Are You Listening

I posted the video below on my Twitter timeline last night.

These were the stats on this tweet as of lunchtime today

It is amazing to see how many people are empowered by this heart warming video. Seeing this young boy with hearing impairment hear for the first time can bring a tear to the eye and make those of us with full hearing, ever grateful.

Funnily enough though as adults one of the biggest issues we have is how well we do listen to each other. Not to just what is being said, but what is not being said as well.

 How many times have you been in a conversation where someone spoke over you before you had finished your point?
Conversely how many times have you listened to someone thinking you wish they would hurry up and finish so you could say, what you have to say?
How many times have you glazed over, crossed your arms, rolled your eyes, looked past someone or had any of the above happen to you?
How do you feel when you are talking to someone and they are engaged in one or more of their digital devices?

The answers to those questions may vary, but I bet at sometime in your life, you would have experienced all of the above.

Listening is about being present.
Listening is about respecting the person in front of you.
Listening  is about taking into consideration the other person’s feelings.
Listening is about asking the right questions so you can listen to better answers. Listening is about using interjections or paraphrasing people to ensure that what you thought you heard is what the other person said.
Listening is about not trying to respond before you’ve heard whats being said

In our workplaces, friendship circles, family and community groups, there must be so many instances where we wish that someone had listened to us more, or indeed that we listened to them as well.

So here’s a test for you.
Over the next week, next thirty days, try listening more.
Try really putting yourself in the shoes of others who value your opinion, presence and time, and truly truly listen, and be filled with the same kind of joy that baby Lachlan had when he heard for the first time.

How to Pitch Perfect


There are many instances when, as professionals, you have to pitch. Whether it is skills and talents, or the products and services for the organisations that you work for.

As a presentations coach I have had the pleasure of working with a number of individuals to help them effectively pitch in some of the areas below:

* Senior positions of leadership
* Fundraising for charities
* Seeking partners for a growing company
* Seeking investment for their startup

One of my favourite areas is working with startups. It has been a blast working with entrepreneurs looking to pitch their ideas. Over the last two years I have had the pleasure of working with a group of exciting entrepreneurs who have been pitching their business ideas to Sir Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group. They learn to hone their core message, practice and refine their delivery skills all to essentially win over both Sir Richard and the panel of exciting entrepreneurs who help him to decide the winners.

Here is the simple framework that I use to help my clients Pitch P.E.R.F.E.C.T.

Know your product inside out. Know what inspired you to serve the market with your product in the first place. It is important that you know what market your product serves and what makes it distinct from the competition

If you are not enthused or excited about your product why should anyone else be?
Bring your passion for what you do to the pitch. Be yourself.This does not mean you have to be over the top like some charismatic air punching seminar leader, but bring a good energy to your pitch. Ensure when you are planning the stages of your pitch that you bear in mind how you will demonstrate this in words or actions.

People buy people. One of the things I have learned is that hand in hand with a robust plan of action is knowing who and what you are pitching to and for. Getting your delivery skills right through using your voice, body language and visuals where applicable are were many pitches rise and fall.
Building good rapport with those who you are pitching to is critical.

Don’t waffle. Stay focused on what it is you are trying to say because less is more. The best way to do this is to ensure that you have a predetermined structure to your presentation. Each investor may have a different requirement so get to know what this is but stay focused on what will make the investor want to fund you.

In addition to the focus of how you deliver your pitch is the need for evidence. Some panels they want to see the hard data. Such as where you get your sales data or projection, what research you have done, the risk factors involved and about your team and experience.

Rather than overload these stats in slide decks overwhelming investors with numbers in a visual presentation it would be advisable to have a complimentary pitch deck in the form of a document that you can hand those you are pitching to.

The way you close is critical.
What are you actually looking for?
How will you persuade the investor(s) that you are the company to be invested in?

Many people try to keep the close right until the end of the pitch, but if there is one thing I have learned from great sales people and successful pitches it is that they close all the way through their presentation. Mini closes through questions, rhetorical or otherwise, that all lead up to that final close should cement why you are the choice company to be invested in. It is essential at this point that your close leads them to a point where you are confident to take any questions.

In an ideal world the questions for your pitch will be tabled at the end. When I first started pitch coaching I actually would shape the pitch so that the presenter would be prepared to answer any questions levelled at the end. Now I get presenters to be prepared for questions and objections at any stage in the presentation. Even with the best intentions in the world an investor could stop you in your flow and challenge assumptions, question data or even try to unnerve you just to see how you handle pressure
As a pitcher you should be prepared at any stage to deal with this, rather than answering the question there and then on the spot, direct the questioner to data in one of your documents or ask them to hold that thought and coming back to it at the end or a more appropriate time.

Pitching is both an art and a science. Even with the model I have prescribed there will be a multitude of circumstances that can affect which way a decision can go. Much of the success I have witnessed comes from understanding why you believe your product or service will make a difference, and also understanding who your investors are and what they are looking for.

What works for you when you’re pitching?

The Power of a Good Story

YourStoryPart of what constitutes a good presentation by leaders and those who would inspire people to action is a well placed story. Storytelling has become somewhat of a trendy topic but well before and well after the “trend” has disappeared at the core of great speeches will always be that great personal story.

Whether a business case, a successful customer story, a political win, when we can connect and show possibilities, vulnerabilities and the championing of the human spirit. But what happens when the story is not your own? When it is borrowed from someone else?
When you cannot fully empathise with the story because it is not part of your own personal journey?

Of Myths and Legends
In a speaker forum that I am part of the subject came up about stories which are not necessarily true but have been hashed over time to appear that way. What happens when people repeat such stories which either have no elements of truth in them or if they are mythical have not been framed as such. Continue reading “The Power of a Good Story”

Helping Leaders Present Better

MediumFor years I have sat and cringed whilst I witnessed leaders and senior execs, who should know better, churn out some really cruddy slide decks on PowerPoint and Keynote or send some people to sleep with somnorofic presentations with no personal touches. Even worst still it pains me to see people pitch for investments and new business with no sense of the either the process, planning or performance required for a good pitch.

I spent a lot of time working individuals who want to build their confidence as it dawned on them that good presentation skills, whether in the the scenarios I mentioned above, or as part of one’s skill set for interviews, are essential for today’s workforce. Especially leaders. I thought rather than just sitting their cringing why not work on a series of programmes that would solve the pain of being able to deliver a great presentation. Not only their pain but mine too. Programmes that would set the standard of expectations from leaders in an organisation on how to make positive impact through a great presentation.

So I got to writing programmes targeted specifically at senior leaders, company executives and those whose role it is to bring in new or sustained business for their organisations. I envisioned that such programmes would focus on three core elements.
1) What the key message was was for any leader giving a presentation.
2) What medium or mediums the presenter would be able to use to ensure that the message came across effectively and well remembered
3) What movement or call to action the presentation would enact. Whether closing a sale, bagging some investment or communicating change within an organisation.

Today I am proud to launch a new venture that I have been working on, called NARRATIVELY.
A venture that embraces public speaking, storytelling, effective visual presentations, presence and delivery skills across all platforms.

Delivered through executive coaching (both one to one and group) presentation masterclasses and workshops, NARRATIVELY is as the name suggests, a mindset for leaders, senior execs and leading sales personnel to get more sales, more buy in and more retention of their internal and external customers.
An opportunity to get the message across regardless of the platform used be it keynote speeches, business meetings, media appearances, seminars or pitches.

So here it is. Welcome to the start of a new journey.

Science of Persuasion

We are our stories.

Whether we are looking to negotiate salary, pitch a business idea, convince people of a political strategy or speaking about change, we are looking to persuade in our work through effective stories.

This video by Robert Caldiani and Steve Martin demonstrates the six core factors that make the story have impact and persuasion.

How I Draft My Speeches

One of the most frequent questions I get asked as a speaker and from my executive speaking coaching clients is what formula do I use to draft a speech. Now it may seem I am giving away the holy grail of my work but this is the simple formula I use:

Topic: What is the specific area they are looking to hear about. Effective Communication? Leadership? Presentation Skills? Storytelling? Career Development?

Audience: Who am I speaking to and what are the top three things the buyer is looking for from me?
Are there any sensitive issues that I should avoid?
What background data can I/do I have on the organisation to make this more personal?

Stage: Am I sharing the stage with other speakers and if so how can I compliment them in my presentation.


I craft my speeches using three core movements, a bit like a film or a play.

The Intro
I usually like to start with a story. Something that will emotionally engage the audience and hook them in. Something not too distant from the experiences of the intended audience.

Sometimes it may include some humour, or facts and statistics relevant to that industry, organisation or individuals in the organisation. This is a critical part for me to get right as I will win or lose most of my audience at this part. It is probably the most tested and rewritten part of any speech I draft.


Scene 1 – The Pain. I like to have a key point which set the scene for the presentation.
Often times this focuses on some kind of pain that the organisation is facing.
Change. New Leadership. Lack of Clarity. Falling market share.
I use this opportunity to build at least 3 key points to emphasise the pain and what the

Scene 2 – The Solution. The narrative arc in this section starts to look at the solutions to address this problem. The what-ifs and the tangible ways of being able to address the pain. This is focused on how problems can be solved and again will pull on data, stories and a possible reference back to the opening. Again no more than about 3 key points or solutions to the problems

Scene 3 – The Challenge. We know the pain. We know the solutions, now what are we going to do about it? What happens if solutions aren’t taken? How does one cope and what are the strategies that can realistically be put into place. This is where I want to make my audience uncomfortable. Stretched, but with a means or toolkit to be able to deal with this discomfort.


Call to Action. This is about getting my audience to do take action.
Now that the core theory has been given, the final part of my speech focuses on specific language to close the deal. It’s a place where I want the audience to think OK let me leave here and take massive action.

As it says. I practice the speech, change language where necessary and review
Sometimes right up until a few hours before the final delivery.
Always keeping it fresh.

Of course the model for designing and delivering a great speech is a lot deeper than this summary. I have left out the core elements of platform skills, use of visuals, scatoma, rapport building, rhetoric, storytelling and embedded commands that will beef up the speech and bring it alive but these are my basics for drafting.

Feel free to use them or share them.
Let me know how it works for you.

Presentations are just theatre!

DramaI was in conversation with my eldest daughter the other day. Being the child of shall we say, parents who have never had real issues with shyness, we were waxing lyrical on what really brings out confidence in people. After a rather enlightening conversation, where she actually schooled me on some lost forgotten drama techniques it got me really thinking about how underrated drama is as part of formal education

Confidence Builder
From a young age in school I remember being in nearly all the school plays and musicals. Tin Pan Alley, Wizard of Oz, Aladdin, Sweeney Todd…you get the drift. Immersed in these plays really helped to sharpen my own confidence and ability to be able to stand up in front of audience and deliver in my style.

My wife was also involved in amateur dramatics and without name dropping actually shared the stage with a famous British Actor as well as being involved in other productions. Without a shadow of a doubt we both confirm this helped to shape our own confidence.

Compulsory Education

I believe that in addition to Maths, English and Sciences, Drama should be a compulsory subject at school. I know the disdaining look that my father gave me when I remotely suggested I wanted to do this as an option, but the more I think of it the more I think it should be compulsory, or at least  if not in school part of the experience adults should have before entering the professions.

Giving Presentations

As professionals public speaking and presentations are at the heart of what we do. Whether it is interviewing, networking, conflict management, giving pitches or sharing bad news. Yet so many people are still either afraid of this or are not given the adequate tools in order to do this effectively. With trainers increasingly avoiding role plays and using actors to demonstrate leadership or presentation scenarios, surely this fear should be assuaged by an understanding of simple drama techniques. Walk with me.

Thinking on your feet. We all have to do it at some time. Imagine learning within a framework, simple story lines but you are aloud to take it wherever you want to. Being creative, having fun and learning what to do with those ‘awkward’ moments.

Paired Conversation
Individuals are paired off to discuss themes. To get comfortable on being ‘intimate’ in dialogue with another. Not only being able to speak your mind on a relevant issue but also learning the power of  active listening.

Hot Seat
Again similar to improvisation but getting people to problem solve on the spot with an audience. Getting creative and managing nerves by actually just being in the moment instead of worrying about what others think.

Imagine if you couldn’t verbalise it. All your communication was expression and body language. Let’s leave it there.

So here’s a challenge for you or your organisation. The next time you have to give a presentation to your peers or deliver a company report or year end accounts, do it in the style of a children’s story. Practice. Rehearse. Polish and deliver. Like a true performer.

One lesson I learnt as an amateur actor is that you always have take to your audience on a journey. You have to take them to a place they have never been before. Doesn’t matter if it is a production they have seen before but where you want to take them. But first you must make the journey yourself.  Make the story relevant to you so it can be relevant to to others.

In my presentations workshops and coaching, whether to teenagers or adults, I always ask what’s your story? How are you going to bring it to life? What techniques will you use to impact me or motivate me to action? Drama as a subject has this in abundance. I have but touched on a couple of techniques but there are so much more. Now if this could just be included in the curriculum as standard. Just imagine.