Saturday, December 28, 2013

Speakers - time to drop the Sex Pistols.

You remember those news images when the Berlin wall came down? It's unlikely that anyone under 40 in your audience will. That was 24 years ago. And those naughty Sex Pistols? then you're talking to over-50s - the punk rock era was 36 years ago.

I don't know about you, but at this time of year I pause to review the reference points in my speeches. The stories, the characters and the historical incidents all age at the same rate that we do, though the average age of our audiences remains the same.

Of course, many stories - often personal ones - are timeless, since they relate to emotional rather than temporal issues. However, leaving a speech unchanged, year after year, may mean that your connection with your audience wanes.

Why not take a few hours to consider what stories and references you can replace or update? Your audiences will notice and appreciate it. 

Photo credit: Creative Commons licence

Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Media Coach 27th December 2013

Special end-of-year edition with MediaMaster an MediaMug of the Year, plus exactly the right music from Out of the Rain.

Check out this episode!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Do speakers tell the truth on stage? Really?

Can you really back up what you say on stage? Is your speech really web-proof? Now that most members of your audience have smart phones and tablets, you'd better be able to justify your assertions. They will check.

There is no getting away with quoting the 1953 Harvard Goals Study (it never happened) or the "7% of communication is words" (untrue, and disowned by the original researcher, Albert Mehrabian).

Of course, not everything on the Internet (or in Wikipedia) is true, but it's easy to verify if things ever took place. So whenever you start a sentence with "Studies have shown that..." or "It's well-known that...", you'd better be sure of your ground. If your statements can't be verified, your credibility is gone.

So my advice is to be your own fact-checker. Look up everything you claim in your speeches, and be prepared to deal with the consequences of your audience doing the same. It used to be said that you could fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but not all the people all the time. These days, you can't fool any of the people any of the time.

Picture Credit: Creative Commons license

Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Media Coach 20th December 2013

Happy Christmas; Your nominations please; Peter O’Toole; British Airways; It’s not just a speech; Why?, Why?, Why?; RSVP every time; An interview with Bob Mills; Music from Out of the Rain

Check out this episode!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Is keynote speaking heading for the elephants' graveyard? #mpi #eventprofs

Is the traditional keynoter an endangered species? While in Vancouver at the Global Speakers Summit, I spoke to a number of bureau heads and bookers about what they are looking for in speakers. There was considerable agreement on three trends:


1) Length of speeches. Everyone I spoke to said that the format of 15-20 minutes speaking, followed by 45 minutes Q&A was increasing in popularity. Some said that's all they look for. They want speakers who can engage an audience with their depth of knowledge and expertise, not with a prepared delivery.

2) Level of engagement. Everyone, yes, everyone, wants speakers to engage with the audience before, during and after the event. They want webinars, tweetchats, social media engagement, Google hangouts - all part of the deal. Just turning up on the day, speaking and leaving won't cut it any more.

3) Interaction.  Forget the "turn off your phones" stuff. We need to be interacting with our audiences during our speeches, using apps like Pigeonhole Live, Poll Everywhere and the Twitter back-channel.

I've already incorporated these trends into what I offer, and I will keep watching the market to see how to keep adapting. My view is that if the traditional keynote is all you offer, you'd better check the route to the elephant graveyard. What say you?

Image Credit: Creative Commons Licence

Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Media Coach 13th December 2013

The Global Speakers Summit; Two awards; I expect you to dine; Cory Keenan; Print me a pizza; The role of the MC; Three keys of core messages; Tell me what you really like; An interview with Heather Waring; Music from Geoff Gibbons.

Check out this episode!

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

The Media Coach 6th December 2013

Off to Vancouver; A proud Clydesider; Tom Daley speaks out; Boris Johnson on IQ; To what do you refer?; Come out with your hands up; Is your business really social?; An interview with Adam Shaw; Music from Kate McRae

Check out this episode!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

The Media Coach 29th November 2013

Reality shows keep going; Is Wales really sexy?; A Professional passes on; A daft burglar; Play from the baseline; Life’s a pitch; Digging deep in Twitter; An interview with Carl Leighton-Pope; Music from Lisbee Stainton

Check out this episode!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Speakers - do you watch the soaps and read the tabloids? You should!

Do you know who's been in tears about their looks in "I'm a Celebrity.." ? What did you think of "Day of the Doctor"? What's your view on Jonathan Trott's return to the UK? Do you agree with Russell Brand's call for a revolution?

These are the sorts of questions that your audience members will be discussing. It's popular culture, and my view is that speakers should know what's going on in these conversations. I'm often surprised when I hear speakers say on stage "I don't watch television - it's all rubbish" or "Sport is boring". That may be your personal view, but it doesn't help to make a connection. I prefer Borgen to Corrie and I'd rather read The Guardian than The Sun, but I still know the storylines in the soaps and the headlines on the tabloids.

I'm not suggesting you should spend hours each day watching Holly and Phillip or browsing the Mail Online's sidebar of shame. But you should at least know who or what they are. For me, connection is about referencing things we have in common, whether we're on stage, answering questions, or chatting before and after the gig.

We're communicators after all. Shouldn't we be aware of what popular communication is about? What's your take?

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Media Coach 22nd November 2013

The Gettysburg Address; The first ever Klout-a-Thon; Lost in IKEA; A tea party with a lion; The intellectual outlaw; Text yourself on air; Twitter up your event; An interview with Lesley Everett; Music from Lisbee Stainton

Check out this episode!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Media Coach 15th November 2013

The Exceptional Speaker; An online course for brilliant speaking; Harold Percival; A UKIP wreatht; Pendats Unite!; Bait your Hook; Don't throw fuel on the fire; An interview with Sean Weafer; Music from Cory Fox-Fardell

Check out this episode!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Al's five-point guide to getting paid speaking gigs

There's lots of understandable chatter in the speaking world about how to get paid gigs. I have a few suggestions, based on my own experience. You may find them helpful.


Al's five-point guide to getting booked:

1) Be very, very good at what you do. That's a given, but many bookings come on the back of a great delivery. Your speaking is your best marketing.

2) Maintain a constant presence. You need to be front of mind for anyone who might book you or refer you. That means being visible. (If you don't know how to do that, call Dave Avrin)

3) Tell others what you do. Yes, blindingly obvious, but if it's hidden in a cryptic title or vague jargon, no-one will understand it. Clarity please.

4) Ask for more business. Your best chance of a booking is from a client you already work with. They love you already. Just ask them what else you can do to help.

5) Eat well. Have breakfast, lunch and dinner with colleagues and prospects (thanks to Matt Crabtree for this tip). Good food fosters good relationships.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

The Media Coach 8th November 2013

Reality shows hare climaxing; How to deliver a brilliant speech; A champion jockey; The Mayor of Toronto; A speech is a two-way thing; Let’s hold a press conference; Hanging out on Google +; An interview with Jim Lawless; Music from Lisbee Stainton

Check out this episode!

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Do you copy, emulate or originate?

Do you copy, emulate or originate? Some would say that it's impossible to be original, since there are no new ideas, and concepts are simply recycled. I'm not so sure, though it's certainly not easy to be original. It's also arguable that no-one else has your unique take on things, so in one sense you really are an originator.
Copying someone else in detail can lead to accusations of plagiarism, which is unprofessional and the opposite of original thought. Most of us are emulators, taking elements from the people we meet, the books we read (to paraphrase Charlie Tremendous Jones) and what we encounter on the web.

I make no secret of my admiration for two of my heroes in particular - journalist Alistair Cooke (who presented 'Letter from America' weekly for 58 years - the longest-running radio show ever) and photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson (whose style was coined "the decisive moment"). I base my weekly web radio show on the former, and try to embody the spirit of the latter in my speeches. It's my homage, not an attempt to copy.

It seems that popular chanteur Gary Barlow has decided that emulation is a great idea too, and though he's denied it, he's clearly been listening to Mumford and Sons before releasing his new single. 

Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Media Coach 1st November 2013

The media on trial; How to handle a social media crisis; Farewell Lou Reed; Remember remember Katie Hopkins; Four things exceptional speakers do; Ten people  you meet in the media; Is twitter useful for speakers?; An interview with, and music from, Robbie Boyd

Check out this episode!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Media Coach 25th October 2013

Thumping a self-checkout; Don’t pay for radio; The singing policeman; Boris falls foul of Twitter; My friend Mike; Five more ways to get international publicity; Two-screening it; An interview with Jeremy Jacobs; Music from Robbie Boyd

Check out this episode!

Friday, October 18, 2013

The Media Coach 18th October 2013

Reality shows - where next?; Plain English; Churchillian Insults; Laughing at Brucie; Drink in or Take Away; Five ways to get international publicity; The Oxford Circus Syndrome; An interview with Shelle Rose Chavet; Music from Shantalla

Check out this episode!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

The Media Coach 11th October 2013

New website; New book; Fun and games at Old Trafford; Carrie in a Cafe; Bridget or Del boy?; Who are those people?; Listen with your body; A casual glance; An interview with Allegra McEvedy; Music from Mick Wilson

Check out this episode!

Monday, October 07, 2013

Are you sure that's a good social media idea?

There's an avalanche of social media advice dished out every day on the web. Some of it is helpful, some neither here nor there, and some is, in my view, just plain wrong. Yes, I'm aware I'm setting my self up by offering advice here, but I've never been one to duck controversy. 

Here are three bits of advice that I think are very questionable. 

1) Automate your posts There are all sorts of tools for posting messages when you're offline or doing something else. It can be a good way of reaching people in different time zones. Alas, some people take things too far and automate everything. It soon becomes obvious that someone is sending and not receiving, because they never become part of the conversation. Even if you do automate some of your posts, be prepared to deal with the responses, even if it's a few hours later.

2) The more "likes" the better On the face of it, this seems pretty good advice, since if people are liking your Facebook page, it must be a good thing. That's why companies use competitions where the entry requires you to like their page. The trouble is, people are liking it just to win something, and they couldn't care less about your business. OK, so they have to visit your page, but the real prize for you is to get them engaged and talking about you. That's a much better metric.

3) Delete negative comments Again, this is something that appears to be a good idea. It isn't. Removing criticism is guaranteed to set off a storm of protest. Instead, respond to any criticism so that your point of view is also seen widely. Remain respectful and deal with the issues raised. If you're seen to be handling a problem with care and concern, your reputation will be enhanced.

Friday, October 04, 2013

The Media Coach 2nd October 2013

The conference of the year; Leader’s speeches; Dance your resignation; Paul Dacre; As I really shouldn’t have said; Use your opponent’s strength; Is your post worth reading?; An interview with Tony Hawks; Music from Mick Terry

Check out this episode!

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

#CPC13 Conference Speechwatch 2013 - David Cameron, Conservative

David Cameron delivered his fifty-minute response to Ed Milliband and Nick Clegg (but mostly Ed Milliband) at a lectern in the Manchester conference hall. Gone was the barnstormimg in-the-round no notes speech of years past, replaced by a statesmanlike delivery. Somewhat surprisingly (to me at least), he delivered some of his lines directly into the TV camera, straight towards the voters at home. That's unusual for a political leader, and sometimes appears desperate. However, he got away with it.

There were 26 mentions of Labour, few of the LibDems and none of Nick Clegg. There was no mention of UKIP. It was clear where his target was. The first time he mentioned his opponents, he used the phrase "the mess that Labour left" which I suspect was no accident. He tends to deliver in short, sharp sentences, which are not sentences at all, simply phrases. Some of his phrases had an odd message. For example, he said  Michael Gove is "a cross between Mr Chips and the Duracell bunny". I'm still trying to work that one out.

One of the repeated phrases, appearing in every topic, was "land of opportunity", presumably as a counter to "Britain is better than this" from Ed Miliband last week.

He tried humour, but like almost every politician, didn't have them rolling in the aisles. He made a reference to pictures of him looking a bit portly on holiday. He directed a comment to Ed Miliband "I'll keep my shirt on if you keep the lights on". He also mentioned "Red Ed and his Blue Peter policies". Hardly a rib-tickler.

He delivered well, and has developed a distinctive, choppy style that delights his audience. However, applause was often muted. He still has the verbal tic common to politicians "Let me say this". A standing ovation for the armed forces lasted almost a minute, but Mr Cameron asked people to stand.

He finished with a rousing piece of on-theme anaphora "Together we've made it this far, together we'll finish the job we've started, together we'll build that land of opportunity."

Overall, a competent performance. No rousing elements, no cheers, but plenty of solid points. Far from being his best speech, but perfectly workmanlike. I'd score him six out of ten.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Media Coach 27th September 2013

More political speechmaking; Football howlers; More 007; Asda goes mad; A lucky bag of speaking tips; Don’t Crick up your interview; Are you sure that’s a good idea?; An interview with Carolyn Strauss; Music from Jim Boggia

Check out this episode!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

#LAB13 Conference Speechwatch 2013 - Ed Milliband, Labour

Ed Milliband walked through a crowd on stage to a huge welcome. He received a standing ovation before he spoke a word. Once again he worked without an autocue, and away from a lectern. In most camera shots, he was backed by a group of what appeared to be very tidy sixth-form schoolboys and young women.

He began with a personal story about Ella Phillips, who he picked up after a bike accident, and who called him an "action hero". He was using a typical stand-up comedy opening, and had a good punch line; "She was concussed". Nice timing too.

His opening message, repeated three times, was "Britain can do better than this", with the third part of the tricolon being a variant "We're Britain, we can do better than this". He then quickly returned to last year's One Nation theme, and another slogan "Are you satisfied?". However, he returned to the "Britain can do better.." many times. I lost count after the first twenty mentions.

He made full use of triplets: "This is what I believe, this is where I stand, this is the leadership Britain needs". He also used one of his favourite call and response gambits "Do the Tories get it?" "No" was a quiet response. "Oh come on, you can do better than that" "No" they roared. Panto time.

It was a wide-ranging speech, pointing out times when he did what was "the right thing to do". He thanked the troops, the police, the teachers, the doctors and nurses. He thanked ordinary blokes, market traders and ambulance drivers. Each delivered applause in what speechwriters call a "claptrap". The speech was clearly designed to be punctuated often by applause.

There were other themes too "A race to the top, not a race to the bottom", and "Not under my government". That last one obviously a signal to those who don't see him as prime ministerial.

However, it took some time to get to policy statements. He promised "One million new green jobs by 2030", whatever that means. He made a well-received commitment to freezing energy bills until 2017. He also gave a pledge to build two million homes (though it was a bit of a mystery what he meant by "use the land or lose the land" - is he going to confiscate property?). He called the NHS "the greatest institution in our country", and said we must "raise our sights about what the NHS can achieve as a truly integrated service". He surfed the applause a couple of times when bashing the Conservatives over health policy, and received a mid-speech standing ovation for it. That threw him off his step for a moment.

In a sotto voce section, he spoke about party reform to muted applause. There was much more cheering for his call for votes for 16 and 17-year-olds. Now it was obvious why those young people were behind him.

His style was more conversational and relaxed than usual, though the odd political non-phrase slipped out; "Now hear me on this", "Now let me tell you something"

There was a nice piece of antithesis when referring to David Cameron, "He's strong standing up to the weak, but weak standing up to the strong". His closing phrase was "I will lead a Britain that fights for you".

Overall, it wasn't the set-piece oration of last year. It was more relaxed, with more audience engagement, and at times almost like a stand-up act. There were lots of personal stories, but this time not about his family. To his credit, he received several standing ovations during the speech. My assessment was that though it was it good, it wasn't his best performance, so seven out of ten from me.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

The Media Coach 20th September 2013

Party Conferences; Form and function; A twerk hoax; Where’s my iPad?; Please give it up for; In the TV studio; Don’t gamble on a social media expert; An interview with Robin Speculand; Music from The Good Suns

Check out this episode!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Conference Speechwatch 2013 - Nick Clegg, LibDems

Nick Clegg faced a tough task in front of his party today as he tried to establish both his success as a party leader and his achievement as a deputy prime minister. He began with a "joke" about his first day as deputy PM, talking about the "utter chaos" at the start of the coalition.

His first "claptrap"  - 'Fixing the economy" drew muted applause. He began confidently, stressing most of the words in most of his sentences. His first triplet "Feel proud.." was followed by "Liberal Democrats - we are a party of Government now!" Again, the applause was muted.
He used a rising series of phrases, well emphasised to generate a good reaction, to return to a softer tone when talking about income taxed. He surfed the applause, and used the "just one more..." tactic twice.

He made a strong plea for coalition government, asking people "not to give the keys of number ten to a single party". He then turned to comments of a more personal nature, and his upbringing in the seventies watching adversarial politics. This set up the speech's core message - that coalition and collaboration is the way forward. He was earnest and animated, but still for me, came across like a deputy head delivering a speech to the sixth form at the end-of-term assembly.

He was relaxed and confident throughout, with the occasional coughing break during the applause, which grew stronger through the speech, as his voice grew weaker. He made a sustained attack on Labour, with the repeated phrase "..just to score points against us".

In a less than ringing phrase, he stressed his party's commitment to Europe with  'We will be the party of in". The audience looked confused, perhaps just by the tortured grammar. He told a story about his father-in-law being elected mayor of a small Spanish village. It wasn't clear what  the point was.

He also made a strong plea for a "no" vote in the Scottish constitutional referendum, with a promised of a "new settlement for this nation".

There was a cheer for "I'd like to be Prime Minister on my own, thank you very much". He clearly has his party onside, if not over-excited. However, he applause-surfed into a great phrase: "We’re not here to prop up the two party system: we’re here to bring it down."

The closing section of his speech was about his personal circumstances - his parents, his brothers and sisters, his wife, his children. It was sound stuff, if not that inspiring.

His speech finished just before his voice gave out. His closing tricolon, before the obligatory standing ovation, was not very memorable: "Liberal Democrats take that message out to the country. Our mission is anchoring Britain to the centre ground. Our place is in Government again."

Overall - six out of ten. 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Media Coach 13th September 2013

An exceptional week; Video in Florida; Radio in London; Nigel Kennedy; A dog not a lion; One two three; A sound bite in time; Change your thinking; An interview with Diane DiResta; Music from Ayd Instone

Check out this episode!

Thursday, September 05, 2013

The Media Coach 6th September 2013

Back to school; The Exceptional Speaker; David Jacobs; David Frost; John McCain plays poker; Think like your audience; Ten tips for writing articles; Twitter rocks!; An interview with Susan Luke; Music from Jennifer Haase

Check out this episode!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Media Coach 30th August 2013

Exam Nerves; Cliff Morgan; Cold Call profits; LG phone disaster; Doctor King had a dream; Phoning in a Story; Three reasons to blog; An interview with Phillip Riederle; Music from Nugent & Belle

Check out this episode!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Media Coach August 23rd 2013

Challenging times; A virtual book tour; A big burger; Elmore Leonard; Non-PC history; Three speaking myths; Three media myths; Three social media myths; An interview with Lois Creamer; Music from Jim Boggia

Check out this episode!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

The Media Coach 16th August 2013

The Exceptional Speaker; Skateboarding Ducks; Ron Burgundy; A dreadful interview; Visual, Auditory or Kinisthetic? Well maybe; Allow me to explain; What’s wrong with this picture?; An interview with Pete Weissman; Music from We are Kodeta

Check out this episode!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Giant steps are what you take....

Did a man really walk on the moon? Yes, of course. Twelve men did, to be precise Is there any doubt? Well, apparently, according to a conversation I had with a pal from Australia a few days ago. Despite being an intelligent bloke in his mid-40s, he is totally convinced that the whole thing was faked, having read some "evidence" on the Internet.

Which brings me to my point. The great thing about the Internet is that it allows everyone to express a view. The bad thing about the Internet is - er - that it allows everyone to express a view. Without getting into a philosophical discussion about "what is truth", I'd just like anyone viewing a "conspiracy theory" website to take a pause for thought. Conspiracies, of their very nature, require groups of people to act together and not reveal their activities to others. The more people involved (or the more complex the alleged conspiracy), the more difficult it is for everyone to keep the secret. In fact, it doesn't happen. Someone always gives the game away, for reasons of conscience, bravado, or money.

So, the moon landings did happen, there is no New World Order and the planet is not governed by shape-shifting lizards. What we see really is what we get.

Picture credit: Creative Commons license

Friday, August 09, 2013

The Media Coach 9th August 2013

Thoughts from New York; Gettysburg Address; Doomed graffiti; Another dumb politician; You can ask questions too; Know your nuggets; What’s the point, I mean really?; An interview with Tim and Kris O’Shea; Music from Lisbee Stainton

Check out this episode!

Friday, August 02, 2013

The Media Coach 2nd August 2013

NSA in Philadelphia; The Exceptional Speaker; A lot of drums; Anthony Weiner; Block it, spot it; Hold the line; Ten ways to give a little love; An interview with Pam Lontos; Music from Paul Carrack

Check out this episode!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Media Coach 26th July 2013

James Alexander Gordon; A mermaids’s tale; They’ve come to hear from you; So what’s your take on the news?; Why social media needs Simon Cowell; An interview with Joachim de Posada; Music from Mary Sarah

Check out this episode!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Media Coach 19th July 2013

Another summer of sport; Missing the joke; Alan Whicker; The wrong names; Play your inner game on stage; I’m sorry, I haven’t a clue; Mind the gap;   An interview with Peter Beardsley; Music from Mick Wilson

Check out this episode!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

The Media Coach 12th July 2013

Raising your game; Alfred Hitchcock; A belated complaint; If you must use slides; But I didn’t get my message across!; Tweet-up your event; An interview with Sam Silverstein; Music from Mick Terry

Check out this episode!

Thursday, July 04, 2013

The Media Coach 5th July 2013

Hints and tips for media appearances, speaking and social media. This week; When things go wrong; Oops; Thanks; Ronnie Wood; Tesco tweets; Using props - the oops effect; Don’t panic; Terrible Tweets, Facebook Flames;  An interview with Tony Hawks; Music from The Duckworth Lewis Method.

Check out this episode!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Media Coach 28th June 2013

Hints and tips for media appearances, speaking and social media. This week; Kenny Harris: The British 10K; Status Quo tribute to themselves; A very big spider; Is this thing on?; I know my rights; Starman; An interview with Kenny Harris; Music from Ultravox

Check out this episode!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Media Coach 21st June 2013

Hints and tips for media appearances, speaking and social media. This week; A happy co-incidence; Feeding and educating ten children; James Gandolfini; Social media woes in Japan; Seven reasons to avoid video; Who’s in charge here?; So what’s your take?; An interview with Molly Bedingfield; Music from Henrik.

Check out this episode!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

7 reasons not to use videos in presentations

The use of videos during presentations is not new, but it's on the increase. It's often seen as a benefit, especially if speaking to generation Y or millennial audiences. But how useful is it really. Does it add to your reputation or take away from it? I think there are a number of reasons to avoid it, so here are my seven reasons not to use video on stage:

1. It's not you. You're showing an audience another presenter, maybe even in voice-over, who is potentially very different from you and your style.

2. It's not your message. However close a video is to your ideas, it's probably not identical, since you didn't produce it.

3. It's not yours.  The copyright may be owned by someone else. They may never find out, but it's still illegal to use it if you don't have permission.

4. It's not fair. I've seen presenters fill up to half of their speeches with video material. That's hardly fair to an organiser that's paying you for your stuff.

5. It's not in flow. Using a video can break up the flow of your speech, and distract your audience.

6. It's not new. Many viral videos have been seen by many people. The first viewing may induce a gasp. Subsequent viewings my induce a groan.

7. It's not good enough. Your material is superb, so don't dilute it with someone else's second-class stuff.

Of course, there are good reasons to use video too - what would you suggest they are? Or do you agree with the points above?

Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Media Coach 14th June 2013

Hints and tips for media appearances, speaking and social media. This week; The book has landed; Karaoke anyone?; A true professional; Where’s the paper?; A very silly thief; Use the screen sparingly; I don’t know what they will ask me; Pret a tweet; An interview with Bob Mills of; Music from Mick Terry.

Check out this episode!

Thursday, June 06, 2013

The Media Coach 7th June 2013

Hints and tips for media appearances, speaking and social media. This week; Sunny E18, The Apprentice and the speaker; Stephen Fry; TV wars; Emulate the speaking greats; Keep Clear; Ten rules for Anti-social media; An interview with Bill Stainton; Music from Lee Robert

Check out this episode!

Thursday, May 30, 2013

The Media Coach 31st May 2013

Hints and tips for media appearances, speaking and social media. This week; A weekend in Glasgow; The Apprentice; Voices of Summer; Bill Pertwee; A perfect scone; Web-proofing your speech; I want news and I want it now; A thousand words worth; An interview with Patricia Fripp; Music from Mick Terry.

Check out this episode!

Saturday, May 25, 2013

How to web-proof your speeches.

As speakers, our job is to make people think and act differently. There's no point going on stage and saying. "You know that stuff you always do? Just keep doing it". We need to challenge our audiences. We need to encourage them to challenge what they hear. Of course, that means they will challenge what we say too.


Almost everyone in our audiences are connected to the web, and will carry on using it as we speak. It will take them a fraction of a second to verify statements we make. They look at our sites, our blogs, our Facebook posts and our tweets. They form an impression of us not just from our words and actions on stage, but what we've posted, and what others have said on the same topic.

We can't get away with quoting "studies" that never happened, like the mythical "Harvard goals study" (let's not go down the Mehrabian route, we've been there many times). We can't make up statistics. We can't attribute quotes that people never made. Of course, the Internet is not an infallible source of wisdom, but it's what people refer to.

My advice is to act like your audiences. Use the web to check what you say as you rehearse. Ideally rehearse with someone else and get them to check your words. Forewarned is forearmed. One of the best approaches I've found is to say "Yes, opinions differ. This is my take on the issue , and this is why"

How do you "web-proof" your speeches?

Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Media Coach 24th May 2013

Hints and tips for media appearances, speaking and social media. This week; Funny Voting; Nigel Farage; Scottish Cup Final; Trevor Bolder; Check the script;  Seven Ideas (OK 8); And you are?; Jazzing around with Twitter; An interview with Tim Campbell; Music from We are Kodeta

Check out this episode!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

The Media Coach 17th May 2013

Hints and tips about media appearances, speaking and social media. This week; Say what you mean; Eurovision; Roll the presses; Peter Allen; Heineken; Search for the hero inside yourself; Targets and Bridges; Dan Brown al Dante; An interview with Russel Tarr; Music from Marcus Eaton.

Check out this episode!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Mr Gove or Mr Fussy?

What should you do if your well-publicised speech turns out to be based on misinformation? If you're the Education Secretary, apparently nothing. Michael Gove made a speech in which he said "One set of history teaching resources suggests spending classroom time depicting the rise of Hitler as a Mr Men story. I may be unfamiliar with all of Roger Hargreaves's work, but I am not sure he ever got round to producing Mr Anti-Semitic Dictator, Mr Junker General or Mr Dutch Communist Scapegoat"

His speechwriter has come up with a decent line, but it's very misleading. This morning, I interviewed Russel Tarr, the teacher who is in Mr Gove's firing line. Unsurprisingly, he's furious. He explained that at the end of an intensive six-week course on the Weimar Republic, his GCSE students are required to explain the rise of Hitler to nine-year old primary children, as an exercise to show understanding and communication. The students used Mr Men characters in the exercise, which was very successful.

When challenged on this misdirection, Mr Gove is quoted as saying simply "Read my speech". As Russel Tarr told me, "I wonder what Mr Gove would make of Communism explained with farm animals? Perhaps he's unaware of George Orwell".

My point is not political, but my question is this. If you were challenged after a speech on the basis of misinformation, how would you handle it?
 Picture Credit : Roger Hargreaves Creative Commons

Thursday, May 09, 2013

The Media Coach 10th May 2013

Hints and tips for media appearances, speaking and social media. This week; Who makes the news?; More phones than people; Ray Harryhausen; Soft drinks and bad taste; Can you prove that?; Handling a pre-recorded interview; How do you do everything?; An interview with The Chuckle Brothers; Music from Mick Wilson

Check out this episode!

Saturday, May 04, 2013

How unique are you? Who says so?

To get regular bookings, we speakers need to stand out from the crowd. We need to be unique. As the US concert promoter Bill Graham used to say of rock band The Grateful Dead” “They’re not the best at what they do, they are the only ones who do what they do”.

It’s interesting to note how some speakers label themselves, presumably in the hope of drawing the interest of potential clients. “The UK’s leading..” or “Amazon best-selling author”. But hang on a minute. How rare are these hyperbolic appellations? I ran some Google searches to check. “The UK’s leading speaker” (28,400 results), “Amazon best-selling author” (697,000 results). Not in any sense unique, and makes it more difficult to stand out than Wally does.

Leaving aside the fact that self-given descriptions are simply opinions (and may just be based on getting people to buy your book on a given hour on a given day), do they really convince people? Why not use verifiable third-party information, such as “Listed as one of the top 100 social media experts to follow on Twitter by influential US blogger Evan Carmichael” or “Past President of the Global Speakers Federation” ? (Yes, those refer to me, but I’m making a point, not self-promoting).

The thing is, we all have stuff that makes us unique. That’s why people buy us. Of course, you can always add a touch of humour. The virtuoso violinist Yehudi Menuhin was widely recognised as being the world’s best. When he was asked how he regarded himself, he said “I’m the world’s second-best violinist”. The next question was obvious “Who is the best?” he was asked. “All my friends” he used to reply with a smile.

Thursday, May 02, 2013

The Media Coach 3rd May 2013

Hints and tips for media appearances, speaking and social media. This week; Office jargon; The medium modifies the message; Jaguar; Pepsico; Busking it on stage; Revenge is sour; Play nicely! Share!; An interview with Gered Mankowitz; Music from the Lost Hollow Band

Check out this episode!

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

10 definitions for the Internet Devil's Dictionary.

One of my literary heroes is Ambrose Bierce, American essayist and satirist, and author of the brilliantly sardonic Devil's Dictionary, originally published in 1906. I wonder what he would have made of the internet? Here are a few entries that might make it into the Devil's Dictionary of the Web:

Twitter: A monstrous mix of banality and irrelevance, filled with chatter from people you don't know about things you don't care about.

Facebook: A device for checking up on old school pals, and finding out that the big boy who bullied you in school is now calling himself Dolores and is a cocktail waitress in a bar in Tangier.

LinkedIn: A collection of CVs from job-seekers who have never worked with each other, but who write each other endless glowing testimonials in the hope of finding gainful employment again

SEO: An abbreviation for Seriously Expensive Ordure. A way of getting to number one in Google for "Lifestyle Coach, Orkney", regardless of your location or profession.

Internet Marketing: A way of selling course to people desperate to sell courses to other people desperate to become, er, Internet Marketers.

Blog: An intermittent rant written by a self-styled expert, read exclusively by other bloggers, if at all.

YouTube: A place for people to upload 15-minute pieces to camera about how their business is better than the one next door, or video clips of people walking into lamp posts.

Foursquare: A network established by footpads and thieves to discover when people are away from home

Instgram: Pictures of your cat in a hat and sunglasses, or of your friends making strange faces, digitally altered to look like grainy old pictures to show on high definition screens.

Empire Avenue: A cross between derivatives trading and Myspace. No-one really knows what it's for.

I wonder if others could suggest more entries?

Picture Credit: Wikipedia Creative Commons

Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Media Coach 26th April 2013

Hints and tips for media appearances, speaking and social media. This week; Inspiring speakers; A long run; Richie Havens; A short media career; Spring clean your speech; Get the timing right; E M Forster has a lot to answer for; An interview with Robin Speculand; Music from The B of the Bang

Check out this episode!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Media Coach 19th April 2013

Hints and tips for media appearances, speaking and social media. This week; The Boston Marathon bombing; Virtually in Abu Dhabi; Dove real beauty; Happy the goldfish; Speaking - it’s a con trick; Toughing it out; Beware the Autotweet; An interview with Adam Clarkson of Holler; Music from Amy Campbell

Check out this episode!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Justin Bieber - the boy in his own bubble

Justin Bieber's tour of Europe has attracted plenty of publicity, but it's been far from positive. There was the anger and upset of many UK fans after he appeared on stage so late that many of the audience had already left. Then there was a confrontation with photographers in London, then his pet monkey was put under quarantine in Germany, then school exams were rescheduled in Portugal and Norway because of the timing of his shows....the list goes on.

The latest faux pas has been caused by his comments in the guest book at the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam. Mr Bieber wrote; "Truly inspiring to be able to come here. Anne was a great girl. Hopefully she would have been a belieber.”

Like millions of others, I have also visited the Anne Frank House and been deeply moved by her story. Seeing the tiny space in which she and her family hid for years from the German occupiers, only to be captured and killed just before the war ended, brings home the tragedy of the Second World War. Mr Bieber was clearly affected by his visit, but sadly managed to define his feelings in terms of his own fame. 

There's little doubt that Mr Bieber's fans will care little for the way in which he summed up his experience. For them, he can do no wrong. However, the impression that he is wrapped up in his own publicity bubble is growing. Perhaps he feels that controversy sells. Maybe he's just badly advised. Maybe he just needs to think a little bit harder about the impact of his behaviour and his words. 

Picture credit: By Joe Bielawa  Uploaded by MyCanon (Justin Bieber) [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Friday, April 12, 2013

Ding, dong, the witch is banned (well, partly)

Well, well, the BBC has got itself into a proper tangle over whether to play "Ding dong, the witch is dead", now standing at number three in the charts after a campaign to demonstrate feelings about the recently deceased Baroness Thatcher. An uneasy compromise has been announced by the Beeb, with a "clip" of the song being played as part of a "news item". Since the song is only fifty-one seconds long anyway, a clip may well go un-noticed.

It's easy to understand the offence that could be caused by playing the song, before a funeral has even taken place. It's hardly a precedent, since in years past, BBC has banned a number of tracks, including "Give Ireland back to the Irish" by Wings, "God Save the Queen" by the Sex Pistols, and even "Boom bang-a-bang" by diminutive popster Lulu, which was removed from airplay during the first Gulf War.

Of course, times change, and almost all of the songs once banned by the BBC are now played on a regular basis. However, censorship has always been arbitrary. For example, it's hard to understand how songs like "Walk on the Wild Side" by Lou Reed escaped the censors, other than they presumably had no idea what "giving head" meant.

Is the BBC's muddled solution the correct one? Since it will probably attract complaints from both sides, it may be seen as maintaining impartiality. In a few months time, the whole thing will have been forgotten, and people will be wondering what was all the fuss about a song from the 1930s that lasts less than a minute, and has no rude words in it.

I suspect that Baroness Thatcher herself would have been highly amused by the affair. She never shirked controversy, and even seemed to thrive on it. Any wicked witch would have stood no chance against her.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

The Media Coach 12th April 2013

Hints and tips for media appearances, speaking and social media. This week; Legacy (it’s a theme); Margaret Thatcher; The Olympics; David Mellor; A sorry bunch of Cher fans; Leave a lasting impression; That’s not what you said before; Your social media footprints don’t fade; An interview with Darren Lacroy; Music from Simon Kirke

Check out this episode!

Monday, April 08, 2013

Margaret Thatcher has died. What is her legacy?

It's just been announced that Baroness Thatcher, former leader of the Conservative party and Conservative Prime Minister, has died following a stroke. She is undoubtedly one of the iconic political figures of the last century. Her reputation was global, and her legacy will be long-lasting. How will history view her?

The former grocer's daughter from Grantham will undoubtedly be listed alongside the likes of Winston Churchill and Tony Blair as someone who affected a nation. While Churchill's legacy is strongly positive, Mrs Thatcher's is far more mixed. She gave rise to a noun - "Thatcherism" as a result of her economic strategy, the effects of which are still felt to this day.

To many, she is seen as the saviour of modern Britain. To others, she was someone so focused on her ideology that the damage done by her policies ran deep.

Politics apart, from my point of view as a media commentator, she was one of the best interviewees ever. She always got her point across, regardless of the impertinent questions of her interlocutors. With her PR guru, Lord Bell, she planned many an ambush on policies she disagreed with, such as laying her handkerchief across the tails of model planes painted in the new British Airways livery.

Her funeral will be a huge public event - probably the largest political funeral since Winston Churchill's in the sixties. I shall bid her a fond farewell, not because I agreed with every one of her policies, but as an admirer of her fortitude, courage and powerful communication style.

We shall not see her like again for many a long year.

Picture Credit: By work provided by Chris Collins of the Margaret Thatcher Foundation (Margaret Thatcher Foundation) [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Twitter doesn't love Paris in the springtime.

A Twitter storm has been raging over the appointment of 17-year-old Paris Brown as as Britain’s first Youth Police and Crime Commissioner. She's only a few days into her £15,000 a year post, yet, her competence has been questioned by national newspapers and thousands of Twitter users. 

The problem has been caused by tweets that she sent between the ages of 14 and 16, which have been described as offensive, homphobic and drug-related. There's little doubt that the language she used was strong, and the comments very direct, but should she's still very young, and has offered a full apology. 

I suspect that if the social media feeds of most young teenagers were analysed, it would be easy to find something to complain about. The question is, should the sorts of daft things that teenagers say be held against them in future? In another more adult sphere, John O'Farrell, the Labour candidate in the recent Eastleigh by-election, was pilloried for a statement he made about Margaret Thatcher many years ago.

In matters of reputation, public judgement always comes into play. What matters is whether people have enough support to ride out the storm, or whether their past behaviour will forever make them "damaged goods". A quick and heartfelt apology always helps, but at the end of the day, it's the opinion of the people they serve that matters. Will they be able to do their job in future, and will people have confidence in them? It looks to me as though the pressure to remove Miss Brown has reached such a peak that it will be hard for her to remain in post, despite the support of her sponsor.

Saturday, April 06, 2013

Delivering a speech? Finish big.

The closing line of your speech may be the one thing that members of your audience remember as they leave the hall. It's critically important that you deliver it well, and that the content is spot-on. Ideally, it should mirror your opening line, and provide exactly what you promised at the start of your speech.
What are the essential elements of a good close?. I think they include some or most of these:
  • Indicate that you are about to finish ("and in conclusion")
  • Re-state your core message
  • Refer back to the start of your speech
  • Use the word "you"
  • Call your audience to action
  • Deliver a ringing phrase
  • Use an analogy ("just as Churchill said")
  • Use a quote
  • Say simply "Thank you"
  • Stay on stage and take the applause

Here's how Winston Churchill did it on June 18th 1940: "But if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science. Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, 'This was their finest hour.'"

Picture Credit: Alan Stevens 

Thursday, April 04, 2013

The Media Coach 5th April 2013

Hints and tips for media appearances, speaking and social media. This week: Fascists and football; Bonkers Barking; The Mobile Phone at 40; George, innit?; Finish  Big; How Local News Works; Do I need video?; An interview with Derek Arden; Music from the Lost Hollow Band

Check out this episode!

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

It's economics, innit? George Osborne goes Mockney.

George Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, was at in Kent yesterday making a speech about welfare reform. He was speaking to workers from Morrison's supermarket at one of their regional distribution centres. A standard political set-piece event, staged mainly for the six o'clock news. But something strange happened to his voice. Instead of his clipped and somewhat posh accent, he said "wanna', "Briddish" and dropped many a "T" from his words. It was quite bizarre, like hearing Prince Charles trying to rap.

What was he thinking? The answer is that he probably wasn't. Changing our speech pattern in different environments is something most of us do. It's known as communication accommodation, and is a well-documented phenomenon. It's particularly noticeable in people whose accents have changed after living a long way from their birthplace, who suddenly revert to their original tones when speaking to friends and family who stayed put.

For most people, it's not a problem, since it's often not noticed, or seen as being "just one of those things". For a politician, however, it's much more of an issue. If Mr Osborne is regarded as deliberately changing his accent to appeal to a certain group, it can be seen as false (an attribute many people associate with politicians anyway). It would be sensible for him, and other politicians, to make a conscious effort to keep the same accent at all times. I'm sure his advisors will have pointed this out to the Chancellor, and I suspect we won't hear him doing it again. Funny old world, innit?

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Once a fascist, always a fascist? The Di Canio conundrum

Sunderland football club has captured a lot of headlines today, but not for their performance on the pitch. That, of course will come as no surprise to the diehard Mackems this season, who are undergoing a trying time. To add to their woes, the appointment of a new manager, with just a handful of games until the end of the premiership season has given them the sort of publicity they didn't want.

There's no doubt that Paolo Di Canio is (or was) an incredibly gifted footballer, capable of acts of breathtaking skill on the pitch. There's also no doubt that  he's also committed some bizarre acts both on and off the pitch that also take one's breath away. He's what's known as a "character", which is often another way of saying "I'm glad he's not in our team". 

The problem for many people with his appointment is his declaration of fascist sympathies. He wrote in his autobiography about his views on the former Italian fascist leader, Benito Mussolini; "I think he was a deeply misunderstood individual. He deceived people. His actions were often vile. But all this was motivated by a higher purpose. He was basically a very principled individual.” Mr Di Canio has also said that his own views are "fascist, not racist", which probably comes as little comfort to those trying to defend his reputation, which was also damaged by his delivery of a straight-arm fascist salute in Rome in 2005 after he scored for Lazio against bitter local rivals Roma. 

Since then, he's managed Swindon Town, with barely a raised eyebrow in the media, though the local GMB union withdrew their financial support for the club. So why is there such a media furore now over his views? It's partly timing, since Easter is a quiet time for news. It's partly, with all due respect to Swindon Town, that Sunderland is a higher profile club. It's partly that David Milliband has resigned from the club's board in protest (though presumably his departure for New York would have meant his departure was imminent anyway). But mostly, I think, it's because Paolo Di Canio himself attracts (one might even say courts) publicity.

The issue for most Mackems, I suspect, is not his political views, but whether he can keep the club in the premiership. There are some, a few of whom were on the radio today, who believe that his appointment is wrong, regardless of the outcome. In a day or two, I suspect the storm over his political past will blow away, and matters on the pitch will take precedence. But for now, I would urge Mr Di Canio to keep his hands firmly in his pockets.

Picture Credit: Wikipedia, Creative Commons Licence

Monday, April 01, 2013

Speakers urgently required for research project to debunk Mehrabain fallacy

I'm working with a Swedish academic, Professor Olof Lirpa, who is putting forward the opposite theory to the Mehrabian fallacy. Professor Lirpa maintains that 93% of communication is words, and is seeking volunteer speakers to help him test the theory. He's setting up a series of TOD talks (Totally Oral Delivery), where the speaker will either be in darkness, behind a screen, or facing an audience with their backs towards them. He's also trying out different accents and pitches.

So if you're interested (no fee, but you will aid useful research), and you can speak in different accents, or in high-pitched or basso profundo tone, Professor Lirpa would love to hear from you. His need is urgent, so contact me by the end of today, and I will put you in touch. Many thanks.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

10 questions for event organisers to ask virtual presenters

There are many great speakers around who you could select for your next event. For those who are appearing in person, it’s fairly easy to get a recommendation from someone who has seen them before. However, it’s much more difficult to make the judgement when selecting a virtual presenter, who will be appearing only on a screen. Great speakers don't necessarily make great virtual presenters.

Here’s a check-list of questions that will help you to choose a virtual presenter that will delight your audience.

1) How much virtual presenting have you done?  Everyone has to start somewhere, but if you have an large, important event to organise, it’s unwise to risk a first-time or inexperienced virtual presenter. Allow them to gather experience at smaller events.

2) What software have you used? Every technology requires some knowledge and experience to make best use of it. Whether you are using Skype, GoToMeeting or any other system, ensure that presenters know how to use it.

3) What technology do you have? A reliable connection is a must. So is high-quality sound. Good virtual presenters will have a hard-wired, high-speed internet connection and a good external microphone.

4) Can we see testimonials? The view of other organisers is always a strong indication of how good a virtual presenter really is.

5) What training have you done? There are some skills required for virtual presentations, and any presenter who has had no training at all is going to be a risk.

6) Can we have a chat on Skype? You can use a Skype conversation to make a live assessment of someone’s skills. Ask them a question that requires a detailed answer, sit back, watch and listen. How good would they look and sound in front of your audience?

7) Can we see your YouTube channel? You can make a good assessment of someone’s on-screen skills by looking at how they communicate on video. They don’t upload videos? Look for someone else.

8) What do you think are the key skills of a virtual presenter? They should be able to tell you the important skills required - confidence, looking into the camera at all times, limited use of notes and the ability to “project” into the room.

9) Are you prepared to engage with the audience before and after your presentation? How would you do that? You need a “yes” to the first part, and a sensible response to the second.

10) Are you prepared to appear at short notice? Sometimes, the best plans need to change. If you need to bring in a speaker at short notice, is this someone you could rely on?

How do you assess the responses? There is no list of “right answers”, but any shuffling of the feet and embarrassed mumblings will reveal a great deal. In my opinion, demonstrable results and testimonials rank high on the selection criteria, but it depends exactly what your event is looking for, and is prepared to pay for.

I've delivered many virtual presentations, and I'm still discovering ways to offer an even better service. Don't risk the success of your event by booking a virtual presenter who can't deliver the goods.

Photo Credit - John Cassidy (Headshots)

Thursday, March 28, 2013

The Media Coach 29th March 2013

Hints and tips for media appearances, speaking and social media. This week; Easter Eggs; Abu Dhabi virtually; Renault surprise; Boris Johnson; Being there virtually; I wasn’t expecting that; The one (channel) show; An interview with Kate Russell; Music from The Lost Hollow Band.

Check out this episode!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Boris on the back foot

Boris Johnson appeared on the Andrew Marr  show this morning to face a grilling from stand-in presenter Eddie Mair. It was not a pretty sight, and I don't mean Boris' hairstyle. The questioning from Eddie Mair was direct and blunt, and the response from Boris Johnson was evasive and unconvincing. He looked far from being a Prime Minister in waiting (though he also denied any strong political ambition).

When a leading politician is interviewed on a national politics show, they should expect some tough questions. In the majority of cases, they have anticipated the questions and prepared a response. That's simply good planning for a media interview. Perhaps Boris thought that his natural charm would see him through, but he was completely mistaken.

Here are some examples from the exchange:

Eddie Mair: "The Times let you go after you made up a quote. Why did you make up a quote?"

Boris Johnson; " are big terms happened was...I can tell you the whole you sure our viewers wouldn't want to hear more"

He then gave a defence of his actions, but hardly a convincing one. Here's another:

Eddie Mair: "Let me ask you about a bare-faced lie. When you were in Michael Howard's team, you denied to him you were having an affair. It turned out you were, and he sacked you for that. Why did you lie to your party leader?"

Boris Johnson: "Well....I mean that... never had any conversation with Michael Howard about that matter. I do not propose to go into all that again. Why should I? I've been through it a lot. Watch the documentary. Why don't we talk about something else?"

He was also quizzed about agreeing to supply the address of a journalist to Darius Guppy, an old friend, who said that he wanted to have the journalist "beaten up". Mr Johnson's  reply included the comment "I think if any of us had our phone conversations bugged, people say all sorts of fantastical things whilst talking to their friends."

Eddie Mair then summed the dialogue up with the damning phrase "You're a nasty piece of work, aren't you?". The response from the Mayor of London was far from convincing; "All three things I would dispute … if we had a longer time I could explain that I think all three interpretations you are putting on these things are not wholly fair".

There were then a few totally expected questions about his alleged ambition to lead his party, which elicited the phrase "an increasingly hysterical conversation", but no real answer.

And that was it. Overall, it was a right grilling. Boris Johnson undoubtedly suffered reputational damage from the exchange. Should he have done it? Absolutely, in my opinion. Should he have been better prepared? Absolutely. Will he fail to prepare in future? Possibly.

The lesson for anyone faced with a tough interview is to prepare well. If you have to admit something, admit it early and say sorry. If you want to be a leader, you have to go into the  lion's den properly armed.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Media Coach 22nd March 2013

Hints and tips for media appearances, speaking and social media. This week; iPads to the ready; video cards; TV proposal; Death Wish Coffee; Budget Leak; Just the facts please; Tips for TV debates; Is it the medium or the message?; An interview with Steve James of Doceri; Music from Mick Terry

Check out this episode!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Speakers - Just the facts, please

Back in the 1950s, Jack Webb created a character called Sgt Joe Friday of the LAPD, in the TV series Dragnet. All TV detectives have a catchphrase, and Joe was no exception. Ever since the show aired, the phrase "Just the facts, Ma'am" has been repeated and parodied thousands of times. However, Jack Webb's character never uttered the phrase. The closest he came was in one episode when he said "All we know are the facts, Ma'am", yet many people (including some who saw the show) still believe they heard him say "Just the facts". Similarly, Humphrey Bogart never said "Play it again, Sam" in the classic film Casablanca, and Darth Vader never said "Luke, I am your father" in Star Wars.

What's the point of this? It's that if speakers tell audiences something, it's their responsibility to check that (at least to the best of their ability) that they're telling the truth. Here are a few widely-used misconceptions:

1) 'We only use 10% of our brains". Untrue. This is often mis-attributed to Albert Einstein, though there's no evidence he ever said it, let alone believed it. Neurologists have long known that we use most of our brains, most of the time.

2) "Lemmings commit mass suicide by jumping off cliffs". Untrue. The phenomenon has never been seen in nature. The idea comes from the Disney film White Wilderness, when cameramen pushed lemmings over a cliff.

3) "The Vauxhall Nova sold poorly in Spain because it means 'doesn't go' in Spanish". Untrue. Thousands of Spanish speakers worked on the project, and would obviously have noticed any problem. In fact it sold well in Spain, and many other Spanish-speaking countries.

4) "NASA spent millions developing a pen that would write in space, while the Russians used a pencil" Untrue. Both the US and Russian astronauts used pencils on early missions, then both used pens designed by the Fischer company at no cost to the space programs.

I've heard all these points, and many more, used by speakers to get a message across. If they have the desired impact, does it matter if they are false? I believe it does. If an element of a speech is untrue, what is the veracity of the remainder? In years past, I have used a couple of the statements above myself, until I took the time and trouble to check them out. Now I try to verify everything I say, unless it's my opinion, when I make that clear.

So let's please try to stick to just the facts.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Media Coach 15th March 2013

Hints and tips for media appearances, speaking and social media. This week; Winning in the meetings industry; A new Pope; Mind the gap; Video game news; The decisive moment; As someone once said; Anatomy of a Tweet; An interview with TJ Walker; Music from Jim Boggia

Check out this episode!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Speakers: Do you ever do the same speech twice?

A couple of points to ponder:

1) Do you ever do exactly the same speech twice?

2) Do you ever have identical audiences in the same few days?

If the answer to the second question is "yes", then the answer to the first could well be "yes". In any other circumstance, my answer to the first question would be "no". Every audience is different, and times change too. For me, that means I have to change my speech every time. I may use some of the same stories, maybe even the same opening and closing lines, but there will always be something tailored to the listeners and something that acknowledges current events. I may completely change the content of a speech with the same title from one day to the next, depending on who I'm speaking to and what's going on in the world.

The needs of your audience are paramount. They will be the arbiters of your success or failure. Their interests and drivers should be in your mind every time you create a speech. How much customisation do you do?

Photo Credit: Alan Stevens