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12 Sep 2019

Tom is struggling to get the car in gear. It’s a small Kia, manual gearbox, right hand drive. As an American he’s used to automatic, left-hand drive. Actually, he’s a world traveller and has driven in all parts of the world. But this Kia’s gearbox holds some challenges for him. I’m in Eire, in Wexford, guest of my good friends Christine and Tom who are enjoying a house swap for six weeks; and a rented Kia.
 
The engine is revving but we’re not going anywhere. I realise there’s a message here for me. It’s fine for me to have lots of energy and enthusiasm but if it’s not connected to a project or a goal, then I’m not going anywhere. It’s just noise.
 
And maybe just feeling enthusiastic is enough; at least I’ll feel good, and that feeling may be transferred to others. But it also seems that without the connection to action, an opportunity is being missed.
 
Who knows what holds some of us back from using our enthusiasm to get on with stuff, making the connection? A fear of fail...

29 Aug 2019

I’m driving home on an ordinary country road. It’s late afternoon, dry and bright, with no traffic. Then about 150 metres ahead I see a small kerbstone that’s broken loose lying about 18 inches into the road. 
 
I could safely cross to the other carriageway to avoid the stone but now I’m focused on the stone thinking “better not run over that - that could make a mess of my wheel”. Suddenly to my amazement – bang – I’ve driven over it. Luckily the tyre doesn’t blow so the car keeps going, but I learn later it’s cracked the wheel. The final cost is £250. It’s embarrassing for me to speak about it now.
 
I’ve known for a long time that we get what we focus on but I’ve never had such a powerful personal example.
 
And with business presentations, my long experience is that it’s easy to approach them with a negative view. For example, that we’re not well-enough prepared or that the slides aren’t very good or that the audience won’t like us. 
 
What we’re doing is focussing on what we don’t...

15 Aug 2019

I’ve got the radio on in the background. Then a Strauss Waltz comes on. I stop what I’m doing, and I listen.
 
I know classical music isn’t everyone’s cup of tea (as we say in the UK). But recently I’ve switched from BBC Radio 4 (mostly a talk station – politics, the arts etc) to Classic FM, playing popular classics. Mostly, I love it. It’s great in the background. 
 
Much of the music I’m not that interested in, as I’m not a real devotee of classical music. But occasionally there’s a gem I know and like (like the Strauss) which catches me, and I pay attention. And then, at some point, even better, there’s a gem I’ve not heard before (like Danse Macabre). 
 
But, probably, I have heard it before. I just wasn’t listening.   
 
And that’s what can happen with business presentations. We present something, and our audience doesn’t listen. Perhaps we have the greatest idea, product, or proposition, and still they don’t listen. They’re not interested. And we wonder why.  
 
Ma...

1 Aug 2019

“After my stroke, it took me 15 minutes to walk 200 metres, and each time I did this I could see the marginal gain”. This was Michael Johnson being interviewed this week on how his stroke affected him last year. You may remember that he won Olympic double gold in both 200 and 400 metres in 1996.
 
A wonderful example of how to change and develop, even in extraordinarily difficult circumstances. Having that commitment and focus; that determination to get well again. 
 
But how many of us want to make major changes and shifts in one go? And how often do we fail? Or having made a leap, we fail to keep it going. Just think of health and fitness. And then there’s our relationships. And so on. 
 
I remember when I was learning to sell I realised that I had a lot to learn, including changing my actions, thoughts and appearance. 
 
One of the moments that had a major impact on me was when I called on my good friend Ivor, an HR consultant. As I left the meeting he said to me “you could at least...

4 Jul 2019

The young man sitting in front of me is intently reading a book entitled Arrive Alive. This week I’m lucky enough to be in Florida and I’m on a bus going into Orlando. 

From what I can see the book is similar to the UK’s Highway Code which sets out the rules of the road. It also looks like he’s studying for an exam. I later find out that it’s part of Florida’s Highway Patrol’s road safety initiative,

How sensible that people should pass a test before they drive. Allowing anyone on the road without at least a test of their knowledge would be madness, surely? 

But what if we, as presenters, had to pass a test before we gave a presentation? Maybe we’d be a lot better earlier in our careers, with the consequent impact on our jobs, job prospects, our reputations, reduction in worry and stress, and even, our business. 

My early days as a presenter were awful. I had no idea about how to structure a presentation. Even after completing the brilliant Dale Carnegie course, which taught us how to cons...

18 Jun 2019

Denise asked me “why do I have to stand still? I like to move around when I’m presenting!” 
 
I was coaching her to stand strong, not still; there’s a difference. I explain that a strong stance (feet hip-width apart, equal weight on both feet) sends a message of confidence and strength to your audience. And she can still move her arms and her body; she can still project her energy. 
 
The aim is to start strong. Then if you want to move, you move. And then stand strong again. Nothing wrong with movement. It’s unnecessary movement and shuffling that’s the issue. Because it distracts the audience and sends a message of lack confidence in the speaker.
 
She then says that she’d recently watched a speaker who was totally engaging and who also had a lot of movement around the stage as he spoke. So how does that work? 
 
If you’re really interesting as a speaker, if you have a good story to tell and if you’re passionate about your talk then the audience will be captivated by your talk,...

30 May 2019

Daniel asked me ‘what should I talk about?’ Daniel (not his real name) is working in marketing in an international business and I’m giving him some coaching in presentation skills. He wants to feel more comfortable giving presentations. 
 
I ask him to show me how he would normally deliver a business presentation. As he speaks I realise he’s just saying the words he’s written, they don’t seem to mean anything, there’s no energy in them; they’re just words. No wonder he doesn’t feel comfortable, there’s nothing of him in there, and there’s no connection to me, his audience. 
 
So I ask him to talk about an incident from his past. I give him an example from my own work history when I was a 13-year old paper-boy. He gets the point and talks briefly about his own first job, as a 16 year-old selling ice cream in a Berlin ice cream parlour. Suddenly he comes alive. His talk is full of detail and interesting. He’s surprised how good he sounds and how easy that was to achieve.
 
...

17 May 2019

This week I’m in Bath helping my sister with some DIY. As I live in Derby the easy way to get there is by train and bus. So now I’m on my way back on the bus from Bath to Bristol to the train station. As we get nearer to Bristol I realise that the people getting on the bus don’t care where the bus has come from, they only care about where it’s going. That might sound obvious to you but I’m interested in where things have come from; I am interested in the past. Maybe it’s my age, or maybe my temperament, but there it is. 

And if it’s true of people on buses, that they don’t care where it’s come from, it’s equally true of audiences listening to presentations, particularly sales presentations or pitches. Your audience doesn’t care about where you’ve come from, they only care about where you’re going, or more accurately, where they’re going. 

How often are we tempted to start with 15 minutes (or longer!) telling our audience how great our company is, where w...

4 May 2019

I’ve been living in Derby for 4 years. As I cycle around the City I’m noticing that many of the street names come from London or the South East of the UK. For example, I live on Merton Drive and opposite me is Hillingdon Avenue. Just down the road is Greenwich Drive and beyond that is Kingsway. 

Derbyshire has so many wonderful and historic names that it seems a shame we borrow street names from another part of the UK. For example, there’s Matlock, Belper, Bakewell, Darley Dale and Ashbourne. As well as Cromford Mill, possibly the first modern factory built in 1769. What a wonderful heritage.  

Why do we need to copy? I have no idea. But the trend is continuing: my street, Merton Drive, was built only 5 years ago.  

But what about copying others when it comes to presenting? Can you and I be our unique selves, or do we tend to copy? I’ll admit it’s taken me a long time to start to present in my own way (ok, I’m a slow learner), and I still remember learning a 4-page handwritten s...

18 Apr 2019

I was shocked. She asked me again “who are you talking to?” I’d been talking to a marketing expert who’d been looking at our website.

I replied, “Businesspeople”. 

But she said “No. I think you’re talking to the people who come on your courses, not the people who buy your courses for their staff.” 

Suddenly I knew she was right. 

Even our website offers “Effective Presentation Skills Training”. And when I thought about that from a prospect’s point of view I came up with the question - So what? (that classic sales challenge when you give a feature with no benefit). OMG. 

But it got worse; then she named a couple of decision-makers we both knew, and said “I think they might look at your website and say ‘they’re not commercial enough’”

And now I’m floored. Doesn’t she know that I’ve headed up a team that helped a major client win over £1.5 billion pounds of business in 3 years? Not commercial!

But I know she’s right. I’ve got caught in the classic trainer catch that says we run great c...

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