Champions League – The role of confidence and positive energy

The Champions League finale

Did you watch the Champions League finale this weekend? Chelsea beat FC Bayern Munich in the penalty shoot-out. It was an interesting and intense match. Bayern Munich was the better team for the majority of the match. After 82 minutes they had managed to get over 16 corners while Chelsea had a whopping zero. But there was a big difference between Bayern and Chelsea: The team from Munich seemed to be timid and unsure of themselves. Chelsea on the other hand seemed to have that little spark of calm confidence. I had the impression that they were lurking like a predator. In sports and in business that tiny extra bit of energy and confidence can make or break things. I do believe there is a bit of a management lesson here.

Allianz Arena

Beat me up

I strongly believe that Bayern’s loss was the result of too much pressure and lack of confidence in some of the key players. Some of them looked scared and unsure – even during the first 80 minutes when they were by far the stronger team. Over the past few years, the majority of the players had to suffer through two very difficult coaches. It was reported, the infamous coach Louis van Gaal was mentally abusing players he did not like. Star striker Mario Gomez, for example, hardly ever played under him and the coach wanted to get rid of him. In the weeks leading up to the finale, some players told stories about their terrible 1.5 years under that coach. A clear sign that they were still recovering. Add to that a tremendous amount of pressure from the press, fans and officials. And this has been going on for almost three years. I would argue that this is hardly the environment to deliver a peak performance.

Work life

Allianz ArenaEarly in my career, I had the ‘pleasure’ to work on a team that was run by a harsh and egocentric guy. Our team was often criticized and we were subjected to long late meetings to ‘ make up for our inefficiencies’.  After a few weeks the entire team lost energy. It felt like we couldn’t win. Nobody was good enough. The project manager piled on additional pressure by openly attacking several team members. Guess what happened – the project was an utter disaster. The client quickly caught on to the fact that the team’s culture was ill. Several people quit, the manager was replaced and the project was cancelled. All that despite a team of highly motivated and smart people.

Today’s environment

In my job, I have the opportunity to meet with many different companies. Unfortunately, over the past few years I have experienced a dangerous trend: too many organizations believe that putting constant pressure on their employees is going to deliver quick and easy results. Too many organizations neglect the fact that people are resources. Just like in sports, peak performance requires a delicate balance between nurturing and pressure. Verbal or mental abuse especially create long-lasting damage.

Confident employees will always go the extra mile. Burned out zombies will hardly be able to WOW customers. Confidence breads confidence. It is contagious. Look at sports again – a winning team usually continues winning for a long period of time. Bayern did not have that spark on Saturday. They played an awesome match. But it was simply not enough.


6 tips for combating public speaking nervousness

A case of public speaking nervousness

It was a regular workday for Tom. Things were going well for him and his career. Shortly after 5pm his boss called to ask him for a simple favor: to deliver one of their standard corporate presentations in front of 30 sales and marketing people from a different business unit the next day at 1pm. Most people dread presenting and so did Tom. He cancelled his get-together for the evening and didn’t go to bed until after midnight. He tossed and turned in anticipation of the next day. At 4am he finally gave up, showered and continued with his preparation. His public speaking nervousness continued to rise throughout the morning. His girl-friend tried to re-assure him. He knew the subject extremely well, after all. Shortly after 1pm, disaster struck. He had just started the presentation when he had a complete black-out. 29 people stared at him with anticipation. He couldn’t find his words, the world started spinning around him and he passed out.

Public Speaking Nervousness
This view is supposedly scarier for many people than looking into the face of a snake.

The stage fright phenomenon

What happened to Tom isn’t unusual. It happens all the time. Most people hate presenting in front of a group of any size. But it doesn’t have to end in disaster. And it shouldn’t! Presentation skills are extremely important today. We are required to present more often that we think: team meetings, town halls, conferences… There are a lot of opportunities to shine but also to mess things up.

It is a well-known secret that even famous actors, performers and singers deal with the phenomenon of stage fright. There is no way around it. But it doesn’t have to be a horror experience. Instead, it can be one of the most rewarding experiences professional live offers.

“The fact is, people do judge by appearances. If you have great ideas but present them poorly, many people will fail to see their worth. You’ll be beaten by somebody whose ideas are less worthy than yours, but who presented them superlatively.”, Simon Reynolds.

Advice for public speaking nervousness

For the past four years, I have frequently presented to larger audiences of up to a few thousand people. Those occasions have taught me a lot. But let me tell you: regardless of how often I do this – I am usually nervous. Here are a few things that have helped me stay calm and relaxed. Many websites and books will tell you about breathing techniques and such. That sort of stuff puts a band-aid on a deep cut. I doesn’t help you heal.

  1. Nervousness = Ability to perform: Being nervous helps us perform extremely well. The reason is that our brains release adrenaline which in turn allows us to focus and to perform.  Just think back to a time when you achieved something amazing (maybe a test, race, tournament). Chances are you were super nervous but suddenly your adrenaline kicked in. So the first thing to do is to just accept the fact that you will feel those butterflies in your stomach. Knowing that this is part of deal and that this helps me has made a world of difference.
  2. Prepare: Preparation is key. For one thing, you should know your content well. If you do not know what you are talking about, you have every right to be nervous and maybe you shouldn’t even present to begin with. But preparation also requires you to have the equipment ready and primed. I always make sure to charge my laptop and iPad before any presentation. Also, I try to show up at a location early enough to test everything. It sounds so simple, but I have seen many people who get frazzled by beeping laptops, connectivity issues and such. So, do yourself a favor and prepare well.
  3. Content: Invest time in developing your content. Simply downloading any cool presentation from the corporate knowledge center will not help. Every audience is different. If you invest time in understanding their needs and tailoring the content will help you tremendously. I have had several occasions where I developed presentations that I was really excited to deliver. The content was that cool. If you are happy and familiar with the content, you will be in a much better place.
  4. Mingle: We are usually most comfortable with friends and family. Crowds of people that we do not know are scary on the other hand. I therefore try to mingle with people before a presentation. It allows me to get to know them, learn about their expectations and to also get some distraction.
  5. Humor: Humor is the best medicine. I personally love to joke around before speaking engagements. It helps me clear my mind and it helps with getting into a positive attitude. And that attitude is extremely important.
  6. Hidden agenda: Part of the reason we experience public speaking nervousness is the fear of making mistakes. But guess what – as the presenter, we have a serious competitive advantage: Nobody besides you knows what is supposed to happen. Let’s assume that you were planning on saying X before saying Y, but you end up starting with Y and then finishing with X. The audience won’t notice and they won’t care. You are the only one who knows! And even if you make a mistake, so what? Stuff happens and nobody expects you to be perfect. So, use that knowledge to your advantage: Only you know what is supposed to happen. That insight alone can really calm you down.

Public speaking nervousness

Next time you have to present and you experience public speaking nervousness, try one of these tips. But keep in mind – everybody is different. What works for me doesn’t necessarily have to work for you. You will have to try different things and see what works. The biggest difference for me was to find out about tips #1 and 5.
What are your experiences?

The Evolution of Social Business Intelligence – Guest Post

Guest Post

This mission of this blog is to share ideas about business analytics. One of the things I want to increasingly do this year is to feature more guest bloggers and do more interviews.

A few months ago, I came across Sanjay Shetty’s unique blog Communities R Us. His approach to blogging about social media topics is very visual. Sanjay and I ended up connecting via a recent blog post where we exchanged a few ideas. The idea of a guest post quickly developed. And here it is: Sanjay Shetty writes about his views on Social Business Intelligence.

Evolution of Social Business Intelligence: Human Business Intelligence

Social Media provides a fantastic opportunity for enterprises to gather enormous amount of business intelligence, whether it’s about their customers likes and dislikes, or whether it’s competitive intelligence. My earlier post and video covered quite a bit of ground. However, I’ve seen organizations limiting themselves and the power of the social opportunity in leveraging true human business intelligence.

Continue reading “The Evolution of Social Business Intelligence – Guest Post”

Zarrella’s Hierarchy of Contagiousness – A review


A few days ago I bought and downloaded the ubiquitous eBook Zarrella’s Hierarchy of Contagiousness: The Science, Design, and Engineering of Contagious Ideas. There is a lot of stuff about social media out there but I find that many materials are fuzzy and hype-oriented. Dan Zarrella’s book is definitely different and I think that Business Analytics professionals like you will enjoy the book.


Social media have changed the way we market to our customers. But reaching the right people is not all that easy as you have probably experienced. The basic idea of Zarrella’s book is to look at why certain ideas are contagious and what you can do to make sure that your message is heard in the various social media channels. Zarrella introduces a useful model (Zarrella’s Hierarchy) that helps explain how messages get spread through social media. It is a hierarchy of three criteria:

  1. Exposure: People need to be exposed to a piece of content.
  2. Attention: Once people are exposed, will they actually notice the message?
  3. Motivation: Once an idea has been noticed, will people share it with others? Continue reading “Zarrella’s Hierarchy of Contagiousness – A review”

The Performance Ideas Blog in 2011 – Posts & Polarizers

The Performance Ideas Blog in 2011

2011 was a great year for the Performance Idea blog. I personally really enjoyed developing this site. Writing a blog definitely requires a lot of effort, patience and sometimes sacrifice. I usually ended up writing most of the articles at night or on airplanes. In early August, I realized that the platform was getting a bit too restrictive and I ended up migrating to a self-hosted format. That was a good move but it took a few weekends.

Some people have recently asked me whether it’s been worth the effort. The answer is: YES. The positive feedback I have received from you has been tremendous and I really appreciate that! But let’s look back. Here is some noteworthy content.

TOP CONTENT 2011 Continue reading “The Performance Ideas Blog in 2011 – Posts & Polarizers”

:-) …… Smile

Happy Holidays! Hope you have the opportunity to relax a bit before the start of 2012.

This is the perfect time of the year to get some rest and to think about something else other than work. If you need some inspiration, watch this short video! You won’t have to try too hard to smile while you watch Ron Gutman’s TED presentation.

By the way, Ron Gutman does a nice job with his Prezi slides. If used carefully, you can definitely build some cool stuff.

Take care!


The best and worst communicators of 2011

The experts at Decker Communications just released their annual list of the top ten best and worst communicators. I always look forward to this annual article. Not only is it interesting but it is also entertaining and sometimes a bit sad. I highly recommend spending a few minutes going through their blog post. There is a lot to be learned from the best (and the worst…).


Communication skills are more important today than ever before. There is so much noise around us. Being heard amongst all the information frenzy requires us to continuously work on our skills. In his amazing book You’ve got to be believed to be heard, Bert Decker sums that up nicely:

“The message for all of us is clear: Whatever our life goals, our career goals, or our dreams of a better world, the key to success lies in our ability to communicate. No matter how uncomfortable or ill-equipped we feel as communicators, we dare not back away from the challenge of becoming effective speakers.”

Over the past few years, I have attended more conferences than I can remember. Unfortunately, there are always a few people who deliver extremely poor presentations. Some of them simply do not care. Others are extremely nervous. And some of them simply have nothing to say. But the result is always the same: a lot of wasted time (think about the audience loosing 45 minutes of their lives) and the speaker’s reputation is often damaged (would you purchase expensive software or services from the arrogant person who could not articulate a clear message?).

Presentation coach Jerry Weissman states:

“If any one presentation fails, there may be no tomorrow. You never get a second chance to make a first impression.”


2011 is almost over. Towards year-end, most of us sit down to make goals for the next year. Working on communication skills is always on my personal list. So, what can you do? Here are a few ideas:

  • Communication skills
    Here are some tips & tricks!

    Pick up a good presentation book and work through the materials. There are a few recommendations on this blog.

  • Attend a class. If you happen to live in North America, I can highly recommend the Decker training. Their classes are amazing!
  • Volunteer to deliver presentations at the next meeting or conference. We can only improve with practice.
  • Learn from the best and watch a great presentation. Try to figure out what makes them so awesome. Ted is always a great resource for that.
  • Watch the movie ‘The King’s speech’. Great stuff.
  • Read some of the stories on this blog
  • Pay attention to all things related to communication.

P.S.: I was very pleasantly surprised that IBM’s future CEO Ginni Rometty is on the list! Check it out.


Steve Jobs about iCloud in 1997 – Back to the Future

iCLOUD IN 1997?

While reading the Steve Jobs biography last week, I watched some videos of Steve Job’s presentations. The great majority of the recordings are worth watching. There is a lot to learn from the master himself. He surely did know how to present. His appearances were always characterized by great clarity and passion.

When it comes to understanding his foresight and amazing vision, one recording certainly sticks out. And that one is not necessarily the best in terms of visuals, laughs and such. Watch this short 5 min recording from the famous 1997 Apple WWDC. Jobs is talking about some of his ideas. It is amazing to listen to this 14 years later. Much of this thinking is now incorporated in iCloud.

Cognos Consumer Insight Helps Us Make Sense Of Social Media Discussions


Last week I decided to buy a new camera bag. Instead of heading out to one of the camera stores in Munich, I researched different styles and products on Google. The websites of most manufacturers were somewhat helpful. Once I had picked a few models, I starting drilling down by look at blogs, groups on Flickr and Twitter. And that was worth the effort – turned out that most people didn’t like the models I had initially picked. As a matter of fact, I ended up buying a bag that hadn’t caught my eye before. It got the best reviews. Long story short: Two blog entries along with a few comments in a Flickr group influenced my decision – not the manufacturer’s websites. Chances are that you have similar stories to tell.


Social MediaSocial Media are extremely influential. A Forrester report from 2009 stated that 78% of all consumers trust peer recommendations. Likewise, most consumers do not trust marketing messages any more. The implication for organizations is obvious: you have got to understand what customers are saying about you! But how do you best go about that? I remember sitting in my car ten years ago listening to a debate about the future of the internet. Somebody made the bold statement that companies would hire professional internet surfers in the future. These “analysts” were supposed to spend their days surfing the web and checking websites and forums for interesting things. Certainly an option. Hilarious.


Well, it doesn’t have to be manual. Earlier this year, IBM introduced a new solution called Cognos Consumer Insight and it allows organizations to analyze conversations in social media such as Twitter, Facebook, blogs etc.. To do that, the solution collects and processes data from the desired social media sites & categories. Text analytics are utilized to comb through the potentially massive amount of data and to identify sentiment and general trends. The output of all this can then be analyzed in the usual Cognos 10 environment.

Cognos Consumer Insight
Cognos Consumer Insight


The output of Cognos Consumer Insight is very powerful. The potential is huge:

  • Identify discussions about quality issues. Act on the information before the issues turn into a serious social media disaster.
  • Which product attributes are really important to customers? Is it the color, is it the look?
  • Which social media channels are the important ones for us? Is it Twitter, are they key blogs, discussion forums?
  • etc..

There are several different ways to look at the data. Apart from traditional reporting, you can perform a sentiment analysis, view evolving topic flows, identify affinities or simply look at specific tweets, statements and such (see the examples below).

Sentiment Analysis
Sentiment Analysis: Positive (green) vs negative (red)
Evolving Topics
Evolving Topics: Hot words


Understanding what people talk about and how they talk about your products and services is extremely important. IBM Cognos Consumer Insight helps you stay on top of this.

There is a lot more to discuss about this great solution. If you happen to attend BAForum and IoD, make sure to sign up for the relevant sessions about this topic. There is a highly interesting Social media & Customer Analytics track this year. Hope to see you there!

P.S.: Back to my camera bag: The discussion forums and blogs indicated that easy access to your camera is super important when selecting the right bag. A bunch of manufacturers had led me down a path of looking at maximum storage room. Their designs did not get any good reviews. Cognos Consumer Insight could help them improve their product design and messaging.

Starting a blog…..lessons learned


Wow. I cannot believe it. The Performance Ideas blog is one year old. It had developed as an idea but it seemed like a scary thing. I had heard too many critical voices: there are too many blogs, you won’t have time, you won’t get followers, etc.. All true concerns but at the end of the day, I wanted to have a blog to capture ideas from the various trips and customer meetings that I get to attend. There are so many interesting stories and lessons learned. Encouraged by my wife, family  and friends, I finally started the blog on October 9th of 2010. And it’s been fun! Many thanks to all of you for following along, for providing feedback and for adding content. Today I want to share a few lessons about starting a blog.

Performance Ideas Blog
The original logo on the old site. I took this photo in Turkey.


Starting a blog is a lot of fun and there is a lot to learn. To be honest, I sometimes feel like I have only scratched the surface. And sure, there is a ton of material about blogging out there on the internet. But let me add some more ideas to that content:

  • Pick a platform: There are many blogging platforms out there. Pick one that you are comfortable with and stick with it. I tried out a few different ones in the weeks before the official launch. In the end, I chose for three reasons: the interface is really nice, there are plenty of customization options and it is relatively easy to move to a self hosted environment later on (which I ended up doing!).
  • Write, write, write: Getting started with something is easy. But after a few weeks the excitement often fizzles away. But blogs are like pets: you need to take care of them – daily. Creating content is difficult sometimes. And it takes time. After a few months, I realized that I was falling behind. So, I took a few days over the holidays to write 2-3 weeks ahead. It was a big effort. But it has paid off. Running the blog is less stressful now. So – get started and create content!
  • Engage in social media: Blogging without social media engagement is like writing about cars without having a drivers license. Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook are fantastic tools to share your content but to also spark discussions. The coolest thing about running this blog has been the opportunity to meet new professionals in the area of business analytics. People RT your content, you reply, you probe etc.. It’s fun and very rewarding.
  • Ask for help: Why re-invent the wheel? There is a lot to learn about blogging. Reach out for help and ask people who have done it before. I was lucky to find a few friends who provided me with extremely valuable input along the way.
  • Guests are welcome: Reach out to colleagues, friends and other bloggers who have something to say. I have found that engaging with guest bloggers or conducting interviews is extremely rewarding. Not only do readers like this, but it also helps me expand my horizon. It’s fun to learn from others. And it is a nice way to increase site traffic. Many thanks to all the contributors for this blog!
  • Learn about SEO: It’s nice to invest time in content. But there is hardly any point in doing that if nobody can find it. After a few months, I realized that my entries were not being picked up by Google or Bing. Learning a few SEO basics helped. Before posting any article, I would spend 2-3 minutes researching relevant keywords. Also, I started getting pickier about headlines, permalinks etc.. Those tweaks made a huge difference and I saw a big jump in search related traffic.
  • Read, read, read: Read other blogs. In the past, I hardly ever read blogs. I didn’t like the interface of Google Reader and never got into the habit. But once I got started with blogging I ended up looking for other blogs as well. I bought an awesome blog reader for my iPad and now follow around 50 different blogs. The amount of information I have been able to get is enormous. Also, I have learned a ton from just observing other blogs and this frequently provides me with ideas.
  • Self-hosted: As much as I like, I felt that it was too limited after a while. The issue is that you have very little freedom in regards to which features and templates you can enable for your site. Just an example: most blogs have a Facebook Like button. only started offering this a few months ago. A self hosted environment provides a lot of flexibility. But it also requires a lot more work. You have to research, enable and install everything yourself. I have probably spent a solid 20-40 hrs on the configuration of the new environment. But it’s been worth the effort. Actually, it’s been fun.

worpress blog

Starting a blog has been extremely rewarding. But not everything is all that peachy: There were some frustrating times for sure. And I do wish I had more time to develop content. But my time is limited to just 1-3 hrs per week. That’s the way it is.

Most importantly: Thanks for reading!

P.S.: If you are thinking about starting a blog, please feel free to reach out to me if you have questions.