Thursday, 28 November 2013

Coke, Sugar & The BBC Part 2...

Reissued & Updated...

On the 9th of May James Quincey the President of Coca-Cola Europe appeared on the BBC Radio 4 programme 'PM'. He was interviewed by regular presenter Eddie Mair. The interview is available here...

listen to ‘PM Programme Coke Interview pt2’ on Audioboo

I think that this is a great example of a large organisation doing something to break their 'default narrative' which simply reinforces their 'default narrative'...

The Coke default narrative in this case is...
"Coke is full of sugar and sugar makes us fat"

The result of Coke getting involved in anti obesity campaigns (and involved in this interview) changes the narrative to...
"We know Coke is full of sugar, but we're not going to admit that it contributes to obesity; by the way here are our anti obesity measures, which we're taking EVEN THOUGH Coke doesn't contribute to that obesity" 

We're left with a modified default that portrays the organisation in an even worse light...
"Coke is full of sugar, sugar makes us fat, and The Coca-Cola Corporation doesn't care."

As the interview progresses Mr Quincey states that people 'struggle to balance what goes in and what goes out... [low calorie and sugar free options] allow people to get the balance right.' Or in other words 'sorry fatty, you're too stupid to drink our drinks so we're going to offer you something else, because you've been struggling".

From the moment Mr Quincey enters the studio he has been stitched up like a kipper.

Coke is part of our collective food based cognitive dissonance. It's bad but we like to have it and we're not sure about the morality of the manufacturers. By approaching this dissonance the organisation attempts to mitigate its responsibility and (some would say) liability; they are doing good things so the problems are the consumers fault. It's not guns that kill people it's people that kill people... It's not coke that makes you fat it's YOU that makes YOU fat; you shouldn't blame the manufacturers of the tools.

Engaging the media on your core difficulty will often end badly.

When engaging someone as skilled as Eddie Mair it will end very badly.

He's prepared with multiple studies, he's prepared with the killer questions, he's prepared with 9 sugar cubes.

The challenge to eat 9 sugar cubes is a classic ploy, in this case it's the "would you feed this to your children?" question. It's side stepped and then returned to, it's the question that won't go away.

So, where does this leave an organisation that has an elephant in their room? (in this case it was a tasty sugary elephant... mmmm sugar elephant)

Weigh up the reputational risk between doing something and doing nothing. Doing nothing allows the default narrative to continue, you can acknowledge it, you can even monitor it, but it's unlikely to change rapidly without other circumstances coming into play. If you find there is a sector story you're dragged in to you need to reassess your default in that light.

Doing something attempts to change the default for the better, but the influential (in the UK) PM Programme is not the place to do it. What was the Coke Comms team thinking? Mr Quincey walked into the lions den and got delicately mauled. The key A + B demographic who hang on Eddie Mair's every word will have been delighted by the result and suddenly opinion formers are looking at the Coke initiatives and branding them 'fat wash'.

Do something you can make it worse, do nothing and it can get worse all by itself...

Which will you choose?

UPDATE 28/11/13 *** COKE now think that there IS a lot of sugar in their drinks... Mr Quincey has been thinking about what Eddie did to him, and has decided to let Jeremy Paxman do the same thing. Only this time he agrees that Coke has to change.

Who'd have thought?

FYI Diabetes UK have covered sugary drinks and type 2 diabetes in this article regardless of what Mr Quincey may have said.


Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Well, Raise My Awareness...

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a charity, in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of awareness raising.

I'd like to apologise to Jane Austin for that, there really was no good reason for me to savage that quote...

Well, there was...

Because anything to sugar coat the next bit of information is good.

If you work for, in or around a charity in any territory you want to raise awareness, and any journalist working in any territory couldn't care less.

Seriously, there are small patches of mildew on a face cloth, in a bathroom on the outskirts of Baku, that hold more interest for the average journalist involved in daily news media. Each and every one of them could programme a radio station or fill a newspaper with the stories from charities that want to raise awareness... and no one would care.

The big problem is this is what a charity is for; to raise awareness of their chosen cause. It's built into the organisational blue print of 'Charity'.

So how do you get round this?

You supply content, you supply comment of current issues, you supply heart breaking stories, you supply NEWS.

The fact that you're trying to 'raise awareness' is the last thing you should say.


Monday, 11 November 2013

Prepare For Christmas.

2 things would fill me with dread when working for the BBC. One of them was Children In Need (I've never been a fan of forced jollity and news readers dancing).

The other was Christmas.

OK I now realise that I sound like an anti-fun stereotype. I do like Christmas, I've even warmed to tinsel and I want you to know that my home will become a grotto of delight for my 2 children. However, Christmas as a journalist is hell.


So why am I telling you this?

In the daily news media there are journalists, managers and producers up and down the land who are starting to prepare for the fallow period between Christmas and the New Year; they may only have it in their mind as a job that needs doing at this stage... and it's a job they all hate.

As a canny PR organisation, or as a PR working within an organisation, this is the time to think of how you can help those poor journalists with content.

Good content.

If you're thinking of things to do try along these lines (they are always the ones that get a look in at Christmas); Volunteering, working across the festive period, food waste, alternative presents, children, the armed forces / emergency services, animals and the awful things that happen to them and money. All of these will be trotted out every year without fail.

If you can dip your toe into any of these, provide case studies, no too many commercial mentions and access for a reporter to get it all pre recorded before Christmas week, start dangling it in front of them now. There will be journalists all over the UK who'll be so proud they have something to mention at the Christmas planning meeting in a months time.

Imagine their bright little face on that (nowhere near) Christmas morning when they open that big press release to find it's what every journalist asks Santa for... an easy life.

It's the gift that keeps giving.


Tuesday, 5 November 2013

The Big Stories

Every media outlet has its own list of 'big stories'; the core of the work they do. For daily news media some of the big stories are constantly running, for others it's something they come back to on a regular basis.

Today 5/11/13 Immigration has returned.

The BBC Website is reporting on a UCL study into the benefit of immigration. The report suggests that immigrants since 1999 were 45% less likely to claim benefits than the 'indigenous' population.

And now the cat is amongst the foreign pigeons.

The difficulty with the 'big stories' is that there are default narratives connected to them. The right wing press will shout that it's only since 1999, and immigrants from outside the European Economic Area are a drain to the system because they tend to have larger families. The left wing press hail the report as blindingly obvious and something that they have been saying for years.

So we're no further on. The argument continues and immigration remains one of the 'big stories'.

How can a PR professional, Marketing department, or business leader use the 'big stories'?

Identify them. Look at the websites of your chosen outlet, whether it's a trade story, or a wider news theme, and see how it's reported.

Add context or confirmation. It allows the story to change within their defaults and gives another bite of a story that lots of the journalists will be bored of.

Offer content that could break one default, but lets them build it into another. For example, one of the comments on the BBC website story suggests that undereducated indigenous young people are being passed over in favour of older more qualified migrants; this feeds the 'big story' on education and the slipping of standards. It gives the journalist the ability to change the story but remain on message.

When the sector 'big stories' appear you should be ready.

Friday, 1 November 2013

We Can't Afford Pensions.

This morning (1/11/13) The Today Programme on BBC Radio 4 was discussing a planned strike by Fire-fighters in England and Wales. It's a dispute over pensions.

As soon as pensions were mentioned I snorted and thought "well, no one can afford pensions these days...". Then I took a moment and realised that I'd been sucked into one of the great financial narratives of recent times.

No one can afford pensions....

Organisations across the country are changing their pension plans due to "short falls" or in other words "we trusted our investments would work, but they didn't" and employee after employee has seen the value of their plan fall.

When I was in the BBC I saw my final salary scheme come to an end, and I accepted it...

The problem is... This isn't a story about pension deficit this is a story about pension entitlement and redundancy, but it fits so neatly into the default narrative of pension black holes.

I immediately wrote it off as another organisation stung by the financial down turn moaning about bad investments that the financial world said would be fine and then were ruined by another group of financial experts. You know, the old story.

Default Narrative is hugely powerful, it informs out gut reactions to complex stories, it makes us see stories from the wrong angle, with the wrong colour, and the wrong shape. When we remove our default, (like getting the person seated in front of us at the theatre to remove their comedy oversized 'My Fair Lady' hat) we can see the whole story and not just the bits that press our buttons.

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Default Narrative - The basics.

Default Narrative - The basics in one handy video. follow me @johnrockley

Surveying the figures.

This isn't the first time that I've blogged about 'polls'... they make me a little bit cross; polls rarely produce robust figures that can be made into robust news stories.

The latest poll has been carried out by the BBC.

I'm not concerned by the reported findings, I'm not concerned by the political comment, I am concerned by the use of the poll to create news.

Why am I so troubled?

FIRSTLY - 1032 people were polled; this equates to 0.0016% of the UK population, or 0.002% of the adult population. If I showed you 0.002% of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel you'd think that Michaelangelo had an unhealthy nipple obsession (dependant on which 0.002% you looked at)

SECONDLY - ICM conducted the poll over the telephone. People who respond to telephone polls are the sort of people who respond to telephone polls. The background drivers for their reasons to talk on the phone with a polling organisation are many and varied; they want to be heard, no one has ever phoned them, they have nothing better to do, they are bored of writing angry letters to the Daily Mail... many reasons.

THIRDLY - The results are used to fuel a wider narrative; in this case they flip the default (which all journalists love doing) and give a better view of cuts to public services than previously reported.

FINALLY - I have too much time on my hands.

When polls are reported in a news context it makes me sad, because I know the pressures journalists and producers are under, I know what it's like to have to report the same basic story day after day after day... for years on end, I know what it's like sitting in a production meeting trying to work out how the hell you're going to make the story interesting again.

Polls are not the answer... and 100% of people surveyed agree with me*.

*survey sample of 1.

Friday, 13 September 2013

Presentation Training - Suddenly A Wild Question Appears.

It's every presenters stickiest moment; the 'any questions' when people start to ask the things you don't know how to answer.

I was training one senior manager who asked me "why don't people ever ask about my presentation?" and the answer is simple; if you've prepared properly they won't need to ask questions.

The problem then becomes one of answering ancillary questions, and they weren't ready for those.

A good presentation should cover the subject well enough to not need questions that are directly about the detail; clarifying questions may well be asked, like "could you run through those projected figures again, and tell me how you got to that?" but questions of substance won't be asked.

And then...

Suddenly, a wild question appears... it hasn't been prepared for, it hasn't been worded properly, but by God it's been asked and that's all that matters.

That's all that matters...

This is where people get bogged down; the wild question doesn't care if it gets answered, it just wants to be asked. These are questions that say more about the person asking it than the presentation.

Does the person asking want to appear strong, or clever, or decisive, or ambitious? Have they got something to prove? Do they just want to be taken seriously? 

We get bogged down with giving information, even when we know that people are parcels of simian emotions wrapped up in a suit and tie. 

The veneer of civilisation is alarmingly thin when someone who's ignored at work... and at home... and at the golf club... decides to 'show them all' and ask a question at the end of a presentation. It's not about the question it's about self-esteem, and you're the one who has to answer it.

What do you do? 

"That's a really good point and I'm very glad you've raised it. I'm not sure I can deal with it in this forum, I'll come and find you when we've finished and we'll talk that through... oh and if anyone else has the same point, then come over and we'll got through it, but, sorry what's your name? OK Dave can lead us in that, if that's OK"

Is somewhere close, it shares the power with the questioner, shuts down a difficult moment and allows you a thinking space. It hands a 'leadership' role and it's 'above and beyond' what they expect from you.

To find out more go to or follow @johnrockley

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Tony Christie Is NOT Dead

"Tony Christie is dead and I think it's in very bad taste to be asking about him" I was surprised to get an email like that in 2003.

After playing a Tony Christie song on BBC Radio Gloucestershire I asked "what's Tony Christie doing these days?" This was long before the reintroduction of Tony on the British audience via Peter Kay and his charity video.

The anger I encountered spurred me on. I knew that if he had died I would have heard about it; so I started doing a bit of research.

I found, after trawling the internet, that Tony wasn't dead he was living in Spain and that he was still popular enough in Germany that he had an agent based there. He'd even released a number of German CDs.

A quick email to his German agent got a response from Tony and I got him on the programme, on the phone from his home and I interviewed him live. He was surprised to find out that he was dead.

A few weeks later I was sent a selection of his German releases, as a thank you for being interested in him.

Lovely, I resurrected a classic star, and got a nice bit of radio out of it.

In 2005 after the huge success of "Is This The Way To Amarillo" Tony was back in the UK, and he was doing a gig near to my patch... So I got him on and interviewed him again.

I always want an interview with an artist to be about them not me, we started looking back over his career and he mentioned that a radio station had once phoned him because they thought that he was dead. I was about to say, "yes I know, that was me" when he went on to say that it was a presenter at GMR in Manchester.... Not Gloucestershire... not even close...

What do you do in that situation?

He told me the whole story of how this great presenter had got in contact and it was very odd because he was working in Germany at the time... I let it slide. I didn't want to be the person who got uppity about being forgotten.

So why talk about it now?

I think that it pinpoints 2 things that you need to be aware of when communicating with anyone, from Media Training to Presentation Training to Crisis Communications... whether you're on BBC Breakfast or in a pitch meeting.

1) People remember what's important to them - To Tony the important bit was someone thought he was dead, the detail of who that was was unimportant. He didn't care it was me, he cared that they thought that he was dead.

2) What is important to you is irrelevant - I wanted to be remembered... it's as simple as that. I wanted to be the person that found out he wasn't dead. Tony Christie didn't care about that, why would he. That was what was important to me, not him. Make your communications relevant, interesting, and important to your audience and they will remember you. It may be easy, it may be about internal change, but even then you may be more interested in the strategic direction of your organisation, your audience cares about their jobs, and if they have to move their desks.

And, by the way, I still like Tony Christie

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Presentation Training - Stinky and Impotent.

I'm a talker. I like to get ideas into the ether, bounce them off other peoples brains, and then modify or cement.

However, I tend to work alone these days, so getting together with my contemporaries always leaves me buzzing with ideas.

Yesterday I had a cuppa with Richard Tierney a fellow Presentation Trainer / Coach. We were talking about the job, this blog, and the challenges of telling someone they need training.

Richard told me that one of his clients described Presentation Training as 'Erectile Dysfunction"; you don't want to admit you have a problem, once you do it's treatable, but you're never going to tell your colleagues that you've had a problem in the first place... you may hand a card to a very good friend and say "go and see my guy, he sorted me".

It's somehow worse than that. I think it's Erectile Dysfunction and Body Odour rolled into one socially unacceptable mess.

How can you tell someone working with you or for you, that they need Presentation Training?

How do you go up to someone who may be oblivious to the problem themselves and say "you need Presentation Training." It's not just telling them that they can't do an element of their jobs, it's far more personal than that. It's telling them that their personality isn't good enough and they are a failure... Not that they need to build skills to match the rest or their highly skilled work... No, they PERSONALLY are a failure.

To you it's a minor change, to them, it's screwing with their image of themselves.

What if they already know that there is a problem?

They know that they smell, they've tried all the usual remedies; self help books, youtube videos, hiding in a cupboard and having a cry, delegating to someone else... and they are now so dissolution that they begrudgingly use PowerPoint as a distraction whilst they talk into their notes.

The presenting has become a self fulfilling prophecy, "I'm bad so my presentations are bad" (repeat to fade).

Offering training is just rubbing salt into their wounds...

Who's fault is this situation?

Some of the problem is the fault of the employer; rather than looking for aptitudes Presenting comes with the role and you just lump it.

Some of it is the fault of the individual; they don't want to admit to a problem.

Some of it is the fault of colleagues; not wanting to say "with training you'd be so much better".

And some of it can be levelled at the wider business community allowing bad presentations to happen without question and then going off to see another bad presentation...

Businesses of Britain, now is the time to be honest with each other, now is the time to be honest with yourself.

If you want your business to grow succeed and flourish, let's stop being so damned 'English' about things and cry out "I have no idea what I'm doing in front of an audience I NEED PRESENTATION TRAINING!!"

Photo Credit: miserablespice via Compfight cc

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Presentation Training - No Slides?

I have a friend who has a problem...

It's not me, and it's not that sort of 'problem'.

She's been asked to present at a popular business breakfast meeting. She's been asked to present for 40 minutes including Q&A. She's been told that there is no room for a screen and therefore there won't be any slides.

No slides...

Many of us who present or train regularly rely on our slides. We only present without slides when the technology fails. My most recent technical failure happened in a board room in Geneva; we had to sort it out with a mixture of hand gestures and Franglais. The French IT guy eventually got it working, but I did have a moment when I thought that the lovely Rolf Kurth and I were going to have to do our 3 hour session without the video clips, audio and headline screens.

We were about to deliver the training to a group of International non-native English speaking Senior Executives.

The thing is, even without the slides, we would have been fine... absolutely fine.

Your brain starts to fixate on the problem, on the unexpected, instead of the knowledge that the slides are the icing on the cake... we still had a bloody good cake (or gateau).

If you're a professional, an expert, a leader in your field, the most important thing in that room is you... not the slide show; it's you and what's inside your head.

     Be aware that they will look at you not your screen
     Monitor your eye contact, you'll have to look at them
     Think about how you're saying it (you can't show them)
     Imagine you're having a conversation with them in the pub; you've just been asked "what do you think"
     Keep it concise, without the visual element more concentration is needed.
     Embrace the Adrenaline, it will make your brain work faster and more efficiently.
     Don't think how much better it is with slides. The audience don't know or care, they want you to be good now!

And if you can't present without slides, your presentation needs to be re-written... you never know when they'll fail.

Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Presentation Training - Your Number's Up.

I like words, words can do what you want them to do; they can swirl around forming pictures in the sky, they can transmit emotion, they can bring people together, they can start arguments, they can do anything.

Words are the modelling clay of meaning...

Numbers are not.

Numbers are cold and hard and they mean one thing, 4 will always be 4, but fore, for, and four are very different.

Or at least that's how modern culture looks at numbers, as fixed moments in our minds.

The problem is that numbers have been leading a double life, they have been moonlighting as escorts who are ready to let you do terrible, terrible, dirty things to them.

Take the % symbol. It's used as a fairground mirror to make things look bigger or smaller or just different... "100% increase in users!" you trumpet... that means you now have 2 users rather than 1...




When you present numbers what should you remember?

1) Vague percentages mean nothing unless you put them into context.
Tell me the starting point for any rise or fall, don't just get excited by the big percentage. That said....

2) Avoid Percentages...
They may be the icing on your cake, or the way that you're able to show a good thing (or a bad) but my brain likes fractions. I can understand a quarter or "1 in four" better than 25%.

3) Remember your audience.
Are you presenting annual figures to a department or are you talking to a group of potential clients? The annual figures need to be in there for the report but do you need so many numbers talking to potential clients? Probably not, they want the business benefits and to see if you're the type of person they can do business with.

4) Very big and very small are incomprehensible.
If you're talking billions, trillions or on the other end of the scale, nanos or picos, my brain goes mushy.

That's why (in the UK) we like the Wales scale; as in "an area 3 times the size of Wales*" or "the height of 12 Nelson's Columns". We like comparisons with solid things. I don't know how big Wales is, but I can picture it on a map and if it's 3 times bigger then that must be very big... don't forget that even the great writer Dorothy Parker compared length, she said "If all the girls who attended the Yale Prom were laid end to end, I wouldn't be a bit surprised"

5) Headline numbers get remembered the subheadings don't. Use numbers sparingly.

The main thing is that you don't forget the reason for your presentation which is the passing on of UNDERSTANDABLE information. If the audience just get the information without understanding it, you'll need a 100% rewrite.

*62,283 Square Kilometres if you must know.

Saturday, 27 July 2013

Presentation Training - Why Are You Here?

You walk up to the dais, you know why you’re there; you’re there to give a presentation. You’ve edited, pared down and you’ve prepared and prepared and prepared. You know what you’re going to say and you say it…

And yet, everyone still looks bored.

How can this be?

Do you lack charisma?

Is there something about you that’s just dull?

No, you’ve made one of the most common mistakes in presentation; you forgot to think about the audience.

Why are the audience there? Here are a few of the common reasons.

·         They’ve been told to be there.
·         They’ve come to hear bad news.
·         It’s all part of a new initiative; that they don’t like.
·         They NEED to be there but would rather not be.
·         They’re marking time before the keynote speaker that they WANT to see.
·         They feel obliged because you’re a client.
·         They feel obliged because they couldn’t tell you face to face that they don’t want your product and they’re stringing you along before telling you that the budget (that wasn’t there in the first place) has been cut.
·         They want the CPD points.
·         They want to be proved right and given the ammunition to go back to their workplaces and tell management that they were right all along
·         It was free and it gave them a legitimate day off.
·         They want to learn something.

The list could go on.

Without thinking about the reasons that your audience is there, your presentation will always be just about good enough, but never great.

When you’re putting your presentation together thing about the majority of the audience, put them in to context, and try to take your ego out of the equation.

It’s very difficult to be honest with yourself when (chances are), they’re not there to see you speak… or at least, that’s not the whole reason they’re there.

Presentation Training - Telling Tales.

The human brain is a remarkable thing.

It takes in information at a phenomenal rate and then forgets most of it.

Our eyes see that we’ve put our car keys on the table, our brain registers that information pops it in to short term storage and we then think about cake.

Mmmmm cake…

After a few moments thinking about cake our brains return to the problem of where the car keys are and… nope, it’s gone. It never made it into the, you know, thingy, the bit that does the whatsit…

So why do some things stay and some things go?

One of the ways that our brains have evolved is through the creation and understanding of stories.

Stories have given Homo-sapiens an advantage over other animals. Animals with higher brain function (not worms and jellyfish) learn from experience, they do something, get hurt or scared or have a positive reaction and they learn from it. Even goldfish will learn to take food at specific times from specific places; they learn that there will be a positive outcome of their actions.

We don’t bother with that, we just tell each other.

For example “my friend ate that berry and was very ill, so now we don’t eat that berry” or “I just killed a tiger, and this is how I did it.” The primitive human group now stops getting poisoned and stops getting eaten by tigers.


Our brains crave stories, we look for them when they aren’t there, we build coincidence to explain difficult statistics, we create religion to explain living together, we write novels and screenplays and lie about things.

We need context and narrative to remember… it’s what our brains were built for.

Humans ARE stories.

So why has that presentation just been information?

The list of figures goes in and falls straight back out again.

So what can you do to be memorable?
  • ·         Build a narrative around your information, why is it there, why is it important, what lead to this, what does it mean for me.

  • ·         Give your information context

  • ·         Think about your beginning, middle and end.
The audience is looking for all of these things, and needs these things otherwise they won’t remember why you were there in the first place.

Presentation Training - PowerPoint is not your friend.

PowerPoint has killed the art of presentation.

That’s a bold statement, but it has truth in it.

Look at some of the great orators, some of the great movie scenes, some of the most inspiring speeches ever given; do they have a large PowerPoint slide behind them?
No, no they don’t.

Think of Alec Baldwin in ‘Glengarry Glen Ross’ what would that scene have looked like with a PowerPoint presentation? Yes he does have a black board with a couple of acronyms but he certainly doesn’t have a sophisticated set of slides. No, he just has a sophisticated way of swearing… and brass balls.

PowerPoint is a very powerful tool… but that’s what it is, it’s a tool.

The problem is it’s a seductive creature that allows you to make things appear and fly out and fade and wipe and appear and whirl off into the distance and jump sideways and change colour and and and….

It’s remarkable how many people in business think that PowerPoint will do their job for them.

It’s remarkable how many people in business complain about boring PowerPoint presentations and don’t recognise their own cognitive dissonance.

‘I can’t stop using slides…’ you say. ‘I have too much information to get across…’ you say.

I’m not demanding that PowerPoint should be thrown out; what I am saying is use PowerPoint properly.
  • ·         One thought per slide.
  • ·         If it can be said with an image then say it with an image.
  • ·         Be visual.
  • ·         Keep text to a minimum.
Let PowerPoint be the back-up for what you’re saying, the added impact to reinforce your presentation…

PowerPoint is the tool, not you.

Presentation Training - Eye Contact

I am British, I don’t know the name of the person who lives next door, I don’t like to be touched, I am reserved and polite.

I have been introduced to people on my first day at work, forgotten their name, and been too British to ask again. When I left that job, I still wasn’t sure what their names were.

However, one thing that sets me apart from most of the British is that I’m really good at eye contact.

When someone is speaking I look them in the eye and I listen, when I’m telling someone something important I look them in the eye, when I present I look around the room making eye contact with as many people as possible.

How did I develop this skill? Was I born in to a strange sub-species or communicative Brits? No, I forced myself to look people in the eye because as a journalist and radio presenter I knew that eye contact was one of the most powerful tools I could use.

If someone is listening to you, you want them to keep eye contact; it helps you gage their interest and it shows empathy. Eye contact keeps you talking, it makes you say the things that you may not have said to someone who looks away… it’s great from a journalistic point of view.

It’s also vital when you are talking.

Keeping eye contact that means that you have something worth saying, something that you believe, something that the listener needs to hear.

If you’re presenting eye contact can mean the difference between being presented at and being presented to; use sweeping contact, change the person you’re looking at as you pause or start a new sentence. If you’re posing questions look as many people in the eye as possible to show that it’s not rhetorical. Ask someone to answer directly, if they can’t move on. Invite people in to your world by looking at them.

Practice your eye contact today… just don’t stare at people on busses… that can end badly.

Presentation Training - Put The Notes Down

In 2005 a poll was conducted and its results stated that the top 5 fears in America were Terrorist Attacks, Spiders, Death, Failure and War.

Unless your latest intern is a psychotic extremist arachnid, with access to weapons grade plutonium, and a working knowledge of the geopolitical situation, you’re not going to see these things at work.

You ARE going to have to deal with the fear of failure, especially when doing something you haven’t been trained to do – Presenting.

Most business people at one time or another have to present to groups; and whether it’s to colleagues or pitching for a contract it’s one of the scariest things many people have to do.

That’s why we like notes… notes are our security blanket.

My son is four years old, and he loves his muzzy. 

His muzzy is any square of muslin cloth that he can chew on during the night. My wife and I know that he’s tired because he wants his muzzy…

He’s four years old… he’s allowed a security blanket.

You are in business… you’re not.

So what do you do?

This may sound stupid, but you put the notes down.

There is no excuse for lack of preparation, you know that you’re going to have to present so you prepare. Work out what you’re going to say with the help of notes, script if you want, and then pare back... Turn your script into sub headings and brief paragraphs, then pare back and turn your brief paragraphs into bullet points, then pare back and turn your bullet points into single words.

Throughout this process you’re still working from the ideas within the original script but you’re entering it into long term storage. Don’t worry about being word for word; this is a presentation not a play.

Once you have the single words that can guide you through the presentation place them on a single card. 

This is your tiny square of muzzy. It’s there if you need it, to re-set what you’re talking about.

Don’t forget that most of what you’re talking about is on a PowerPoint behind you, and on a screen in front of you.

How will putting your notes away help you?

It will stop you reading, it will stop you being flustered finding your place and killing the presentation; it will stop your brain abdicating the responsibility of remembering.
 Adrenaline is your friend, without your notes your brain has to do the work and recall the information it would otherwise not bother doing.

You are a professional; you’re being asked to talk about something that you know.So why do you need notes?

Interview Of The Week

listen to ‘Winifred Robinson Vs. Tesco Pt3’ on Audioboo

I am rapidly becoming Winifred Robinsons biggest fan.

Which is odd, as I really don't like the programme that she works on. "You and Yours" used to be half an hour every week, then it became an hour a day of 'consumer' radio, or in other words people moaning about stuff...

Not my thing at all, and then I started driving more during the programme and found that I'd listen if Winifred was there.


Because she is a very, very good interviewer.

Which is a problem if you happen to be George Gordon from Tesco.

We begin from a position of dissonance; Tesco wants to flag up social good while Winifred wants to make the point that during all of the coverage of consumer complaints and bad practice in the supermarket industry, Tesco are never available for comment.

It doesn't get much better for Tesco. Through the interview George tries to show what the company are doing to cut food waste and Winifred accuses them of causing the food waste in the first place with B.O.G.O.F. deals on food.

So what should you take from this as a business.

1) Be Familiar - if you expect good coverage when you want it, engage with bad coverage when you don't. By refusing to respond when the journalists come to you they stop trusting you.

2) Ask What Is The Story? - To Tesco the story is that they are being cuddly and responsible, to The You And Yours listeners the story is that a giant company many of them HAVE to deal with are chiding them for something that isn't their fault. Before appearing ask what the story is from the point of view of the audience.

3) Be Prepared - George Gordon from Tesco seems to think that Winifred Robinson is a wet behind the ears ingĂ©nue. She isn't, she's one of the best broadcast interviewers out there and any press office setting this interview up should have been listening to that programme for weeks before approaching them with this initiative.

4) Make It Good - The people behind this story don't seem to have figured out the major flaw. Tesco encourages customers to cut food waste, whilst pushing customers to buy more food as it's often cheaper to buy bulk in Tescos' Shops, blaming customers for wasting half of what they are forced to buy... Yeh, that reads well doesn't it.

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