Year: 2018

Communicating in Public: How to Prepare and Deliver a Wedding Toast

Since clipping on my first tie as a child, I’ve sat through many a wedding speech. Unfortunately, most memorable speeches and toasts carved out mental real estate in my head for the wrong reasons: they went awry or too long or both.

Those ‘toasts gone bad’ motivated me years ago to draft a four-part wedding speech “recipe.” Since then, I shared it with friends and colleagues to help them settle nerves and organize thoughts before stepping to the microphone. The recipe, like the PREP framework outlined in an earlier post, reduces anxiety by removing the need to figure out how to start, organize, and end a tight and heartfelt toast, especially for last minute preparations.

Brooks’ Four-Part Wedding Speech Recipe

  1. Relationship 1: note how you know or met the person inviting you (easy for siblings; “he’s my baby brother…”).
  2. Entertainment: share one fun or personal story that most folks in the room don’t know that is also appropriate and “easy” to tell (no 12-part sagas or “making” it funny; it’s just a story).
  3. Relationship 2: tell how you met the spouse or when you realized that he or she was “the one” or when you learned the relationship was serious.
  4. Toast: say “raise your glasses” and how happy you are for them and wish them love forever….

An alternative on “Relationship 2” as suggested above is to share a single piece of advice, lesson or story from your own marriage or from your parents. These often resonate and ring with truth (and humor).

One final recommendation: do your drinking AFTER delivering the speech.

Have fun!

The Most Important Person on the Team

Who is the most important person on your team?  As much as we’re “all created equal,” we join and work with teams comprised of higher performers and lower performers. Some salespeople exceed quota; others struggle to keep up. In sports, most players, at any given time, watch from the bench. How do we reconcile “managing our stars” with “managing the team”?

Years ago, Ian “House” Somerville and I co-captained the MIT baseball team, an experience I wrote about in Beaverball: A (Winning) Season with the MIT Baseball Team.  As captains, we met regularly with Head Coach Fran O’Brien to discuss upcoming opponents and issues relevant to maintaining team chemistry. Before our spring trip to Florida, House and I recapped one particular lesson that Coach O’Brien emphasized to both of us. He said, “The most important person on the team – and to me – is the last man on the roster, the person sitting at the end of the bench. Why? Because if that man really believes that he will have every opportunity to earn playing time, then he will push everybody else on the roster above him, improving the team’s attitude and performance.”

Coach explained how even the best player on the team would feel competition at practice, keeping him sharp and on top of his game. Each person, at some point in the season, needed reminding that playing time and leadership were not rights or entitlements; they were privileges that one earned. The minute a job or leadership role becomes an entitlement, we have a morale problem, a performance problem, or both.

Did Coach believe that team success relied on lavishing attention on our newest, part-time intern? No. He simply highlighted the importance of reinforcing expectations. A manager holds everyone on the team to the same standards for key values such as hustle, integrity, and cheering your team. If the star third baseman dogs it on and off the field, the manager must hold him accountable.  As a player, and as a teammate, it’s incredibly motivating to see leadership in action, to see deed follow word.

Coach reinforced expectations with everyone on the team. He said, “running around is fine for getting into shape, but during practice and games we want focus.”  He explained how each person contributed to the team’s success.  For example, during practice drills, he would tell Eddie, our back-up catcher, “Gun those guys down! Make them work for that extra base, Eddie. Help us get better!”

The message isn’t complicated.  But it requires a commitment to communicate consistently.  As managers, it is our job to “hold the line” on the most important values and expectations, and to take the time required to clarify how each person adds value. In recognizing this lesson, not only do we serve the team, we help ourselves.

6th Edition of “Forest Finance Simplified” Now Available!

Forisk Press recently published the 6th Edition of the Forest Finance Simplified book by Dr. Brooks Mendell

Forest Finance Simplified distills forest finance themes into a question-and-answer format for those who want an accessible reference or introduction to forest management decision-making and timber investments. This handbook succinctly helps readers do the following:

  • Identify and communicate key financial issues for a given forestry or timberland investment;
  • Differentiate and explain the pros and cons of traditional approaches to financial analysis;
  • Analyze, rank and benchmark the value and performance of forest management activities and timberland investments; and
  • Avoid common errors associated with forest investment decisions.

The 6th Edition includes additional content on comparing timberland investment vehicles, benchmarking timberland investment performance, making forest management decisions, and evaluating the use of leverage for timber investments.

The book is available here.

Stories 2017: How Did It Go?

In 2017, I began submitting and tracking my fiction writing in earnest. How did it go?

  • From August through December, I submitted versions of 11 stories 23 times to 13 different outlets. 
  • By December 31, I pocketed 14 rejections and one acceptance (6.7%).
  • That one story (see below) got picked up and (supposedly) translated into Gujarati and republished in Sarjan Magazine.
  • Also, one of the rejected stories received “Honorable Mention” in an Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine flash fiction contest.

A few of the rejections came with encouraging notes from the editors, which I appreciated and subsisted on to some extent.  (Thank you, Mark and Ron!)

2017 Stories

On October 2ndMicrofiction Monday Magazine published “Art Imitates Death” (microfiction: 87 words; 1 minute read). My thanks to editor Gayle Towell. Please enjoy.