7

Please select your top 3 favorites from the above 7 choices. Also, if there is a particular visual element or color which you particularly like or don’t like, I’d like to hear that as well.

Some examples of things to consider are:

  1. the outlines around the letter, versus no outline
  2. lowercase versus capital L
  3. ‘a’ sitting on top of ‘L’, instead of beside
  4. the pod
  5. the cord
  6. the font style and the feeling it evokes
  7. color schemes  (of those shown or is there some other scheme that might work well?)

What are your thoughts / feelings when you first look at it?

Thanks for your feedback!

Entrepreneurial Experiments

It doesn’t take money to make money. It takes creative thinking and hustle.

[vodpod id=Groupvideo.3883634&w=425&h=350&] (video of Tina Seelig at Stanford via Andy Sacks blog)

  • What experiments can you set up today to learn something new about what your customers want?
  • How can you use the constraint of having no money to your advantage by freeing up your mind to do something creative?

Charge Something

Jason Fried, speaking at Startup School regarding the launch of Basecamp:

We immediately put a price on it because that’s the only way I know how to sell things. How do you sell stuff for free? Anyone know how to sell anything for free? You can’t. You can only sell things for money.

I think it’s about time I heed this advice. I make a little bit of coffee money from my sites, but I would like them to make a lot more. 🙂 Jason recommended charging money as a way to get feedback from your customers about what they really want (and what they are willing to pay for).

Now, much is made of the Chris Anderson Free vs. 37Signals Charge, and both were presented at StartupSchool. Anderson acknowledged though that it’s not that everything should be free, but that products should be offered on a continuum of cost. 37Signals knows this quite well, as in Getting Real (which you can read for free online), they specifically call out always offering free samples of your product.