Browse Category: Personal Narratives

Public Speaking Tips: Take Your Job Seriously, Not Yourself!

Public Speaking Tips: Take your job seriously, not yourself!

Public speaking tips are usually about getting things right. But what happens when it all goes horribly wrong? Lets face it – we all screw up from time to time. Sometimes we win by winning, sometimes by screwing up less than the competition.

When I was a tennis coach, Ian Barclay (who was Pat Cash’s coach) was coaching a group of us in Johannesburg. One of his standard pieces of advice was “Winning is easy – all you have to do is get the ball over the net one (just one) time more than the other guy.”

So what should you do when it does all go wrong?

Admit it, keep the mood of the audience with you, smile and enjoy the moment. Stay confident and calm and in control. You may even turn your imperfection, your humanity into a plus. Do not take yourself seriously!!! (Of course having a sense of humour helps!).

It is the people who take themselves seriously, or worse too seriously, who quickly become the butt of jokes. People love laughing at the pompous and the self important. Be likeable and be human. When the technology fails, or you forget what you are saying or your place in your speech – you will need all the friends you can get.

Interview tips. How long do I have to wait after the interview before contacting the company?

Interview tips – when to follow up my application?

My series of interview tips generally covers preparation for the interview. But what happens after you have sent in your application and before you get a response? We have all been there.

One of my interview preparation clients emailed me to ask:

“How long should I wait after sending in my application and CV to a company before making contact to check on how things have progressed regarding a decision? Or an interview”

The first bit of harsh truth and reality here is that it depends on the company and it depends how many people have applied. Processing 300 candidates can take a while – processing 1000 takes longer. Some companies have well resourced (and expensive) HR departments – some are running HR on a shoe string or the bosses are trying to recruit and do their day job(s) too.

I used to work with the head of HR at SAP in their HQ in Germany and he used to be flooded with applications every day – some in response to adverts and many unsolicited. If you add in the legal traps that companies are now faced with in HR, responding to people correctly is something that needs attention and time.

The biggest single reason for using recruitment agencies is for them to do all the hard work and for the recruiter to only check out a short list of candidates.

Of course, recruiters do not get rewarded for being adventurous or taking risks so many (lower quality) recruiters simply blank out the interesting or the out of the ordinary – which could be a big loss to the company. Box-ticking sometimes results in the short list being full of bland clones. Anyway, if you are reading this you probably have your own thought s on recruitment companies. I would love to hear them.

How long before I am invited for an interview?

If you have not heard from a company within 2 weeks, you probably have not made the first sift.

The first sift is the most brutal with 100’s or 1000’s being reduced by a paper sift to maybe 20. That is why your application MUST stand out. It must be specific, tailored to the company and have evidence rather than just claims. It must tell a compelling story about you that is different – in a good way!

You MUST have a great and well written CV, a Cover letter that is worth reading and a summary or profile at the top of the CV that is as good as a TV commercial.

This stupid line about “References on request” is guaranteed to lose you the chance to interview – unless no-one else knows about the job or no-one else wants it. Or you have discovered how to make gold from sand and are the career equivalent of SuperCandidate.

If you call within a week you will appear pushy and panicky. This might be true , but it won’t help you. Longer than 2 weeks is too long. Phoning is harder but it is better – you may actually get to the right person and you may have an opportunity to sound fun and competent and likeable. Email is your second choice. If you do email, have an email signature which includes your mobile number and reattach your CV and Cover letter. Make it easy for them.

What to do next? The best chance of getting that job is them hiring somebody who is then either fired or leaves a few weeks later. Then they are faced with going through the whole process again – an unpleasant thought for them. If a well written and friendly follow up email arrives on the day that everything has gone pear shaped for them, you may have a lucky break.

The 8 Point Cheats Check List to Improving or Crafting Your Speech in 5 minutes.

The 8 Point Cheats Check List to Improving or Crafting Your Speech in 5 minutes.

Giving a speech is important – otherwise why do it? So of course you should take the time to write it, book in more time to practice it and give your speech time to bake in your head. Then reality intervenes and messes it all up! So for all those speechwriters and speechmakers who are put on the spot at short notice and the others (very stern look in your direction because I have obviously never been in your shoes!) too lazy to prepare.

  1. Do you want to inform or persuade? What must you achieve? What defines success?
  2. If you want to persuade, compare the current with your vision of the future. Use “we”.
  3. Use fresh examples and metaphors. Avoid those with lost meaning. Speak as you would to a friend.
  4. Use short sentences and words. Max 15 words per sentence and 2 syllables per word.
  5. Narrow your message to 3 key themes. They won’t remember more anyway.
  6. Identify and repeat the words that summarise your message.
  7. Never speak for more than 20 minutes. 5 is better. 3 even better.
  8. Speak slowly and confidently. Breathe slowly and deeply from your belt buckle. Stand up straight and smile.

Getting Selected – How To Become A Conservative MP – Part 1

Getting Selected as a Conservative Parliamentary Candidate

Most members of the public have no idea of the work involved in becoming a parliamentary candidate. In the old days, a word in someone’s ear would result in a phone call being made to an association Chairman and things would sooner or later pretty much take their course. Those days are thankfully over.

Those who want to add the elusive, and often very temporary, initials “M.P” face more competition, more demanding selectorates and precious few new seats to apply for in 2015. With an estimated thousand plus on the candidates list, loads of new MPs who are not planning on going anywhere and the competition for seats that may actually make you an MP will be fierce.

But before that happens, you have to pass the PAB – or parliamentary assessment board. This used to be even tougher with an overnight two day version – but it is still pretty effective at identifying those who do not fulfill the very sensible list of 7 key criteria that have been set out by CCHQ. And excluding them.

Only after you have passed the PAB do you have a chance at applying for and being selected for a constituency.

Basically, you first need to apply to CCHQ – after which you will have an interview with someone from CCHQ. If you pass that, which you almost certainly will as they don’t want to alienate activists or donors yet, you will be invited to a PAB. If you pass the PAB you will be able to apply for some or any available seat – depending on whether you have a full or partial pass from CCHQ. It costs money to go on the PAB as they are self-financing.   Being on the list incurs an annual cost too.

There are indirect costs too as you will be expected to earn your right to stay on the list by being very visibly active in by-elections, local elections, referenda, PCC elections, MEP elections and anything else that comes along. Which is fair enough really – if you are an activist you would be campaigning for these anyway.

Then you need to work on your CV, your social media presence and wait for an email from CCHQ announcing the seats that are now asking for applications from people on the candidates list. Of course, there are other things you could be doing…

End of Part 1…

Interview preparation – Key Points 1-5

Interview preparation – 5 key points

Napoleon allegedly won his battles in his tent rather than on the battlefield. That was where the preparation took place – the planning, the war gaming, the assessment of his own resources and how he could best deploy them.

That sounds just like what my clients do with me in my interview preparation courses. What are the obvious questions and how will you answer them, how will you introduce yourself and your CV and what questions should you ask.

This eliminates uncertainty, increases your confidence and prepares you for the expected – and some of the unexpected.

1. Your CV. Have a couple of copies with you and reread your written pearls that morning over breakfast. In case you forget something and then sound dumb when they ask you about it.

2. Bring a (decent looking) pen and a pad – I like the moleskin books that fit in your jacket pocket.

3. Dress formally and without any distractions.

4. Know where the interview is and how best to get there – a dry-run may seem ridiculous the day before but when you are lost and late on the day of the interview it may suddenly appear a brilliant and obvious idea! Know where to park, bring cash…

5.  Arriving 5 minutes early is fine – late isn’t and neither is too early. If you are early, get a coffee somewhere – but save your smoke until afterwards.

Interview preparation – Key points 6 – 10 will follow next week.


Interview Questions. How telling stories helps with interview preparation and interview questions

Interview Questions. How telling stories helps with interview preparation and interview questions

So what is interview preparation? How to handle tricky interview questions? And why does story telling help?

My job is to stop people and organisations underselling themselves. I use exactly the same MessageCraft technique for all my clients – whether they are big corporates or people preparing for their first job interview.

Most people, even fresh graduates, have great stories but they either come across as arrogant and braggy or they talk in unevidenced adjectives – “I am hard working and punctual” or they don’t tell their stories at all. Standing out (in a good way) has always been important but even more so now as the competition grows and gets better.

Many senior executives have great stories too, but are often defensive, unused to being on the receiving end of interviews and can easily come across as arrogant.

My interview preparation 1-2-1 courses let you learn and make mistakes in time and in secret – and before the dreaded interview. I help people tell good structured stories with a purpose about themselves and prevent them from coming across as arrogant jerks.

And I help them prepare for those mean and nasty interview questions that sound innocent but that are designed to trip you up. After our QuestionJudo session, you will welcome the evil questions as old friends and use them to your advantage and to “showcase” your skills and experience.

Depending on how much time we have together, in a day we should be able to complete the following:-

  • Identify your USP, identify and articulate what you bring or could bring to the corporate table and help you communicate your qualifications and potential as a candidate during the interview.
  • Review your CV – this CV audit is an essential part of the process of interview preparation
  • Overview of best-practice pre-interview research.
  • Work on voice and image projection.
  • Interview role-play with video play-back as well as review of image, voice projections etc.
  • Plus bullet proofing you for all those tricky interview questions which are now more important than ever. After the session and having done your homework you will be on the road towards being “Paxman-Proof & Paper-Free” when you do get to the interview. Interview questions are the most dangerous part of the interview – far more deadly than any speech or presentation.

I was contacted by two clients who were, to put it mildly, overjoyed. That is the very best part of my life – the phone calls and the texts that I get after someone has got a job, done a deal or raised some money. Here is what they had to say: –

Peter! I just wanted to tell you the College of Europe contacted me to say they want to give me the full scholarship! You’re the first person to know 😉 … your advice really helped and has helped at work generally too!

The second was buzzing even more!!

Nailed it! Totally nailed it! Thank you so so much. After our session I wasn’t totally convinced – we had done so much in such a short time, my mind was buzzing and all over the place. But I did the homework as instructed and this morning it all fitted into place. Like magic. It was like a revelation. Guess what – you were right about something else too – I went in there without any paper – you made me, me of all people, paper free!! Yes! Thank you so much!!! Oh yeah and one of them didn’t like me and asked what they thought was the worst interview question – and I nailed it – it actually helped me more because they had asked it!

Presentation coaching tip – How to present with purpose and stop boring your audience

Presentation coaching – How to stop boring your audience by presenting with purpose and passion.

Unless you can start your presentation with power, purpose and passion why are you presenting in the first place?

How you start your presentation is more important than anything else. If you mess up the beginning of the presentation up, the audience will not hear the rest of the presentation. They will just switch off. Some audiences – like potential clients – may even put up their hands like Simon Cowell and stop your presentation before it bores them any further! And who would blame them?

To be fair to those who would do that to you, if you start with a boring opening, the chances are (very) high that the rest of the presentation will be boring too. And life is too short – if your opening statement is boring, why should the audience waste time listening to the rest of your presentation?

So quit the jokes, quit the “it’s wonderful to be here” platitudes and PRESENT!

Presentation tips checklist. Things to do before you open your mouth.

  1. Have you identified the purpose of your presentation. Do you want to persuade or inform? What is the action or state that you want to trigger or create?
  2. Can you summarise your presentation in a word, a headline, or a sentence? Your goal must be that your audience can summarise and sell on your presentation in a sentence or two – are you helping them to do that?
  3. Have you researched your audience and used that knowledge? You should be speaking about them – not you!
  4. Do you have any passion for what you are presenting? If not, get off the stage and go to the beach.
  5. Remember you need to get the audience’s attention first. You get that attention by pausing rather than by speaking. Wait until you have eye contact and the attention of the audience before you start to speak.
  6. If your opening statement is your headline, does it make your audience want to hear more? Does it arouse their curiosity? If not, why not?
  7. Introduce yourself AFTER your presentation headline – not before. Your presentation is supposed to be talking about the audience, not about you.
  8. Your presentation’s headline or opening statement should summarise your purpose. But it should also be memorable? Alliteration helps make things memorable. Do you remember  the 7 P’s – “Proper prior preparation prevents p*** poor performance”?  Or even “Proper prior preparation plus pauses and passion prevent powerless purposeless presentations.” (OK – sorry about that –  but you get my point?)
  9. Have you started with a question? Have you used a surprising factoid or statistic? Have you used an analogy or a case study?





New: Free downloadable guides to improve speeches, survive telephone interviews, set goals and more.DOWNLOAD NOW
+ +
Visit Us On TwitterVisit Us On FacebookVisit Us On LinkedinVisit Us On Instagram