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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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What ZARA, M&S and Theresa May teach us about small talk and great content

According to TED speaker coach, Briar Goldberg, most TED talks these days are 9 – 12 minutes rather than, as previously, 18. That’s because audiences have an ever decreasing concentration span. I find this rather depressing but I’m taking it on board and therefore this month’s musings are going to be short. Two things have happened recently. One – Theresa May resigned. Two – I went shopping. Both events reveal something important about communication. Among the acres of analysis of TM’s downfall, one theme rings out – her inability to resonate with people and make small talk. Funnily enough, I’ve…

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Take control of your Aura and don’t get type cast

Aura, (NOUN) – ‘distinctive atmosphere or quality that seems to surround and be generated by a person, thing or place’. This word has been haunting me. It’s come up multiple times recently in the context of individuals and businesses. It’s reminding me of the work I used to do in branding. Working out what people perceive and think and feel about you/your product or service, and then if that’s not the Aura you want to communicate, taking practical steps to change (via eg your customer care, visual identity, written tone of voice, services, pricing etc etc). This is all around…

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Dealing with challenge, building the muscle – ask Roger Federer

The most popular topic in my training room is Dealing With Challenge (DWC) – how to maintain control and confidence at the moment when we’re thrown onto the back foot by an unexpected question or comment. I am constantly surprised by the number of people who struggle with this, and the extent to which it holds them back professionally and personally. My pet theory is that it’s all to do with technology. When I started work back in 1850 (arriving at the office in a horse-drawn carriage), I had (like everyone else) a desk and a ‘phone (landline). The ‘phone…

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Confidence, resonance and shellac – how to communicate like a pro

My great passion is communication (after George Clooney obviously), and I’m always fascinated to see good and bad practice outside the corporate world which I can bring to the training room. This month, I’ve come across great examples in unexpected places: on the dance floor, in the nail bar and in my living room. All of them reminders of some of the essentials of excellent communication – confidence, relevant content, clear structure and appropriate packaging. In BBC1’s recent The Greatest Dancer (very good, by the way. Worth a visit to iPlayer) a talented classical ballet dancer performed for the live…

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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…

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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…

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