Archive for June, 2012

Public speaking.

It’s a high-ranking fear for many people throughout the world. Some dread it more than death!

Can it really be that gruesome? Sure, there are all those eyes staring at you, and all the minds trained on picking apart your every word and movement. Who knows, the audience might notice something you had for lunch stuck in your teeth, or maybe your fly is open, but of course you can’t look or feel to see if it is, but what are those people over there giggling about … horrors!

All right, maybe it is pretty scary. But some of us thrive on speaking to groups. How is that possible?

Speaking for myself (sorry about the pun), presenting to groups helped me to get over shyness back in high school, and it’s now one of my favorite ways to impart the knowledge I have to share. It has helped me to be a popular instructor in a variety of teaching situations and to pursue opportunities head-on that others avoided. I can attest to the fact that most people are not born with the ability to speak well in public—I wasn’t. Just like everyone else, I started out terrified. But I knew that this terror would limit me, so I pursued forensics (the art and science of developing skills in debate plus extemporaneous and interpretive speaking, not cutting up cadavers). I found that the more I faced my fear, the easier it became to stand up and just do what I needed to—deliver a message.

You will find a plethora of advice out there about how to overcome speaking anxiety and hone presentation skills. But I boil it down to very simple terms. Over the years, I’ve learned that three things provide the answer to fearless and focused speaking. I call them the three P’s: poise, passion, and practice.


Take your task seriously. Armchair wisdom has often included quips like “Imagine the audience wearing nothing but underwear!” I say, respect the audience, and its members will respect you. Stand up straight, look them in the eyes, speak to them respectfully and with audible enunciation. These people are present to gain something from you, and it is your duty to deliver it in a considerate manner.


Have you ever caught yourself going on and on about something excitedly because you are so interested in it? That’s the kind of passion it takes to truly engage an audience in what you are saying and not in any quirks of how you are saying it. So, what if you are required to talk about something that you’re really not passionate about? Then you need to GET PASSIONATE about it, at least for the moment. How? Find the seed of what interests you about it by doing some research. For example, I can’t imagine anything much less interesting than plumbing, but if I consider the vast impact on health and civilization that the invention of plumbing has had, I could talk about valves and elbow joints with a heartfelt zeal. Find whatever it is in a topic that floats your boat, and let that come through in your presentation.


Surely, you’ve heard this tip before. Everyone says practice is the key, and in this case, everyone is right! The less you need to think about what to say next, the more you can focus on smooth delivery, breathing, and making eye contact. Know your presentation inside and out, and you will have one less thing about which to be fearful.

Resources for Further Reading

Here are some additional resources for various aspects of public speaking. Enjoy!

Toastmasters 10 Tips

Tips from MIT

Better public speaking

Overcoming fear of speaking

Dealing with public speaking anxiety

Minimizing um’s and uh’s

Summer Movie Fun

It’s been a quite a pleasant summer so far. We’ve had some of the typical heat and humidity for which Georgia is known – even before the official first day of summer – but we’ve also had some downright pleasant days (lord knows, I like having a fire in the fireplace, and I’m grateful for some cool evenings in May that provided the opportunity to use some well-seasoned firewood).

Another aspect that has made this summer most pleasant is the fun movies coming out. Everyone already knows I loved The Avengers.  Well, a few days ago, I loved it a second time.  This coming weekend, I’ll love it a third time when I go with my roommate who has not seen it yet.

Tim Burton Almost Redeems Himself

Tim Burton has been one of my favorite creative minds in filmmaking for many years. But some of his recent projects struck me as self-indulgent and just plain trying too hard, like they were caricatures of what used to make Burton films so eerie and magical. I truly disliked Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and wondered why in the world an iconic film like Willie Wonka and Chocolate Factory would ever need to be remade. I also wasn’t blown away by Alice in Wonderland, which was more sterile and staged than enchantingly nightmarish, as the book really is. It should have been a perfect fit for Burton; alas, it was not.  Of course, both of these films are in my “everything-he-ever-made Johnny Depp library.” Obviously, I don’t stand on principal enough to prevent THAT.

But Dark Shadows marks a step back in the right direction Burton-esque direction (at least, I am hoping with all my will and might), though he’s not quite there yet. It has more of a Big Fish tale-like feel to it, and less of the bizarreness for the sake of being strange that mark what I consider to be Burton’s failed features. It manages in part to return to the whimsy and era-specific jibes that Burton worked so well into films like Edward Scissorhands and Ed Wood. It’s great to see that step back, with no small thanks to a terrific cast led by Johnny Depp and Michelle Pfeiffer, but it still lacked that earlier Burton spark. The worst part of the movie is the character of Carolyn Stoddard, played by the talented (but wasted here) Chloe Grace Moretz. Most of the way through, she is a sullen, tripped-out, unintelligible creature for whom there seems to be no purpose. At the end, when she turned into a werewolf, I actually groaned. Dark Shadows is worth seeing, but it’s not yet the awesomeness-of-old that Tim Burton films used to be. And – big caution sign here –  it is NOT like the original series that some of us may recall. If you were a fan of the show, put those memories on the shelf as you go to see this interpretation of the Barnabas Collins story.


Men in Black Wear It So Well … Again!

Men in Black is officially one of my favorite franchises of all time.  I adored the first movie, really liked the second, and am crazy about the third. These movies are hilarious, well-acted and pun-filled, with plenty of special effects eye candy. The team of Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith its one of the trilogy’s strongest aspects, naturally, along with the tongue-in-cheek portrayal of aliens assimilating on earth (watch for some new “which celeb’s an alien” reveals).  In MIB III, the crowning achievement belongs Josh Brolin and his portrayal of young Agent K, and he does an absolutely unbelievable job of inhabiting the skin of a younger Tommy Lee Jones!  At times, I forgot who I was watching on the screen.

In addition to the usual save-the-world-from-hostile-aliens scenario, this installment of the MIB adventure wonderfully brings the story full circle and provides a brief tearful moment as we find out how our two favorite black-suited agents are really connected. If you want a summer movie that’s satisfying, exhilarating, and truly entertaining, go see Men in Black III.



Z-ink client Eric D. Echols, president and CEO of The LPS Group Inc. (a loss prevention, private detective, and security corporation), was involved in the notorious case of Tonya Craft, who was exonerated in 2010 after being falsely accused of abuse and subjected to the incredibly corrupt legal machine in Ringgold, Georgia, located in rural Catoosa County, just south of the Tennessee border.

He has now written the book The Echols Files: Catoosa County Justice to shed light on some of the details that took place behind the scenes.  In this revealing book, Echols writes from his perspective as an investigator in the case and walks readers through the events, including his own arrest as several powerful parties conspired to get him out of the way.  A fascinating read about a notable case in recent American legal history, the book is available at

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