Sunday, January 15, 2012

There are no tricks for public speaking

The idea of imagining your audience naked seems to be the most common advice for those who hate public speaking. The next thing you hear about public speaking is that everyone is terrified of it. So you're left standing in front of a group of people trying to imagine them naked and trying to forget how scared you are. The third thing on your mind is that the audience can't tell what you're thinking.

The problem with all this is that your actual speech is fourth on the list. This leaves you wondering what on Earth you even said when you're done. I've been there more than once but I must admit I've never bothered trying to imagine my audience naked.

I used to be a very shy person. I talked so quietly that I had to repeat myself constantly. I rarely shared my opinion without being asked for it. Part of getting over that was gaining confidence and realizing I had something worthwhile to say. Realizing that other people want to actually hear what I had to say really helped. Whenever I speak in front of an audience, I keep in mind that someone out there actually really wants to listen to what I have to say.

I was required to take a public speaking class to get my business degree. I may not have agreed with all the classes I had to take but public speaking was essential. In business classes, you're either writing a case analysis or giving a speech. I don't remember every detail in that class but what stood out for me was the first day when we sat in a circle and talked about our fears in public speaking. The strangest thing about it was our similarities. Some of the group had embarrassing stories but mostly everyone just talked about the same fears. Everyone hated it and was very afraid of it. This made me really see how similar I am to everyone else. After that day, when I gave a speech, I remembered that every person in the audience feels just as afraid as I do about public speaking.

The next thing that helped from that class was being forced to watch videos of our own speeches. That was more painful than giving the speech itself. I didn't have a VCR and I had to watch my speeches at the library with a room of other people watching things on little TVs. I was so terrified someone would notice that I was watching myself on tape and say something. Despite all that, it made me really see what areas I needed to improve on.

The tips that this breaks down into are: 1 - Keep in mind that you have a willing audience that wants to hear what you have to say. 2 - Everyone else is just as afraid as you are. 3 - Watching yourself is the fastest path to improvement.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Netflix Decides its Prices are too Low: Update

I received this email on September 19th from Netflix. I guess they realized they made a mistake in how they treated their customers:
I messed up. I owe you an explanation.

It is clear from the feedback over the past two months that many members felt we lacked respect and humility in the way we announced the separation of DVD and streaming and the price changes. That was certainly not our intent, and I offer my sincere apology. Let me explain what we are doing.

For the past five years, my greatest fear at Netflix has been that we wouldn't make the leap from success in DVDs to success in streaming. Most companies that are great at something – like AOL dialup or Borders bookstores – do not become great at new things people want (streaming for us). So we moved quickly into streaming, but I should have personally given you a full explanation of why we are splitting the services and thereby increasing prices. It wouldn’t have changed the price increase, but it would have been the right thing to do.

So here is what we are doing and why.

Many members love our DVD service, as I do, because nearly every movie ever made is published on DVD. DVD is a great option for those who want the huge and comprehensive selection of movies.

I also love our streaming service because it is integrated into my TV, and I can watch anytime I want. The benefits of our streaming service are really quite different from the benefits of DVD by mail. We need to focus on rapid improvement as streaming technology and the market evolves, without maintaining compatibility with our DVD by mail service.

So we realized that streaming and DVD by mail are really becoming two different businesses, with very different cost structures, that need to be marketed differently, and we need to let each grow and operate independently.

It’s hard to write this after over 10 years of mailing DVDs with pride, but we think it is necessary: In a few weeks, we will rename our DVD by mail service to “Qwikster”. We chose the name Qwikster because it refers to quick delivery. We will keep the name “Netflix” for streaming.

Qwikster will be the same website and DVD service that everyone is used to. It is just a new name, and DVD members will go to to access their DVD queues and choose movies. One improvement we will make at launch is to add a video games upgrade option, similar to our upgrade option for Blu-ray, for those who want to rent Wii, PS3 and Xbox 360 games. Members have been asking for video games for many years, but now that DVD by mail has its own team, we are finally getting it done. Other improvements will follow. A negative of the renaming and separation is that the and websites will not be integrated.

There are no pricing changes (we’re done with that!). If you subscribe to both services you will have two entries on your credit card statement, one for Qwikster and one for Netflix. The total will be the same as your current charges. We will let you know in a few weeks when the website is up and ready.

For me the Netflix red envelope has always been a source of joy. The new envelope is still that lovely red, but now it will have a Qwikster logo. I know that logo will grow on me over time, but still, it is hard. I imagine it will be similar for many of you.

I want to acknowledge and thank you for sticking with us, and to apologize again to those members, both current and former, who felt we treated them thoughtlessly.

Both the Qwikster and Netflix teams will work hard to regain your trust. We know it will not be overnight. Actions speak louder than words. But words help people to understand actions.

Respectfully yours,

-Reed Hastings, Co-Founder and CEO, Netflix

p.s. I have a slightly longer explanation along with a video posted on our blog, where you can also post comments.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

SHRM Session: "Talent-Based Interviews"

I hoped to learn some new ideas for performing interviews at the SHRM Conference. With that idea in mind I attended Jay Forte's session, “So, Tell Me About a Time When...: Use Talent-Based Interviews to Hire the Right Employees”.

The session began with two photos being shown of an attractive man and woman. Forte asked, “Who do you hire?” and I thought to myself whether we were hiring models or not. Forte explained that talent-based interviews are based on how people think, respond, add value, and make a difference within an organization.

GPS was used as an analogy of the “route to profitability”. The route begins with culture, ends with customer loyalty, and employee engagement sits in the middle. I felt that this GPS analogy had more to it but we would be focusing solely on employee engagement. The analogy probably came from his new book that he kept mentioning. In case you are wondering, here it is:

Sixty-five percent of employees are only doing enough to get by. Only 18% are fully engaged. For employees to perform at their full capability, then they must enjoy the work and be good at it. Forte focuses on talents because he believes people don’t really change beyond their youth and most of their brain has developed at a young age. I disagree with both parts because I know that personality tests can vary quite a bit until around middle-age. Also, the brain continues to make changes through-out a person's life and people’s behaviors and talents do change over the years.

The goal of talent-based interviews is to seek out the decisions we make within three seconds. There are 20,000 decisions that people make within 3 seconds. When interviewing someone, we want their immediate reaction because that is reflective of how they will react at work.

The creation of the interview questions is based on the DiSC assessment. Fortunately, I'm familiar with this type of assessment because there was very little explanation given. According to, it is used to show personality and behaviors in 4 categories: dominance, influence, steadiness, and conscientiousness.

Forte went on to explain that a line is drawn across two of the categories that are central to the particular position. The example given was a crew chief that needs to be a leader, driver, bottom-liner, and solver. They went across D and C.
Forte's DiSC from his SHRM powerpoint slides
A “talent matrix” is used to prepare the questions. The goal is to find whether the candidate has the required talents, skills, and experience. My first impression was that the DiSC method is used alone to create the interview questions, however, the matrix showed that skills and experience are also used.

The purpose isn't just to use one particular list of questions but to create a dialogue. I felt this would make it hard to compare the interviews between candidates. However, Forte said that the questions can be the same but are customized by layering them differently. In other words, change the order of questions based on where the interviewee goes with their answer.

I also felt that the use of the word “talent” was misleading since they seemed to be behaviors. Using necessary behaviors to create interview questions is an effective method that is often used. I learned about DiSC in college and was interested in seeing how it can be applied to creating interview questions. One of the flaws is that the interviewer needs to understand how to use DiSC and training would need to be provided to use it accurately. When I completed the DiSC assessment, I was strong in three categories and I wonder if Forte’s method leaves room for people similar to me.

SHRM Session: "How to Hunt like a Headhunter"

One of my first sessions at the SHRM Conference was called “How to Hunt Like a Headhunter for the Global Talent You Wish You Had”. My first position out of college is in recruiting and I thought the session would give me some new ideas that I could use. The speakers were introduced as Jim Dyak, founder of Human Resource Dimensions (a consultanting company), and Jennifer Brock, the Manager of Executive Searches. As I walked in they handed me a poker chip with their company info on it:

The session was a casual discussion that jumped between the two of them. They began by discussing the difference between headhunters and corporate recruiting. Headhunters consider recruiting to be a profit center, while corporate recruiting is considered a cost center. My position at work is closer to a headhunter and hearing about how they are viewed was interesting to me. I hadn’t considered how differently recruiting is done when it is corporate recruiting. I've only thought about the similarities.

Successful recruiters are the same in both circumstances. They listen to the candidate and get to know them.  A recruiter has to be proactive and not reactive. They develop their network because most candidates are found through networking.

There is a variety of technology available for recruiters but getting on the phone is the most effective method. However, more than one method should be used to reach candidates. A process needs to be created for searches and should be repeatable. Metrics should be used to measure the effectiveness of recruiting methods.

They mentioned a few ideas that I never considered. Jennifer mentioned using social media to find who is passionate about their career. Candidates can be sent texts to stay connected. Headhunters get a bad reputation for not engaging clients and that should be avoided. This is something I dislike about recruiting and I am glad they pointed it out. I prefer creating a relationship with each candidate. Simply asking, “is it a good time to talk?” helps create a rapport with each candidate. This simple question is one that shows the recruiter is considering the candidate’s needs.

The last portion of the session was on international recruiting. A recruiter needs to have an understanding of the culture. We cannot assume that other countries are similar to the United States. I think a lot of Americans forget to consider the differences... along with some other non-Americans. Creating alliances with the top colleges would allow access to entry-level talent. A list of top colleges was provided on their company's website. A method of searching nationally and internationally is to seek out information on who received rewards in the industry. They mentioned “glocal” which means to consider things on a global scale while acting locally.

They gave me some ideas and methods that I will be able to use. I intend to use their social media tips and research awards. I was surprised how informal the session was but this made the audience more comfortable asking questions.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Netflix Decides its Prices are too Low

Netflix decided to change its pricing plans. I'm currently a customer who uses their unlimited streaming ($7.99), along with 1 DVD out at-a-time (Unlimited) plan (+$2). I pay $9.99 for these services. I was previously using RedBox but found this option to be cheaper.

This will no longer be the case because the cost of these services will increase to $15.98 (on or after Sept. 1st). The streaming services will continue to be $7.99 but for the 1 DVD out at-a-time (Unlimited) plan it will be $7.99. They are no longer bundling them together at a cheaper rate. My account states:
The price of your Unlimited Streaming + 1 DVD out at-a-time (Unlimited) plan will change to $15.98 (plus any applicable tax) a month starting with your next billing period on or after Sep 01, 2011. If you select a new plan in the meantime, you will only be able to return to your current plan at the new price, regardless of when you make the change.
I've only been using their services since the end of May. In June, I returned the movies as fast as possible and only received 6 DVDs. Some very quick math ($7.99/6 = 1.33) shows that each DVD costs $1.33. I live near two RedBox locations and they are only $1 per night. They also have new DVD releases available sooner and there is no shipping delay. However, their selection is very limited.

I also am using my Xbox 360 to have access to the streaming services and that is an additional cost. While Netflix isn't at fault for the fees to use Xbox Live, it adds an additional cost.

As everyone is struggling to pay their bills, Netflix offered a cheap entertainment option. Now it isn't going to be quite as a cheap. Before my bill is increased, I'm going to request DVDs that aren't accessible at RedBox or with the streaming option. Then when my bill is increased, I will probably cancel the DVD plan.

I joined NetFlix because it offered a cheaper option as compared to RedBox but that is no longer the case. Their policies include slowing the turnaround time for DVDs, which mean the cost per DVD will increase. The combination of that policy and their increase in costs no longer makes it a reasonable option for my household. Hopefully, the quality of the streaming selection increases or I might cancel that as well. Paying $7.99/month to watch a bunch of mediocre movies isn't really that great of a deal.

Monday, July 11, 2011

SHRM conference - Day 1

SHRM is the Society for Human Resouce Management and this year I attended the SHRM 2012 Annual Conference & Exposition along with the Student Conference. As a recent graduate from Portland State University, I was able to attend with the Human Resource Management Association student chapter. Each year the conference changes locations, this year it took place in Vegas.

We left Portland on a Southwest Airlines flight at 7am on Friday, June 24th. I decided to not check my luggage after my last flight with Southwest. We stayed at the Las Vegas Hilton, which is right next to the Las Vegas Convention Center and where the conference and expo took place. I only had to be in the heat for a quick, one minute walk to go from one building to another. Which is why I never got a tan while I was in Vegas.

Fortunately, I've visited Vegas before and knew about how some things work there. Many people in the group of about 15 students didn't realize that each hotel doesn't have its own shuttle. In Vegas, there are various shuttle companies and each person pays a flat rate to get to their hotel. We decided on which shuttle to take and took a hot ride to our hotel.

We were lucky enough to be able to check-in to our rooms immediately, even though it wasn't check-in time. I shared a room with another recent college graduate, AP. We both took a nap before going to the Student Networking Dinner with SHRM Industry Experts. We changed into business casual outfits.

Day 1 at conference

Once we registered, we walked in to find a fellow PSU HRMA member, BN. Each table had an HR topic on a sign in the center of the table. No explanation was given and so we assumed that we would discuss that topic at dinner. Salads sat on each plate. A waiter came around and poured balsamic vinaigrette on each salad, after he placed our napkins in our laps.

This is very similar to the salads we had.
The formal waiter, all the silverware, and the fancy salad made me very glad that I chose to change into business-wear. Everyone, but AP and I, were dressed fairly casual. One young woman had on one of those miniskirts that is easily confused for a belt. It is Vegas but this is a professional event. There was one man in a suit sat at the table. As dinner was brought to us the man in the suit asked us about our table topic "organizational development". He asked us what we thought it meant. It turned out that he was on the expert panelists. It would have been helpful if he explained that because I was wondering why he was quizzing us. Anyway, I had a family emergency at the time and had difficulty following the conversation. As dinner went on, the emergency resolved and I was able to enjoy my dinner of chicken breast stuffed with spinach and cheese, asparagus, and rice.

This stuffed chicken is similar to what I had for dinner.
 Maureen Flaherty spoke for a short time and told us that every 10 minutes or so we were going to switch tables. I figured the concept was similar to speed-dating. We would each move around to different tables with a different topic and the expert panelists would stay seated at their tables. Some of the other topics were information systems, ethics, global human resources, employee relations, total rewards, etc. Employee relations was my favorite topic and had the greatest interaction between all the students. The last topic I was at was total rewards. Dessert showed up as we began talking. It was a chocolate molten lava cake with a berry compote.

This turned out to be the best meal that I had on the entire trip. I would say more about each table topic but right as the discussion reached any depth, I had to move to another table.

After dinner, AP and I changed into cooler clothes and walked to the strip. We stopped by Walgreens for bottled water and sunscreen. We walked to Encore and walked through a bit of the casino. We suddenly felt a but under-dressed. Everyone else in our group was at Harrahs but we were too tired to go that far. We figured by the time a cab or bus got us there that we would be ready to head back. We decided we were just too tired and headed back to the hotel.

Day 1 at conference