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Singing, lipstick and your favourite pants – managing our outer and inner persona at this testing time

In Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Polonius tells his son Laertes to dress well because “apparel oft proclaims the man“. No doubt that’s what drove Boris Johnson to don a jacket and tie for his ‘I’ve got Corona’ isolation broadcast a few days ago. Margaret Thatcher’s newly released private papers reveal how aware she was of the power of clothes. She kept a ‘clothing diary’ in which she detailed outfits called ‘Wogan Burgundy’, ‘Pink Chanel Gorbachev’. Apparently, glamour was part of her approach to ending the cold war. Who knew! Last Friday, I wore a ‘Virtual Blue’ outfit for my first online training session. It was…

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Go on, pop the question – it’s 29 February!

Happy Leap Day. It’s the one day every four years when, according to ancient tradition, women can propose marriage. It’s got me thinking in general about questions and their value in and out of the workplace. We’re living in an era with more channels than ever before to ‘broadcast’ our thoughts and ideas. I wonder if that’s influencing the way we communicate. Are we getting out of the habit of soliciting others’ opinions and properly listening to each other (you’ll remember I banged on about this in my TEDx talk recently – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C7_UI9gNg_o). So, on this special day, here are…

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New skills for a new ‘post-EU’ era. How to be heard, how to be confident, how to listen

In Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers, one of the factors for success (in life generally) is knowing “what to say to whom, when to say it and how to say it for maximum effect”. That’s communication – my passion and, I believe, our most fundamental life skill. As we embark on a new era in our country, let’s take the opportunity to sharpen up our own skills and ensure that we’re “getting what we want from the world”.  Whatever role and sector we’re in, we need to be able to negotiate, persuade, charm, and impress as never before. Let’s firstly remember that…

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The twelve gifts of Christmas communication

On the first day of Christmas I realised that preparation is the key to success On the second day of Christmas I started to eliminate those JENGA (filler) words On the third day of Christmas I recognised the power of stillness to demonstrate gravitas On the fourth day of Christmas I reminded myself not to be put off by audience members who look bored or even hostile. It’s more than likely just their concentrating demeanour On the fifth day of Christmas I learned the importance of brevity On the sixth day of Christmas it was obvious how tough and how…

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A tale of two talks – what the Prince might have learned from TED

Not long after I had vacated the TED red dot, I watched the Prince Andrew interview. It occurred to me that he could have achieved a better outcome if he’d followed the most fundamental tenet of communication: the first mantra we adopt in my training room. No interview or presentation is ‘about’ the speaker (even when the questions are centred on your judgment/sexual conduct). It’s about and for the audience. This became crystal clear to me during the preparation for my TEDx talk. Taking time at the outset to understand the audience enables you to resonate and empathise with them;…

Why is my TEDx talk so short?

8 days to go until my TEDx talk at the Open University. I’m very excited. I have 14 minutes to convince the world to join my crusade. 840 seconds to encourage people to value human to human communication as much as they value their technology. You see, I’m frightened that in our excitement about all the amazing things technology gives and promises us, we’re losing what I think is our most fundamental life skill. All around us – in homes, cars, offices, restaurants, chambers of government – two things are happening. 1. People are not listening and talking to each…

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A toxic culture in the House of Commons and beyond – three things we can all do

I’m delighted that there’s so much discussion at the moment about communication. It’s my passion and my trade, and I’ve long been worried about the tone of public and private debate. We seem to have forgotten how to ‘disagree agreeably’, as John Bercow put it after that shameful evening in the House of Commons. He talked of a toxic culture, and beseeched members to treat each other as opponents not enemies. Wise words. Let me also, with a little help from some even wiser friends, offer three simple tools we can all use to achieve more measured and civilised interactions….

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Confidence – is it a gift, a skill or a code? Ten tips for growing yours…..

My summer book has been The Confidence Code by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman.  An excellent read, full of great examples and ideas, and replete with practical tips and tools for (a) understanding confidence and (b) acquiring more of it.  I recommend it highly – https://www.waterstones.com/book/the-confidence-code/katty-kay/claire-shipman/9780062414625 While the focus of the book is predominantly on women, much of the content is applicable to everyone.  Here are 10 key points which I think are of value to all of us: ‘Rumination’, over-thinking, too much self reflection are the enemies of confidence. We must avoid dwelling on our failures. We must learn…

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George Ezra, Johnson and Trump – authenticity or manipulation?

I’ve just been accepted as a speaker at the Open University’s TEDx event in November. Exciting news. The theme is ‘Imagine what’s next’. No doubt many will be looking at technological innovation and the amazing opportunities which lie ahead. The angle of my talk is fear – a concern that while our heads are turned by technology, we are forgetting how to talk to each other and how to listen. At the heart of good communication is authenticity. In my training room we agree that we’re not learning to ‘act’ or to copy someone else’s style. To be effective and…

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OMG The way we communicate is disgusting and EVIL!!!!!!!!!!!

I’ve realised that I’m not using enough exclamation marks or capital letters or excessive language. I’m certainly not expressing enough outrage. I seem to be out of step with current communication trends, as illustrated recently by the spat between actresses Bella Thorne and Whoopi Goldberg. Thorne shared naked pictures of herself online because a hacker was threatening to make them public. A horrible and upsetting experience for her. Whoopi Goldberg commented on the talk show The View “If you’re famous, I don’t care how old you are, you don’t take nude photos of yourself.” A thought provoking sentiment, worthy of…

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