A Thousand Miles from Home: A Birthday Present Worth Opening

Growing old is mandatory; growing up is optional. — Chili Davis

She sits at home lamenting the passing of time. She took the afternoon off and thought there might be a phone call or possibly something in the mail, yet the mailman brought nothing but bills and the phone had been absolutely silent. Another birthday came and was ready to pass. She mindlessly clicked through a barren wasteland of television programs landing on nothing, feeling more anxious and abandoned with every passing moment.

Then the doorbell rang.

“Good afternoon.” The man before her is a delivery man but he was the cutest guy she’d seen in awhile.

“Can I help you?” she asks.

“Yes. If you could sign here,” He points to his computer clipboard.

“Sure.” She smiles, scribbling on the touch screen.

The man turns to go, “Oh, and happy birthday.”

“What?” She begins to blush.

“It’s on the packing slip.” He smiles and walks away.

“Uh,” she pauses, “thanks.”

“You’re welcome,” he calls as he gets into his delivery van.

She’s still glowing as she answers the ringing phone, “Hello.”

“Happy birthday, dear.”


“What? Did you think I’d forget?”

“Oh, I don’t know.”

“I wish I could be there, but there’s a thousand miles between you and me.”

“I’m just glad you called.”

“Say, there should be a package coming. It’s my birthday gift for you.”

“You know, the delivery guy just brought something to the door a few minutes ago.”

“That might be it. Sure hope you enjoy it.”

“I’m sure I will, Mom.”

Both were quiet for a moment.



“I love you.”

“I love you, too.”


“Well, I’ll leave you to open your birthday gift. Call me sometime.”

She presses the off button on the phone and examines the package. Among all the packing peanuts she discovers a unique kitchen gift. She immediately recognizes that it is something she could really use, but never would have thought to purchase it. Tears well up in her eyes as she removes the all-grown-up European Glass Teapot and cups. She had always invited her mom to her childhood tea parties. Perhaps Mom would come to another tea party a thousand miles from home.

There was a call she needed to make. … …

Bits and pieces of real life are played out everyday when young and old alike receive unique kitchen gifts as birthday presents.

There are so many choices when it comes to birthday gift giving, but most people spend a good deal of time in the kitchen and a kitchen gift provides a wonderfully remembered birthday present that is highly useful and decorative.

The tradition of gift giving is an engrained part of our cultural life. When you take the time to thoughtfully choose a birthday gift, it is most often one of the recipients most remembered birthday presents.

Special moments may be few are far between, but a kitchen gift may provide one of the best reasons to recall one of those best moments – a delivery guy, a phone call from Mom and a promised tea party.

How to Negotiate When You’ve Lost Control

When you negotiate and lose control of the direction you’d like the negotiation to go in, how do you recover? What steps should you take to regain control?

Recently, business associates of mine sought and won a contract valued at $2.5 million. They were ecstatic, but they quickly realized they had one major problem. They did not have the core competency needed to address the contract in-house. In addition, they had a little over 7 weeks to produce the results the client was seeking. So, they outsourced by turning to another company that supposedly had the skills that were needed to complete the client’s requirements. My business associates checked the one reference the other company gave to validate their past performance, which came back glowing, and they were ‘off to the races’.

My associates incurred the expense to have a team of consultants fly in from the other company to meet with their client and quickly found themselves in a quagmire. Although the associates had laid out the ground rules by which the consultants would engage their client, there was no written agreement in place outlining the rules of engagement. This oversight led to bigger problems. In the initial meeting with the client and my associates, the consultants talked about the scope of the project and the costs associated with completing the assignment. The fee the consultants proposed to complete the project was exceedingly higher than what the associates had originally quoted to the client.

In the meeting with all parties present, the consultants talked about how the expansion of the project would enhance the clients overall environment. My associates squirmed as they saw the situation getting more out of hand. The client’s interest was in sticking with the initial scope of the project and they stated such in no uncertain terms. After several meetings of what turned out to be very time consuming, in the form of negotiation sessions between all parties involved, the contract became jeopardized. My associates felt their client becoming alienated by the consultants and asked for my advice as to where they went awry and what their next step should be.

I offered the following suggestions…

    No matter how much of a rush you’re in, create a document (contract or MOU (memorandum of understanding) outlining the scope of work that’s expected to be delivered. Negotiate, so as to have all parties involved, understand the scope of the project (In the absence of such a formal document, my associates opened themselves to potential liabilities and misunderstandings). I told them the document would have also served as a negotiation tool, which in and of itself would have become their written position of how the proceeding would progress.
    Even though interactions had already commenced, I suggested my associates put the rules of engagement in writing, outlining the fee structure that had already been agreed upon.

Note: Up to that point, the consultants were addressing the client as though the client was theirs, not my associates. When everyone understands the mission of a project or goal, as the result of being able to read the same message, people are more apt to be on the ‘same page’.

There are times when the written word will carry more weight in a negotiation than the spoken word. During a negotiation, the spoken word(s), once agreed to by all parties involved, can be binding, but it becomes more difficult to prove intent if arbitration is required. To protect yourself, always have some form of a written document, signed by all interested parties, to substantiate your position … and everything will be right with the world.

The negotiation lessons are …

  • When you negotiate, state your position and seek the understanding and buy-in from those with whom you are negotiating.
  • If you encounter a critical point whereby you cannot reach consensus, use the ‘take away’ strategy. The ‘take away’ strategy might consist of you saying something like, ‘Well, I guess if we can’t come to an agreement on this point, the deal will not happen.’ After making such a statement, take very careful note of the body language of the other party. Even if you’re speaking on the phone, listen for the emotional change in the other person’s tone and speech patterns. By doing so, you will gain insight into how effective you are in influencing them.
  • Never place yourself into a position where the only way to achieve your goals and/or wants are through the person/people you are negotiating with. Nor should you let time restrict your options. Have an alternate source whereby you can acquire what you are after.

Melding Written Materials With Your Oral Presentation

There are a number of ways that written materials can support and enhance an oral presentation.

I do a lot of public speaking, teaching, and training. I utilize PowerPoint slides extensively.

I also prepare written materials which I distribute to participants to take with them which serve as a reference tool so that when they have a question later, they can use those materials to refresh their recollection and clear up any confusion they may have. I make it a practice to include a cover and table of contents, as well as appropriate authoritative citations, so that the packet will be “user-friendly” and, thus, have an increased chance of being added to the participant’s library. I generally include a printed copy of my PowerPoint show, as well.

I believe that communicating information in three differing formats is the best way to assure comprehension and retention. The PowerPoint presentation serves primarily as an outline containing only key words, terms, and concepts. The written materials are extremely detailed, of course. And depending upon the topic, my speech may contain a lot of examples and illustrations that are not included in either of the written formats, along with some personal recollections.

Whether or not you should utilize such tools in your presentation depends upon a number of factors.

First of all, you must consider the subject matter, of course. What type of presentation are you making? Does the topic lend itself to the use of visual aids such as a PowerPoint show? Will such tools enhance or detract from the main points you are communicating? Will text, graphics and/or music assist your audience in not only understanding your presentation, but also in recollecting the main points over time? Will such displays “pound home” the message or can it be delivered more effectively with just the inflection, dynamics, tenor and tone of your spoken words?

Once you have decided that you want to utilize a PowerPoint presentation as you speak, there are some things you can do to maximize its effectiveness. Most importantly, bear in mind that a slide show or other graphical display should never be a script (although it can effectively serve as an outline, as explained below). I have suffered through too many interminably long presentations where the speaker thought that every salient point should be included in the PowerPoint show and, as if that weren’t bad enough, decided to read the content of the slides to the audience. Sadly, the information being imparted on most of those occasions was of interest to me, but the speaker could not hold my attention once he/she decided to stay “on script” rather than speak contemporaneously.

A PowerPoint show or other graphic presentation should be used solely to augment and clarify your oral commentary, but should never overtake or overshadow it. This is one area where the old adage “less is more” is applicable.

Note that I said bullet points. Not lengthy, rambling paragraphs of text, but, rather, short, concise synopses that the audience can jot down if they’d like. Bullet points can also be read quickly by the audience as you are speaking without deflecting attention from what you are saying. There is nothing worse than looking out into the faces of your audience to discover that they are no longer listening to you because they are focused completely on reading all of the verbiage set forth on the slides you are projecting.

I use custom animation so that I can dictate when specific key words, terms or phrases appear on the screen. For instance, I find that the audience remains engaged if you pepper your presentation with questions. Ask participants if they know the answer to a particular question and open the floor for discussion and questions. When you are ready to conclude the discussion and move on, you can announce, “Here’s the answer” or “Look at how things turned out,” at the moment that the relevant information is projected. This is particularly effective if you ask your audience to guess numbers, percentages or the outcome of hypothetical scenarios. It is fun to hear the gasps when the group is surprised by the correct or actual answer, leading to further enthusiastic discourse and a memorable presentation.

By organizing your PowerPoint slide show, you will find that you have organized your discussion. This is a great way to stay on track. Make sure that you include each and every important point you want to make during your presentation as a bullet or outline point. That way, when you glance at the slides as you are speaking, your memory will be jogged and you will be sure not only to mention those key points, but also elaborate upon them.

Finally, as to the aesthetics of the PowerPoint show, let your topic and audience guide your selections. If you are talking about a very serious, thought-provoking subject, the colors and graphics that you select will probably be different than those appropriate to a more light-hearted or fun conversation. The possibilities are limitless, bounded only by the constraints of your imagination.