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PURPLE SNOW DROP
How to speak confidently when you don’t know what you’re talking about…

By way of preparation for every training session, I ask attendees to share with me their strengths and weaknesses, as communicators. The issue which comes up time and time again is this – “I’m ok when I know the material well but I really lack confidence when I’m not so sure about the content”. This lack of confidence manifests itself in a number of ways – a hesitant tone of voice; lack of eye contact; fidgeting; a high-speed delivery and lack of pauses (lest someone should jump in to ask a question); apologetic language (especially at the beginning). And then…

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The one about the presenter and the hilarious awards

Once upon a time there was a presenter called Jayne who was asked to front an awards ceremony for a non-profit philanthropic organisation. Because it was during the annoying time of the Covid, it had to be broadcast on the Internet. It was a small budget, small fee event and the very nice clients had never produced anything like it before so Jayne knew it was going to be exciting. It was a really busy week for Jayne but she still made lots of time for preparation, sometimes late in the evening or early in the morning. She wanted to…

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A psychiatrist’s seven steps to happiness (and confidence)

Dr Anthony Clare was a respected psychiatrist and broadcaster who fronted the Radio 4 programme ‘In the psychiatrist’s chair’, interviewing prominent people from all walks of life (still available on the BBC website). I came across his seven steps to happiness and wanted to share them because I think they’re sensible and practical and achievable. And because the first one relates directly to my work helping people to communicate with more confidence and impact. Put on a happy face. Choose to be optimistic. Make a conscious decision to express positive ideas because that can change how we feel. In a…

Stranger Danger! Misreading someone’s demeanour can be disastrous

Light bulb moments in the training room are things of joy. I had one the other day during a session of interview practice. I asked my client (let’s call her Esmerelda) a question but just as I thought she was getting going with the answer, she suddenly stopped. I was slightly thrown but gathered myself and moved on to another question. The same thing happened again and then a third time, each answer getting progressively shorter. At the end of the mock interview we analysed how it had gone, and I referred to these abrupt endings. I revealed how uneasy…

Fear and Confidence – unlikely but essential bedfellows

I had an interesting conversation yesterday with an ex Olympic swimmer who competed in Seoul when she was just 14 years old.  She didn’t fulfil her potential.  When asked why, her response surprised me. “I wasn’t scared enough”. Essentially, she attributed her poor performance to a lack of fear. Perhaps because she was so young, she hadn’t appreciated the scale of the event and the enormity of the opportunity. She’d experienced little pressure and therefore failed to rise to the occasion. The issue of fear came up again on the Today programme a couple of weeks ago. Dr Pippa Grange…

Respect and Connect – the key to excellent online communication

I came across Franklin D Roosevelt’s advice on public speaking the other day:  “Be sincere, be brief, be seated”. Well said, Mr President, and especially well said in these corona months when most of us are working remotely, and when we need to finesse our communication style, to hold people’s attention. Just as tennis players adapt their game for each surface, so we need to adjust our usual face to face communication for the virtual world. It requires a particular set of techniques and a unique tone of voice. Normal rules don’t apply. Essentially, the fundamental pillars of good communication…

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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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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…