Browse Category: Getting Selected

interview preparation

Interview techniques – coaching in Sussex and London: Best of both worlds

Location is an important factor when it comes to coaching interview techniques for political or corporate interviews and my clients have the best of both worlds. I usually coach clients at my home close to the beach in Sussex or in London. A lunchtime walk along the Bexhill seafront has cleared the head of many a client – and me. I have had clients come and stay with me from America, Europe and the Middle East – and they all say that they like, and profit from, the relaxed and non-corporate surroundings. I only coach individuals and the process can be very intensive. Having a comfortable and informal venue and a fresh environment, with no interruptions, helps with focusing on and achieving a client’s particular interview preparation needs and goals.

However, because of my political and corporate work I also have a base in London. I mainly work in clients’ boardrooms or meeting rooms and sometimes in their homes – which saves them travel time but eliminates think-time after the coaching session. When clients leave Bexhill I ask them to avoid using the phone or the internet or iPods and just to let their brain process what we have done during the coaching session. The brain works – but it needs free space before it starts whirring away.

Sometimes I actively ask to use the client’s home turf as a venue if I need to understand more about the real person behind the project, but of course coaching a client in their territory only works if they are able to focus and switch off or eliminate interruptions during the coaching session.

No matter where I’m working, the best part of the process for me is hearing about your success as a candidate. When the interview preparation works! It’s a huge adrenalin punch-the-air kick for me when clients get selected as a parliamentary candidate,  even better when they get elected as an MP. But there is nothing quite like sharing the excitement of someone getting their first job!

Last week a client messaged me excitedly on Facebook to tell me that he had got the second job he had applied for after our interview coaching session only two weeks earlier. What a buzz! I love that. Coaching is such an excellent job!

Speaking in Public.Take your job seriously, but not yourself.

This YouTube clip is glorious. How could it not be? Two Oscar winners and George Stephanopoulos – perfect! Plus it illustrates two of my favourite tips for speaking in public in less time than I can write this post!

Stephanopoulos is the guy who worked with Bill Clinton before and throughout his entire first term and wrote a brilliant book about it afterwards. But he is just the extra in this ABC news clip! h/t Denise Graveline

It has Jack Nicholson being Jack Nicholson without a script, without a Director and without an Editor. He is naughty, funny and real. He is right at the very top of my very short list of people who I don’t know but who I would love to go drinking with, and I am delighted to see him being just as I imagined. After all, according to his wikipedia page, while at school he was in detention every day for a whole school year.

Then there is “the refreshingly real” Jennifer Lawrence, a gorgeous and successful Oscar-winning actress, being wonderful and natural and herself. She is fun and likable and unedited. I often tell clients that they are world experts at being themselves and mediocre to rubbish at being anyone else – so they should stop trying. Ijust hope that she doesn’t get “training” that mutes or hides her personality.

The worst trait, and the biggest turnoff, that I have to address with clients is pomposity, snobbery and arrogance.

My standard instruction to all my clients is: “Take your job seriously – but not yourself.” Unless you have a monopoly on something that people must have – hardly relevant in my coaching sectors – you cannot flourish unless you are at least competent AND likable.

Anyway, enough of me – watch and enjoy.


winning elections

Winning Elections – What to do about UKIP?

Depending on who you listen to, UKIP are either a temporary blip to be laughed at, or ignored, or constitute a permanent threat. Andy Coulson gave CCHQ some anti-UKIP advice yesterday in GQ, rebutted here by UKIP’s Michael HeaverTim Montgomerie is as wise as any Conservative and he thinks UKIP are here to stay. Stephen Tall thinks that the new unbalance of power means that, if the Conservative Party wants to stay in power, we have to form an alliance with UKIP or the Lib Dems.

I agree with Tim that UKIP are a long term fixture of UK politics. I also think that the Liberal Democrats are as tough as weeds. They may be doing badly in today’s polls – but they will do much better than the polls say. Lib Dem MPs seldom lose elections.

UKIP members are evangelical about their party in a way that most mainstream party activists aren’t any more and they campaign and recruit enthusiastically. They have positioned themselves contentedly and well against the “political class” and are happier when under attack than when ignored. The more abuse they get – the more convinced  they become that they are right and the more their energy levels rise. UKIP will do well in May 2014 (duh) which means that they will have lots of new paid staff who will be keen to invest their free weekends in campaigning for their party and looking to be part of the campaign that gives them their first MP. Plus they will have the benefit of hundreds of gallons of PR ink in the media – everyone likes the cheeky-chappy underdog.

Winning elections in the UK just got a whole lot harder. Most campaigners and strategists only have experience fighting two party politics.

Now we have to raise our game:

  1. The two party, plus a protest vote party, contests are over. We need new thinking and new approaches to win 3-way or 4-way elections contests. Just slagging off the “other” party is not good enough. We need to convince people to vote for us as much or more than we need them to vote against someone else. I worked, briefly, with a candidate who told me to my face that the campaign message should be that locally the Lib Dem council was rubbish and the Conservatives would be better and that nationally the Labour Government was rubbish and the Conservatives would be better. End of messaging – nothing positive at all to say. It didn’t work very well for that candidate – it will work even less in the future.
  2. Social media means that our  messages have to become more consistent, more believable, more positive and more real. More honest. In 2015, you will be caught out if you say in one part of your constituency “Vote for me/Party C if you don’t like Party A,  because Party B is a wasted vote ” and in the other part of your constituency you say “Vote for me/Party C if you don’t like Party B – because Party A is a wasted vote”. There is a very real risk that campaigners from Party A and B and UKIP may (!) notice and may point out your two-faced messaging to the electorate.
  3. Pledge data needs more work than ever before. More canvassing – less preaching. Pledge data has often been more ancient fiction than current fact. Now more and more people are changing their minds and their loyalties as well and acting like consumers. Much of the existing pledge data could do with being treated with extreme caution and campaigns should focus on authentic and honest surveys.

According to a YouGov poll for The Spectator in Feb 2013, while 60% of UKIP supporters voted Conservative in 2010, 15% of UKIP supporters voted Lib Dem in 2010 and 7% voted Labour. As Michael Heaver says, UKIP aren’t just grumpy Tories and there are some Labour and Lib Dem MPs who should be anxious too.

The mix of the Scotland independence vote, the state of the economy and a European referendum around the corner means that politics will become much harder to predict and may even increase turnout. Anything that raises interest in policies, proper debate and scrutiny of manifestos should be welcomed. It might get bumpy along the way but I guess good politics is bumpy politics.


Public Speaking Tips

Get close to your audience – Public Speaking Tips

Lecterns are for Losers – Public Speaking Tips

This is not just about lecterns – it is about removing distance and barriers and distractions and getting close to your audience. Talking TO people is old fashioned and ineffective – talking with people is natural and human and real and normal. Audiences have always wanted to be emotionally involved in speeches. Now they demand it. Today they will simply leave the room, change channels or escape your preaching and make themselves a coffee or a sandwich while you drone on.

Public speaking conjures up images of grand stages and huge crowds – but the best speakers speak to every person like they are only talking to them. If you get this right, everyone who hears you speak should be able to close their eyes and imagine you are speaking just to them.

So as a first step in getting close to your audience, leave the lectern behind and get close to your audience. Let them see you close up – let them see your face and your expressions and your hands. Good speakers get rid of distractions as well as barriers. Physical closeness demands attention, rules out the use of notes, builds rapport and reminds the audience that you are human – like them. It also makes you vulnerable and vulnerability and authenticity are best buddies.

If you are speaking on the radio – imagine you have just one person listening. If you have to be on a big stage – speak just to one person.

Sometimes you have to use a lectern – but the other rules still apply. Move around it like Obama does rather than hide behind it. All the speeches I have given from behind a lectern have been inferior to the ones where I took a risk, went without my notes, got close to my audience and spoke from my heart.

Working on the Sri Lankan Prime Minister’s speech to the United Nations, which was by definition protocol-rich and sort of demanded the use of a lectern, we had to work incredibly hard on the content and his delivery to make this behind-the-lectern speech human and real and relevant.

Front of the lectern speeches are almost always more effective and more powerful. David Cameron’s leadership speech was in front of the lectern. TED speakers hardly ever use lecterns.

Clinton and Obama lean on them like comfortable old pieces of family furniture rather than formal, official hard-edged barriers between them and their audience.

In this video Bill Clinton, arguably the best speaker in the world today, shows how getting close and destroying barriers and distance builds empathy and helps him get what he wants.


Update. After writing this post, I checked with my friend Denise Graveline who is a Washington based speaker coach and also a TEDMED coach.

She said:

“TED talks are nearly always ‘walk-and-talk’ rather than lectern-based. A few exceptions have been made for older speakers or those who need something to steady them–a favorite of mine is 84-year-old Harvard biologist E. O Wilson’s TEDMED talk–and in those cases, almost invariably, a clear plexiglass lectern is used, to make sure you’re seeing the speaker. Connecting with the audience is the hallmark of any TED conference, from the lack of lecterns to the proviso that speakers stay through the entire conference to interact with attendees.”

She added that the TED Commandments and the TEDMED Hippocratic oath call for one not to read, but to talk which she writes about on her blog The Eloquent Woman

The New Website is here. At last.

My website was once the love of my life. Then it started to annoy me.

I couldn’t find anything. It was like a small house that had a new extension every couple of months – for several years. The purpose of the site became less and less clear and I was finding content repeated in difference places, unconnected and generally a bit of a shambles. Then one day I said to somebody that they could find an article with a list of interview question on my blog. They couldn’t – and neither could I!

Now that is just not good enough for any site – let alone someone who preaches about clarity of thought!

So the website went in for some serious repair. So much so that the site went down for two weeks and was replaced with a holding page while we worked on it, argued over layout and content. I culled and edited and shortened content – killing off some favourite children along the way. I took a deep breath and asked a friend for some input. Despite my fears, it didn’t kill me – but external input improved the site in a huge and positive way.

Today I have been going through old blogposts fixing formatting that looked clunky and overweight. I haven’t finished yet but there is a lot on so will have to repair and add a bit every day from now on.

But there is only one way to start – by pushing publish now. The new Peter Botting website is there!

getting selected

Getting Selected – Becoming a Conservative Parliamentary Candidate

Getting Selected is a tough and demanding process.

Getting Selected is tough – but first you have to decide whether you really want to go through with this. You have to decide whether you are seriously ready to turn your life on its head.

Then you contact the Candidates department at CCHQ who in turn arrange for you to meet someone in person who assesses your level of insanity.

That is the easy bit. Then, suitably certified, you apply to go on the parliamentary assessment board – the PAB. This can be incredibly tough and consists of an interview, a speech, two essays, an in-tray exercise and a group exercise.

CCHQ have an unusual marking process for the PAB and there is (allegedly) no appeal process. They have got the judging criteria spot on, though, so you have to demonstrate that you possess them all.

Opinions vary as to how good the PAB process is and, like anyone, I have my thoughts on the process. But it is what it is and CCHQ isn’t going to change it anytime soon, so consider it as hoops that need to be jumped through. Being an MP is tough and has many challenges, but at least as an MP you have real people and real situations to deal with.

Getting past the PAB and being able to apply for real seats is a huge breakthrough. The stakes are now higher and, depending on the seat, you are now within spitting distance of becoming a Parliamentary Candidate and even an MP.

Now you have to wait until CCHQ releases the next tranche of seats which you need to assess in terms of winnability, doability and whether you have any affinity for the seat. Then the next stage of your journey to getting selected starts.

Then you have to summarize all your life’s details in an attractive and compelling way and set them out in a 2 page formatted Word document CV. This CV is incredibly annoying and time consuming to work with as the formatting keeps moving around like a sulky, scowling, arm-folded kid having a strop. But you HAVE to get this bit right as the ‘paper sift’ is often the most brutal stage and is aimed at excluding rather than including.

Then CCHQ and the association officers meet in London where your CV will be coldly assesses and eyebrows will be raised and discreet nods will be nodded, in ways eerily reminiscent of Sir Humphrey.

Get past this stage and you are nearly in the Getting Selected game. All you have to do now is pass two selection interviews consisting of a 5 minute “Select Me – I am Wonderful” speech and 20 minutes of questions – one in front of the Association Executive and one in front of the full membership.

Then you are a Parliamentary Candidate. All you have to do now is get elected. Easy huh?

This can be a long and emotional roller-coaster of a journey that can take a huge amount of time and money. It also can impose a significant amount of pressure on your partner, family and personal relationships. But if you are doing it for the right reasons, you will manage it. If you want to know more about my Getting Selected and Getting Elected courses please email on (You will have to prove to me that you are genuine here btw!) Feel free to have a look at my track record here.

The Daily Politics Show interviewed me for a piece on Getting Selected as an MP – have a look here.

Here is what one of my clients wrote to me today – he has just been selected for his home patch of Sutton and Cheam.

Hi Peter,

Thank you again for your help in getting me through the Parliamentary Assessment Board and getting selected for a seat first time of asking.

So many potential candidates have to tear around the country repeating that process before perhaps securing a winnable seat. I know that I would not have done anywhere near so well if it wasn’t for you.

Years ago I was told that like when taking medication, it was better to respond than to react. Building up an armoury of stories and responses helped me do just that, responding in a way that allowed me to answer the unasked questions as well rather than simply batting back the original question.

The key lesson for me was to have succinct responses that go beyond simple platitudes.

The simple question “Why do you want to be an MP?” has started a process across my borough of ensuring that our local council candidates each have a positive vision to share rather than simply to beat the other guy. The former leads to the latter but follows a different, more productive path.

You certainly put me through my paces but by the time of the interviews I felt ready for pretty much anything. …. I look forward to seeing you soon. Paul— Paul Scully. Conservative PPC Sutton and Cheam

How to give a compelling speech and not just make noise.

Compelling Speeches Make Points and Get Results. They compel.

  1. Prepare, Practice and then Practice the speech some more.

    Some “experts” say that you should spend 20, 30 or 40 times as much time preparing and practicing your speech, as you spend delivering it. Of course, the more important the speech is, the more time you will be able to budget/justify for the speech – but reading it out loud 7-8 times are an ABSOLUTE minimum. The most important bits of the speech are the beginning and the end – if your time is limited, focus more time on the beginning and the end, even learning them off by heart. This will also help you relax and calm the fear.

  2. Be You, Be Real and Be Authentic.

    Tell personal stories in your speech to underline what you are saying. Parables work – so do personal stories. Remember to only tell the part of the story that the audience needs to “get it” – don’t clutter your stories with unnecessary details, words and phrases. If they don’t have a job, get rid of them.

  3. Take your job seriously – not yourself.

    Self-deprecating humour is not just useful, it is almost mandatory. Ask Boris Johnson. Don’t mock members of the audience, forget jokes as a general rule and be careful of jokes against the opposition.

  4. Know Your Stuff

    If you don’t know why you are giving the speech, what you are talking about or why you are talking about it, why are you even thinking of talking? Know your stuff, know the issues, know the causes, the alternatives, the enemy, the victims and, above all, know the solution.  

  5. What do you want them to do?

    Know what you want. You must be speaking for a reason, either to persuade people or to move people to action. Be specific, make it easy for them and clear about how to do what you want them to do. Political speeches want to convince or activate votes, corporate speeches usually want money. Good political  speechwriters are used to asking for votes and money – as a Conservative speechwriter it is a basic requirement!!  Some call it “deliverables” or, even worse, “required outcomes” – whatever you want to call it, ask for it!

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