Browse Category: Pitching for business

Interview by Parliament. How to survive a select committee “grilling”.

Interview by Parliament. How to survive a select committee “grilling”.

The theatre starts. The microphones go live. Bob Diamond has entered the room. Andrew Tyrie welcomes him. Bob pours himself some water. He clears his throat. It all starts off rather well. Very civilised.

Three hours later it ends. Andrew Tyrie is resigned and says “we have tried”. Bob is untouched, like a wax jacket in a storm. Sure there were a few gusts of wind and a few sharp and spiky stiletto attacks that tried to get through the wax jacket cover. Some even came close. But this guy was good.

Bob Diamond had done his homework. He knew his message, he knew his audience, and he kept his cool.

He knew everyone by their first name and used their first names repeatedly – this put the interrogators off who all persisted with “Mr Diamond”. Some were visibly annoyed by his use of their first names. He didn’t seem bothered.

He had several clear messages that he stuck to rigidly. So much so that everyone knew them off by heart after an hour with one of the MPs quoting them back at him.

He was polite and deferential. But he often disputed and refused to accept the premise of questions. He repeatedly refused to answer questions unless in context or without insisting on giving the context. And he outlined again and again the three narratives that he wanted to use as backdrops to his questions.

Tyrie was the toughest questioner. He was dry and after facts and yes/no answers. Facts; dates; how frequent?  Bob tried to reframe and contextualise but this was a broad brush CEO vs. a Details Accountant. This would have been a far more interesting match if the three hours had been Tyrie vs. Diamond. Less fun for Diamond though. And much more dangerous.

Then the rest of the Treasury Select Committee had a go. They can be broadly split into, and with a few exceptions, bank haters (Labour) who rant a lot, and ex-bankers (Conservatives) who have been there and done it in banking and know what questions to ask.

The problem of course with Select Committees (I have helped people prep for these encounters) is that everyone has to have a go. They are public outings for the Select Committee members and they all have their questions to ask. But they don’t always seem to follow on from each other or to act as a pack.

In comparison, Bob Diamond sat alone, prepped, with several lines and loads of context. He may not have scored many or any runs – but he didn’t concede any wickets either. Excuse the cricket, but John Thurso went as far as comparing him to Geoffrey Boycott, so I am allowed.

He may have only left his job on Tuesday, but for Bob Diamond this was a job interview, a bit of theatre to show how good he was, how good Barclays was and how well they had done. It was a chance to say goodbye and to big up Barclays and the Barclays staff. And to say nothing else whatsoever.

The Conservatives were all keen to show how tough they were. They know their stuff too. Jesse Norman, Michael Fallon, Mark Garnier and Andrea Leadsom all asked knowledgeable questions. Leadsom was the most dangerous with her questions about gilts, while David Ruffley wagged his finger and seemed to want to send Diamond to prison.

The Labour gang were all keen to provoke Diamond with the agreed mantra – you were either complicit, incompetent or negligent. Please choose a tag and wear it.  Did they expect him to break under their pressure like Col. Nathan R.Jessup in A Few Good Men? Fat chance!

He fixed them with his stare, sort of politely. Like the murderer does who is memorising your face for later. And then, ignoring their questions to varying extents, in a measured tone, he answered the questions he felt like answering with the answers he felt like giving.

George Moodie tried, unsuccessfully, to get him to agree with Ed Miliband and/or join the Labour Party with a question about an inquiry. That didn’t work did it?

Teresa Pearce’s staffer had been doing word counts of the Barclays annual report – and “profit” was apparently mentioned more often than “ethical” and something else.

John Mann desperately needed some YouTube footage for his parliamentary website. He offered to tattoo the Quaker’s founding principles of “honesty, integrity, plain dealing” on Mr Diamond’s body before calling Barclays a “rotten thieving bank” in an Enoch Powell-like, “my constituents say” kind of way.

His researchers had been busy too – finding some old reports which he read quotes from. It confused me. It confused Bob too. He shook his head and said: “Sorry John, is there a question?” He said it politely. But it still made me laugh.

John Thurso was sneaky. He tricked Diamond into speaking bank geek and then triumphantly used this as a rationale for separating investment backs from retail banks. “No John…” Diamond responds…

Diamond must be knackered. Three hours on your tod with all of them against you. Just water to drink. If I was him I would have spoiled myself to a very good Scotch after.

This was my column for The Commentator

How to win in presentations and speeches – lessons for political speeches and corporate presentations from Wimbledon

How to win in presentations and speeches – lessons for political speeches and corporate presentations from Wimbledon

1. Eliminating unforced errors can be as important as finding the elusive winners. Last year Nadal had seven unforced errors in his entire match against Andy Murray, which he won. Rafa made five in the first set alone in the final, which he lost. There are hundreds of potential unforced errors – turning up late, technical issues, distracting clothing/body language ‘noise’, incorrect assumptions about audience, content, outcomes, priorities, agendas etc. For politicians there are many others. Get rid of them.

2. One winner is better than one rescue. Playing winners cost less energy, less time and use less political capital than last ditch efforts scrambling around the court to save a point or the day. Plus they demoralise the opposition.

3. Being nimble on your feet. You need to be able to smell the room, change pace and sometimes direction. In the same way that playing a tennis match is different to knocking a ball against a non-agenda wall that simply knocks it back at you, a live audience is volatile and disobedient – their agenda is the rogue player in the room.

4. Position and place your shots. Focus on where your opponent is and where they are going. Your content should be honed and secure in your head. All your energy and focus should be on your delivery, the audience and how they are responding – refocusing and varying your delivery and your message if needed.

5. Attitude is king. In a different life and on a different continent I was a tennis coach. I was lucky to be coached as a coach by Ian Barclay, who coached Pat Cash. He said that a beginner needs 95 percent technical input and five percent attitude input from their coach while a pro needs five percent technical input and 95 percent attitude. People can smell a winner – and you will play up if you dress, look and feel like a winner. Be aware of where you are and get the coach that need – if you are a beginner get the technical skills coach – if you are more advanced – get the coach who can get your head in the right place.

6. Be the player – not the commentator. If you let commentators language and thoughts into your head (“If I pull this off…”, “My bonus on this will be huge..” etc), you WILL lose concentration. You may also lose your principles. Let others commentate – you play. As Petra Kvitova said after winning last year’s final: “focus on each point”.

7. The power is in how you start. Getting attention, being different, claiming the right to be heard, asserting authority and proving and reproving your credibility – these are the jobs of the first serve or your first return. Or the delivery and content of your first sentence. Or your first policy or planned legislation. Own the occasion or it will own you.

8. Get and maintain momentum. Part of this is eliminating distracting, energy sapping unforced errors. Part of this is having a plan of what you want to do and when. A plan that is divided into months and years, not just days and weeks. Political grids always have to react to the unforeseen – but a plan and a schedule for the big things you want to do will keep you moving.

9. Favourites don’t always win – commentators are fallible. Ignore them and concentrate on simply being better.  Better in substance and better in delivery. Every point in every game. Every seat in every election. If Labourhadn’t dreamed and gone after the “impossible”, the so called safe seats, the Conservatives would stayed in power. Safe seats are often safe because they are not contested hard enough by good enough candidates and because “no-hoper” seats are too often seen as stepping stones. Iain Stewart proved in Milton Keynes that a different approach can work.

10. Practice, practice, practice After the men’s final last year, Djokovic’s coach said the result was due to “just hard work!!!” Skill is needed but work hones the skill.

11. Believe in yourself and in your message. Djokovic’s confidence last year came after winning in the Davis cup. This confidence boost was more important than doubling his technical skill. A small consultancy once hired me to “fix” the presentation skills of a new hire from one of the big consultancies. And at first she didn’t appear to be that good. But when she presented on a topic she believed in, she was transformed. Her problem was not her presenting skills. The problem was her lack of confidence in the claims this consultancy made.

12. Be likeable. Many former players are spectators at Wimbledon. But the popular personalities – Sue Barker, Boris Becker, John McEnroe – are the ones who are still working. Every presentation you make either adds to or detracts from your personal reputation – and may open other doors in the future.

13. Be true to yourself. Professional tennis players happily wear their sponsor’s logos. But they don’t let them become their advisors or their coaches. And they don’t let the brand of the sponsor overshadow their own brand.

14. Know your competition. Djokovic won last year because he neutralised Nadal’s best weapon – his forehand. Being different means knowing your competition and outplaying their strengths.

15. Pace or Positioning? Pace is important in baseline rallies and services. And it is lethal when your positioning is good. But it saps energy. Sometimes, positioning is all that you need. Just ask Panenka Pirlo!

16. Spin. Top spin, back spin, side spin are all important in tennis. Polishing your narrative and your delivery are important in politics and presentations – wouldn’t it be nice if spin wasn’t?

This was my column for The Commentator for this week.

Social Media – Bottom Up Power – Interview. Client’s revenge.

Social Media – Bottom Up Power – Interview. Client’s revenge.

I am involved with a new project with some very impressive people. I feel like a bit of an intruder to be honest. Anyway, we all met in Lewes for a day out – like those embarrassing days companies sometimes send you on. Except everyone there were bosses of companies and departments. All good stuff.

And then I got nabbed and interviewed. I tried to get away but on the third attempt I had no more excuses. One of my clients says that I wield my camera like a gun – so this video is for all of my clients who would love to wreak revenge on me!!!

How to prepare for a telephone interview

How to prepare for a telephone interview

Telephone interviews are more staccato with less niceties than a face to face. Be ready to go from the outset. You will often sadly simply be “the next one” and the interviewer is often just looking for reasons to make the pile in front of them smaller.

Telephone Interview Preparation

Physical Preparation

Stand up or sit upright – it puts air in the lungs and deepens your voice. Do 20 minutes exercise to get the blood and oxygen pumping Dress as if it were face to face. • Smile while you are talking.

Admin preparation

Be in a room where you won’t be disturbed by dogs, children or family. • Have your diary and a note pad and pen to hand (forget electronic -write on paper and transfer later).

Be ready at least 15 minutes ahead of time. Re-read the job advert, the job profile and your CV – have them to hand and easily accessible – spread out so instantly visible. Check their website for any news items posted that day. Google news search the company name – use date search facility since you last googled them, specifically the last 24 hours. Imagine a lamp, chair or a picture is the interviewer. Speak to “them”. Write down the interviewer’s name in LARGE letters – and use it.

Content preparation

Identify 3 reasons why you are qualified for the job (NOT certificates!). Identify 3 reasons why you want to work there. Identify 3 differentiating things you bring to the table. Tell stories/describe case studies. Evidence outweighs empty claims. Note and reuse key words that seem to be part of the corporate culture.

This is a guest article of mine published here:-

How to give powerful Powerpoint presentations – if you really really have to!

How to give powerful Powerpoint presentations – if you really really have to!

Almost all of my work is helping people and organisation tell their stories and differentiate themselves. Sometimes in interviews, pitches, campaigns or presentations.

Presentations can be the most challenging – not least because of Powerpoint. Everybody knows it. Everybody thinks they can use it. It is the expected format. It is the safe format. Usually it is the lousy format. Often it is the expected lousy format – that happens to be safe because no-one expects it to be anything else. Which means the lousiness of your presentation won’t stand out. So you will be safe in a crowd of lousiness.

Which is hardly the point.

If you have to give a presentation using Powerpoint – it had better be to educate rather than to persuade. Please see what I mean here. 

And if you really still want to use Powerpoint, follow the 5 rules set out here by Nancy Duarte.

Boris vs. Ken. Winning elections through likeability and turnout. Is Personality Politics the future? What does this mean for local politics?

Boris vs. Ken. Winning elections through likeability and turnout. Is Personality Politics the future? What does this mean for local politics?

I wrote about Boris vs. Ken, likeability and perception of winner status several weeks ago.

It looks likely that Boris will win today. And that makes me happy. For London and for Londoners and for the UK as a whole too.

If he does win, it will be because of him being more liked, more trusted, more “genuine and real” and the Boris team getting the votes identified and out on the day.

But if he wins and people who vote for Boris do not vote for their local London Conservative Assembly member – what does that mean? Are they sending a message to the government? Or is the local guy or girl not enough of a personality? Not known and seen enough?

I am a political geek – but I am not 100% sure what ward I live in in Bexhill and I have never seen my councillor. I think he is a Lib Dem – but to be fair I think the last election result was very close and I didn’t see the Conservative or Labour candidates either.

Perceptions are reality. Working hard is not enough. Boris understands perceptions more than most. He understands the media. He understands that the product needs to be sold.

Read what Gus O’Donnell the former Cabinet Secretary aka GOD aka Lord O’Donnell said in a recent interview with The House Magazine. 

“I think in a world where you have got 24/7 media and actually in a vibrant democracy it’s incumbent on governments to explain their policies. And presentation matters a lot. Suddenly there are a massive number of channels through which you have to present. I think the old days, the civil servants would sort out the policy and then they’d hand it on to someone very junior to sort out presentation, I think that can lead to some massive policy mistakes. Because actually what you need as you’re thinking about policy is ‘how are we going to present this?’ If there isn’t a sensible presentation of the policy, I would suggest there is something wrong with the policy. So I think the interaction is really important.”

How many local councillors have websites, (regularly updated) blogs, mailing lists, regular andwell advertised surgeries? I have been an Association Chairman, Vice Chairman and more – I understand that there are national cycles that impact on local politics. But good basic campaigning on the ground is important and helps buck national trends.

Having a well known and likeable personality and a reputation for getting stuff done helps too.

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