The Pleasure of Watching a Professional … Speak

From my perspective as a speechwriter, Dave Ramsey is a confident and effective public speaker. It was a pleasure to watch him work this week.

I went to two of his events, and both were extremely well done. If you haven’t heard of him, Dave Ramsey is a bestselling personal finance author, with a syndicated radio show during which he counsels people on getting out of debt. He employs over 500 people at Ramsey Solutions, which provides products and services to help people manage money and build wealth.

(Dave Ramsey.)


My science fiction friends (and SF fans in general) might particularly appreciate the Ramsey philosophy, as part of it accords with one of Robert A. Heinlein’s aphorisms from “The Notebooks of Lazarus Long” (found in Time Enough for Love):

Sovereign ingredient for a happy marriage: Pay cash or do without. Interest charges not only eat up a household budget; awareness of debt eats up domestic felicity.

But as much as I appreciated the content of the two events — how to succeed in business and build personal wealth by hard work and the old-fashioned notion of spending less than you earn (which I understand intellectually but struggle with in terms of paying down our debts and overcoming my own bad habits) — I also appreciated the events from a public speaking perspective. Mr. Ramsey was not the only speaker, but he was clearly the most accomplished; it was easy to see, for instance, that the youngest of the speakers still has room to grow, but he has a great example to follow.

Specifically, public speakers can learn several lessons from him:

  • Authenticity. He doesn’t try to sound like someone else, and therefore he comes across as authentic and sincere. At one point he alluded to not being able to do a particular accent, and he didn’t try just to prove the point. And when he told a story about Winston Churchill and quoted one of the Prime Minister’s speeches, he didn’t try to sound like Churchill. He was himself, which is exactly what the audience wanted.
  • Simplicity. Not in terms of the stage, because the big screen and the lights and such were not exactly simple, but in terms of having a consistent message that he reiterated often. He employs some pithy lines at times — “debt is dumb, cash is king” is one of his taglines — but the illustrations he used were on point and he brought everything back to the central theme again and again.
  • Variety. He used a variety of visual aids, from movie clips (for which I’m sure he paid a royalty) to slides to physical objects, all of which helped to keep the audience’s attention. In terms of his slides, I wish some of my old clients could have seen how few slides he used! He used the slides and other aids sparingly, to make specific points — he didn’t rely on them. More often than not, the only thing on the screen was the title of the event.

When the Tuesday event was over, I happened to be standing at the door of his hotel when he got there. I waved and said, “Nicely done today,” not wanting to intrude too much on his time — then he stopped long enough to shake my hand and thank me for coming, which I thought was very gracious. (His assistant gave me the side-eye, though, and acted as if he wanted to hustle Mr. Ramsey into the building; I think he was afraid I was going to pull out my phone and try to snag a picture.)

One final note on the public speaking aspect: I very much appreciated something Mr. Ramsey said during the Tuesday event. He was lauding his AV team and explaining that he never worries about how things are going to run or how they will sound when he shows up to do his sound check, and then he made a point that I wish some of my old clients could have heard: he said he always runs through his slides even if he’s given that presentation many times before, because he’s a pro.

Yes, indeed. If you’re a public speaker, take some cues from a professional like Dave Ramsey: be authentic, keep the overall message simple and clear, employ a variety of visual aids, and practice.

P.S. If you or someone you know needs help developing a speech for a big event, get in touch and let’s see if I can help. My aim as a speechwriter is to help my clients sound like their most authentic selves, and to tailor their messages so they resonate with the audience.

For more information on Dave Ramsey and Ramsey Solutions, visit

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Strategic Space Symposium, Day Two

(Abbreviated from the full entry in the Space Warfare Forum.)

The second day of the 2009 Strategic Space Symposium was just as good as the first, and in some ways better. Highlights:

  • NGA Director VADM Robert Murrett, discussed NGA’s partial reliance on commercial satellites like GeoEye
  • I found myself slowly becoming an ORS convert, as the vision explained was different from the old “rapid space reconstruction” idea
  • I was pleased to learn that the ORS program will probably call for launching stored spacecraft before they become obsolete, which will be important for developing and sustaining a viable industrial base
  • I began to think that ORS might better be called ODS: “operationally deployable space” instead of “operationally responsive space”
  • The “Industry Perspectives” panel discussed how disruptive unstable funding can be to the aerospace supply chain, and how changing a system’s requirements usually dooms all efforts to complete acquisition programs on time and under budget
  • I was pleasantly surprised by the mild industry response to an ITAR question: maybe industry’s usual negative reaction is not to the idea behind the ITAR but rather to specific items on the USML and the MCTL (some items could probably be removed from the lists, if doing so doesn’t jeopardize national security)
  • The luncheon speakers gave excellent presentations on the warfighters’ perspective on space systems and space support, but I was surprised that neither of them mentioned the recent Chinese statement about developing offensive and defensive space capabilities

As on day one, I had some great conversations with company representatives and old Air Force colleagues, so for me the symposium ended as well as it began. Well done!

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My Day at the Strategic Space Symposium

Coming to Omaha for the 2009 Strategic Space Symposium seemed like a good time to revive the Space Warfare Forum, so yesterday I posted a long report about day one at the symposium.

I made some good contacts with company representatives and saw some of my old colleagues, so it was a good day at the symposium. Highlights:

  • The symposium is extremely well-run (in large part by one of my former students): good facilities, exhibits, and speakers
  • NE Governor Heineman mentioned their “Nebraska Advantage” program to bring military contractors to the state … I’ll investigate it when I get back to NC
  • USSTRATCOM Commander, General Kevin Chilton, outlined his “wish list” of space capabilities … one key item was improved space situational awareness, which could be a real opportunity for some ambitious technology companies
  • The combatant commands agreed on the importance of space systems and space support to their operations
  • I’m going to start distinguishing between macro-targeting (looking at large areas, for strategic purposes) and micro-targeting (looking at smaller, precise targets for tactical purposes)
  • The NRO plans to reinvigorate their science and technology efforts, which should spawn some new opportunities for industry
  • Building any kind of Operationally Responsive Space capability will require a new business model for acquisition, which also means lots of potential for contractors throughout the supply chain

Here’s hoping day 2 will be as good, or better!

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National Aerospace Day

Happy Aerospace Day to one and all!

That’s right: September 16, 2009 was designated National Aerospace Day by resolutions passed in the House and the Senate. (See this Reuters article.) Key passages of the resolution say,

  • “… the United States aerospace industry is a powerful, reliable source of employment, innovation, and export income, directly employing 831,000 people and supporting more than 2,000,000 jobs in related fields”
  • “… aerospace education is an important component of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education and helps to develop the science and technology workforce in the United States”
  • “… aerospace innovation has led to the development of the Global Positioning System, which has strengthened national security and increased economic productivity”
  • “… the aerospace industry assists and protects members of the Armed Forces with military communications, unmanned aerial systems, situational awareness, and satellite-guided ordinances”

and the resolution “recognizes the contributions of the aerospace industry to the history, economy, security, and educational system of the United States.”

I’m happy to bring you this announcement, and to be part of the growing aerospace industry in the state of North Carolina as the Associate Director of the North Carolina Aerospace Initiative. If you know anyone working in aerospace in North Carolina, or a young person interested in an aerospace career, send them my way and let them know we’re here to help!

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NC State of Business Post Reference

Yesterday I wrote a post on “NC State of Business,” the blog we started at the Industrial Extension Service. I should probably just cross-post it, but I’m too lazy this morning to worry with rebuilding all the links. Instead, I just offer a single link to the post itself: “Multitasking, Procrastination, and Corporate Failure.”

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New Blog: NC State of Business

Today I kicked off the “NC State of Business” blog for North Carolina State University’s Industrial Extension Service; as a staff writer and one of a handful of IES members acquainted with blogdom, I now “own” the blog.*

Thankfully, I’m not responsible for developing all the content on the blog. The Executive Director and several of the other key folks will make most of the blog entries — I’ll just moderate the thing and post my own occasional screeds.

Check it out here: NC State of Business.

*The power’s not going to my head. Really. 😎

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Publishing and Venture Capitalism

Sat in on a meeting this week chaired by a partner in a local consulting and venture capital firm, and at one point he made this observation: out of every 1000 business plans they receive, they read only about 100 (“because the other 900 are garbage,” he said), and of those 100, they only fund about 3.

I told him at the break that those statistics were very similar to the publishing world. Baen, for example, makes it clear to everyone who reads the guidelines that fewer than 1% of the manuscripts are accepted.

But almost more fascinating was this tidbit: of the 3 business start-ups they fund, they expect to lose money on 2 of them. If they’ve done their research well enough, though — and no doubt they’re very thorough — that last one will make a mint and cover the losses on the other two.

I don’t think any publishers would willingly take that approach. Some books don’t earn out their advances, true, but I believe most publishers won’t take a chance on a book that they don’t expect to sell through a print run.

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Bankruptcy Notice

Some disappointing news today: the furniture store I used to work at,* C.J. Woodmaster, closed this past weekend and will file for bankruptcy.

The announcement was in Saturday’s News & Observer (second item).

The CJ Woodmaster furniture stores in Raleigh, Cary and Fayetteville have closed. Those three stores, plus the one in Durham, which had already closed, will file separately for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in a few weeks.

I drove by the plaza on Sunday afternoon and it looked dark, but it was just a little after what would’ve been opening time so I didn’t think much of it. I hadn’t seen the newspaper article; one of my old associates called me this evening and let me know.

That’s too bad. I worked there a little over a year — the longest I’d ever worked in retail — and knew they were having trouble when they let me go (right before Christmas last year). I’m sorry to hear that’s how it ended.

*Apologies to the grammar ninnies: “at which I used to work.”

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