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Alan Barker
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Roger Van Oech, in his book A Whack on the Side of the Head, tells this story. There once was an Indian medicine man who made hunting maps for his tribe. When game got sparse, he'd put a piece of fresh leather in the sun to dry. Then he'd say a few prayers, fold and twist it, and then smooth it out. The rawhide was now etched with lines. He marked some reference points, and a new map was created. When the hunters followed the map's newly defined trails, they usually discovered abundant game. The medicine man had stimulated the... Continue reading
Posted Aug 10, 2015 at Distributed Intelligence
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Simon Lancaster Winning Minds: secrets from the language of leadership Palgrave Macmillan, 2015 ISBN 978 1 137 46592 4 £19.99 Books for leaders – and for aspiring leaders – need to combine pragmatism, intellectual credibility and flair. Many leaders are ex-managers: they’re no longer interested in doing things right, but in doing the right thing. They want to know how to inspire. They want ideas that are powerful but not complicated, delivered in a style that’s racy without being superficial. Simon Lancaster manages all this with aplomb. Other political speechwriters have tried to transfer their attention to the broader canvas... Continue reading
Posted Jul 28, 2015 at Distributed Intelligence
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An inspirational day last week at the British Science Association, working with the winners of this year’s BSA Award Lectures. The BSA has presented these lectures since 1990; notable past winners include Professor Brian Cox (2006), Maggie Aderin-Pocock (2008) and Richard Wiseman (2002). This year’s speakers are absolutely in that league. The lectures embody the BSA’s vision of a world where science is at the heart of society and culture. They recognise and promote the work of early-career scientists in the UK. Each one aims to engage a broad audience, without at any point diluting the seriousness or complexity of... Continue reading
Posted Jul 13, 2015 at Distributed Intelligence
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This ad in the Sunday paper caught my eye. I I was first alerted to the virtues of long copy by Andy Maslen. Many of the ideas in this post are his. The consensus on long copy is that it doesn't work. And it probably doesn't work at the two far ends of the buying journey. People with no interest in buying electric heaters will not read this. But then, they probably wouldn't read any copy about electric heaters. And the customer primed to buy one will probably find long copy irritating. But, for the in-betweeners - the prospects who... Continue reading
Posted May 31, 2015 at Distributed Intelligence
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This is a webinar I delivered for the student community of ICAEW. It focuses on the skills of confident communication - vital for anyone starting out in a professional career. The three parts of the webinar cover: the roots of confidence; the secret of confident communication; and how to get your point across. The webinar lasts about 45 minutes, with about ten minutes of Q&A at the end. To view the webinar, click here or on the picture. Continue reading
Posted Feb 16, 2015 at Distributed Intelligence
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These notes complement my session for the Central London branch of CIPD on 2 February 2015. Download Bring your training to life_notes In these notes, you'll find: How we motivate ourselves to learn Three key needs that all training should meet Bringing your training to life: the 10 commandments Making training memorable Good preparation On setting objectives How to use handouts and workbooks Perfect PowerPoint for training ILM assessment principles You'll also find a trainer observation report form, which you can use to assess a training session or to monitor your own competence. 'Training delivery' is not a phrase I... Continue reading
Posted Jan 26, 2015 at Distributed Intelligence
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Here are full details of Stand and Deliver, my seminar on conference speaking, designed exclusively for speakers at conferences run by the Council of Mortgage Lenders. I run this seminar in association with my colleague and good friend, Sue Smith. Numbers for the seminar are extremely limited, so if you are interested, book quickly. Email:events@cml.org.uk Download CML_StandandDeliver_promotionalmaterial_2015_v1 We're running the course at CML HQ, in Bush House, on these dates in 2015: 24 February 1 July 7 October Bush House North West Wing Aldwych London WC2B 4PJ See you there! Continue reading
Posted Jan 22, 2015 at Distributed Intelligence
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When you plan a presentation or speech, what model do you use? Many people still cling to the old 'Tell 'em' principle. You know the one. Tell 'em what you're going to tell 'em. Tell 'em. Tell 'em you've told 'em. It might work. Sometimes. Often, however, it fails. Why? Repetition is not the problem; after all, repeating key elements is an essential part of any presentation. Our audience is not reading but listening; we need to build their recall. No, the 'tell'em' principle fails for two other reasons. First, it creates a structure that's built around the material. And... Continue reading
Posted Jan 7, 2015 at Distributed Intelligence
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This post is based on material from my e-book, How to Write an Essay. Click on the book cover to download your free copy. A good thesis statement stands behind every good essay. Now, about thesis statements, I have good news and bad news. The bad news is that creating a thesis statement tends to be the toughest part of the essay assignment. Finding something interesting to say is rarely easy; after all, lots of people have already said lots of interesting things. But the good news is that the task involves very little writing. And the really good news... Continue reading
Posted Dec 29, 2014 at Distributed Intelligence
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Lupita Nyong'o delivered this keynote speech on 4 December 2014. It's brave and inspiring. And it offers three powerful lessons for any speechmaker. Construct your speech like a symphony. Set up a theme and then develop it in four movements (this is Marcus Webb's idea, not mine): 1. Main theme, excitement (the issue) 2. Variations on the theme (list of facts) 3. Battle or storm (intense, short, a promise of action) 4. Reprise the main theme: triumph (take us to the future) And a coda: affection for, and confidence in, the audience. Nyong'o's first movement actually introduces two themes (in... Continue reading
Posted Dec 23, 2014 at Distributed Intelligence
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Thanks to Alex Chalk for pointing me towards Michael Clarke's superb eulogy for Phillip Hughes. You can watch it and read the transcript by clicking on the image (my screenshot taken from the BBC website). Clarke demonstrates perfectly how a good eulogy must be planned to the last stroke. When emotion is as raw and unbearable as it is here, every rhetorical technique is essential. This eulogy ticks every single box. You can read the transcript and tick off the rhetorical questions, the antithesis, the three-part lists. This eulogy works under the surface as well as on it. The purpose... Continue reading
Posted Dec 10, 2014 at Distributed Intelligence
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The Elements of Eloquence Mark Forsyth Icon Books, 2013 ISBN 978 184831621 8 £12.99 Mark Forsyth’s The Elements of Eloquence differs from his previous bestsellers in two respects. First, it’s 50 pages shorter than either The Etymologicon or The Horologicon, which works to its advantage. Secondly, it does more than catalogue a set of obscure linguistic facts entertainingly. This book might actually be useful. The title is something of a misnomer. Forsyth himself admits that the figures of speech aren’t really the core components of eloquence, but only “one tiny, tiny aspect of rhetoric.” The descriptive metaphor, historically, has been... Continue reading
Posted Nov 20, 2014 at Distributed Intelligence
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Thanks to Mark W for an interesting question. Mark had been reading this post about opportunity-led thinking. He asks: I found your article where you reference Robert Fritz's work, notably his book CREATING, and was wondering how your work relates to his. You talk about 'opportunity-led thinking', and I'm seeking to understand how this interfaces with creating and creativity. Can you please clarify? How does it help a person create? Simple answer: the difference between creating and creativity is the difference between a process and a set of techniques. How does opportunity-led thinking help a person create? By developing our... Continue reading
Posted Nov 18, 2014 at Distributed Intelligence
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This is a joint post by me (in handsome Georgia) and Imogen Barker (in elegant Trebuchet). Amsterdam in autumn. A lone heron keeps watch over the Herengracht from a car roof. At the Rijksmuseum, a soprano sax sends Bach skirling up into the arches. And behind the welcoming doors of de Burcht, speechwriters from 11 countries meet to discuss their craft. The ESN conference is now firmly established as the go-to European speechwriting event. And it has always welcomed delegates from other continents. This year, 70 of the brightest and best met to inspire and be inspired. As usual, the... Continue reading
Posted Nov 5, 2014 at Distributed Intelligence
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Two acceptance speeches; two ways of responding to the occasion. On 8 December, 1962, John Steinbeck spoke to receive his Nobel Prize. (Thanks to Jens Kjeldsen for pointing me towards it.) Read the text here. On 11 June, 2014, actor Kerry Washington spoke to receive the Women in Film Lucy Award for Excellence in Television. (Thanks to Denise Graveline for her astute analysis.) Read the transcript here. Compare, as they say, and contrast. Both speakers were nervous about speaking. "I wrote the damned speech at least 20 times,” Steinbeck wrote. “I, being a foreigner in Sweden, tried to make it... Continue reading
Posted Oct 15, 2014 at Distributed Intelligence
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Riveted: The Science of Why Jokes Make Us Laugh, Movies Make Us Cry, and Religion Makes Us Feel One With the Universe Jim Davies Palgrave Macmillan, 2014 ISBN: 9781137279019 £14.44 (Amazon) Kindle edition £9.94 (Amazon) Gazing at a beautiful view from a log cabin; hearing a ghost story; finding yourself glued to pictures of a pile-up on the motorway; reciting the Lord’s Prayer... Are these experiences in any way alike? According to Jim Davies, they are. “Strange as it may seem, compelling things share many similarities.” In this book, Davies claims to do “something that has never been done before”:... Continue reading
Posted Oct 10, 2014 at Distributed Intelligence
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This is a webinar I delivered for the student community of ICAEW. It focuses on sentence construction and sequencing. Towards the end, I also answer a number of questions that the audience posted to us during the webinar. The four parts of the webinar cover: what grammar is and why it matters; sentences: what they are, how they work and the three different types of sentence; how to write better sentences; and some of the most frequently asked questions about grammar. Click on the image to access the video. I produced a handout containing answers to questions, together with a... Continue reading
Posted Oct 3, 2014 at Distributed Intelligence
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This controversy rumbles on. The basic rule is: Less of amount; fewer of number. (We’ll talk about rules in a moment.) Use fewer when referring to anything that you can count. These days, people buy fewer newspapers. We have fewer women studying science than we would like. Use less when you’re referring to something that can’t be counted or doesn’t have a plural (for example: air, time, traffic, music). At the end of the week I always seem to have less money. Now that I’m singing regularly in a choir, I listen to less music on the radio. We also... Continue reading
Posted Aug 28, 2014 at Distributed Intelligence
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In two earlier posts, I discussed blame and resistance. Both are natural and predictable responses to problems that we place in our Circle of Concern: the place where we put the problems life throws at us, and which we feel powerless to tackle. Call them Presented Problems. We usually express a Presented Problem as a statement of what’s wrong. There’s a perceived gap between what is and what should be. Inside the Circle of Concern is our Circle of Influence. Into that circle we place the problems we feel we can deal with. Being more effective, according to Stephen Covey,... Continue reading
Posted Aug 8, 2014 at Distributed Intelligence
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Before you read on, please do this. Count the number of pieces of clothing you put on this morning (pairs count as one), and write the number down. Now, do a multiplication sum. For example, for seven pieces of clothing, calculate: 7x6x5x4x3x2x1. Did you do what I asked? I’ll bet you didn’t. My request interfered with your desire to read this article; and you resisted. In psychological terms, I tried to wrench you out of procedure. And probably failed. Procedural memory and why it’s good for us Procedural memories underlie the routines that make us effective. By repeating the same... Continue reading
Posted Aug 8, 2014 at Distributed Intelligence
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Closing the Mind Gap Ted Cadsby BPS Books, 2014 ISBN 978 1 927483 78 7 £18.00 China Miéville sets one of his novels, The City & the City, in two cities occupying the same physical space. Citizens of each city, partly through choice and partly through political coercion, have trained themselves to ‘unsee’ the other city: to recognize the buildings and inhabitants of the other city without seeing them. Crossing the cognitive divide, even by accident, is regarded as ‘breaching’ – a terrible crime invoking unspeakable punishments. Ted Cadsby, in his ambitious and enjoyable new book, similarly invokes two coterminous... Continue reading
Posted Aug 1, 2014 at Distributed Intelligence
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Why do the signals keep failing between London and Reading? As we sit in the Dead Zone (somewhere around Slough), for the fourth or fifth time in so many months, I wonder: Why? Why? It’s can’t be a simple technical problem; if it were, they would solve it. (‘They?’) Perhaps it’s a complex technical problem. Of course, I have no idea of the answer. But somewhere in my head, as helplessness turns to rage, I can’t help feeling that the real problem is that someone, somewhere, is to blame. When we feel powerless to solve a problem, we tend to... Continue reading
Posted Jul 21, 2014 at Distributed Intelligence
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image: awsum-wallpapers In this post, I offered ten top tips for writing emails. And in this one, I put email into a broader context. Now I want to look at why email is so easily misuderstood, and how we might put things right. Studies have shown that we're likely to misinterpret almost half the emails we receive. According to Management Today, email provider GMX has found that 30% of us are regularly, and unintentionally, offended by emails at work. One reason is the sheer volume of email we have to deal with. More than a quarter of your day at... Continue reading
Posted Jul 7, 2014 at Distributed Intelligence
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I’ve been monitoring the growth of ‘so’ for a few months now. You know the one I mean: the ‘so’ that has leapt from being a conjunction to stand irritatingly at the start of our sentences. ‘So’: the new ‘um’. But an epiphany occurred the other day. We were a family group of ten, enjoying a significant birthday in one of the best restaurants in the land. The conversation was intelligent, relaxed and varied. Three twenty-somethings were ‘so’-ing predictably; but only when my sister-in-law’s brother – a GP, like me in his middle-aged prime – started to ‘so’ did I... Continue reading
Posted Jun 19, 2014 at Distributed Intelligence
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Download Speechwriting for diplomacy brochure In the age of the soundbite and the tweet, formal speeches remain one of the key tools in the diplomatic bag. And with good reason: speeches weld audiences into communities. They establish policy positions, influence perceptions and help to build consensus in a way that no other form of communication can. The impact of a powerful speech can endure for years. Speechwriting is often seen as a ‘dark art’. Why do some speeches succeed and others fall flat? How to avoid dull platitudes? How to say something meaningful and memorable? Diplomats come to speechwriting by... Continue reading
Posted May 1, 2014 at Distributed Intelligence