• When West meets East

    “Oh, East is East, and West is West, and never the Twain shall meet”

    Of course the twain do meet in today’s small world – but research since the 1980s has illuminated huge differences between western thinking on the one hand and the way people think in the Far East and Middle East.

    The burgeoning economies of the Arab world have attracted increasing numbers of westerners to holiday and even work in places that were once obscure names on the neglected pages of the world atlas. The area around central London’s Marble Arch has acquired an Arab look, with many a shop sign in the curly right-to-left Arabic script, and late night café customers sit at pavement tables with their hubble bubble hookahs.  Such a change is not universally popular.

    In the late ’60s, the poet-writer, Dom Moraes, revisited India, the land of his birth, and found that he was a stranger.  Speaking no word of any Indian language, he was in the hands of his manservant, and had to learn how to manage the master-servant relationship.  For example he could not bypass his man and deal directly with lower caste subcontractors, such as the sweeper: the hierarchy had to be maintained.  He learned, but did not understand, that his man would fiercely protect him from exploitation by vendors, but considered it his right to swindle his master on the daily food shopping.  He noticed that servants would not make eye contact with their masters, nor do any of the things that build a personal relationship.  In short, he became acutely aware that East is East and very different from the West.

    Of course, the East has long been part of the British scene, with curry now the most popular dish in restaurants and take-outs.  Yet, amazingly for a nation that only recently relinquished a vast empire, and which has adopted a sizeable number of Indian words into the language, Britain remains largely ignorant of Eastern ways.  In London, the Sikhs in Southall, the Bengalis in Brick Lane and the Hindus in Harrow have clustered together like the Arabs of Marble Arch, in a sort of reverse colonisation, forming communities that are distinct from the host community.

    Unfortunately, host communities often feel threatened by visible gatherings of foreigners whose customs, dress and language are different from their own.  They feel anxious about losing their jobs, their homes and even their womenfolk to the invaders.  Attitudes and values can be very different.

    In southern Europe and many eastern countries, deadlines are considered to be loose indicators, not commitments.  When a friend of mine first went to live in Spain, she believed (in common with many other English people) that the word manana meant “Tomorrow”.  In time she realised that, for the Spanish, manana simply means “not today”.

    An equally frustrating word, regularly used in the Middle East, is “N’sha’llah”  or “Inshallah”.  It translates as ‘God willing’ but actually means, “I take no responsibility for what might happen in the future”.  Both the Spanish and the Arabs (and the nations in between) have a relaxed attitude to time keeping and deadlines, and things get done when they get around to them.  It’s not that way in Britain.

    Certain practices give offence simply because they are insensitive, and some nations are more likely to take offence than others.  However, two thoughts should guide us:

    1. We all react when someone does commonplace things differently from us, whether it be a handshake or the way they eat a steak.  We therefore need to be aware of the reflex of prejudice that is within us.
    2. We need to be sensitive towards others, and aware of our own conduct, in case it gives offence to them.

    Above all, we should never cause someone to lose Face.  Not only is it discourteous, it can make an enemy for life.  Face is a concept that dominates social and business contact throughout the Far East.  Losing face is to lose dignity, and for the Chinese that is like losing their eyes, nose and mouth.  The embarrassment is actually felt in the face.  Social relations should be conducted in such a way that everybody’s face is maintained.  Paying respect to someone is called “giving face”.  Think of the English expression, “I couldn’t show my face in there” – it refers to the way we experience humiliation, and goes a long way towards helping westerners to understand the concept of face saving.

    There’s more, of course, but that’s a good place to start.

    Filed under: public speaking, speaking

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  • When West meets East

    Oh, East is East, and West is West, and never the Twain shall meet

    Of course the twain do meet in today’s small world—but research since the 1980s has illuminated huge differences between western thinking on the one hand and the way people think in the Far East …read more

    Source: PKP Communicators WordPress.com

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  • How to prepare a Best Man speech

    Preparing the Best Man’s speech is no different from preparing any other speech.  The same disciplines work.  You’ll be trying to make your listners feel good.   You’ll also be trying to make yourself feel, look and sound good.

    Above all, you’ll be trying to avoid any of the negative scenarios that have been filling you with dread ever since you agreed to be Best Man.  Let me take you through each step of preparing and writing a speech.

     What you already know

    Let’s start by reminding you of what you already know, and what it means for your speech.

    You know that the Best Man concept originated in the days when brides were abducted, and her friends and family had to be fought off.  So be protective of the groom, even though you may pull his leg and even embarrass him a bit.

    • You know that you were selected because of your special relationship with the groom, so provide some insights and perhaps even divulge a secret or two.
    • You know that you are expected to be amusing, and that you need to have or joke or two, but not the stale stuff that everyone has heard before.
    • You know that you may have had to act as master of ceremonies, and that therefore you will have already made some impression on the audience.
    • You know that you have to collect together the cards and messages from absent family and friends, so you must plan how and when to read them out.
    • You know that your speech will be in response to a toast to the bridesmaids or maid of honour, and that you must therefore be gallant and gracious.
    • You know that yours is a pivotal role in the day’s proceedings, and you should be masterful and “in charge”.
    • You know that this is a wonderful opportunity to make a big impression, which could benefit you in your working life and may even lead to a speaking career.
    • You know what the groom’s family and friends think of him, and what they want the world to know about him.  You have privileged information about the day’s key player.

    10 Key Points

    You know all those things.  It means you know what to say and you know that you will be well received because the wedding guests will see you as the one who knows what to do and say.  So let’s draw up a (flexible) checklist of the 10 key points you should consider including in your stand-up slot.

    Your first duty is to thank the groom for the kind things he has said about the bridesmaids or maid of honour, as you are responding on their behalf.

    1. Thank him also for any gifts he may have given to the other helpers: bridesmaids, ushers, page boys, and anyone else.
    2. Read the cards, telegrams, mobile phone text messages and smoke signals sent in by those who could not attend the wedding in person.
    3. Reveal some of the heart-stopping moments leading up to the big day, including misunderstandings, wrong deliveries, amusing moments and near misses.
    4. Select a couple of revealing anecdotes from your early relationship with the groom.
    5. Put in some mildly embarrassing revelations about the groom’s younger life – at school, at work, when he joined the Young Conservatives, when he switched to the Lib Dems, when he disgraced himself at some formal function … that kind of thing.  Just remember not to be hurtful.
    6. Use props to highlight your main embarrassing revelation(s).  This could be photographic evidence of his stag night, or when he had long hair and flares.
    7. Say nice things about the bride.  Tell her how lovely she looks.  Speak to both of them directly, part of the time, but don’t address the whole speech to them.
    8. Add a touch of sincerity near the end.  Talk about the good mate he has been, about how he behaved differently “with this one.

    10.Conclude with a toast.  If the bride’s father hasn’t already done so, toast the bride and groom.  Otherwise toast absent friends.


    Once you have set down all the material you need to include, it’s relatively easy to arrange it in the order you should follow.  Do you need to follow a sequence?  Of course you do.  Your listeners do not know what you have planned on saying, nor will they readily follow your drift unless you make it easy for them to see how each point follows from the previous one and leads on to the next.

    Even if your mother and both your friends try hard to be supportive and laugh at all your jokes, you’ll soon notice that the rest of the room is simply waiting for your lips to stop moving, so they can get on with the dancing.

    Follow the 10 points above and you’ll be fine. For more detailed guidance and sample speeches, get a copy of Be the best Best Man and Make a Stunning Speech.

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  • How to prepare a Best Man speech

    Preparing the Best Man’s speech is no different from preparing any other speech. The same disciplines work. You’ll be trying to make your listners feel good. You’ll also be trying to make yourself feel, look and sound good.

    Above all, you’ll be trying to avoid any of the negative scenarios

    …read more

    Source: Phillip KP WordPress.com

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  • Comment on (a) marriage

    Charles Saatchi’s ‘small domestic’ that went viral has prompted me to put fingers to keyboard to comment on his marriage in particular and marriage in general.

    He had a row in public with his wife. Is it any of our business? Only to establish that she is safe, that’s all. We all have a social duty to watch out for one another, otherwise Baby P will go on happening. But we are not entitled to further intrusion … unless they choose to parade the details of their relationship.

    I do not know the couple, although I did meet the Saatchi brothers when they started their first ad agency. But I really don’t care to know that he found his wife’s prawn dansak “the most disgusting thing he’d ever eaten”, and that he told her she was an old bag on TV.

    I am astonished that this ‘very private couple’ authorised Damian Whitworth to do a double page spread on that row and their relationship in general. It was a report that reflected little credit on the Saatchi couple.

    So let me turn to marriage in general. My own take on it is that marriage is a bonding, far more than a contractual relationship. It makes no sense to me when two people marry then continue their individual lives. Surely it’s right that they should merge their lives and modify their behaviour to take account of their spouse?

    I’ve seen people hardly miss a beat as they acquired a spouse. For them marriage was simply a change of status, but not of being. They maintain separate bank accounts and speak of their separate personal possessions, and go about their business lives as though still unattached. Such an arrangement merely emphasises their separateness, and possibly even the difference between their earnings.

    It almost amounts to “let’s shake hands on the deal and see how long it lasts.” Hardly surprising, then, that nearly half the marriages in this country end in divorce. The root cause must lie in the approach to one another. I cannot see any virtue in a man claiming that he put his hand around his wife’s throat during an argument, but “there was no grip”. The act itself was disrespectful of the most important person in the man’s life.

    Respect is one of the essentials of a meaningful relationship. It informs our behaviour, it guides the way we respond to disagreements and problems, it stops us from treating the other person badly. People who disrespect their partners have no class.

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  • The language of a speech or presentation

    Every once in a while I come across a phrase that says exactly what I have in mind, with all the economy and beauty of poetry, and if it comes from someone else, I borrow it — but acknowledge the source.  For example Peggy Noonan, speechwriter to US Presidents, once said,

    “You must be able to say the sentences you write.”

    So simple, yet so profound.  If you remember that sentence every time you sit down to write a speech or presentation, you’ll make a big improvement.

    My own aphorism on the subject goes like this: “The text that’s written to be said is different from the text that’s written to be read.”  So write for the ear.


    The text for a speech should have these 7 characteristics, if it is to work as the vehicle for your thoughts and ideas:

    1. It must be your own

    2. It must be easy to speak

    3. It must be easy to understand

    4. It must make mental pictures

    5. It must have energy

    6. It must contain memorable phrases

    7. It must have rhythm

    I shall deal with the last item on another occasion, but let’s tackle each of the other points as they fall.

     1.  Make it your own

    Your speech must be as close as possible to your normal conversational style, minus the verbal crutches, slang and swearing that might pepper your conversation with mates in the pub.  Otherwise it will sound unnatural, you will not be comfortable, and your audience will stop listening to you.

     2.  Make it easy to speak

    Think about Peggy Noonan’s statement that you must be able to say the sentences you write.  Try saying this sentence out loud:

    If you are faced with a potentially hostile audience, and if it is appropriate,   ask the person who invited you to indicate the audience’s opinion of  you and your topic, as well as the names of any especially troublesome   participants.

    The individual words are not unusual, but the way they are grouped together makes the sentence unwieldy.  Also, the meaning is unclear.

    3. Make it easy to understand

    Remember, you will be speaking at 120-150 words a minute, or so, having thought out what you want to say.  Your audience will hear your words just once.  At 120-150 words a minute.  Every minute.  On and on.  Until you stop.  It’s hard work being an audience!  So why not meet them halfway and make it easy to understand what you are driving at?

    4,  Make mental pictures

    Avoid negative phrasing and abstract terms.  They do not make pictures in the minds of your listeners.

    Consider the difference between these two:

    He was always busy, persistently acquiring knowledge and modifying his behaviour according to the mores of each new discipline, and benefiting from them in the process.


    Like a tireless bumble bee sipping nectar from flower after flower, he soaked up knowledge from every possible source, growing and      developing as he did so.

    5.  Give it energy

    Since the purpose of your speech must be to bring about change in the thinking, attitude or behaviour of your listeners, you must be persuasive, and that can only be achieved if you speak with energy.  Your choice of words must reflect that energy.  You cannot expect to achieve your purpose if your words imply, “Here it is.  Take it or leave it.”

    6.   Deliver memorable phrases

    We live in the age of the sound bite:  a 12-second statement that summarises or encapsulates a major statement.  The listening public expects pithy, memorable phrases that work almost like slogans.  Advertising copywriters have recognised this trend, and they create brand awareness through memorable (if sometimes meaningless) slogans.

    • A Mars a day helps you work, rest and play
    • Go to work on an egg
    • It’s good to talk
    • Beware of Jeep imitations

    Politicians’ speechwriters are strong on memorable catchphrases such as:

    • The pound in your pocket
    • You’ve never had it so good
    • This lady’s not for turning

    In summary, make your text easy to say and easy on the ear, with word pictures and some memorable phrases.


    Filed under: copywriting, Presentations, public speaking, Writing

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  • Is the weed controlling your life?

    I gave up smoking one Friday afternoon when I was a couple of months shy of my 30th birthday. Not a single puff since.

    Having started smoking at the age of 12, I was a 15-20 a day man. In the early years I used to rely on my mother not noticing the loss of a few of her cork-tipped Craven As. I graduated to Capstan and Gold Flake, then Churchman’s and on to Players and Senior Service, finally settling on Peter Stuyvesant.

    What got me to analyse the habit was noticing that the day’s first cigarette was getting earlier and earlier, until I was lighting up as soon as I got in my car to drive to work. At the same time I realised that I smoked very little at weekends, perhaps only 3 over both days.

    Clearly my smoking was related to workday stress. But it was also a habit linked to, for example, having a cup of tea or coffee. Because I dislike being ruled by addiction, I decided to resume control of my actions. Here’s how I did it.

    To begin with, I never said No to the smoking impulse. Every time I reached for a cigarette I simply asked myself if I needed it at that moment, or if I could wait. That little delay re-established my control, and fairly soon I was smoking noticeably less.

    Then one Friday afternoon, with about 4 or 5 cigarettes left in the pack, I decided to stop. As I was already smoking little at weekends, the next two days were easy.

    But that’s when my Director at work went on holiday. In his absence, a number of things went wrong and because he was away, the Managing Director took to calling me on the phone and shouting his head off. He was an infamous bully with a fiery temper and given to throwing things at people.

    Refusing to be cowed, I shouted back. Then reached for a cigarette. That’s when I started to say No. I said to myself, “I’m not going to let that SOB make me smoke.” And after a week of those exchanges I knew that nothing would make me smoke again.

    It was a lucky decision, because years later I had an (almost) emergency double heart bypass. One of my major arteries was 95% blocked, another was 70% clogged. Smoking is known to damage the interior walls of arteries, and could have exacerbated the problem. And a recent study has shown that, following a heart bypass, non-smokers live longer than smokers.

    Most importantly smoking, like any addiction, takes away the control of your life.

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  • Just to be different

    Weekend shoppers thronged the High Street, many with children in tow. One young girl stopped to stare with wide eyes at a copper statue of a man with a hat. Her mouth dropped open when the statue bent over to smile at her. Behind him was a copper-coloured boom box playing happy music gently. On the ground in front of him was a copper coloured cap for donations from the passing public.

    I have seen similar street theatre in Dublin, silver-sprayed men and women posed in tableaux, rigid for lengthy periods, then changing positions for another statuesque pose. For the expectation of donations.

    I can just imagine the dialogue that must have taken place at home.

    “We need to raise some money. Fast. What can we do?”

    “I know, I’ll spray myself with copper paint and stand in the High Street on Saturday.”

    “Do what?”

    “I’ll be a copper statue.”

    “But what will you DO? I mean, why would anyone want to give you money just for standing around pretending to be a lump of copper?”

    “Because I’ll be different. I’ll be an attraction. In fact, I’ll stand on an orange box, so everyone will be able to see me from a distance.”

    “But won’t you be bored, just standing on a box all day?”

    “I’ll take my boom box and play gentle music.”

    “But won’t that give the game away? Won’t people know you are not a proper statue?”

    “I’ll spray the boom box too. And the orange box as well. In copper paint.”

    “So you’ll ruin a suit, a hat, your specs, your shoes and your boom box, just to be different, just to get noticed?”

    “Black is beautiful, but copper is cute. And besides, what is this life if, full of care, we have no time to stand and stare? Besides, no one else is doing it.”

    “Did you ever wonder why?”

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  • Added value will get your price

    It was raining on Bromley High Street this Saturday morning, a light shower wetting the market stalls, sending shoppers scurrying for shelter. A long line of people pressed up against two sides of a corner shop in Market Square, extending out into the open. The final dozen places in the queue were unprotected from the rain, so clearly they were not just aiming to keep dry.

    “Why are you queuing?” I asked the lady who joined the end of the line.

    “That jewellery shop is closing down,” she said, implying that there would be bargains.

    People who might not normally buy jewellery from that shop were lining up to pay less than the regular price. The original asking price is the starting point, so any discount represents a gain for the buyer, who considers the item’s value to be at least as much as the original price, and possibly higher.

    We all have two prices in our heads for any item of value: the price we’d set if we were selling (the true value) and the price we’d be willing to pay (the tipping point). In a closing down sale, you get both, the tipping point price that gets your wallet out, and the verified true value, represented by the original price.

    In business, the gap between the two prices is the added value. It can be an actual figure or a perception. The perception can be enhanced by adding more items of value. That’s why US sales letters pile on bonuses, each with a stated cash value (worth $750).

    Now imagine your product or offering can be placed in one pan of a pair of scales. The other pan contains the amount of your client’s money represented by your price. Initially, the client will feel that his pile of money weighs more than your offering, so no deal.

    Now add as much (perceived) value as you can to your pan. When your pan weighs more than his pile of money, he’ll be glad to make the exchange. Recently I bought a camera in Singapore. I was prepared to pay £500, but the salesman wanted me to pay a little more. Not much more, just enough to feel he’d pushed me beyond my self-imposed limit.

    So he added an extra SIM card, then a spare battery, then a battery charger, and something else. We reached the tipping point. I said I wanted one more incentive, so he added a lightweight tripod. I bought the camera. Win-win.

    Filed under: Marketing, Sales

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  • Debasing the currency of compassion

    I was on a train to London in the middle of the afternoon when an attractive but slightly scruffy honey blonde came through from the next carriage. She placed a packet of facial tissues on the seat in front of me, together with a small printed note that read, “Please help. I have two children. Buying these tissues will help. God bless you.”

    She walked the length of the carriage in silence, placing tissues and notes by every occupied seat, then turned and retrieved them on the way back. I gave her some money and she smiled, saying “God bless you” in an East European accent.

    Alighting at Elephant and Castle, I noticed her ahead and followed. At the foot of the stairs she stopped to speak to a young brunette in their common language. I noticed they were both carrying similar bulging shoulder bags in which they had the packets of tissues.

    The brunette went up to the platform I had just vacated, while the blonde carried on to the cafe in the shopping centre, presumably to tap the customers there. She left me with an unanswered question: was she genuine? It looked like a well thought out plan, smoothly executed. Admirable if both ladies were genuine. But no one likes being conned.

    Inevitably I thought of the many money-raising activities attributed to the East European immigrants, from the aggressive windscreen washers (remember those?) to the baby-wielding beggars and the Rumanian prostitutes on Park Lane. I recalled also the young man who regularly addresses passengers on the Orpington train about his homelessness and refuses all help except hard cash.

    Those activities have debased the currency of compassion. They do a disservice to those genuinely in need of help, creating a reflex of refusal and a hardening of hearts. Sad, that.

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