Sunday, 7 August 2011

I've moved to

Dear all,

I've moved my blog to hope you like the new look.  Thanks for your loyalty here.


Sunday, 6 December 2009

It’s all about you-

There’s a word for it. It’s called ‘a tell’.  It’s when a speaker ‘tells’ the audience about something without saying anything. There are congruent tells, where the subtle message reinforces the real one, like smiling sincerely and saying 'I'm really happy to be here'; and such congruence makes for a powerful message. Then there’s the incongruent tell which (you won’t be surprised to hear) does the opposite and makes for some exquisitely awful moments.

I think that they’re funny actually because, like that old saying that no matter how hard you try to convince someone of something, the harder you try, the more they think the opposite (eeeeek).

For me there’s a number of phrases that are more often than not, a sign of an incongruent ‘tell’. Here they are-

1. This is all about you.... Often as the speaker points to himself like Simon Cowell, meaning it's always' all about me...

2. I have your best interests at heart... Accompanied by a psychotic smile and glacial eye contact- start looking for the door.  Ruuuun!

3. Trust me... - Obvious question- Why would anyone ask that of anyone else?

4. Maybe I’m a terrible person but... Translation- Obviously they are, just agree and walk away.

5. My primary concern is about making this right for you... Request- Well stop stabbing me in the back then

6. Our most important asset is our people... Translation- And we're selling as many of them as we can because we can't melt them down for candles.

Why would a speaker say any of these things unless he was nervous about displaying the truth? Watch out for these phrases and see if you think the person really means what they’re saying or is simply saying something that she thinks we want to hear.  Tells are always telling.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

George Orwell - suitable subject for a tattoo?

I know that Orwell only wrote 4 decent books (The Road to Wigan Pier,  Down and Out in Paris & London, 1984 and Animal Farm- in my opinion). As a novelist, I feel he was better at the ideas than their expression, but the was a truly great journalist. You'll all probably know his rules for writers-
1. Never use a metaphor, simile or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
2. Never use a long word where a short one will do.

3. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.

4. Never use the passive when you can use the active.

5. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.

6. Break any of these rules sooner than say anything barbarous.

Well I don't understand why they're not tattooed onto the forehead of every single one of us who would seek to tell others how to talk.  Yes, you'd change the first point to 'hearing in conversation' but that'd be it.  It's great advice for us all and I'm going to commit to enforcing these rules whenever I hear professionals abusing them.
Oh,  and as for point 6, I didn't really understand it until the evening I told a rather rude story about a celebrity at an after dinner speech I was making, and got roars of wicked laughter from every table except one. 
I later found out from one of the party that the 'victim's' mother (and the story was true), had paid for the 12 people to be there and was sat stony-faced among them.  Who would have thought it was possible?  So I understand the point and still feel like a barbarian for having embarrassed a lovely lady, even though her son is a brute.

Orwellian word crimes- Modern heroes # 1

Who could have said this without irony?  They'd have to be in Management Consulting or HR wouldn't they?

Having finished my deck of (presumably PowerPoint) slides I shall now ping you over to Paul who will, no doubt be granular in providing you with the long-tail solutions in implementing the TOM by the TIMs through the twilight zone and beyond..
Answer he's the Head of HR, sorry, Human Resources, for Somerset County Council, a local government in the UK.  Speaking at a conference in Summer 2009.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

The confidence myth- why confident presenters often miss the point

I've got a friend called Quentin.  He's an actor and a good one too with a long track record of theatre, stage & screen roles behind him.  Actors can sometimes be a bit full of themselves but not Quenty, he's a no-nonsense kind of bloke and when he says something to me with that special look on his face (like a bald bulldog chewing a wasp), I tend to listen.

We were working together with a group of high-end consultants preparing to pitch for a massive governement outsourcing contract in Europe. The pitch was strong, straight to the point and short.  The team was skilful and experienced and very good, with one crucial exception. Let's call him Bob.

Bob was a technically competent presenter, with great experience in his field, but he was 'performing' the role of 'opener' and 'closer' of the pitch and he was borderline bloody awful. He was a classic example of the confident (but not really) presenter yhou see in corporate life.  Here's what we could see with Bob-

  1. He was smiling like the joker from Batman
  2. He was talking too loudly for the room they were (and would be in)
  3. There was an edge of 'I'm not frightened of you' in his delivery
  4. He was trying too hard to be 'good'
  5. He was presenting like he was watching himself on video and enjoying the experience
Bob was a really nice man off stage, but as soon as he got up in front of an audience he became unbearable to watch, and he didn't know it.  As it always is, it became a matter of how do you broach the issue in a way that will allow him to learn, move on and do better for himself. Quent gave me 'the look' and I let him go.

Quent just asked him to stop 'performing', or 'pretending' to be something that he was not.  He wasn't fearless, he was trying not to show his fear.  He wasn't charismatic, he was trying to be charismatic.  He wasn't compelling he was working at being compelling and all of that effort to be something else, took away from his technical skill as a presenter and his honesty as a real human being.

Bob came back to the room a totally different figure. Thoughtful, slightly shy and awkward, reflective and decibels quieter and he gave the introduction again and his team were spellbound and applauded at the end.  Bob said to them, 'What's that for?' and one of them said 'for sounding like you really believed in what we are going to do.'  Bob smiled and looked at Quentin and said it's his fault, he reminded me of the dictionary definition of confidence.'
'What's that?' said his colleaguue. 'Con fides, in good faith.' said Bob and Q said

'The problem for experienced and skilled presenters is that they often become 'performers' and switch off the thing that made them good in the first place, their warmth and honesty as a person.  Then they become like hammy actors...'  Everyone laughed and went on with the reheaesal.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Who should we look up to?

When you're pretty good at something it can be easy to get into a comfortable spot and stay there.  It happens to me about once a week, when I'm sitting there thinking, 'That went rather well.  God I'm good...' and for those 15 seconds of warmth and complacency all is rather nice with the world.

I've painted myself as a bit of a lazy fool here, but to be fair, I don't tend to stay smug for very long.  I'm rational enough to know that the world is full of talented people and that my loyal clients are only loyal to me as long as I continue to do well for them.  Today though, I'm inspired and Stephanine Flanders (pictured) is the reason.

She's the BBC's (British Broadcasting Corporation)  Economics Editor.  I'm 45, male, reasonably well educated and literate, but that's what she did to me.  She made me look at myself, and she made me feel that I could do better.  I suggest that you watch her, wherever you're from, and notice these things about her, or other things if she strikes you differently-
  • She's not trying to be anything she just is- authoritative, concise and confident.
  • There's a truthfulness in her tone and delivery that is about her as a human being.
  • She is a model to watch while talking with projected visuals.
Hear her speak
See her present a piece to camera

I think she's the best the BBC has. I'd be interested to see whether you agree.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

The 5 most irritating things that good presenters do but great presenter's don't

I'm not trying to be smug, that comes with out effort, but it's a question I asked myself today. And here are my answers- based on exhaustive research (none) behind the ranking-  The 5 most irritating things that good presenters do, but great presenters don't are-

  1. Think that they can get away with 'winging it'.
  2. Ignore the people in the seats until the presentation starts.
  3. Assume that the audience knows and/or cares who they are.
  4. Ask people to save their questions until the end.
  5. Ask questions of the audience that they know the answers to already.
NB- the question came to me when I started thinking, honestly, about my own performance highs and lows- Physician heal thyself!  What have I missed?