What a wonderful English saying to express appreciation for the findings by the ones that preceded us!
I learnt of it many years ago, in a speech by my dear colleague Michael Gould. He was sharing the advancements of geoinformation and how we were able to progress rapidly because we were standing on the shoulders of giants. I retained the phrase in my memory, maybe just to use it today for exactly what it was made for: to express sincere gratitude to my own giants.
Don’t you think that Spring might be the perfect time for gratitude, when life renews itself with passion after winter’s necessary rest? In my sort of personal spring-like renewal, I strongly feel this gratitude for the teachings of people that walked before me in the adventurous kingdom of communication.
My first giant is Edward Tufte and his “Envisioning information” classic, which probably pioneered in the early 90’s the concept of visual thinking. It was during a conference in San Diego in 1999, I took some time at the bookshop and was attracted to this book to the point of buying it. I knew then nothing about communication or visual rendering of information; actually I did not even know I would end up working as presenter and assessor for public speaking! But something led me to get the book and keep it until today, as a jewel to be revisited when my faith in Beauty needs renewal. Thank you, Mr. Tufte. You clearly opened a door there.
It went on with another giant in the visual communication arena: Tony Buzan and his “The Mind Map Book”, a masterpiece that also needs periodic revisiting for visualization and organization of both life and work challenges. I was also drawn to it by instinct, and it has been one of the wonderful purchases in my career, innovative and useful no matter how many years go by. With the availability of mind-mapping software in the market, its practicality has only but grown. My gratitude to this author for the wonderful skills on mind mapping, that continue to be great to organize my dispersing thoughts.
Then, in the early 2000’s, I became a very young manager of a team of 15, with all the inexperience and fears inside of me that you can possibly imagine. All of them, believe me. But here came my first female giant, Barbara Berckhan, the German pedagogue that has literally saved me from despair many times. I started with her groundbreaking “Public and Professional Speaking: A Confident Approach for Women”, which in the Spanish version had the appealing subtitle “How to gain respect with serenity. A guide for women”, and I devoured its content. I continue to visit her many books on the art of communicating and living, and here goes my eternal gratitude to an author whose work on understanding fear and on gaining self-assurance I still use as a reference in my public speaking trainings.
On my continuous search for better communication skills I came across a local giant which also deserves my public thanking: Ferran Ramón-Cortés and his wonderfully short fable “L’illa dels 5 fars” (The 5 lighthouses island). In it, he uses a self-discovery journey through the 5 main lighthouses in the island of Menorca as an entertaining metaphor to pinpoint the 5 key ideas on communication. What I remember most is how he put me in contact with the truth that simplicity matters, especially when we want to create lasting impact. He was also the first to speak about storytelling before anyone I knew was talking about storytelling, so here my thanks to his visionary and didactic spirit.
Later on I had the privilege to contract, sometimes for me and sometimes for my whole team, the training services of experts in different areas of communication. From all those learning opportunities, I’d like to openly thank two gigantic ladies that were a joy to work with. First, Kim A. Page, a fantastic public speaking trainer with a talent for singing who taught me, amongst other valuable skills, the unforgettable concept of “in media res” for a great speech opening. And second, my beloved Raquel Izaguirre, from LaveuLaVoz, a dynamic and highly skillful vocal coach, from which I learnt great voice and relaxation techniques that I still use today for myself and my clients. From both of them, I gladly understood that our voice, unique and non-transferrable to each one of us, is directly connected to our emotions and a fundamental piece in the act of communicating, and therefore needs good training and care as well.
In more recent times, as I was setting up my own business in public speaking training, I have come closer to the Anglo-Saxon approaches to public speaking, mainly through TED talks style and, most important for me, through companies such as DUARTE. They are actually one of my most important giants today. Ever since I read “The HBR Guide to persuasive presentations” by Nancy Duarte, I am closely following their work because they are an endless inspiration on how to permanently innovate on excellent content and outstanding training materials. My gratitude goes to them, for being a continuous source of learning.
And last but not least, nowadays I also like to get inspired by local giants that are doing excellent work in improving communication skills for professionals, institutions and companies in Spain. People like Ivan Carnicero, from Speakers Lab, who is a leading voice in public speaking training in its infinite variations and formats, innovating as the market transforms. Or like Oscar Fernandez Orellana, from Interacción Humana, another reference name for coaching and training of leadership and communication abilities that provides excellent content to the community to keep spreading the word. With both of them, I keep learning and, most of all, sharing the vision that a much better communication in business is possible.
There are many more giants in my professional journey. And many more will come, for sure. I think learning has always been a collective experience. Our knowledge and skills are not only ours, and it is only fair to recognize the courage of the giants that walked the path before us, the same ones that had and still have the generosity to share their findings so that we can also grow and look further.
I want to thank them publicly. It goes without saying that I would not be here today without their gifts. Or, as Isaac Newton once put it in the famous sentence: “If I have seen a little further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants”.