Thursday, June 28, 2012

TV debut talking tablets on the BBC

Yesterday I was very kindly invited to appear on the BBC News Channel to talk about Google’s new Nexus tablet that it unveiled at an event in the US.
It was obviously a combination of fun and fear sitting in the studio waiting for the transmission to start as the interview was going out live and then would be replayed during the evening, and was also edited to run on the website too, as you can see embedded below.

It was my first time on TV, and I enjoyed it, especially how painless the whole process was: turn up, have a cup of tea, sit in video room, talk, leave, done. No faffing with forms or screen tests or make up or anything. Not what I had expected, really.

The funny thing was they told me to make sure I stared directly into the lens and not look up, as there's a monitor relaying what's being broadcast directly above that, which the women who wired me for sound said can often cause people to glance up and looks odd.

As such I stared intently at the lens in front of me, which I think you can sort of tell as my eyes barely move during the entire time (although thankfully most of the transmission feature footage of the device itself, rather than my manic eyes). (Also, yes, I know I need a haircut.)

Onwards and upwards.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

A trip to the Euros in Warsaw

Last week I was lucky enough to get sent to Warsaw in Poland to meet up with UEFA and talk technology before heading to the stadium to see Poland v Czech Republic in the quarter-final of the European Championships.

While there I sat on the seats reserved for the coaching staff and the substitutes, so of course I took the opportunity to sit there and gesticulate wildly at the imaginary players on the pitch in front of me. It was fun.

During the match the crowd was dominated by Polish fans who had either pre-bought tickets for the quarter-final assuming their team would make it through, or just wanted to see some more football as it's taking place in their city. This meant chants of "Polski!" were far louder than anything the Czech or Portuguese fans (of which there were about 12) could muster during the game.

Ronaldo won it for his country, after numerous misses, and seeing him in action for the first time - the preening Portuguese winker - it was easy to see why he's so much better than most other players. Firstly, he just looks bigger, and is clearly so much faster than everyone around him. As Hansen loves to say, "it's all about pace and power, if you haven't got that in the modern game, you're toast".

Also, why does Mark Lawrenson hate football so much? To hear him commentate on the BBC you'd think he'd been ordered to serve a lifetime's sentence carrying out a task that brings him as much ennui as possible, with the judge concluding spending all his time being paid to watch football the worst punishment he could imagine.

Monday, June 25, 2012

The art of storytelling

The other day I was listening to a friend tell a story to some other mates – a tale I had heard before – and about half way through I was suddenly struck by the realisation: “this person just cannot tell anecdotes".
Every moment where he should have paused for effect he rushed on, where there was no natural pause, he paused, where he should have added a bemused comic face to match the incredulousness of the story, he instead just kept a passive expression. Come the end everyone laughed, because that’s what you’re supposed to do when someone tells a story that’s begun with the preface that this is a tale for your enjoyment.

But the story could have been so much funnier, I thought, if someone who could tell stories had been in charge. (Not saying I could definitely have done better, but I like to think I could).

When someone tells an anecdote they are usually commanding a group of people’s close attention – perhaps just one other, perhaps 500, usually no more than 10 though, often close friends. Under all these circumstances there is a pressure to deliver a return on the time investment they are giving you.

Yet, using that time and opportunity well is an art and skill that few possess, certainly not in any strong capacity, but we all engage in it, and it’s a social skill that can set you apart.

We all know this: we all know people – friends, family, colleagues – who when they begin a story, comic or otherwise, we starting zoning out, listening merely out of politeness, waiting for the punch line or resolution so we can laugh politely and then get back on with whatever we were doing. 

Others, however, who begin a tale and will command our full attention because we know they will tell it with panache, wit, warmth and verve, so even if it isn’t even that funny or interesting, it will be worthy of our attention because we are lift enlivened by their story telling charm.

I think it should be a job requirement: Tell us an anecdote: I bet you can learn a lot about someone from the story they pick and, more importantly, how they tell it.