Use Revolutionary War Airports to Fly Out of Speaking Stumbles

President Trump caused quite the Twitter kerfuffle on Independence Day when he talked about Revolutionary War troops wresting control of the airports from the British. The flub apparently arose from a TelePrompTer malfunction caused by rain in the nation’s capitol.

Aside from the prominence of the error (and the comedic aspect, which trended on Twitter as #RevolutionaryWarAirportStories on the 4th of July, if you care to see more), it’s relatively small picture in terms of the impact. Still, no matter the cause nor your political perspective, there is a valuable public-speaking take away.

Remarks by President Trump on Independence Day, 2019. Read the full speech.

Most of us will never speak to an audience as large as the one assembled on the National Mall. We may, however, appear in a situation in which the stakes are even higher, at least on a personal level. Consider presentations you’ve made to civic groups, elected councils and boards, or even a hiring committee.

The outcome certainly holds potential to be life altering. Likewise, the possibility of getting lost in your words or tripped up by technology is a realistic one.

If it can happen to the President of the United States — with every resource of the federal government available — it most certainly can happen to me and you. It definitely has happened to me.

So, what to do?

The answer is in proper preparation. Specifically, you must know your brand story, know your presentation message, know your audience.

Know your brand story

Your brand story ties together those things that are fundamental, core to your (or your organization’s) being. The three things I articulate about my institution are: 1) we are invested in our students’ success; 2) we are a premier institution of higher education; and 3) as a California Community College, we are the best value. In any situation, I can default to these — and, since they’re core to our identity, I should be able to pivot there easily if I get lost in my presentation and need a guidepost to lean on. This works on a personal level as well. If you look at my online presences, I articulate that I am: 1) a recovering journalist; 2) a storyteller; and 3) spokesman at Cypress College. The point here is to know both yourself and your organization well enough that it’s second nature to articulate these core story elements.

Know your message

Your key message or messages are the specific takeaways you want your audience to have at any given presentation. Of course, any well-crafted presentation will tie back to your brand story as discussed above. However, speaking opportunities typically have specific sub-messages that must be communicated. For instance, the city council might want to hear about the status of construction projects on campus. Clearly, I’m going to articulate that we’re constructing new buildings because we’re invested in our students’ success and because we are premier. I’m going to articulate that new buildings help make us a great value. But, I will also need to articulate why we selected these projects, who they will serve, and what our remaining financial needs are.

Know your audience

Who is attending your presentation and what is their shared belief or purpose? While it goes without saying that this is critical information, it may be less obvious about to use the information to get back on track. One example is to bridge with something like this: “I’m mindful that we all share a passion for education and the opportunity it brings to students to change their lives. This common belief is what brought us together today.”

At this point you can drop in a quick anecdote related to one of your key take away points.

There are a number of student stories that I can tell by heart — and I can tell them either in depth or with brevity. If the projector bulb has died, I’m likely in a situation where I’ll have to conclude without getting my multimedia presentation back at all. This will necessitate a longer ad lib. If I’ve lost my place, sharing a short anecdote from memory should give me enough time to overcome my senior moment.

So, if I’m talking to a service group who shares an interest in helping those in need, I might share Selina’s story like this:

“This seems like the perfect time for me to tell you about Selina Jaimes Davila, who has experienced booth food and housing insecurity during her studies.” The amount of detail I share would depend on if I am changing course or simply getting back onto my original path.

A variant of this is telling the story of someone in the audience or simply pausing to acknowledge or thank them. Like this:

“While I’m thinking about how invaluable community support is to the success of our students, I really want to pause and thank Walter. I don’t know if everyone here knows that he’s an alumnus of the college, but I’m certain we’re all aware of his generosity. Walt, for your decades of service on our Foundation board: thank you!”

Exiting a story is a graceful time for a reset and, in most cases, this is audiences will be forgiving if you need to shuffle notecards or turn pages at that juncture of a presentation.

The next time you’re asked to present, try adding your ad lib anecdote into your preparation routine. It’s easy to tell these types of stories as an aside while PowerPoint restarts or even an escape route that provides a strong finish if you’re never quite able to recover your words.

Don’t Want to Thank People; Thank Them

My wife took a pretty bad spill the other day while walking the dog. Thankfully, her doctors, nurses, and surgeon were better than Humpty Dumpty’s and she’s on the mend. But this blog isn’t about her, her broken wrist, or life with a partner who’s out of commission. It’s about wanting to thank our neighbor who helped her out after she had fallen and couldn’t get up.

More specifically, it’s about actually thanking our neighbor.

Dan (that’s our neighbor) called the paramedics, called me, and — I’m pretty sure — was late for work as a result of tending to my fallen spouse. I suspect that presented with the same circumstances he’d do the same again. But, it’s nice to know that people still go out of their way to help others.

As I finished the dog’s walk that morning before leaving to meet my wife at the hospital, I passed Dan’s house and I began mentally composing a thank you card.

Karen and I want to thank you …”

I stopped this line of thought and scolded myself: “Don’t want to thank Dan; thank Dan.”

Wanting to thank Dan is the type of passive writing that weakens our ability to communicate with each other. I tend to do it most frequently when I’m rushing and on autopilot. Frankly, it happens more than I care to admit (and I’m certain more than I notice) in casual work correspondence.

The real problem is that it introduces an unintended air of insincerity to what is meant as genuine gratitude.

While sitting at at the hospital with my wife, I re-composed the thank you card to Dan.

Karen and I deeply appreciate your help and expertise this morning …

The change in language made my sentiments heartfelt and the expression of appreciation concrete. By using active language, I communicated to Dan precisely what I was thankful for:

  1. His assistance;
  2. His expertise; and
  3. The sacrifice he made by arriving to work later than intended.

Even if most readers can’t identify the difference between the passive card and the active one, they will experience the difference in the way they feel about the sincere expression you’ve shared with them.

To quote the great writer Maya Angelou:

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Photos: JCC Maccabi Hockey Tournament

I was privileged to serve as a photographer for the JCC Maccabi hockey tournament. The Orange County community hosted the annual JCC Maccabi Games and ArtFest  for 2018 in conjunction with Long Beach. More than 2,500 teen athletes and artists from around the globe participated.

The games bring the community together in competition, but just as much in community.

One of my favorite moments from the tournament came on Day 2. The teams from Greater Washington and Toronto Blue played to a 4-4 draw — and then they used the “handshake line” to hug. It was a sublime hockey game as DC got out to a 3-0 lead, but Toronto responded with four straight tallies, including two in the final 5-minutes. DC tied the game with a the extra attacker on in the final minute of play. However, the post-game tradition topped it all

Good stuff.

More photos are on the JCC Flickr page (note not all the photos there are mine, though most are).

I’ll be linking to an expanded set of photos as I select and edit in more detail than my immediate first pass through the images linked above.

Spin Zone: Join Me in JOUR 140 — Public Relations at Cypress College

I am scheduled to teach JOUR 140 — Public Relations at Cypress College this fall. A few more students will put us over the top, so now is a GREAT time to enroll.

Since it’s an evening class, it should be ideal for a small-business owner. We will conduct project-based assignments, so they’ll be directly applicable.

Here is some detail about the course and what we’ll cover:

JOUR 140 C – Public Relations
Cypress College – Fall 2018
CRN: 14174

Wednesday, 7-10:05 p.m.

Students will study and practice the techniques and responsibilities of industrial, governmental, and civic public relations, with special attention to publicity writing and public relations campaign development.

Date Lecture/In-Class
Week 1

Aug. 22, 2018


Brand Image — The big picture of Public Relations (the umbrella of integrated communication management)
Week 2

Aug. 29, 2018


Communication Management — Roles and Functions
Week 3

Sept. 5, 2018

Media: Thinking Like a Reporter (5Ws & the H; deadlines; news cycle; news outlets)
Week 4

Sept. 12, 2018

Public Opinion and Damage Control
Week 5

Sept. 19, 2018

History, Theory, Persuasion
Week 6

Sept. 26, 2018

Publics I: Stakeholders; Internal vs. External Communication; Employee Communication
Week 7

Oct. 3, 2018

Publics II: Community Relations and Public Affairs
Week 8

Oct. 10, 2018

Publics III: Consumers & Marketing
Week 9

Oct. 17, 2018

Week 10

Oct. 24, 2018

RACE: Research; Action Planning; Communication; Evaluation
Week 11

Oct. 31, 2018

Week 12

Nov. 7, 2018

Earned Media and Own Media

Week 13

Nov. 14, 2018


Social and New Media

Week 14

Nov. 21, 2018

Law and Ethics
Week 15

Nov. 28, 2018

Putting it All Together: Integrated Communications; Clients; Career Opportunities
Week 16

Dec. 5, 2018

Final exam


Dr. Simpson Lauded on Final Day as Cypress College President

Emotions were evident on Thursday as Dr. Bob Simpson completed a 30-year career serving students. A steady stream of visitors to the President’s Office offered their well wishes to Dr. Simpson, who spent a decade at Cypress College — and the past 5 years as president.

Published: @Cypress Online June 29, 2017.

Among the highlights was the presentation of a joint resolution of the California State Legislature. The resolution recognizes his service in higher education. It is signed by Senator Josh Newman, of the 29th Senatorial District, and Assemblymember Sharon Quirk-Silva, of the 65th Assembly District — two advocates for the college. The resolution was presented to Dr. Simpson on Thursday morning by Christopher Aguilara, of the Hon. Quirk-Silva’s office, and Kaelin Locker, of Hon. Newman’s office. Continue reading “Dr. Simpson Lauded on Final Day as Cypress College President”

Don’t Shoot or Stab or Bludgeon the Messenger

I will not die in this spot.

I’m sitting at my desk at a Southern California community college. It’s the best in the nation, at least from my biased perspective. But it could be any college. Or a church. Or a movie theater. Or a high school. Or an elementary school. Or a supermarket parking lot. It could be the university where I’m enrolled or a similar campus across the country.

Published: Dec 8, 2016 | Buy the Way… Insights on Integrated Marketing Communication From the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California.

In the wake of deadly events at Ohio State and USC, which book-ended the week of November 28, 2016, I decided to edit and share this piece I wrote about a year earlier. It was authored primarily as my work observed a national moment of silence for the shooting victims at Umpqua Community College.

Continue reading “Don’t Shoot or Stab or Bludgeon the Messenger”

1 of 15

California Community Colleges
Baccalaureate Degree Pilot Program

A degree in mortuary science is rare. In fact, there are only two public programs offering associate degrees in the field in the State of California. For those seeking to advance in the funeral services industry, a bachelor’s degree is even less common. In fact, Cypress College’s selection to offer a baccalaureate degree in funeral services presents a unique opportunity since there are no other colleges or universities offering this type of degree in the Western United States. Continue reading “1 of 15”

New Science, Engineering, Math Building Approved by Board

An artist's rendering depicts what a new Science, Engineering, and Math Building might look like. The potential new facility is one possibility that has gained traction as Measure J planning is progressing.
An artist’s rendering depicts what a new Science, Engineering, and Math Building might look like. The new facility was approved by the NOCCCD Board of Trustees last wee as part of the Measure J program.

A brand new Science, Engineering and Mathematics Building will replace the existing facility. The decision to start from scratch rather than conduct a full remodel was approved by the Board last Tuesday when Trustees reviewed a study comparing costs for the two options. Continue reading “New Science, Engineering, Math Building Approved by Board”

Second-Highest Enrollment in College History Reached

This chart shows fall-term enrollment at Cypress College. The current student body is the second-largest in campus history.
This chart shows fall-term enrollment at Cypress College. The current student body is the second-largest in campus history.

This is the second-largest student body in Cypress College’s nearly 50-year history.

A near-record 16,566 students were enrolled in classes on the first census day. That is just 104 students shy of the College’s all-time high. It is also 1,294 more students than were enrolled at the same milestone in the spring semester. The initial figure may fluctuate slightly, but is safely ahead of the 16,444 students who attended in fall 2010. Continue reading “Second-Highest Enrollment in College History Reached”