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Review: Paul Born’s Deepening Community: Finding Joy in Chaotic Times

deepThis review first ran in the May 26 edition of The Hamilton Spectator.

Deepening Community: Finding Joy Together in Chaotic Times

By Paul Born

Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.

$22.95

We’re the Ambitious City. But are we a caring city and a deep community?

There are lots of reasons to think so. Hamiltonians look after our own. We’re generous with our time and money. Local employers can be counted on to step up and help make our city an even better place to call home.

But fault lines start to show on hot button issues like bike lanes, one-way street conversions and light rail transit. You’re with us or against us is a recurring refrain in letters to the editor, online comments and blog posts.

Not a fan of scrapping one-way roads? Then you’re an SUV-driving, stuck-in-the-1950s suburbanite who thinks racing through our lower city streets to get somewhere else in 20 minutes or less is your birthright.

An LRT supporter? Then you’re a Millennial hipster who pines for Portland and wants to play a real world version of Sim City with tax dollars we don’t have to swap blue collar buses with white collar trains so the creative class can ride in comfort.

These tired stereotypes are untrue, unhelpful and if unchecked, can slide us into what Paul Born calls a fear-based community.

“A community based on fear is a dangerous place,” warns Born, author of Deepening Community and cofounder and president of Tamarack – An Institute for Community Engagement. “They are built by people who are trying to make sense of changes outside their control and their comfort zone. Fear-based communities derive their sense of reality from being against community; they exist only on the basis of creating an enemy or developing a ‘them against us’ narrative.”

A shallow community is no better. Instead of us versus them, there’s only you. Civic engagement ends with retweets and likes on our smartphones. “We go from one group activity to the other seeking connection and personal fulfillment and are so often left wanting more and seeking the next great experience,” says Born. “These experiences are shallow not because they are fun or entertaining but because they do not require ongoing connection and mutual caring.”

Deep community is where we need to be. “To deepen community is to find opportunities for ongoing connection with those we care about and those who care about us. This connection strengthens the bonds between us,” says Born. We start to act together for the benefit of all.

There are four ways we can individually and collectively deepen community:

  1. Share our stories.
  2. Enjoy one another by spending time together.
  3. Care for one another.
  4. Work together to build a better world.

“There are other ways to build connection, but these four simple acts are, in my experience, the most powerful,” says Born. “Each is compelling, but – as I have seen again and again, to my great joy – when all four are present in our interactions and connections, that is when we can experience the full benefits of community.”

Ask Born what’s the most important thing we can do to make a difference in the world and he’ll tell you to bring chicken soup to your neighbor. It’s a simple solution that takes a lot of work upfront.  You need to build a relationship with your neighbour before she’s under the weather.

“The work takes place long before you perform the act of bringing soup,” says Born. The same holds true with building a deep community.

“Community is not automatic. We cannot take it for granted; we cannot assume that is what is should be; we cannot stand on the sidelines and just hope that things will work out.”

Whether at work or at home, deepening community is everyone’s responsibility.

“When we belong and enjoy strong relationships with one another, we can rely on one another in both good and difficult times. This makes us more resilient, and it makes us healthier. It improves our economic opportunities and even makes us happier.”

Review: Dan Roam’s Show and Tell – How Everybody Can Make Extraordinary Presentations

dan roamThis review first ran in the May 12th edition of The Hamilton Spectator.

Show and Tell: How Everybody Can Make Extraordinary Presentations

By Dan Roam

Portfolio

$32.95

Greg Maychak from the City of Hamilton paid our senior management team a visit last month.

Maychak gave us a presentation on the 2015 Pan Am Games and made a pitch for volunteers.

Maychak’s pretty passionate about the Games and he made a strong case for why we should share his enthusiasm.

About a third of all tickets sold for the Pan Am Games will be for the 32 soccer matches to be played at Tim Hortons Field in Hamilton. More than 300,000 people will be in the stands and then celebrating in our streets over 16 days next July. The Games will showcase Hamilton to the Americas and inject a pile of money into our local economy. It’s going to be a very good summer for restaurants, bars and pubs along James Street North.

I put away my smartphone and gave Maychak my undivided attention because he did what all good presenters do.

“As presenters, our goal is simple,” says Dan Roam, visual communications expert and author of Show and Tell. “Help others see what we see.”

You do that by entertaining, educating, persuading, motivating and ultimately changing your audience.

To deliver an extraordinary presentation, follow what Roam calls the three rules of show and tell.

“Lead with the truth and the heart will follow. Lead with a story and understanding will follow. Lead with the eye and the mind will follow.”

Lead with none of the above and you inflict death by PowerPoint on an audience that’s not paying attention.

When you tell the truth, you connect with your audience, you become passionate about what you’re presenting and you find your self-confidence. Audiences are perceptive and will tune you out if you’re stretching or dodging the truth.

When you tell a story, you make complex ideas clear, you make your ideas unforgettable and you make everyone feel included.

“Clear storylines are our best defence against confusion,” says Roam. “They force complexity into submission long enough to be tamed.”

He claims all presentations can be delivered using just four storylines. The report storyline conveys facts and changes the audience’s information. The explanation storyline teaches new insights, changing our knowledge or ability. The pitch storyline recommends a new solution that changes our actions. And the drama storyline inspires a new way of looking at the world and changes our beliefs.

Think of storylines as a guide rope that connects you with your audience. “As presenters, it is our job to keep this line taut and moving,” says Roam.

You keep that line from going slack or getting tied in knots by showing pictures. When you tell us a story with pictures, we see exactly what you mean, you grab and keep our attention and you banish boredom.

According to those in the know, more of our brain is devoted to vision and visual processing than other known functions, including language.

“If our eyes don’t have something interesting to look at, we will make stuff up.” A PowerPoint slide jammed with text and charts that no one can read is not interesting.

According to Roam, any story can be illustrated using just six pictures: portraits, charts, maps, timelines, flow charts and equations.

Roam is a big believer in doodles. “Overly beautiful stock photos actually damage our message. Our audience knows the picture isn’t true and disconnects from us. Staged photos of people compete with the person actually on the stage. The ideal picture is just the essence of an idea made instantly visible and nothing more.”

A presentation done right is a gift, says Roam. “At any presentation, our audience is investing a part of their lives in us. The best gift we can give ourselves is learning how to show and tell. The best gift we can give one another is an extraordinary presentation.”