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Pantomime – a blueprint for a brilliant presentation (oh yes it is!)

So the pantomime season is over. The Aladdin’s lamps, glass slippers and beanstalks have gone back into storage; the ugly sisters and widow Twankeys have moved on to Pinter and Lloyd Webber, and the country’s theatres are a little less sparkly. As always it’s been a season of sequins and (varying degrees of) smut. But, sitting in the Bradford Alhambra, watching the inimitable Billy Pearce’s Aladdin, it occurred to me that a pantomime is actually a blueprint for an excellent business presentation or pitch. That idea sent me in the direction of actor/writer Nick Mellersh and an illuminating piece on…

The greatest gift you can give this Christmas – a question!

Last week I was with a group of 11 year olds in a ‘Communication Skills for Life’ workshop. We were focusing on a technique we call ‘Doing a Hairy Granny’. It’s a simple three part structure to empower children to have better conversations with adults (hairy or not) in response to those killer questions such as how’s school, how was your day, did you have a good weekend???????.  It comprises: The headline eg school’s really great this term, thank you Additional information with something from the heart eg we’ve started Latin this term which I thought was going to be boring…

Watch out for your non verbals, and don’t stare at celebrities

Yesterday I had an extraordinary, surreal encounter with a world-famous celebrity, one of the most recognised faces on the planet. I spotted her in a shop as I was walking down my local high street. I was rooted to the spot with shock. We weren’t that far apart, either side of the glass window, and I couldn’t help but stare. She looked up, our eyes met and, feeling guilty and embarrassed, I mouthed “sorry” with my hand on my heart, and then “hello” with a little wave and a huge grin. Yes I did! Incredibly, she in turn mouthed “hello”,…

Enough of the school-yard vitriol – it’s time to grow up

This month I want to rant. But I’m not going to. Because the thing I want to rant about is other people ranting. So that’s not going to work. Several things have happened recently to bring me to this point – all of them symptomatic of a deterioration in public discourse and therefore offensive to someone like me whose great passion is helping people become skilful communicators. You’ll have read the comments made by anonymous Tories about Theresa May. “She should “bring her own noose” to a meeting of the 1922 committee; “the moment is coming when the knife gets…


I’ve spent the last month thinking about leadership – analysing how leaders communicate, in preparation for my slot at the new PRCA Leadership Academy last week.  It’s been fascinating to unpick what these individuals (who need to persuade, motivate, challenge and nurture us) actually do and say to earn our respect and trust and confidence.  It turns out to be a package of behaviours and habits and mind set. Which is great news for us because it means we can take small, practical steps towards becoming the leader lurking within us.  We can take control of our own leadership potential….

Much ado about whales, Kylie the dolphin and introverts

I’ve rarely been so excited to write a blog. That’s because I have two amazing things to share with you this month. One’s a book and one’s a sound. I’ve recently been lucky enough to go whale watching, to be in the right place at the right time to see an extraordinary number of humpbacks. Unforgettable images of flukes and fins and breaching but also a haunting and eerie sound. Via a hydrophone sent deep into the water we were able to hear a cacophony of whale song from a 3km radius. Here it is – https://www.youtube.com/edit?o=U&video_id=y7YVfU1S-jg I hope you…

Be prepared – learning to communicate like a 21st century Brownie

What a pity I’m too old to join the Brownies or the Guides!  They’ve just revamped their programme of badges and activities – the biggest overhaul in the organisation’s history. And one of the 800 new badges is for ‘speaking out’. How fabulous that they’ve made communication one of their themes. If this badge were to become compulsory for every girl (and boy), along with eating broccoli, I’d be out of a job.  So much of the training I do these days is with adults who’ve somehow along the way missed out on this very important life skill. These are…

Andy Murray and you – stamina’s the name of the winning game, on court and in the pitch

So Andy Murray had to pull out of Wimbledon at the last minute.  Even if the hip was healed there was the issue of stamina: having to sustain hours on court with very little match play under his belt.  A major factor, no doubt, in the decision.  Funnily enough, stamina and energy have been much on my mind recently.  I’ve been working with pitch teams, preparing them for some lengthy, five-set presentations. What becomes apparent in the first full rehearsal are the moments where the energy of the content and of the presenters drops.  And you can guarantee that if…

Meghan Markle and Amy Schumer – lessons in gravitas and crossed ankles

The topic on which I’m most often asked to speak is ‘gravitas’. People recognise the need to communicate with presence, power and confidence but often haven’t worked out for themselves how to acquire this magical and mysterious asset. Luckily for them, I’ve spent 25 years doing just that so I can offer some practical tools and guidance. Two key factors in gravitas are how we feel and how we behave. And there’s a fascinating connection between them, according to the work of the ‘father of American psychology’, William James (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_James). He explored the link between our actions/behaviours and our emotions,…

Did the dog eat Amber Rudd’s prep? The underrated power of the apology

Over the last few days, in the run up to Amber Rudd’s resignation, the issue of apologising has been under scrutiny.  Likewise in my training room, it’s a topic for analysis and debate.  How do we rate, for example “apologies for the inconvenience caused” versus “I’m really sorry that this is going to cause you a problem”? What about tone of voice and the non verbals which accompany the words?  Careful not to give yourself away with inconsistent signals, as Albert Mehrabian’s much misquoted ‘7, 38, 55’ rule of communication illustrates.  You may be saying the right things but if…

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