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Alan Barker
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[image: Harish Krishna on Flikr] In the previous two posts of this series, I’ve outlined some of the challenges facing scientists presenting to a non-specialist audience, and the need for a clear message. Once you've clarified your message, you need to find the structure that will work best for it. The thoughts in this final post arise from my work with the seven Award Lecturers at this year’s British Science Festival (2018, at the University of Hull).They were consistently inspiring. When I’m working with scientists on scicomm presentations, creating the structure is usually the most exciting part of the job.... Continue reading
Posted Sep 17, 2018 at Alan Barker
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This is the second of three posts. What makes for a zingy science presentation? In my previous post, I highlighted the need for scicomm practitioners to answer the ‘so what?’ question. How can we produce a science presentation that’s truly meaningful for a non-specialist audience? The sessions that I’ve seen in the last two days all delivered simple messages. It was the clarity of those messages that made them satisfying and enjoyable. We took them away with us. They were truly take-home messages. The message depends more on your audience than it does on your subject matter. Every ordinary presentation... Continue reading
Posted Sep 12, 2018 at Alan Barker
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[image with thanks to magnoliamc.com] This is the first of three posts. Links to the other two are at the end. This week, I’m at the British Science Festival in Hull, which offers hundreds of exciting events creating a conversation between science – and scientists – and everyone else. It’s a great place to observe the challenges facing science communication, and the thrill when good scicomm successfully engages its audience. This year’s festival is likely to be dominated by artificial intelligence – not least because the British Science Association’s new president, Jim Al-Khalili, will be devoting his Presidential Address to... Continue reading
Posted Sep 11, 2018 at Alan Barker
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Is it magic? Do you have to pay an outsider good money to get great copy? Well, maybe. But you can also build your own skills. The key is being adaptable: daring to go beyond your first draft. Here are five tips to help you. Focus on the reader Don’t talk about stuff; talk to your reader. Address them directly. Imagine speaking to them, and write down exactly what you would say. Then edit the copy – ruthlessly. Think benefits, not features. Why should your reader care about what you have to say? A colleague of mine talks about ‘tuning... Continue reading
Posted Jan 12, 2018 at Alan Barker
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If you work in a not-for-profit, you don’t need me to tell you that effective copy is at the heart of effective campaigning. You know, to use the buzz words of the moment, that the third sector marketing space is increasingly crowded. You know that your organisation’s key messages need to cut through the noise. And you probably also know that charity communication is coming under increasing scrutiny: targeting your supporters must not become harassment. New data protection legislation, and the Fundraising Preference Service instituted by the Fundraising Regulator, quite rightly help people manage their communication with charities more easily... Continue reading
Posted Jan 9, 2018 at Alan Barker
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A selection of comments on speechwriting from Philip Collins' new book, When They Go Low, We Go High. Numbers in brackets are page numbers where the quotes appear. You can find a review of the book here. The aim of good public speaking is to borrow the rhythms of everyday speech but aat the same time to heighten its effects. The objective is to write high-octane ordinary speech, as if an eloquent person were speaking naturally at their best, fluent and uninterrupted, with all the connecting threads edited away.(11) An audience gets only one hearing, and pictures dwell longer in... Continue reading
Posted Oct 12, 2017 at Alan Barker
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Philip Collins When they go low, we go high: speeches that shape the world – and why we need them 4th Estate, 2017 ISBN 978 0 00 823569 7 £8.99 Ignore the clunky title. Philip Collins’ impressive new book is not just another anthology of speeches, but a powerful and passionately argued polemic. Collins believes fervently in liberal democracy. And open, public speech is democracy’s very life blood. But our democracy is in poor shape. “If we want to attend to the good health of our democracy,” he writes, “and we really must, then we need to attend to the... Continue reading
Posted Oct 12, 2017 at Alan Barker
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“For beginning writers,” writes Jon Morrow of Smartblogger, “power words are one of the easiest tools to master. Unlike many storytelling strategies, which can take years of practice to master, you can start sprinkling power words into your writing, and you’ll notice an immediate lift in the quality of your prose.” A power word, according to Morrow, “is defined by its ability to make you feel.” It derives its power from the emotional reaction you have to it. Because that reaction, like all emotional reactions, is unconscious – at the edge of rational control – power words promise to sneak... Continue reading
Posted Aug 14, 2017 at Alan Barker
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Picture source: http://kwhs.wpengine.netdna-cdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/generation-z.jpg This post is based on research conducted by George Beall, Altitude (check out this post), Deep Patel and Cory Munchbach. Many thanks to all of them. Very few ideas here are my own. I do, however, have a question. How genuine is this category? Discussions of Generation Z seem to be distinctly US-biased. Nothing wrong with that. But to what extent does a Chinese, or a Sudanese, or a Bolivian Gen Z kid fit the category? Maybe the technology is creating a global phenomenon (see below). But I think we need to ask the question. Who are... Continue reading
Posted Aug 9, 2017 at Alan Barker
This workbook and slidedeck support the course that I am currently running at Gloucestershire County Council. Feel free to download both. Download GloucestershireCC_man3_Creativity_and_Problem_Solving_backgroundmanual Download GCC_Creativity_and_problem_solving_slidedeck Continue reading
Posted Jul 18, 2017 at Alan Barker
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My colleague Brian Jenner told me today that he'd heard of the death of Fred Metcalf. Fred was one of modern rhetoric's unsung heroes: a jokesmith and writer for the great and good, who has not received the recognition he deserved - and undoubtedly shunned. His lugubrious, subversive humour will be greatly missed. Read Brian's obituary - where are the notices in the national press? Fred deserves better. Here is my short review of his book, The Biteback Dictionary of Humorous Political Quotations. The very title somehow conjures a wry smile. Fred Metcalf: The Biteback Dictionary of Humorous Political Quotations... Continue reading
Posted Apr 10, 2017 at Alan Barker
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Creativity at Work is one of my ebooks published by Bookboon. Is it magic? Can we really learn creativity? And why should we bother? When I told one of my clients that I was writing a book about creativity at work, he said: “Managers aren’t interested in creativity. They want to know how to manage better.” Well, maybe. Creativity has gained a reputation, among some managers at least, as a ‘fringe’ activity: quite fun, but of little practical use in the workplace. A friend of mine refers to it as ‘basketweaving’. And management – most managerial work – is, after... Continue reading
Posted Apr 4, 2017 at Alan Barker
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How to Write an Essay is one of my ebooks available from Bookboon. If you’re at high school, college or university, you’ll need to write essays. More and more students are being asked to produce written assignments, even in physics and mathematics. Writing an essay means more than finding and recording facts. It means thinking critically: analysing material and reaching a conclusion. It means showing that you understand the material you’ve been studying. Above all, it means presenting a coherent argument. Learning to write essays also prepares us for life beyond college. In the real world, more and more of... Continue reading
Posted Apr 4, 2017 at Alan Barker
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Trivium: the classical liberal arts of grammar,logic & rhetoric Edited by John Martineau Wooden Books, 2016 £14.99 ISBN 978 1 907155 18 5 John Martineau has developed Wooden Books, based in Glastonbury, as a collection of beautifully crafted pocket-sized oracles, which he describes as “a mathemagical ancient wisdom series”. Each book promises knowledge hidden, forgotten or downright arcane, in modular form (no chapter runs to more than two pages). Production values are high: Trivium, like all the other titles in Martineau’s catalogue, cries out to be picked up. Enlightenment and entertainment are cunningly intertwined. The trivium is the trio of... Continue reading
Posted Mar 20, 2017 at Alan Barker
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Mark Thompson: Enough Said The Bodley Head, 2016 ISBN 978-1847923127 £25.00 The simple answer to the question Mark Thompson asks himself – “What’s gone wrong with the language of politics?” – is that it has split in two. On one side, “the weirdly affectless and dehumanized style in which many public policy documents are written.” On the other, “honesty of emotion and at least the appearance of being willing to engage with the lowliest members of [a] chosen community.” Thompson labels these two rhetorics rationalism and authenticism. “Something has gone awry with our politics,” he says; but it’s a mark... Continue reading
Posted Mar 20, 2017 at Alan Barker
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This book supports my course, The Essentials of Speechwriting, which I run regularly for the European Speechwriter Network. Download Essentials_of_Speechwriting_background_book_v2 If you would like to discuss running this course in your organization, or if you would like to book a place on the network's public course, please contact Brian Jenner: info@europeanspeechwriters.org You can find out more about the European Speechwriter Network here. Read the network's informative newsletters. Listen to a range of entertaining podcasts on the pleasures and perils of speechwriting. Enjoy! Download Essentials_of_Speechwriting_background_book_v2 Continue reading
Posted Feb 21, 2017 at Alan Barker
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People often ask me to recommend books about creative thinking. Here's a short list of the books that I've found most useful over the years. A reminder: I run courses on creative thinking, problem solving and innovation. Download these course outlines to find out more. Download 015_CO_Meeting_Creative thinking_doc Download 014_CO_Meeting_Problem solving_doc Download 013_CO_Writing_Managing_Innovation_outline Contact me if you're interested in working with me in any of these areas. First, some books I simply have to recommend, because I know the author so well. Click on the covers to find out more. Casting the reading net further afield, I would probably start... Continue reading
Posted Sep 30, 2016 at Alan Barker
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This free e-book appeared in my inbox the other day, courtesy of the Human Givens College. It's worth sharing. I find the HG approach very sympathetic, and, although I have no background in therapy or counselling, the body of ideas that I've found in the HG community continues to inspire me in my work on communciation skills, problem solving, creativity, persuasion and influencing. It's also proved invaluable personally. This useful introduction is written by Julia Welstead. Julia is a human givens practitioner with a private practice in Edinburgh. She also runs HG-based training days on mental health at work for... Continue reading
Posted Sep 29, 2016 at Alan Barker
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It’s clearly a question lots of people want to answer. It's the question most often asked on the training programmes I run. (You can find a typical outline here: Download Kairos_EquityReportWriting_proposal). My Slideshare presentation, How to Write an Equity Research Report, has enjoyed 33,000 hits since I uploaded it in 2009. (Take a look. Click on the image.) Large investment brokers print maybe 1,000 pages of research each week. And a further 1,000 electronic pages. A large fund management house receives maybe 7,000 envelopes of research in the post every Monday morning. Maybe your report is in there somewhere, competing... Continue reading
Posted Jun 7, 2016 at Alan Barker
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I used these slides as part of my presentation on Writing for Impact at the Charity Fair run by the Directory of Social Change, on 24 May 2016. Enjoy. Download DSC_CharityFair_Writing_With_Impact_slidedeck_blogversion_v1 Continue reading
Posted May 21, 2016 at Alan Barker
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This is an adapted version of the slidedeck I use on the speechwriting module that I run for the Korean National Diplomatic Academy in Seoul. The slides include references to a workbook that accompanies the course. This link is aimed primarily at students who want a copy of the slidedeck. But it might be of interest to anyone interested in speechwriting. i also run speechwriting courses in other organisations and venues, and run The Essentials of Speechwriting regularly for the European Speechwriter Network. Check out their website for details of the next course. If you want to discuss training for... Continue reading
Posted Mar 30, 2016 at Alan Barker
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Houston, We Have a Narrative: Why Science Needs Story Randy Olson University of Chicago Press 2015 978 0 226 27084 5 $20; £14.00 Scientists urgently need to use narrative well, and Randy Olson has developed a set of tools to help them. But the tools can easily become empty formulae, so Olson offers a strategy to help scientists develop an enhanced understanding of narrative: what he calls ‘narrative intuition’. That summary of Olson’s new book a model he calls ‘ABT’: and, but, therefore. Olson borrowed it from Trey Parker, one of the writers on South Park. Hollywood, claims Olson, is... Continue reading
Posted Feb 12, 2016 at 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 Alan Barker
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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 Alan Barker
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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 Alan Barker