Nathan Gold

Presentation Coach, Trainer, and Speaker

Space: The Final Frontier? All starships on indefinite hold!

While this post is a little off topic, I feel compelled to write about a talk I heard yesterday that absolutely blew my mind. Before hearing Dr. Jill Tarter, Director of SETI Research talk about the work they do, I thought I was comfortable with my interpretation of the phrase, "Think big." or "Think bigger!" as some people say. The key words in the previous sentence are, "the work they do" because for the time being, they have to say, "the work we used to do." More on that later. Dr. Jill Tarter

The main reason for writing this is because Dr. Tarter could have baffled and confused our (little) minds by using terminology and examples that you would need an advanced degree to even begin to understand. But instead, she was masterful at her choices of similes, analogies, and metaphors to help everyone in the audience understand "almost" everything she said, no matter how complicated or thought provoking.

One of the most powerful things she said is something that could potentially be applied to how you describe part of your business or even handle an objection...and I am paraphrasing while trying to recall exactly what she said: When people ask how much of space SETI looks at for ET's, she held her hand up and said , about that much. So whether it was actually 100 square degrees or 10,000 square degrees, we all got a crystal clear picture of how little they have explored so far, but yet how exciting it is already with what they have discovered in just that one hand!

What a great visual! No questions and everyone got it immediately. It was very powerful and she has two of them with her at all times. So when they double the space they look at and listen to, two hands will convey the message, instantly. The hope is that one day, SETI can look out in all directions for discoveries that we can only begin to imagine.

Here's another really great example that could potentially be used when dealing with an objection in your business... When someone says to you, "Well, from what you have shown me, the results clearly indicate a no go decision!" Or, something to that affect. If it applies, you can try this:

You know, that reminds me of the story Dr. Jill Tarter from SETI shares when people say that since we have not heard any contact from space, we must be alone. Why invest anymore time or money in the "business" of searching for ET's? Well, she said, that's like reaching into the ocean, filling a bucket full, and if there are no fish in the bucket, concluding that there must be no fish in the ocean. Of course, the results could have included a fish in the bucket on the first try. But, assuming it was empty certainly should not automatically mean the oceans themselves have no fish. Right? Space is the same. We have only begun to discover what's out there. We are rewriting the scientific books everyday! And, this is the bucket of space we were exploring until recently...(holding up a hand to illustrate the point.)

Relating this type of story to someone will usually get them to realize the point you are trying to make. However, it is best to not let someone infer the relation to what you are talking about and be clear. So, in the case of the above story, you should bring the other side of this story to the table where you relate what you are doing and plan to do in your business.

So, back to thinking big or bigger. The simile Dr. Tarter used with the ocean was very thought provoking to me. Bigger to me is now biggggggggggggggggggggggggger. In addition to this simile making a huge impression on me in the "think big" category, she also used a set of pictures in the presentation that were stunning and made all of us in the audience feel very very small. In fact, it's the way the presentation started and IMHO, it got everyone in the room leaning forward, smiling, thinking, and wide eyed...all leading to a very engaging presentation. When you use relevant pictures in a presentation, you will usually find that the audience is much more receptive to your message because both sides of their brain are engaged.

Great presentation Dr. Tarter and thank you for helping me think bigger. Your presentation was magical and because it was filled with such amazing visuals, vidoes, graphical models, similes, analogies, metaphors, and examples, I was able to follow almost every word. I hope you don't mind me using you as an excellent example of how to give a memorable presentation! Thank you.

In conclusion, I want to relay the two reasons I believe Dr. Tarter was presenting her life's work last night. The first is that she wants everyone on earth to realize that we are all earthlings. There is nothing more to discuss. When you look at the earth from space, we are one people, a group of earthlings. She wants us to start acting like earthlings and work together to become one, especially in how we deal with the potential future event when we meet intelligent life from outside our little world. For more information on how to get more involved, go here: http://www.seti.org/TEAMSETI

And the second reason is just as her team are making massive advances and discoveries that are completely changing and augmenting what we think and know is "out there," funding went away. They actually had to put the Allen Telescope Array into hibernation and stop exploring and listening and discovering. This is heartbreaking for everyone at SETI and especially for Dr. Tarter. While she was not showing any actual tears, it was obvious from her change in posture and voice that she is very saddened by this turn of events. After decades of learning, discovery, and advancing techonologies giving them more and more data to work with from space, they have to shut down because of money.

How much money you ask??? You won't believe it when I tell you...especially in a day and age when most people throw around words like billions and trillions. Remember that $1 billion is 1,000 $1 million! To get the ATA back in business, they actually need less than $3 million per year. That's right $3 million per year. As she said, maybe someone can take the rounding errors from the spending of billions or trillions and send it to them.

In the meantime, if you or anyone you know has an interest in donating or helping, please contact them directly. And remember, we are really all one people, one group of earthlings. SETI is there for all earthlings, giving us the opportunity to become one people and look outward for additional life, whether microbe, scientist, or mathematician. Maybe SETI can even use social networking to raise money, which was suggested in the audience. Here's one option for crowdsourcing donations: Social Wish

To watch Dr. Tarter giving TEDPrize talk where they ONLY invite people to talk about wishes big enough to change the world, look here: http://www.tedprize.org/jill-tarter/