Browse Category: AGM speech preparation

MessageCraft Graeme Wiliams

Corporate Photos and Video from MessageCraft®

MessageCraft Graeme WiliamsCorporate photos and video are now more important than ever. But they need to be good.

I am delighted to announce that Graeme Williams has joined the MessageCraft® team. Graeme is a wizard with photos and videos and is ideal for political and corporate work. He is a Conservative activist and has become a friend and a colleague. He is unusual because he has huge C-suite business experience as well as his photographic and video skills.

Graeme has been in the photographic and imaging industry his whole life starting at Kodak where he gained a huge amount of experience in both business and photographic technical skills. He spent 5 years as a Kodak technical instructor – teaching photography, film processing and printing for labs and retail photo.

He also worked for the Kodak sales team and travelled extensively throughout Europe training the sales force. In the mid 80’s he moved to the company’s offices in Dubai and ran the companies lab businesses in the region before taking on a turnaround assignment in Pakistan where he was General Manager. He then became VP of the sixth largest company in Switzerland, Gretag, before being headhunted by Hewlett Packard to help set up their retail photo team where he helped develop product and strategy globally, later heading up the EMEA region for this team as VP for Hewlett Packard.

After 20+ years in top management positions within the photographic industry, Graeme is now a successful freelance photographer specialising in corporate work and political work. He has done photos for me recently and also did this video which will be going on the Home page of my website soon. He is fun to work with and knows what he is doing. Give him a call and see what he can do for you. All my recent pics have been done by him as well as my corporate video. Graeme William –


Performance Coaching is best one to one and designed for those who hate losing.

Group Coaching

I used to do a lot of group coaching. I do very little now and when I do, I take another coach along to help make the coaching more effective.  The groups I used to coach were typically groups of 12-15 from companies like Grace Chemicals, ThyssenKrupp, BASF and SAP. They were very typical corporate coaching sessions for middle management and the budget for the day was split between all the participants’ personal development budgets. German firms are better at this most – personal development is both encouraged by the companies and sought after by the employees.

Coaching PyramidThen Mercedes hired me to do an 1-2-1 session over ten days with a senior guy on a very sensitive issue and I loved it. More importantly than that – the results were better too.

Norming Training

Group corporate coaching normally is what I call “norming training” – it gets everyone up to a minimum level of competence. Or at least it should! Far too often norming coaching is seen as just something to survive and it is approached by participants and coaches without focus or energy.  Coaching without a specific target is harder to focus and too often includes handouts that soon become, and remain, dusty on unvisited shelves. Tennis coaching is fine and good and important – but preparing for a match against a specific opponent on “that court” is far more fun!

Norming training gets people from the bottom of a pyramid to half way up. It is important but it has its downsides and its limits.

One is the fact that the participants can’t open up completely to the coach with making them themselves vulnerable to the others in the room – who invariably are, will be, or are friends of, current or future competitors in the corporate or political career race.

Secondly – the higher you get up the performance pyramid, the less coaching is about transferring skills and the more it is about what’s in your head. Ian Barclay coached me in Johannesburg. He was Pat Cash’s coach and I was a young, ambitious tennis coach totally focused on learning all his best coaching techniques and skills. He said that teaching beginners, like he taught Cash initially, was all about skills and just 5% about what’s in your head. By the time Cash was playing serious professional tennis, the ratios had reversed and it was now at least 95% head and the rest skills. If you are helping people with what’s in their head – it’s personal. Huge trust is needed and that’s best done very carefully and sensitively without others listening in.

Performance Coaching

Most of what I do now is performance coaching – in other words coaching aimed at a specific event with a time limit and a specific outcome.* It is taking people who are already quite competent and pushing them up the pyramid – leaving good, and the competition, behind. Coaching people who want to work to step up from being “good enough” and who now want to make Partner, bring in the business and the bonuses and get promoted. Since that session with Mercedes I have worked in the same way in politics, career development and with corporates: –

  • Politics – preparing wannabe MPs for selections and selection speeches, successful MPs for their maiden speeches, campaigns for elections, the No2AV referendum campaign and even the Sri Lankan Prime Minister for an address to the United Nations
  • Career/Personal Development – preparing graduates and senior executives for interviews
  • Corporate – preparing business development, management and MBO teams and individuals for major events, pitches and proposals.

All of them are focused on specific events, with defined time limits or dates and a specific win/lose outcome. It is for those want to perform as well as they possibly can – not just a bit better than the others and who resent being called “good enough”. It is for those who, like me, hate losing or coming second. If you know somebody who might fit into one of those categories – why not forward this post to them and introduce us by email?


*I have also worked on ongoing campaigns, e.g. against Human Trafficking, but there is a difference to this type of campaign – they are drip, drip, drip although they obviously include specific events and critical dates.

AGM speech

What to put in the AGM speech plus 15 Questions for Shareholders to ask

Getting the Board and the CEO ready for the AGM

AGM speeches are not what they were. Volatility almost everywhere and in most sectors; tightened or non-existent credit; reduced or reducing asset valuations; uncertain domestic and international markets; a financial cliff; a probing press; picky customers.

Delivering the AGM speech used to be much more fun. Shares used to increase in value, dividends went up, the champagne was being chilled. Those were the days…

So what needs to go in the AGM speech in 2013?

Shareholders and commentators need to hear evidence that the company and its leaderships fully understands and can articulate its past, present and projected financial performance.  Boards will be questioned on growth prospects, costs, debt, capital management, human resources and the general financial future of the company.

The AGM should give comfort, build confidence, indicate direction, demonstrate control and reassure and build stock valuations. The AGM speech, and the Question and Answer sessions that follow, often represent the most important day in the calendar. If the Chief Exec and other Board members perform badly, it can be bad for the company. It is always bad for those who perform badly.

15 Basic Questions for shareholders to ask at the AGM

Most issues should be addressed during the AGM speech, reducing the pressure questions. These are some basic questions or themes for shareholders to ask/raise. Board members need to know their stuff and be prepared. 

  1. Current financial position? Clear, truthful and easily digestible figures.
  2. Has the Board checked its figures – how was it done, show how it was robust?
  3. How has the Board minimised/limited/managed possible exchange rate fluctuations?
  4.  Does the Board’s plan for the future need working capital – how will it raise it?
  5. Has the Board identified under-performing assets, operations or divisions? What are they doing about them? Keep, fix, sell? Strategic importance?
  6. Inventory levels and annual turnarounds? Comparisons with industry averages/competitors?
  7. Outline credit management, debt chasing, early warning alarms.
  8. Recently checked reliability and expected trends of bank guarantees and credit limits. Implications and remedial action? How recent?
  9. Accuracy of current asset valuations? Remedial action?
  10. Have last years investment plans been reviewed where/if the financials, liquidity, debt, valuations etc have changed?
  11. Relationship with bankers/lenders, the media, analysts, rating agencies etc?
  12. Any scary covenants close to being breached – how are they monitored?
  13. Debt risk management: explain and demonstrate? Issues arising? Actions taken?
  14. Review/consolidation/support of supply chain?
  15. Any planned redundancies? Costs? Sufficient? Measures to retain key staff? New pension legislation – impact and cost implications?

If you have an AGM coming up, I can help you prepare for your AGM speech and for the Q and A session.

Keynote Speaker at the European Speechwriters Network London Conference

Speechwriter becomes a speaker for a day

I am delighted to be speaking at the Spring Leadership and Communications Conference in May this year at the Institute for Government. This conference is based on Public Speaking in Public Life and I am looking forward to listening to the other speakers who include someone who has trained TED speakers, a former UK Ambassador, a Professor of Politics and a Cicero Award Winner.

The conference has been organised by Brian Jenner, founder of the UK Speech Writers Guild. 

This is an excerpt from the eventbrite booking form:

Who Should Attend?
Previous conferences have attracted speechwriters from the European Commission, the CBI, Orange, Deloitte, the United Nations, the European Investment Bank, Coca Cola as well as the Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties.

The Benefits
Acquire techniques used in the White House, European institutions and UK Parliament
Get insights into rhetoric from top writers
Listen to outstanding public speakers
Have your own work analysed in interactive sessions with top trainers
Meet fellow professionals from the UK, Europe and the rest of the world

Questions you really should ask BEFORE you do a Powerpoint presentation

Most Powerpoint presentations are rubbish.

Powerpoint is generally used by beginners, the unprepared or the lazy. It can be good (some TED talks) but it hampers good and great presentations more than it helps – unless Nancy Duarte is helping you. (You should follow her btw – she is, without doubt, the best at visual storytelling @nancyduarte)

10 Powerpoint sins

Most people who use powerpoint commit some or all of the following sins. This list is not exhaustive – there are more!

  1. Reading the slide
  2. More than one message per slide
  3. Not using brilliant amazing graphics that add to your content
  4. Turning your back to the audience
  5. Using too many bullet points. Or bullet points at all.
  6. Falling in love with crappy transitions that do NOT help with the message
  7. Using a tiny font that is TOTALLY legible on your computer but tiny on stage
  8. Inserting music into the slide which is either nothing to do with the message or inaudible because you don’t have the sound technology on the stage. Music files also make the Powerpoint slide file HUGE and hard to email.
  9. Telling the audience that they will get the slide afterwards – so the audience doesn’t need to listen or pay attention.
  10.  Setting up the Powerpoint in front of the victims and not before they shuffle in.

Questions to ask before you even open Powerpoint.

  1. What do you want to achieve?
  2. What is the best way to achieve that?
  3. What are the 3 points/messages I want to make?
  4. Have I got the time to produce a high quality Powerpoint presentation with great graphics?
  5. Do I really need to use Powerpoint?
  6. Do I really need to use Powerpoint?
  7. Do I really need to use Powerpoint?
  8. Do I really need to use Powerpoint?

And for those who disagree with my points  5, 6, 7. Did you ever pitch (and win) a big deal, propose (successfully) or inspire an audience with Powerpoint? All of these things are best done without Powerpoint.

Do I hate Powerpoint? No – I hate bad presentations and pitches. It can be a great medium for presenting information, research and data – if used correctly and if the right amount of effort is put into the preparation.


Image courtesy of KROMKRATHOG /

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