Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Here's looking at ewe, kid! -- rotting sheep's heads at Durban Docks

On our way to Wilson's Warf on the Durban Docks, the road narrows. You look down onto a mossy stretch of sand and water.

We looked down.

And looking back up at us were five or six decapitated sheep's heads, all resting on the sand.

I leapt out of the car with Jennifer's camera, and made my way down to the sand.

I can't even begin to describe the stench. But I had to brave the smell to get a photo or two.

I was okay for the first click or two. But I looked up and saw Jennifer crouching near the car. I thought she was gagging. And that stirred my own gag reflex.

The vomit streamed out of me. I averaged one minor hurl and one major hurl per photo taken. Suffice to say it was a short session. But I think I got at least two decent pics.

But it's a haunting scene for me. What the heck were those heads DOING there? Who threw them out? Why? Why doesn't someone clear them away?

Monday, December 22, 2008

E coli! The joy of swallowing other people's crap in the sea!

So Jennifer and I decided to live a little. On the wild side. To take some chances in our ever-more-padded and sanitized world.

Our method of splashing out? To head for the South Coast of Durban for a swim, instead of the more affluent North Coast.

Where before, we went to the wealthy shores of Umhlanga Rocks for our beach fun, on Friday we decided to try the less affluent Amanzimtoti Beach.

It's probably more accurate to talk of 'effluence' rather than 'affluence'.

It was only after a good two hours of swimming, once we headed off to find a shower to hose the sea water off us that we spotted the info board.

'Beach cleanliness: A+,' it said.

'E coli: HIGH,' it said.

Jennifer and I looked at each other. Decoded the legend at the bottom. I said, 'If we get it, we get it.'

Jen said, 'Let's get some food.'

That evening, I was the first to succumb. 2.30am, and my stomach was sounding like a sewerage pipe spewing tons of shredded all-bran flakes into the sea. Jennifer's tummy followed the next morning.

Saturday morning.

Saturday morning in Durban.

Taking turns contributing e coli to the sewerage system.

Each flush thrusting swarms of little e coli soldiers right back where they came from... Amanzimtoti.

Thanks very much to Dr DN Naidoo, a Durban-based GP we lucked on by walking into the first non-clinic we could find. Turns out he's not only a patient, kind, caring doctor with an excellent bedside manner... But he's ALSO a doctor to the stars. The underworld stars. The effluent of society... The dudes in prison. He mentioned Shabir Shaik. And unnamed others. And then prescribed Kantrexil.

Monday, December 01, 2008

HOW TO LIVE DANGEROUSLY by Warwick Cairns -- a multimedia animated summary

HOW TO LIVE DANGEROUSLY is Warwick Cairns's second book. It's all about how the arbitrary 'safety' and 'health' laws imposed on us by 'the people who run things' are actually really bad for us. The book details strategies for taking back our power, and living better lives as a result.

This video is a multimedia summary of the book.

I contacted Warwick with the idea. And he wrote a first draft script. I edited that, and sent it back to him for further revision. When he was happy that the script accurately represented the contents of his book, he made several voice recordings of the material.

I chose the best version, and started my sound design. I believe that the audio component of a movie supplies more than 70% of the power of a piece. As I do the sound design, ideas flow for the visuals. I wanted the soundtrack to be able to stand alone as an adio-only podcast, if Warwick wants to use it as such.
My starting point was to search for Creative Commons 'Attribution' or 'Attribution, Share-Alike' tracks. I specifically remove any track that specifies 'non-commercial' as one of the preconditions for using it. The two licenses I zone in on allow me to mold the music to my needs. With a hat tip to the musicians. In essence, I take their solid tracks, and sculpt them into what I need for the piece I have in mind.
For this type of work, I always search for heavy metal or hard rock first. I find that these genres offer the most energy and diversity of tracks. They almost always have killer bridges, with amazing musicianship. Really good raw material to work with.
I sourced several tracks from Jamendo. And brought them into Audacity, along with Warwick's vocal track. And I built the audio from there.
In this piece, I sketched several pictures in my little Moleskine. All of these sketches were done in bed, with a copy of the script to hand. I did them in a sort of order, following the logic that Warwick and I created in the script.
My next task was to scan the pics, and work them in PhotoShop CS3. I coloured and textured the pics, squashed and squished them. And generally made them realllllly vivid. A few of those sketches didn't make it into the final film. But most of them did.
Next up was throwing the pics and sound design onto my timeline in Adobe Premiere Pro on my Toshiba Tecra M4 tablet pc.
While I was messing around in Premiere, editing, I took a break. I opened ArtRage on my Asus R1E tablet pc, started my video capture program, and made my caricature of Warwick in one short sitting. It took about ten minutes for me to get it to my satisfaction.
I then opened CrazyTalk 5.0 on my Toshiba Tecra M4, popped the caricature in, dropped the voice-only track in, and got Warwick's pic talking nicely. When I was happy with the 'acting' of the avatar, I exported as a high res AV. That turned into a 5 gig file!
I slapped the animation movie into Premiere. And then followed tons of fanatical detail work. I originally intended painting speech bubbles for Warwick. But early on in the sound design, I decided to rather go for illustrative pics.
So I sourced suitable photos, using the Flickr Creative Commons search tool. I use the same criteria for pics as I do for music. The pieces HAVE TO be under 'Attribution', or 'Attribution, Share-Alike' licenses.
I found about twenty or so pics, and when trying them, found that most weren't reallllly what I wanted. Everything looks very different when the audio and video come together.
All of the picture and music credits are listed at the end of the movie, and here in the metadata...
  • "Drowned Devoured"
    by Outselling of Lies
    (Album: THE BEGINNING)
  • "Marchand de Bonheur" (nouvelle version)
    by Contreband
    (Album: À CONTRE PIED)
  • "Comercial de Verdade Verdadeira"
    by Jailson Brito Jr
    (Album: MATA BARATA)
  • "Dream Zero"
    by Marc Reeves
All available from
All distributed under Creative Commons licenses.

This little vid took me about a week of solid work to crack. Deeply enjoyable for me. Warwick's publishers on both sides of the Atlantic (Britain and the US) are very keen to make use of the vid to promote the book.

If you need any animated summaries made of any of your talks, get in touch with me. I work internationally, and I'm keen to see what I can produce for you. My email address is My website is at

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

CNBC AFRICA -- Kaleidoscope: Grant Baker Talks About Firehouse

Grant Baker is the chief honchito at Firehouse, a rising superstar ad-agency in Johannesburg.

He was interviewed in the CNBC AFRICA studios about the innovative recruitment advertising campaign his company ran to attract talented staff to the agency.

Not very many agencies in South Africa run any kind of advertising for themselves. So when Firehouse ran this campaign, they were really putting their hoses on the block.

The superb thing about running killer recruitment ads (and if I were still in the agency world, I'd definitely be sending them my cv -- the ads are ULTRA hot) is that they kill many birds with one stone.

1. You attract brilliant staff.

2. You send a message to your competitors that they have to up the game. Complacency in the ad world is what's ruining the business. So anything that shakes the game up gives advertising a few more breaths of life.

3. You send a message to your current clients that they're in great hands. If I were a Firehouse client seeing those ads somewhere, I'd be bragging to all of my friends that these guys did MY work.

4. You send a message to untapped clients. Clients who might be disgruntled with the crap attitudes of their current agencies. Clients who might know a thing or two about quality advertising. And you gain new business.

To my mind, Grant Baker walks his talk. And his ad campaign proves it. This is one of the very few ad agencies in South Africa I would be happy to shelve my advertising cynicism for.

This painting was made live in the CNBC AFRICA studio in Sandton during the interview. I made it using ArtRage 2.5 on my Rectron-sponsored Asus R1E tablet pc. I'm available to do visual facilitation work worldwide, translating ideas into vivid colour during meetings, workshops, seminars, and presentations. Contact me on And view my online portfolio at

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Animated Rich...! Mulholland tells us about Missing Link

Rich...! Mulholland is the founder of Missing Link. ( ) 

He appeared last Saturday on the television show I work on. I'm the inhouse visual facilitator for Kaleidoscope on CNBC AFRICA, making pictures of the ideas liberated by the interview process.

Because Rich...! was in an insert, the picture I made of him went unaired. So I figured I'd turn it into an animation. I smsed him a rough script, and asked him to send me voice files via email.

He tweaked them, and made them his own, and sent them to me. I did a sound design and audio edit, and then made the speech bubbles to fit.

This little video is the result.

The music is by a Russian heavy metal band that I found on my favourite Creative Commons site, Jamendo ( ). The band's name is МакЕнтош. . And the song is called "Сердце из камня, душа из металла". Download the full, unedited song for yourself -- it's terrific:

If you need any animated summaries made of any of your talks, get in touch with me. I work internationally, and I'm keen to see what I can produce for you. My email address is My online gallery is at

Painting: ArtRage 2.5 & Photoshop CS3. Animation: CrazyTalk 5.1 Pro. Audio Editing: Audacity. Video Editing: Adobe Premiere Pro
YouTube Tags: 

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Kyle Lindsay Leaks News of a New Elusion Music Video Coming Up

Kyle Lindsay, lead singer of Elusion, leaked the fact that they're about to shoot a music video for the fifth track on their debut cd, the song 'Everything is Good'.

I was busy sketching him at the time, capturing his chiselled face in my Moleskine. I immediately whipped out my Nokia E71, on loan from Virgin Mobile South Africa, and asked him to repeat his news into the microphone.

I zapped home, and flung the pic into ArtRage 2.5, powered some colour into it, then smacked it immediately into CrazyTalk 5.1 Pro. Animated and ready for love, I mashed the clip into Adobe Premiere Pro, where I edited it into shape.

All on my Toshiba Tecra M4 tablet pc.

The music in the background is... you guessed right... the last bit of the song in question.

The Business of Public Seminars -- Animated Summary

Paul du Toit is one of South Africa's busiest and most hardworking public speakers.

He makes a substantial income from one of his lines of business -- conducting public seminars.

He shared his secrets with the Johannesburg chapter of the Professional Speakers Association of Southern Africa (PSASA) in a one-hour workshop.

I was present, making notes. This animation is my summary of the evening. Paul graciously visited my home to record the voice track. And I did all of the painting and animating. (And editing, and everything else.)

The music is by Derek R Audette, and is used under the terms outlined on his website...

If you're interested in how my brand of visual facilitation can add value to your event, please feel free to contact me via email on My portfolio is at

The seven points covered in this video are:

1. Ask yourself WHY you want to put on a public seminar.

2. Advertise well in advance of the event. Get front page or early right hand page placement.

3. For a general audience, have a topic with broad appeal.

4. An amazing venue, food, and a high-value giveaway are big drawcards.

5. Have systems. Secretarial backup. And easy-to-use internet booking tools.

6. Negotiate supplier prices. For example, venue costs.

7. Get paid 5 working days before the event.

All of the work for this was done on my Toshiba Tecra M4 tablet pc. I used ArtRage 2.5 for the painting, CrazyTalk 5.1 Pro for the animation, and Premiere Pro for the editing. The music is an edit of a track titled 'Shunned' by Derek R Audette -- Thanks for the music, Derek!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Latte Licious Froth Art by Thapelo, aka 'TP'

Wow! What a cool pic! (I mean the pic on the froth, not the photo of the pic on the froth.) TP, the barrista at Latte Licious in Nelson Mandela Square in Sandton made this piece of shlurpable art. Thanks dude.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Roy Blumenthal Visual Facilitator: CNBC AFRICA Kaleidoscope

I was interviewed on air on Saturday 4 October 2008 about my new role on the Kaleidoscope team.

I'm the show's resident visual facilitator, making pictorial interpretations of the interviews on the show.

We broadcast every Saturday night, 7:30pm to 8:00pm Central African Time (which is +2 hours GMT), on CNBC AFRICA. That's on Channel 410 on South Africa's DStv, and in various free-to-air satellite offerings across Africa.

I work on an Asus R1E tablet pc, sponsored by Rectron South Africa. I use ArtRage software to make my paintings.

I hope you'll check out my visual facilitation portfolio online. It's at

Hire me. I work internationally.

Tags: cnbc africa cnbcafrica kaleidoscope mandlakazi mpahlwa roy blumenthal royblumenthal coffeeshopschmuck visualfacilitation

Friday, October 10, 2008

Kaleidoscope Promo

Kaleidoscope Promo
Originally uploaded by royblumenthal
I'm now a weekly co-anchor of CNBC AFRICA's business magazine show, 'Kaleidoscope'. Mandlakazi Mpahlwa draws information out of our guests. And I draw that info live on screen on my Asus R1E tablet pc.

I wrote this promo for the show when Catherine Gargan, my senior producer at CNBC AFRICA, confirmed that we'd be going ahead.

I had already secured a sponsorship deal with Rectron. They agreed to supply an Asus R1E tablet pc for me to use on the show.

However, when our shoot date arrived, there was no stock of the machine in the country. So I had to use my trusty old Toshiba Tecra M4 as the star of the show.

Thanks to Catherine Gargan for producing and directing, Bathabile Modutoane for camera, everyone in studio for getting the feed right, and Andre Oosthuizen for editing.

All paintings I make for the show will be made on my Rectron-sponsored Asus R1E tablet pc, running ArtRage 2.5. The show airs via satellite on Saturday nights, 7:30pm to 8:00pm (Central African TIme, or GMT +2 hours), on CNBC AFRICA. That's channel 410 on DStv.

Friday, September 26, 2008

2008-09-26 Ha

2008-09-26 Ha, originally uploaded by royblumenthal.

This pic started out as a bit of black and white doodling in the CNBC Africa studio.

I was showing some of the crew how the Asus R1E works. I handed the stylus over to one of them, and she drew a few lines. One of the others then took over the stylus, and added a line or two, and the speech bubble.

When I got home, I decided to push it into the world of art.

This is the result.

This painting was made on my Rectron-sponsored Asus R1E tablet pc, using personally paid-for ArtRage 2.5 software.

2008-09-26 -- Mandla Mpahlwa -- Interviewer -- CNBC AFRICA Kaleidoscope

I made this pic while I was being interviewed by Mandla in the CNBC AFRICA 'Kaleidoscope' studio during our dummy run.

I'm doing live visual facilitation for all studio interviews as of Saturday 4 October.

In our kick-off show, Mandla will be chatting to me about what visual facilitation actually is. Then I'll spend the rest of the show standing at my easel and making artworks based on what people are saying.

The speech bubble here in this pic of Mandla came about when she turned to the huge video wall behind us and reacted with a tiny amount of disbelief.

I knew what she was going to say, so, as she was looking, I drew the bubble, and wrote the words almost as she said them.

The dummy run was a complete success. And we've tested the technology. And it all works spiffingly.

Notice the paper background I've painted Mandla on. If you look carefully, you'll see that it says 'Asus' in a repeated motif.

That's because the computer I'm now doing my visual facilitation on is a sponsered machine.

Rectron South Africa, the guys who distribute Asus here (amongst other machines), have given me a high-end Asus R1E to use on the show, and in my paid gigs. There's a good chance I'll be putting other machines from their stable under the unique pressure I apply to tablet pcs.

I want you to know that I'll be writing commentary about the machine every now and again. All kindnesses I display towards the machine are real. And all negative comments are also real. The fact that the computer is a freebie is not a factor in this.

I've discussed this with Sebastian Isaac, the Marketing Director of Rectron. And I've spelled out that I'll be providing fair comment. He's happy with that. I'm happy with that.

I will continue my habit of transparent attribution whenever I use a machine.

This painting was made live in the CNBC AFRICA 'Kaleidoscope' studio on a Rectron-sponsored Asus R1E tablet pc, running my own paid-for version of ArtRage 2.5.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Peter Boyd responds to my apology... to Edmund Reddy and thank you to Virgin Mobile South Africa

I had coffee with Peter last week Thursday, and he told me that I was
welcome to post his response to my apology. So here it is. He sent it
to me first thing the morning after I posted it.

Hi Roy,

Your note from last night really made me smile. Thanks so much for
taking the time to write it too.
The negative comments are always quick to flow (and nearly always
justified when the consumer is annoyed), but it takes dedication as an
active consumer to write the constructive comments - so a big thanks
to you: it has such a brilliant effect on the team.

As I said in one of my responses to your blog, I am incredibly proud
of the team (though I get very annoyed when things fall short, its got
to be said). As you mention, we are in the process of hiring a new
Head of Customer Services, so I am even more proud of the more junior
team stepping up when and where they can, and appreciate our
consumers' patience as we make the change.

I am also very acutely aware that you are just one consumer turned
'back to volunteer evangelism' from a negative experience, and we have
to work hard to get through the group of our first upgraders (among
them your friends on the blog and twitter), as well as welcome the
newer people who are joining up (in good numbers by the way - the club
is growing nicely!).

Finally, I still want you to take me up on the offer of a coffee this
week - we want to be the most talked about mobile provider (in a good
way!). We know we need to earn it, and I am sure you have some great
tips for us.
The path of the 'giant-killer', as you put it, will always be a tough
one; but it is one we have chosen, and it doesn't mean we can't enjoy
I remember two quotes from university days: the old economist's 'small
is beautiful' and 'whether you think you can or you think you can't,
you're right'!

Speak soon,

Peter Boyd
Virgin Mobile South Africa

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

An apology to Edmund Reddy, and a thank you to Virgin Mobile South Africa

Hi Edmund...

Thank you very much for meeting me in Sandton this afternoon. It was
really good to connect with you as one human being to another.

I apologise for my incorrect evaluation of your gesture yesterday.
Thanks for letting me know the reality behind it.

I'm blogging this letter at the same time as sending it to you, so I
just want to fill in the blanks for anyone reading this.

The loan phone Edmund secured for me yesterday was in fact a
top-of-the-range new Nokia N81. I mistook it for an old one. Pretty
much because I was seeing things from a warped and negative

Edmund has basically made a huge breakthrough in the way customer
service issues in the cellular phone industry might be dealt with in
future. He says that in all his years in the cellphone business, he's
only once seen a network give out a loan phone. And that was

When I sent my dissatisfied email to his boss, the Virgin Mobile CEO,
Peter Boyd, it must have come across really horribly.

Here I was, this whiney chihuahua, who actually took the phone, and
now was claiming incorrectly that it was old and broken. I must have
looked and sounded like a complete petty despot with a crap attitude.

I'm really glad we met today. Edmund was able to fill me in on his
side of things. And I was able to be heard.

If I've understood Edmund correctly, this is what's happening...

o Recently, there was a change in management at the call centre, which
has adversely affected staff performance and morale. This is being
addressed, and should stabilise soon.

o In addition, a new data system is being installed to make it
possible for call centre staff to engage with customers much more

o The staff members who have dealt with me in this situation are being
chatted to.

o Edmund has listened to the tapes, and will quite possibly come to
find them funny once everyone's senses of humour have returned.

From Peter Boyd's comments on two of my blog posts about this, it's
clear that learnings are being applied...

o They're changing the way customer retention will be handled in
future. The company is two years old, and the first renewals are now
happening. So it's a matter of adjusting something that's not working
brilliantly. It seems that I'm not the only person who wants to just
walk into a store and get my upgrade there.

o And they are paying attention to what people are saying.
Particularly the bloggers and social media networkers. So thanks to
everyone who responded on Twitter, Facebook, and my blog.

o The Virgin website is being revamped. (In my twitchiness and
trigger-happy condition, I pounced on the email address as something
to be reviled: Actually, it's pretty
funny, and very cheeky. But yeah. Things do need to change. On the UK
website, mobile numbers and email addresses are freely available.)

I feel very relieved that I've been heard. And I'm more than happy at
the outcome of this whole blowup.

I'm typing this email/blog post on the unbearably gorgeous Nokia E71.
It's brand new, out of the box, and is on loan to me until Nokia
releases the N96 later this year. If I weren't so commited to my
multimedia needs, I'd be offering to buy this baby right now. And I'm
tempted, I can assure you.

Edmund Reddy is the guy I have to thank for solving this. He thought
out of the box. And came up with a way of demonstrating that my needs
had been heard.

Peter Boyd is the guy who allows Virgin to be the fast moving
giant-killer I think it is.

And I'm back to my comfortable role as a volunteer Virgin Mobile
evangelist. My bill is between 30% and 50% lower every month than my
Vodacom Talk 500 package was. And I use my phone more now than I used

And the only time I have ever had bad service was in this upgrade process.

And the reasons for that are being dealt with. I'm happy to remain a
Virgin user.

Thank you, Eddie. I'm sorry I misunderstood you. And I'm sorry I
berated you on my blog and to your boss. I was wrong.

Thank you Peter.

Blue skies

Visual Facilitator, Illustrator, Writer, Director

Professional member of the Professional Speakers Association of
Southern Africa:

Mobile: +27 74 104 6386
Fax: 086 512 2580 (South African calls only)


Visual Facilitation:

Monday, September 15, 2008

Fwd: Feedback and time to chat/meet

Hiya Peter...

Sadly, this saga continues. I think it must be pretty tough being in
your shoes right now. Virgin Mobile can't be the easiest place in the
world to run with your people continually dropping the ball.

Eddie phoned this morning, and left a message letting me know that
there were some exciting options he'd like to discuss with me. I was
shooting my promo at the time, so was only able to get back to him
much later.

When I spoke to him, he made the very kind offer of letting me have a
loan N95 until the N96 is released later this year.

That sounded generous and awesome, and I was pretty chuffed about it.
We arranged for me to pop round the Virgin Mobile office later in the
day, and he'd give me the phone.

When I got there, I realised that I didn't know where to park. So
Eddie suggested I just wait outside the building. Which I did. He then
came down and met me at my car. He had a phone and charger with him.

The phone is an N81.

I feel like I was rushed and pressured into taking a phone I have
absolutely no use for. I was in traffic. And there were cars coming
and going. And Eddie even pointed out that I was blocking the exit for
a car. He pretty much shooed me off.

He handed the phone through the window, and pointed out that the phone
was damaged -- scratches on it, and a cracked top-right corner. I
signed the release form. I have to say that in retrospect, I have no
idea why I even allowed it into my car.

I drove away feeling as though I'd just taken part in a Hillbrow drug deal.

Before I even got home, I was emailing Eddie from my current phone,
saying I'm returning the phone tomorrow.

Peter... I don't know what's happening with your company. Either you
sanctioned Eddie's handing me an old, cracked, N81, or you didn't.

If you did, then I don't know what to say to you. Except that this is
not a solution to the shoddy service I've received in this entire

If you didn't sanction this, then your people are pretty much doing
their best to shut your business down. And I imagine that you're
probably spitting mad right now. I hope so.

My instinct right now is to cut my losses with Virgin Mobile, and just
go elsewhere. But my girlfriend says sense must prevail. You went out
of your way to take control of this situation. You did so on a Sunday.
And I owe you the respect of honouring your intention.

But Peter, this cycle of poor attitude and poor service and corner
cutting has to stop.

I'd also like answers about what happened with Mark Jackson. Why
didn't he contact me over the weekend? Why didn't he call me back to
give me a solution to getting my phone on Friday already? Why did
Na'eem not get back to me? Why did Eddie give me a broken old phone
when he promised me a Nokia N95?

I don't know that I can trust your company. And I'm mystified at how
this nonsense can be happening.

This email to you is also going straight to my blog. My modus operandi
is to work with as much openness as I can.


---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Roy Blumenthal
Date: Mon, 15 Sep 2008 15:33:24 +0030
Subject: Re: Feedback and time to chat/meet
To: Edmund Reddy

Hi Eddie...

Thanks for the N81. But dude... It's useless to me. I'll be bringing
it back tomorrow morning.

I've got a meeting in Rosebank ending at 10. So if you're in the
office around 10.30, I'll pop round and hand it back.

Eddie... This phone isn't even close to a top of the range Nokia. It's
an old, cracked, last generation phone. No, dude. This leaves a quite
a bad taste. Let's sort this out properly.

If you're going to give me a loan unit, please make it an N95. Or
let's call it all quits. And I'll go to another provider.

Thanks. Roy

On 9/15/08, Edmund Reddy <> wrote:
> Hi Roy,
> I have just tried to call you on your mobile, thought I might have some
> luck with getting hold of you. I must really apologize for the
> experience you have encountered whilst trying to get another mobile.
> After having a chat with Pete, I can say that we do have some options
> for you regarding the new handset.
> Pete has been kind enough to get you a loan unit, most likely one of the
> top handsets in the Nokia range, that you can use in the interim as the
> Nokia N96 will only be available towards the end of this year.
> I can however arrange the Nokia N95 and will be more than happy to get
> it to you by close of business today. I certainly do hope that we can
> mend the relationship with you.
> Regards,
> Edmund Reddy
> 0116765500
Visual Facilitator, Illustrator, Writer, Director

Professional member of the Professional Speakers Association of
Southern Africa:

Mobile: +27 74 104 6386
Fax: 086 512 2580 (South African calls only)


Visual Facilitation:

2008-09-15 Roy Blumenthal & Mandlakazi Mpahlwa -- CNBC AFRICA -- Kaleidoscope

Mandla is the presenter of Kaleidoscope on CNBC AFRICA. As of the 4th of October, I'll be a 'co-host' on the show. Mandla will do the interviews. And I'll be interpreting the interviews in pictures. Live. In the studio.

This pic forms part of a promo we're creating for the show. We'll be shooting the whole day today (Monday). And I'll zap the finished promo online once the editors have sunk their fangs into the footage.

This pic was made in ArtRage 2.5 on my Toshiba Tecra M4 tablet pc.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

The only customer feedback address on Virgin Mobile South Africa is '' -- lots of unhappy clients?

Seems as though Virgin Mobile in South Africa knows something about the way their clients perceive them.

The email address for Customer Feedback, as shown on their site, is ''.

For anyone struggling to see the words, I'll just break them up, making them easy to read...

Not That Happy.

Which is an understatement, really. I'm a lot less than happy. And it seems from the email address and all the Twitter responses that I'm not alone in feeling this.

Virgin UK -- Fwd: Please see my blog post about why Virgin Mobile South Africa is losing my business

Hiya Simon and Jo...

I've just blogged about some intensely shoddy service I received from Virgin Mobile in South Africa. Someone commenting on the blog post found your details on the UK site. So I thought it would be appropriate for you to know what's being done to your brand here in South Africa.

It mystifies me that the people I've been dealing with have been unable, unwilling, or unmotivated to escalate my trouble up to a level of competence, where it could have been dealt with.

This started out with my girlfriend switching to Virgin thanks to me. We both went in-store to purchase new Nokia N95 handsets. She was able to get one there and then. I was told I had to do the deal with Virgin Mobile Telesales, since I was already a customer. The rule, as it was explained to me, was that I could only buy a phone instore if I were willing to take a new contract, with a new phone number.

Strike one against Virgin Mobile South Africa.

Then I went through the exciting process of ordering a phone via telesales. Creason assured me the phone was on its way. A week later, and I was told that Creason didn't submit the order.

Strike two against Virgin Mobile South Africa.

Yesterday, I had a phone conversation with Mark Jackson, apparently the head of customer complaints. I asked for my phone to be delivered yesterday afternoon by close of play. He promised to get back to me with confirmation of that. And didn't.

Strike three against Virgin Mobile South Africa.

The final straw came with this morning's incompetence with one of the call centre supervisors -- Jacob Lesufi. He steadfastly refused to contact Mark Jackson at my request. And has effectively lost Virgin my business.

The interesting thing about all of this is not the loss of my business. I'm sure I'm a VERY small cog in a very big wheel. My business is surely trivial in the scheme of things. What's interesting is that I have shared my experience on Twitter and Facebook and my blog. And it appears as though Virgin Mobile in South Africa is now finding itself in the centre of a feeding frenzy.

The trouble with characters like Jacob Lesufi and Mark Jackson is that they really have no idea how potentially damaging an interaction can be. In today's networked, connected, instant-chat world, the sphere of influence of one individual is a lot more widespread than one might imagine.

I'm hoping that contacting you will do two things:

1. Prevent Virgin Mobile South Africa from losing my business (though that's VERY doubtful; my mind is pretty much made up -- the treatment I've received is shoddy, to say the very least, and actually infuriating).

2. Give you some insight into what's happening with the Virgin brand here in South Africa. I'm sure you'll want to take steps to prevent this kind of debacle from happening again.

It's telling to me that your names, email addresses and mobile numbers are freely available on your website. Whereas the South African website simply offers a fax number, a generic email address, and the call centre number. Not a good sign.

Thanks for reading this. And I wish you a happy weekend.

(By the way... if this situation is to be resolved, it really has to be done today (Saturday), or tomorrow. I'm not available on Monday, as we're shooting a promo for a weekly continent-wide business television show that I'm co-anchoring as of October 4. The show is called Kaleidoscope, and it's on CNBC AFRICA.)

Blue skies

PS: I haven't even received an automated confirmation email from ' Shoddy? Yeah. I reckon.

PPS: Enclosed is a screen shot of some of the responses I've received on Twitter.

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Roy Blumenthal <>
Date: Sat, Sep 13, 2008 at 10:22 AM
Subject: Please see my blog post about why Virgin is losing my business

Hiya Folks...

Please see my blog post about why Virgin is losing my business.

Three people are primarily responsible for this mess:

  • Mark Jackson for not keeping his promises.
  • Jacob Lesufi for refusing to call Mark.
  • Creason for not placing my original order.

The blog post names and shames your people. And outlines the chronology.

I've had THE most shocking lack of customer service from you guys. It mystifies me. Completely.

I will be ending my relationship with Virgin as soon as I've sorted out a deal with another provider.

Blue skies
Visual Facilitator, Illustrator, Writer, Director

Professional member of the Professional Speakers Association of Southern Africa:

Mobile: +27 74 104 6386
Fax: 086 512 2580 (South African calls only)


Visual Facilitation:

Visual Facilitator, Illustrator, Writer, Director

Professional member of the Professional Speakers Association of Southern Africa:

Mobile: +27 74 104 6386
Fax: 086 512 2580 (South African calls only)


Visual Facilitation:

Virgin Mobile South Africa -- incompetence exemplified

Move to the lowest all day prepay rate

1. I've been a Virgin Mobile customer for two years. (Was with Vodacom for 12 years prior.)

2. I want a new phone. A Nokia N95, to be precise.

3. Virgin REQUIRES me to purchase my new handset through their call centre, if I want to retain my phone number.

4. So, I order one. From Creason. I go through the whole process, and he says it'll be with me in 5 working days.

5. The days pass. I call to find out where my phone is.

6. Whoops. Creason didn't PLACE the order for some reason.

7. Noone can help me. They can't explain why it happened. They refuse to escalate my problem.

8. Eventually, I'm told that the head of Customer Complaints, Mark Jackson will call me at 8am the next morning (Thursday September 11).

9. Mark Jackson calls me mid-morning of Thursday, while I'm doing a visual facilitation. So I can't take his call.

10. I call back at 1pm, but he's at a function. So I speak to Na'eem.

11. Na'eem apologises for the mess-up, and asks me to speak to Eugene, a sales rep. I tell Na'eem that I want the phone the next day. He says he'll sort it out with the courier company they use, and that they'll expedite the delivery.

12. Eugene processes my NEW order, and tells me that it'll take 5 working days to get the phone to me.

13. I say that Na'eem is arranging to have it expedited. Eugene says that he'll just confirm that, and will get back to me within two minutes.

14. Thirty minutes later, I call back. I ask to speak to Eugene. He's on lunch. I ask to speak to Na'eem.

15. Na'eem apologises, confirms that the order has been placed, confirms that the delivery will be expedited, and assures me that he will call me first thing in the morning on Friday morning to confirm that delivery will take place that day.

16. At 11:30 on Friday 12 Sept, I call Na'eem. Whooops. He's waiting for confirmation from the courier company and will get back to me within half an hour.

17. Na'eem doesn't get back to me within half an hour. I call back. He's not there.

18. I speak to Mark Jackson. Mark tells me that Na'eem has gone on a team building exercise. He apologises for the fact that Na'eem has dropped the ball, and promises to deal with the situation.

The N95 8GB19. I tell Mark that I would like to have the phone by close of play that day, as promised. He tells me that it's in the hands of the courier company, and that he'll follow up with them, and come back to me before close of play on Friday with confirmation from them that I'll have my phone. He promises to follow it up on Monday if he can't get it sorted on Friday.

20. I say that Monday is too late, and that I'll be terminating my dealings with Virgin if he can't sort something out. He understands, and reiterates that he'll call me back on Friday afternoon with an answer.

21. Mark Jackson doesn't call me back. He's dropped the ball.

22. Saturday morning, 8:50am, I phone the call centre. I speak to Zizi. She's not authorised to make a decision. So she puts me through to Jacob Lesufi, her supervisor at the call centre.

23. I ask Jacob if he's in a position to make a decision about how to retain me as a customer. He asks me for details of my question before he can answer. Good call on his part. I explain the situation to him. I say this: 'Jacob, the only way Virgin can retain my business is for me to have a Nokia N95 in my hands by 12 noon today. I don't mind going to the Sandton store to pick it up. Can you make a decision to make this happen?'

24. Jacob loses the plot completely. He starts explaining to me that the courier has the phone, that he can't do anything about it, that I'll have to wait till Monday.

25. I tell him that he doesn't need to explain anything to me. That he just needs to put me through to someone who CAN make it happen.

26. He tells me that there's noone in the office today, that it's a Saturday, that he's the most senior person there, that I'll have to wait till Monday.

27. I ask him who his boss is. It's Mark Jackson. I ask him to put me on hold, phone Mark Jackson, and patch me through to Mark.

28. He tells me it's impossible to do. I ask him why. He tells me it's because I refuse to listen to him. And I eventually give him a count of ten to put me on hold. Which he doesn't do. I end the call.

29. I phone the call centre again. And I speak to a call centre operative with a garbled name. I say, 'Please can you call Mark Jackson on his cellphone, and ask him to call me back within ten minutes.' She says, 'Who is Mark Jackson? Does he work here?' I say, 'He's your boss.' She says, 'Oh. Mark Jackson.' She agrees to give him my message. I say, 'It's now 9:11. Please ask Mark to call me back by 9:21.'

30. At 9:30, I call the call centre. My call is dropped three times in a row.

31. I get through on the fourth attempt. It's Zizi on the other end of the line. I ask her if Mark Jackson has been given my message. 'No,' she says, 'Jacob decided not to phone him.' I say, 'Well then Jacob is responsible for Virgin losing my business if I don't get my phone in my hands by 12 noon today.' She says, 'No, he's not responsible--' I say, 'That's fine. I'm blogging about this as we speak. And it's all going online. Please do the following... put me on hold, and have a discussion amongst yourselves... and all you have to do is decide whether or not you will phone Mark Jackson and let him have my message. That's all you have to do. So... put me on hold, have your discussion, make your decision, and come back to me with your answer. I'll wait.'

32. I'm on hold for ten minutes.

33. Zizi comes back to me. 'Thank you for your patience. Mark says he will be phoning you back.'

34. I say, 'When will Mark phone me back?'

35. Zizi says, 'I can't give you a time frame.' I say, 'It's now 9:40am. Please ask Mark to phone me back by 10.' She says, 'I can't give you a timeframe.' I say, 'Zizi, you don't have to give me a timeframe. I'm asking you to give Mark MY timeframe. Please ask Mark to call me back by 10.' She says, 'Okay. I'll give him that message.'

36. It's now 10am. No word from Mark Jackson. I wonder if he thought I meant 10 tonight?

Friday, September 12, 2008

VIDEO: Keith Wilmot Coca-Cola -- Roy Testimonial

Yesterday I did a second visual facilitation session for Coca-Cola.

Hosting the sessions was Keith Wilmot, the Global Director: Insights, Ideas, & Creativity, The Coca-Cola Company.

He and his team (John and Enzo) were impressed with what I contributed to the sessions.

And Keith gave me an audio testimonial which I recorded on my cellphone.

I made a sketch of him. Coloured it in ArtRage. Popped it into CrazyTalk. And with a whole bunch of intermediary programmes, I got the audio from my phone into the animation tool.

I exported the animation with a green-screen background.

This allowed me to create captions in Photoshop CS3, and pull them into my editing package...

Adobe Premiere Pro was the tool I used to pull everything together.

Creating this little 20-second testimonial video took about a day's worth of work.

Work that I believe is fully justified. Cos it's given me the workflow to be able to make animated video testimonials of all of my visual facilitations.

I hope you enjoy it.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

2008-09-11 Zuma Assumes the Position

Sometime during the course of Friday the 12th of September 2008, Jacob Zuma will learn his fate.

Along with him, South Africa will also learn its fate.

If Zuma has his corruption charges dropped (like his trousers), he will become the next South African president, and the next African despot.

If he faces trial, South Africa gets a brief reprieve from certain calamity. It's brief because the man might still somehow evade justice on some or other technicalities.

This cartoon is based on an idea tweeted to me by Gustav, a Twitter bud. I'm not mentioning his surname, cos his version was a lot less inflammatory. And I simply don't want HIM getting killed by mad Zuma supporters thanks to MY crazy over-the-topness.

The other influence for this cartoon comes from the recent Zapiro editorial cartoon in the Sunday Times in which he shows Zuma getting ready to rape Justice as she is held down by four of his cronies in the ANC and SACP.

Zapiro took some serious heat for that cartoon. I'll take almost no heat, cos I simply don't have the same viewership as he does. Still... I hope this causes at least a slight tremor.

This pic started off as a sketch in my Moleskine notebook, after I interpreted Gustav's Tweeted suggestion. I then scanned it, and brought it into ArtRage 2.5. I coloured and manipulated the pic slightly. All on my overheating Toshiba Tecra M4 tablet pc.

Monday, September 01, 2008

We Have to Walk Our Talk to be Unleashed

Unleashed, originally uploaded by royblumenthal.

Boniface showed us a Covey video from THE EIGHTH HABIT. In it, there's a dude called Max. And a dog called Max. The video concludes by showing the parallels between Max the dog and Max the dude.

Made in realtime during a workshop on my Toshiba Tecra M4 tablet pc using ArtRage 2.5.

Friday, August 29, 2008

How to Go About Getting into Visual Facilitation

An ArtRage forum member sent me a message asking me how she could get into doing visual facilitation for a living. I figure my answer to her might be worth sharing. And maybe we can have some dialogue about my thoughts that might open it up and make it a bigger topic for us all.

Here's the main part of my letter to her (with pleasantries removed)...


Good to hear that there's another person interested in doing this! It's an absolutely awesome rush to do!

Okay... Fundamentals...
1. Are you well-read, well-versed in non-fiction, specifically business stuff, psychology, marketing? You'll need to pump up your knowledge in these fields.

2. Are you able to concentrate fiercely well for long stretches, listening ardently to new information, synthesising patterns from it, picking out fascinating details pertinent to the greater whole?

3. Can you multi-task? REALLY multi-task? When you're doing a visual facilitation, you're doing lots of things at once. I've described it to someone as 'flying a helicopter while holding two simultaneous, in-depth conversations'. I think I might revise that description and add a second helicopter to the mix.

4. How do you prefer to work -- traditional media or digital? This is a far-reaching fundamental choice. Sounds from your skill-set that you're digitally comfortable.

You haven't mentioned whether you use a tablet pc (or Wacom Cintiq), or if you're using a Wacom tablet?

Tablet PC is my preferred route. There are currently three machines in South Africa that I can recommend... Toshiba Portege M700, Asus R1E, Fujitsu T5010.

Portability of your setup is of paramount importance. Heading out to some remote conference centre should not induce muscle strain or back pain.

Working on traditional media limits what you can offer to your client. Most of the visual facilitators around the world use traditional media. I so so so don't recommend it. No edge. No instant distribution. However, if you MUST do it that way, go for it.

5. Are you willing to expose yourself to a roomful of people by making art live, before their very eyes?

I assure you, you are totally naked when your stuff is appearing live, in real time, on a huge screen next to the speaker's screen. They're watching your every move.

If you have ANY fear of public humiliation, you're going to find visual facilitation pretty hardcore.

If you're comfortable to do some really nice work on the odd occasion, with mostly clodhopper ATTEMPTS at brilliance most of the time, with people watching you frown as you hit the eraser button on ArtRage, then you'll thrive. It helps if you're an exhibitionistic showoff with immense amounts of self-confidence.

6. Are you happy to spend a lot of time doing free gigs for high profile audiences in order to establish a name for yourself? Do you have the chutzpah to inveigle yourself into events as 'the visual facilitator', even though you weren't invited, they've never heard of you, and you don't wanna pay the entrance fee? Do you have the ability to earn an income elsewhere to allow you to take a year to build this up into a business? Are you willing to learn and adapt what you're offering based on the gigs you do?

7. Do you have a winning, magnetic, persuasive personality?

8. Do you have the ability to look someone in the eye and say without shame or embarrassment or hesitation, 'I charge R12 500 per day for what I do.'? If you're blushing at the thought, convert that blush into a warm, fuzzy, delicious feeling of anticipated joy and liberation.

9. Are you comfortable with technology as a means of disseminating information about yourself? I use Twitter as my main communication tool in the world. I've been a blogger for about 6 years. I've had a website since the internet came to South Africa. I use Flickr as my primary portfolio tool. And so on.
Regarding the actual 'How' of your question, I recommend just sitting in on some event or other, and pushing yourself into doing a live visual facilitation without screening your work or standing out from the crowd in any way. Just draw what you hear. Get a feeling for how much work you need to do to be on top of things. Do more of these.


Do you have anything to add? Disagree with anything? Can you enhance anything?

I'm a visual facilitator. You can see some of my work online at And my profile as a professional member of the Professional Speakers Association of Southern Africa is at

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Animated Roy Talking About Visual Facilitation

Wow on two counts!

1. CrazyTalk 5.1 allowed me to make this animation from a drawing. And it took less than 5 minutes to do. I'm blown away by that!

2. YouTube has introduced a new feature -- video annotations. The little speech bubble containing the link to my visual facilitation portfolio -- -- is one of those. Astounding.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

'I believe I can fly!' -- starring Jacob 'Laduma' Zuma

Here's my latest little bit of messing around in CrazyTalk 5.1. This is a pic I made of Jacob 'Laduma' Zuma back when controversy hit him really hard. (Please don't confuse him with Zu-Ma Se Poes. Different politician.)

I'm experimenting with some ideas that Conrad Koch and I have been discussing. This is one of those experiments.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

2008-08-13 Randburg Court 22 -- I am the law

Oh yes. The magistrate in yesterday's court is INDEED 'the law'. What he says, goes.

When he said to Bill's lawyer, 'I'll make the decisions here,' he meant it.

And what he probably meant was, 'Don't come in here with your juvenile attempts at bullying me or your ex-wife or anyone else. I've been hearing cases of abuse in the Domestic Violence Court 22 for longer than I care to think about. And I know EVERY trick. And you guys are amateurs. Bill -- the FACT that you're a lawyer, the FACT that you BROUGHT a lawyer with you, the FACT that you act all obsequious in my court while your ex-wife stands proud and states the facts -- THESE facts mean YOU are NOT the LAW.'

He served the protection order with no revisions. And also pre-issued a ready-signed warrant for the arrest of Bill Morris for any transgressions of the many clauses in the protection order.

Neat, huh?

This pic was drawn in court in my Moleskine while Jennifer was at the stand. I then scanned the pic, brought it into Photoshop CS3, where I added captions and colour. On my Toshiba Tecra M4 tablet pc.

Randburg Court 22 -- Magistrate says, 'You're protected.'

Thanks, Magistrate!

Jennifer and I went to the Randburg Magistrate's Court yesterday. Court 22, to be precise. The court dealing with domestic violence.

Our buddy, Big Bad Ed, joined us. He knows the inside of a courtroom. 'I hate these places,' he said. 'I've been in them way too often.'

Ed tells us an anecdote about a judge who once said to him, 'You're a one-man crime-wave.'

Ed replied, 'Thanks, your honour.'

And the judge responded, 'It wasn't a compliment.'

Ed was with us because we decided to manage the situation. Her ex-husband, Bill Morris, was expected to turn up to contest the protection order Jennifer was having finalised by the court.

According to the affidavits on public record in the court yesterday, William 'Bill' Morris was a wife beater who pressed his wife against the wall, then hacked the wall with an axe just inches next to her head. Amongst other things.

The magistrate heard Bill's smarmy and incompetent lawyer, Bradley Brazington saying things like, 'If it pleases the court, your worship, my client would like to set aside this order.'

To which the magistrate replied, 'Does your client need to come to the complainant's residence or place of work for any reason?'

To which Bradley Brazington Esq said, 'Uh... no... uh... your worship.'

And so, the protection order was finalised. With Bill Morris turning a deep red at the incompetence of his lawyer, and the idiocy of his own game plan ringing in his ears.

For godsake... the bloke arrived with his lawyer's satchel! Bill, not his lawyer... Bill himself brought the satchel.

What was he thinking? 'I'm a lawyer! If I bring my lawyer's satchel, it'll impress the magistrate, and he'll let me off! I'm a member of the legal profession! We stick together!' Is that what he thought???

Sheesh. What a misguided loser.


The protection order was served. And we now have a pre-issued warrant for William Morris's arrest, should he dare break any of the terms of the order.

And of course, Big Bad Ed is always waiting in the wings.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Using CrazyTalk 5.1 to Make a Talking Animated Self Portrait


I made a quick self portrait in ArtRage to test out my newly purchased piece of software -- CrazyTalk 5.1.
  • Opened CrazyTalk.
  • Imported the painting.
  • Placed the Mouth, Eyes, and Nose points.
  • Masked out the background with a single click.
  • Recorded a voice track.
  • Chose an emotion.
  • Published.

The entire process took less than five minutes. And the little 30 second vid below is just the tip of the iceberg. There's so much more I can do with the software.

Suffice to say that I'll be finding a way to incorporate this into my visual facilitation practice.

The little speech bubble containing the link to my visual facilitation portfolio online is something new to YouTube -- video annotations. You can place them wherever you want in a video. Also amazing. Very useful. Makes YouTube a very good teaching tool.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

An apology for giving offence to the 27 Dinners dudes -- specially to Mike Stopforth

Yo Mike (and everyone who creates 27 Dinners)...

I apologize for making my comments on Monday night's 27 Dinner at Primi Piatti sound smug and blunt and horrid. They really weren't meant to be that, and they weren't meant to be an attack.

In my head, as I was writing, I thought I was being witty, provocative, informative, constructive. Reading back, I actually sound like a frothing dick. Hopefully I'm no syphilitic Mugabe.

I saw Vince's post, saw the comments there, saw that people were offering feedback, and saw that the feedback was being received. So I wanted to add to the pot.

As you know, I'm a big supporter of the spreading of knowledge for free. Everything I write and draw that's not under a commercial contract is open source. So for me, 27 Dinners is an awesome initiative.

My comments probably come from a primal part of my brainstem. I've encountered really bad presentations all through my business life. Even the MOST creative ad agencies and communication houses LOVE 'death-by-powerpoint'. And it frustrates me that so many people continue to embrace poor visual communication.

It's always reallllllllllllllly tricky for me to put my neck on the block by offering critical feedback of events. My income derives from the very people I'm being critical of. And I know nobody likes to come across as sucky. And I know that sucky is a completely personal judgement call.

When you mentioned my makeshift 'screen', at first I was jolted in a negative way. I thought, 'Sheesh! I was doing my best!' About one second later, I thought, 'Fuckit. Mike was also doing his best. And everyone at the 27 Dinner also did their best. Including the drunk American.' And then, about nine seconds later, I thought, 'Mike's right. I'm putting myself out there as a professional visual facilitator. And I didn't even bring my own screen. Shoddy, Roy, shoddy.'

The only reason I didn't buy the same screen you have from Makro on Sunday is that I found it won't fit in my car (I'm in a Mazda MX5, and I need something a bit more portable to get in there along with my other equipment).

So I'm on the hunt right now for something that folds up, rather than something that rolls up. What I'm primarily visualising is one of those round screens, much like the sun guard you get for cars. You know the kind of thing... a metal rim that kinda bends into a small, flat disk, with the screen folded into it. Any ideas where to find such a thing?

So to everyone who I probably offended, I apologize for the offence.

At the same time, I do believe that we can all up our game. More than that... we MUST up our game. Myself included.

Blue skies

Sunday, August 03, 2008

27 Dinners Jozi -- How Can Speakers Be More Engaging, Audiences Better Behaved, and Everybody Happier?

This is a slightly edited version of a comment I've left on a blogpost on MORALFIBRE:

In the post, Vince talks about his experience of the last 27 DINNERS ( evening, at which I did the visual facilitation and live-blogging. Several people have responded in the comments to some of the less-than-desirable elements of the evening. (Luckily, my visual facilitation seems to have been well-received. Phshew!)

The stuff I'm talking about below pretty much all comes from my own experience as a speaker, standup poetry performer, street performer, salesperson, and corporate communications practitioner. I know that some of what I have to say might seem a little blunt, and possibly a tad harsh, and might make me a bit unpopular. At the same time, this stuff does need to be said.
Roy Blumenthal, the visual facilitator here.
If I'm not mistaken, the 'irritating American' was Brian Carl Brown, Chief Operating Officer of Are we talking about the guy who spoke about the golf day that noone wanted to attend??? If so, then yeah... Brian Carl Brown's yer man.

His colleague came up to me while I was wrapping up my drawing and live-blogging of the event, and proposed that Blue Catalyst and I might do some business together. I thought it would be a good idea. And we agreed to have talks about talks.

Shortly after the chat, Brian cannon-balled up to me, and announced, 'I think my colleague might not have gotten the point across. We're an NGO, and we don't have big budgets for our events, which are free.' Blah blah blah, poverty, blah blah, etcetera. 'So actually, we can't afford to pay you R8500 for a half-day's visual facilitation, or R12500 for a full-day. We haven't got money to pay you for the freebies. But if you do those, we might be able to get you some paying gigs. You get my drift?'

At that point, I was no longer listening. I work for a living. And the guy's attitude was actually pretty sucky. (But I think the presence of alcohol at events like this is a MAJOR contributor to the crapheadedness of some of the people present.)

Kate... You really really really really need to take a look at Garr Reynolds's site, PRESENTATION ZEN. Seriously.
  • One concept.
  • One slide.
  • One picture.
  • No words, or VERY few words. Three or four words max.
  • Your slide is a billboard for an idea.

  • It's not an academic treatise to be read and mulled over.

  • A presentation is real-time.

  • It gives people the argument, supported by the facts.
Your presentation was very dense, and difficult to follow, for me.

I was also pretty alarmed at what I assume MUST have been my mishearing a stat your quoted. I THINK you said that the average black South African attends two funerals a week. If that's the case, I REALLY have to see your sources. And you really need to quote those sources. And you need to qualify what that stat actually means. I'm surrounded by some fairly average black South Africans, and, anecdotally evidenced, they absolutely DO NOT attend even two funerals a MONTH. let alone a week.

Re the cultural bias of the audience... hmmmm.... nope. GONG. That's spurious. Your presentation needs to be targeted at the people you're talking to. So if you're talking to an audience of whitey business people, you'd best find the argument that speaks to those people. Show the business-types video footage of the amazing response you're claiming your black audiences give you. Deliver on your premise.

I support Vince's reading of your argument. I feel you're making several untested and unsupported assumptions, and you're really not making that argument 'come to life'. (Yeah... pun intended.)

I like Jason. I know him in the real world. But I don't think his preso cut it.

It started promisingly, with some really cool, simple, single-minded, focused slides, that we pretty much pictures illustrating a single point he was making. From around his third slide, the discipline disappeared. And he fell into the trap of cramming way too much stuff onto the slide, with almost NO logic to how things connected.

A presenter must NEVER have to apologise for the contents of their presentation being unreadable. Dammit. Those slides that he kept apologising for would have been unreadable in a pitch-black room on a high definition television screen. If you can't read your own slide on your computer screen, how the hell are we going to see it on a pasty big screen?

Jason also fell into the trap of telling us WAY too much about his topic. He brain-dumped his knowledge on us. And used ultra-lame examples to ground it. Google and iPhone are NOT great examples of UI. They are great examples of very specific points about UI.

Hone it down, dude. Choose ONE topic, and tell us about that.
Charl has stated in tweets and elsewhere that he felt his presentation was weak.

I think he's probably being a tad hard on himself. For me, his talk was passionate, engaging, real, and grounded. I felt that he was sharing his thoughts with me as a conversation partner. He wasn't brain-dumping. He wasn't spewing facts and figures. He wasn't making unsupported arguments.

What he WAS doing was putting his expertise and experience on the table, and inviting others to share in his interpretation of his own successes.
Case study stuff.
Very nicely done.

One thing ALL of the presenters can learn about is microphone technique.
Here are the rules:
1. ALWAYS do a sound check. ALWAYS. Do NOT simply grab the mic and try to be audible. Every mic requires a specific approach to getting the best sound out of it. Did anyone else feel their ears disintegrating at the plosive 'p' sounds cranking out at full volume? That's avoidable. And easy to deal with.

2. NEVER tell an audience that you don't like using microphones. CHARL! We're there to HEAR you. Make it a JOY for us. We're not interested in your discomfort. And we're not interested in excuses. You HAVE something valuable to say. So embrace the platform, and do it.

3. Most microphones can be dealt with in one of two ways. EITHER put the mic in your hand with your fingers curled up just below the ball of the mic. Then extend your thumb out, and place it on your chin. This puts the mic directly in front of your bottom lip, an inch or so away from the pop-cap. MOST mics work best like this. Keeping your thumb extended in this way keeps the mic in position, and reminds you that you're talking to an audience who are hanging on your every word.

OR, put the mic ON your cheek, touching the corner of your mouth. Yes... that part of your mouth that gets little white spit flecks when you get old. Angle it slightly towards your lips, and keep it pressed to your skin. This only works for some mics. But when it works, it completely removes plosive pops.

4. PROJECT, people. Just cos you've got a mic doesn't mean you can talk like someone with emphysema. Projecting comes from working your diaphragm. Go for voice lessons if you can't get your voice to carry to the other end of a boardroom. And speak into the microphone with booming clarity, enunciation, and conviction.

Mike... this is directed towards you as the Joburg dude.

The organiser of an event needs to control the event. You must not be embarrassed to tell obnoxious winos to shut the fuck up. It's NOT acceptable for speakers to be whooped at. It's not acceptable for drunk Americans to hog the mic for a golf-day that geeks aren't interested in. It's not acceptable for a venue to allow a rowdie party upstairs to noise-out a gig. It's the organiser's duty to deal with these things. Throw people out if you have to. Call a halt to proceedings until things are sorted.

Speakers... YOU have a duty to pause in your talk if the conditions make it impossible to be heard. BUT... you also have a duty to make sure that your talk is fascinating and captivating. SOMETIMES people fidget and chat because the content and/or delivery of your talk is crap. Face this as a fact. Of course, sometimes, it's just the presence of a loud-mouthed drunkard overpowering an otherwise appreciative audience. Don't get so caught up in trying to deliver your message that you fail to see what's happening.

Desperation in a speaker is contagious. And becomes disastrous quite quickly. Learn how to deal with interruptions. Read up on heckling, and how standup comics deal with it. If you don't, you're letting yourself down. More importantly, you're letting your audience down.
Ban alcohol at business networking events.

The number of puke-smelling breaths that blasted into my face as people leered over my shoulder into my tablet-pc all merges into a nightmare swamp of inebriated dumbfuckery.

I have nothing against people getting plastered on their own terms, in their own environment. But when they're attending a geek dinner, aimed at helping them expand their circle of acquaintances, I'd really ask them to question their methods if those methods include quaffing industrial quantities of free wine.

What's the deal? Are they so poor they can't afford their OWN wine? Are they so low on self-esteem that the only way they can derive enough bravery to speak to another person is if they're falling down with pissedness?

Ask yourself this: If YOU were blasting YOUR wine-fumes (vomit-smell, by the way) into someone's face, would you expect them to take you seriously as a business contact? If so... drink away. But stay away from me. If not... then decline the refill of the Stormhoek blogging sensation.
I wonder if the zero-pricing of the event isn't building in an ethos of 'I'm here for myself only, and there are no consequences to me acting like an ass-wad, and I'd love to guzzle eight litres of free Stormhoek plonk, and I'll make a noise if I wanna, and I'll grab the mic when I can'?

Maybe if people were paying for the event, they'd take the speakers more seriously?

What if people were able to get a sliding scale refund based on the crapness of the speakers?
If all three speakers are collectively voted as crap by the audience, then they get a full refund.
And speakers get a cut of the proceedings, so that they are incentivised to deliver great material. (They can give those proceedings to a charity, if they're not in it for the bucks.)

I've been to two 27 Dinners now. Jon Foster Pedley's was the first, and he had the discipline of using Pecha Kucha ( as the basis of his preso. And that made it work really powerfully for the audience. This past one also worked for me, but only cos I was working overtime at trying to pull out salient bits in my visual facilitation. I think if I'd been a member of the audience, the only talk I would have paid attention to would have been Charl Norman's. The other two were simply not gripping enough, and not polished enough, and didn't contain enough of an argument to be compelling.