If it doesn’t fit anywhere else, it’s here.
This is the second recording session for my brand new series, “Pop Up Economics”. Come along – it’s free and it will be lots of fun.
12.45pm, St Pancras Station, 14 January.
EDIT: Sorry – oversubscribed five times over within a day. Gosh. Thanks to all who applied and I hope we get a chance to do some more. Listen out on Radio 4, 8.45pm, Wednesday from 16 January!
A loyal reader emails:
In the seminal Kydland and Prescott (1977) paper on time-inconsistency, they give this flood-related example:
The issues are obvious in many well-known problems of public policy. For example, suppose the socially desirable outcome is not to have houses built in a particular flood plain but, given that they are there, to take certain costly flood-control measures. If the government’s policy were not to build the dams and levees needed for flood protection and agents knew this was the case, even if houses were built there, rational agents would not live in the flood plains. But the rational agent knows that, if he and others build houses there, the government will take the necessary flood-control measures. Consequently. in the absence of a law prohibiting the construction of houses in the flood plain, houses are built there, and the army corps of engineers subsequently builds the dams and levees.
I’m delighted to announce that the BBC will be broadcasting a brand new show called “Pop Up Economics” – just me telling short stories about important people and ideas in economics. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll optimise. Come along!
The first recording is in central London, near Piccadilly Circus.
Date: Tuesday 4th December.
Time: Drinks at 18.30. Recording starts 19.15 sharp.
Please email xxx to get your e-ticket and the venue details. First come, first served!
EDIT: All gone – sorry. There’ll be another event in January. Watch this space. – TH
I recently spoke at Wired 2012 and I felt it went well (video to follow, when they put it up).
Afterwards, people came up, shook my hand, patted me on the back and told me I did a great job. That felt nice, but it won’t help me to do a better job next time.
Elsewhere in the building, other people gathered in corners and grumbled about all the things I did or got wrong. (I don’t know if this happened. I assume it did. You can’t please everyone.) That didn’t help me to do a better job next time, either.
But someone did something helpful. Bruno Giussani of TED, seeing someone praise me for speaking without slides, immediately got to the point. “You talked about the Spitfire,” he said, “But this is an international audience. Many people won’t know what you’re talking about. You should have shown just one slide: a photograph of a Spitfire. Then everyone would have understood.”
Next time I give a similar speech, I’ll be showing one slide: a photograph of a Spitfire.
It isn’t easy to get straight to the point and offer a single, focused suggestion for improvement. And the truth is, we rarely seek that kind of feedback. When we ask “what do you think?”, we’re usually looking for those confidence-boosting pats on the back. But giving such feedback – and seeking it out – is hugely important.
(On which topic, Peter Sims has an excellent book, “Little Bets“, which among many excellent topics discusses this kind of focused feedback at Pixar. Buy it for Christmas and enjoy.)
The biggest change from the first edition was a new chapter about the financial crisis. Lots of people have written to ask whether they can get this chapter without buying the entire book again. That seems only reasonable, and you can now download it here. Enjoy.
Microsoft bought PowerPoint 25 years ago. Happy anniversary.
PowerPoint has a curious status these days – it’s ubiquitous and yet widely loathed. Both the ubiquity and the loathing are overdone.
Here are three tips I’ve found very useful as a speaker.
1) There are three things you can do with PowerPoint (or most of its rivals). You can put visual aids on a screen; you can create bullet-point speaker’s notes; and you can produce handouts for people to take home. All of these uses are perfectly legitimate, but you can’t do them all at once. Your speaker’s notes should be on small cards in your hand; your handouts can have contact details, sources, a bibliography, or dense data; your visuals should be simple and look awesome. If you feel you need to do all three, fine: you will need to create three completely different presentations.
2) If you don’t have anything useful to display for a particular section of your talk, display nothing. During slideshow mode, press B to show a black slide, or W for a white one. Or if you don’t have direct access to the computer while presenting, insert blank slides as necessary. There’s nothing wrong with giving a talk during which you only show one or two slides – but don’t leave them up as wallpaper.
3) You don’t have to use any visual aids at all. You might be surprised at how much people focus on you when you stop competing with yourself for attention.
I sat down for a chat with Larry Brilliant on Wednesday at the Skoll World Forum and interviewed him about the threat of global pandemics, something I’m hoping to write a column about. But, Larry being such a remarkable character, I also wanted to ask his advice on behalf of anyone who wants to make the world a better place. Some thoughts:
It starts with ordinary people. Ordinary people do extraordinary things, and then we lionise them. We make heroes out of them. And that’s a problem, because it makes other ordinary people look at these heroes and think that they can’t achieve the same things. But that path is open to everybody. Anybody at any time.
There’s more, and you can read the full interview at How To Make a Difference.