San Francisco

San Francisco’s Bay to Breakers Offers Valuable Public Speaking Lessons

Yesterday was the centennial running of the Bay to Breakers foot race. For those of you who have never heard of it, allow me to paint the picture: Over fifty thousand people, a majority of which were dressed in outrageous costumes, took to the streets of San Francisco and marched from the San Francisco Bay all the way to the Pacific Ocean. It was a seven and a half mile trek that weaved through a number of the city’s greatest sights. An event like this truly brings out the vibrant colors of the city and provides fantastic opportunities for people watching. Under cloudy skies, the wild parade of costumed marathoners made their merry way through the enchanting City by the Bay. 

And yes, even in this surreal environment I found lessons that pertain to public speaking.

Preparation is King – Preparing for your Bay to Breakers experience is vital. If you don’t coordinate with your companions, you will wind up lost and alone in an endless tidal wave of Smurfs, trolls, dinosaurs, and cavemen. Instead of being a fun way to spend a Sunday afternoon, it could be a truly disastrous and lonely experience. Likewise, if you are going to succeed onstage, you must prepare. You don’t want to give yourself the opportunity to make mistakes, so knowing your touch points and memorizing your opening and close and practicing out loud in front of a mirror will be sure to help you keep your cool when you are in front of an audience. 

Poise under Pressure – Without a healthy level of poise and self-confidence, you may not fully enjoy being out in public wearing a ridiculously funny costume. You may feel the desire to hide among the crowd or even bow out of the fun early. And while you likely won’t be presenting in an absurd costume, speaking in front of an audience can be an equally overwhelming experience. Without  maintaining some level of poise, you may make the mistake of fudging a line, forgetting a touch point, or freezing up on stage. 

Have Fun – The ultimate tool you can learn from Bay to Breakers, however, is to have fun. Can you imagine if you attempted to attend an event like Bay to Breakers and were self-conscious about how you were dressed or feared what others would say about you? You would stand out like a sore thumb! You can apply that same principle to being in front of an audience. If you are comfortable with yourself, your audience will be right with you throughout your entire performance. So relax and have fun! The more you enjoy yourself while you’re giving a presentation, the easier it is to connect with your audience and sound more credible. 

So what was my outrageous costume this weekend? For now, I’m keeping that a secret. However, the first person to guess correctly by posting your answers here will receive a signed copy of my book, Roadmap to Success. So keep those guesses coming!

The Best “San Francisco” Speakers at SXSW

Tomorrow begins the twenty-fifth annual South by Southwest (SXSW) interactive media, film and music conference. Nearly 12,000 registrants will invade Austin, TX from March 11th -20th for an all-out entertainment extravaganza. Amidst the product launches, movie premiers, and concerts will be hundreds of experts featured on panels such as “Speaking to Geeks,” “The State of 3D in Cinema,” and “How to Save College Radio.” In addition, celebrities like Yoko Ono, Mike Tyson, and Duran Duran will take part in candid interviews about their careers. The official presentation platform for SXSW Interactive comes from the San Francisco-based company SlideRocket. I’m very impressed (and nearly overwhelmed) with all of its features. Users can purchase graphic content from the SlideRocket marketplace to create their visual slides, access their presentation from any computer with an Internet connection, conduct online conferences akin to WebEx, and receive user analytics for key metrics such as who viewed the presentation and what components they clicked on.

Using SlideRocket will be a bevy of intriguing San Francisco speakers. I’ve listed below my top five. Please feel free to post to the comments section any presentations that you think should be added to my list:

1) Adam Savage (@donttrythis) - MythBusters

As one of the co-hosts of The Discovery Channel's "MythBusters," Adam Savage is both a proponent of DIY trouble-making and an outspoken advocate for science over rumor. Savage has to balance the enthusiasms that spring for wanting to see something for oneself with the hard facts that have been proven by others time and again. An industrial designer and special effects supervisor prior to busting myths, Savage brings an engineer's methodology to the problems not just of urban myths and historic legends but also to the larger issues of scientific illiteracy and “know-nothing-ism” in American culture.

Update: This event has been canceled. More information can be found here.

2) Jill Okawa Fletcher (@JillOinSF)– Virgin America

Jill Okawa Fletcher has eight years of experience in building online communities and leveraging new media to spark consumer brand engagement. She currently leads social media strategy at Virgin America. As a panel member of “Go Here, Do This: Location + Collective,” Jill will discuss how tools like group-purchasing sites created around local communities and mobile check-in apps are being focused towards completing a specific action. She’ll also explore the delicate balance between pushing an action or a message while maintaining the organic feel that characterizes these movements.

3) Richard Brewer-Hay (@ebayinkblog) - eBay

With advances in networks, online communities and the ability to become one’s own content producer and influencer, the face of Public Relations is changing. Richard Brewer-Hay is the Chief Blogger for eBay’s corporate blog. His discussion topic is called “Why PR’s Future May Not Look Like PR,” and will explore PR’s shifting focus from communications to engagement in increasingly public spaces both online and off.

4) Parker Harris (@parkerharris) –

After many years, there now appears to be agreement -- from traditional software vendors to web-based companies -- that we are now shifting from the desktop to the cloud. This panel, entitled “Thunder in the Clouds,” features the co-founder of, Parker Harris. Parker and several other cloud pioneers and experts will debate the state of cloud computing and where its future lies.

5) Adam Kleinberg (@adamkleinberg) - Traction

If you’ve ever received sneers and rolling eyes from your employees, you need to see Adam Kleinberg’s presentation entitled “Seven Reasons Your Employees Hate You.” Adam will be sharing how he’s screwed up time repeatedly as CEO of Traction (, rated the #1 interactive agency in the US for 2009 and #1399 on the Inc 5000 list of fastest growing companies. Learn from his mistakes and avoid making them yourself.

As you attend these or any other discussion panels, leave comments below with your opinions on how they went. Lastly, I’ll leave you with this highly informative video guide on how to be your South By South Best: