Browse Category: story telling

TEDMED Speaker Coach

How to talk like TED? Be likeable

What is the most important factor in giving a successful TED style talk?

Many clients increasingly ask me “How do I talk like TED?” or “I want to talk like TED”. That is often why they come to me – they have read books and blogs and watched the videos but now they are looking to do it themselves and they are looking for a real SpeakerCoach who has actually coached people whose talks have appeared on TEDMED and TED.

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Lessons on storytelling and campaigning from unlikely places – Dementia Friends

Dem-friendA Guest Blog By Peter Botting staffer Sam Nolan.

It was the first day at Conservative Party conference and there was little to do. The speeches had not yet started and the bar had yet to open. The conference centre had a hushed silence, a feeling of waiting for something to happen. So I found myself marching around the ICC, wasting time and looking for something to do. Flicking through the conference guide developed little inspiration within me – a panel discussion on housing, something titled “Unlocking Community Potential”, a talk about public services in Manchester and a fringe event hosted by the Alzheimer’s Society and Dementia Friends.

I shrugged to myself and went along to the Alzheimer’s Society event. I knew shamefully little about Alzheimer’s or dementia, nor had I every had an inclination to look into it and educate myself. I have been fortunate enough to never had to face such issues in my personal life or among my immediate family. Yet on Sunday afternoon at party conference I found myself in a small room with around twenty other people waiting to hear about Alzheimer’s and Dementia.

The session was framed as an information event. Expecting to hear a volunteer discuss complex ways in which the disease effects people – I was very surprised.

The speech was astonishing. There was a mix of anecdotes and stories. The complex issue of dealing with dementia was explained in terms which everyone could understand. The complicated disease that effects different people in different ways, with different intensity was boiled down to a simple analogy of a bookshelf. With dementia being seen as a force nudging the bookcase forcing the top books to fall out – those representing the most recent memories. The analogies were not condescending or patronizing with a subtle roll of the eyes to anyone who did not understand dementia.  Instead it was clear and concise.

The presentation incorporated stories of people suffering from the disease. These were not anecdotes but real stories. They were not sob-stories but stories of real people being treated and understood. The stories were not used to get people to donate or volunteer or even to feel sorry for the suffers or thankful to the organisations helping them. The stories were used as they should be – to help regular people understand the point you are making.

Not only were the use of stories and anecdotes impressive but the whole campaign is one to take note of. The charity Dementia Friends have a clear campaign. They have five simple points they want people to understand about dementia and Alzheimer’s. They have a clear and achievable aim: to reach a million people by the end of 2015. And they finished the session with a call-to-action, whether it is telling two people about dementia, promoting the scheme on twitter, signup to volunteer or simply being more patient with somebody who may be suffering from dementia.

It is a very rare phenomenon when you go into a presentation expecting to be bored and come out feeling inspired. Dementia Friends is an incredible example of a campaign done well with a clear message, achievable aims and a call-to-action. Any campaign, whether it is political, corporate or charitable, could learn a lot from the Dementia Friends campaign.

You can find more about the Dementia Friends initiative here.


Interview preparation

Interview Preparation – Using Keywords in your CV

Interview preparation – You have to GET an Interview first

Interview preparation is all very well. But first, you have to GET an interview!!  Many clients come to me saying that they want interview preparation but often ask: “How do I get to interview in the first place?” The ‘paper sift’ is the most extreme – often reducing hundreds of applicants down to a shortlist of may 10 to 20 people. This is also the stage where generally ‘they’ are looking for reasons to exclude rather than include. You should spend at least as much time on your CV and your covering letter as on your preparation for the interview.

What is the best CV format?

There are millions of gurus who claim to have the perfect CV for a format. I don’t think there is one – but it should be clean and simple and easy to read. No use of block capitals for a start! Then it should outline skills and abilities and achievements rather than just listing job titles.

Key words in your CV – are they the secret to getting interviews?

The other thing you should think about when writing your CV is whether you are using the key words relevant to your industry – the jargon and the trigger words – in your CV. These should emphasise your soft and hard skills.

Of course, you first need to know what industry and which type of job you are targeting. Do some research in  existing or old job adverts and identify the works that are being used. Remember functions and skills count as much as titles and positions. Use these key words in your CV, not excessively or unnaturally, but visibly.

You can use these keywords in a headline profile summary as well as in the main body of the CV.

interview preparation questions

Interview Preparation – Another Client gets a Job!

Interview Preparation is the best part of my job

I have worked with a Prime Minister, leading politicians and serious business people. I love working with these people – they are inspirational and motivational and challenging and get me buzzing.

But there is a special buzz when a young graduate phones or texts to say that they have their first proper job. The internships, holiday jobs and endless and emotional job searches, interviews and endless waits for letters that never come, are finally over. New found confidence flows into them, their shoulders relax, their smile loosens. The pressure is over. Now all they have to do is buy an alarm clock, polish their shoes and get used to the routine of working life. It is really very, very good to be part of so many young people’s first “grown up” career success.

Last week a client phoned after he had been through two interview processes with two different companies. We had worked together the week before the two interviews. He was exultant, over the moon, when he called. He had got the job with the second company.

But the story didn’t end there. With the first company, he had made it to the third interview. A third interview that had not been planned or anticipated but he had obviously made the choice sufficiently difficult that a third interview had become necessary. He wasn’t offered that job in the end, but the fact that he had made it to the second and then to the unplanned third round had given him more confidence and an even better sense of self worth.

“My interview was ace. I couldn’t have done that without you!”

Which is the kind of call or text that I love receiving. Find out more about my interview preparation work here.   Have a look at further articles here – including one on telephone interviews and one which outlines my interview training courses designed especially for graduates.  

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!

The Democrats’ strong ground war – winning elections

Ground wars win elections

Election campaigns used to be split between ground wars and air wars. Then the debate turned to offline vs. online campaigning debate and the advent of the digital election.

Actually, the key to winning elections are, and stay, the same. Online, offline, digital or analog – these are just the how. The key to winning elections, the most basic element of winning elections – is the Ground War.

Of course, the messaging matters and so does the authenticity and likability of the messenger. Clients of mine know all about the other M’s of MessageCraft® that contribute to successful elections. One of these is the Machinery – the network of trained people on the ground who do the hard work of elections.

Obama had superior messaging (on several key criteria) and was arguably a better messenger. But the Democrats  had a high quality and comprehensive ground war with a network of trained volunteers all over the country who understood the “how” behind the three key parts of their job descriptions: – find, persuade and turn out voters.

So what are some of the key criteria for a good ground war? Why did Obama win and what did the Democrats do that was so good?

  1. They listened to people. Listening to people outscores talking to or at people every time.
  2. They were trained –  they understood their job and were taught the best way to do it.
  3. They covered the whole country – or at least more of it than the Republicans.
  4. They started early which gave them the time needed to do the job properly. (When is the best time to start canvassing and campaigning? Generally, the week after you get elected.)
  5.  They focused on high quality contact with voters rather than volume contact – asking more questions – getting more feedback, not just voting intentions.
  6.  All their work was captured on a daily basis in a database that could store verbatim comments and feedback. They knew their audience better.

The Conference Speech

David Cameron’s conference speech ended and “Operation Get Home” swung into action

Conference speeches are almost always sweated over, usually boring in delivery and content, seldom emotional and moving and very occasionally listened to. Safely back by the beach, I have had time in the train and the car to think about the speeches of the last few days and how they were delivered and received.

The “Leader’s speech” is the usual exception to all of my glib generalisations. Ed upped the stakes last week by appearing human and degeeking himself. he didn’t win anyone over but he earned the right to speak. David Cameron rose to the occasion as he usually does. Some writer’s like and need deadlines – DC needs the adrenalin pumping too.

I liked David Cameron’s speech today for a few reasons.

It was serious – and times are serious. It was personal at times – and in serious times it is good to be reminded of the character of those attempting to manage the situation. It had substance and was wide ranging. He told stories. It was raw and real in places. He was different to Ed. There were a couple of good lines for the newspapers and the TV and a few lighter lines – one which took the mick out of the central tenet of Ed’s speech last week like a well trained sniper.

He sounded like a grown up and Presidential and in charge.  He didn’t pull his punches on Labour and he stayed above and away from petty and narky Lib Dem-like criticism of the coalition partner. He used the phrase ‘common ground’ that I referred to last week here and in The Commentator and that I spoke about a few weeks ago at the European Young Conservatives Conference in Oxford.

Boris was funny and clever and his speech was perfectly and craftily crafted.

Both these guys gave good speeches with more-than-competent delivery. But to be fair, compared to some of the speakers at this conference, it was easy to stand out. The distance between DC and Boris and most of the other conference speeches was enormous. Speeches were too often laboriously read and sometimes even stumbled over. Teleprompters were generally avoided. Why?

Commentators love commenting on the level of buzz at conference. Is the party to blame – or the speakers? Are the speeches to blame? Or the content? Or the delivery? Most speeches that I heard were as boring as hell – sad really from people who do this for a living. The Conservative Party has some really bright MPs but we have very few orators – never mind great ones.  Maybe they will do better next year?

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