• Don’t make them say, “Get on with it!”

    Recently I have watched a number of American How To videos on YouTube, and noticed a common trend that occurs also in American sales letters and motivational speeches. It’s a reluctance to get to the point.

    One video was about improving your singing voice. That was the promise in the title. It opened with a question received from a fan who wanted to know the difference between the singing voice and the speaking voice.

    The presenter talked about opera singers in the past, about vocal projection over the sound of an orchestra, about the modern use of the microphone, about the difference between theatre performances and solo singing, and the expectations of an audience.

    She then compared the performances by different singers of the same song, and asked a series of rhetorical questions about each person’s vocal range, adding explanations of her own preferred key.

    This took four minutes, and she had not yet started any instruction!

    Another How To video was about learning to play a certain musical instrument. Half the short video was on setting the scene and describing the instruction that would be presented in a DVD set. The second half of the video was a demonstration of basic technique, followed by 2,000 words plus pictures, promoting the DVD set.

    In general, there seems to be a tendency, in the Unites States, to tell you what you should be doing and why it would be a good idea. Along the way the speaker will bask in stories that illustrate what works and what does not. But the actual instruction is a long time coming. They tell you What and Why, but not How.

    I’d call it the Prolix Tendency. It’s a form of self-indulgence by the presenter.

    There is a better way to create constructive tension and build the listener’s desire for your solution. With the right structure, both in print and in sound, you can grab and hold the attention of your audience, so that they will follow you all the way and enjoy the journey.

    Don’t make people cry, “Get on with it!”

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  • Wouldn’t you like to have the Voice of Leadership?

    What makes you a ‘must have’ in your business sector?

    How effectively are you putting that across?

    Send for your free e-book: The Voice of Leadership

    The American Management Association states that no matter how compelling the vision or how brilliant the strategy, without leadership communication there is no execution.

    Your great ideas, your grand plan, will lie dormant and may never see the light of day … without excellent communication skills. In fact, many a new idea or invention has had to await the communication skills of someone other than the originator.

    Let me ask you this: Who invented the sewing machine? Although Isaac Singer gets the credit, it was actually Elias Howe who came up with the idea. Singer was just better at the execution; better at making it happen and then at telling the world about it.

    You know the Post-It Note? Who invented that? Arthur Fry, who worked for 3M, saw the potential in the weak glue that was developed (by accident?) by Spencer Silver, a 3M research scientist. But Arthur Fry got the credit.

    The American, John J. Loud, invented the ballpoint pen as long ago as 1888, but he couldn’t get the ink to flow properly. 50 years later the Hungarian, Laszlo Biro, used printing ink, and in 1943 produced the first ballpoint pens for the RAF. And then Biro became the generic term for ballpoint pens.

    Ever heard of the Dynabook? Developed back in 1968, it pre-dated webpads and the iPad. But it did not have the benefit of Steve Jobs’s marketing genius.

    So how does this relate to you?

    If you are in a leadership role you have things to say: ideas, values and strategies that represent your purpose. You need your people to buy into them.

    Sometimes it takes an external eye or ear to give you feedback, guide your thinking, sharpen your message and the way you put it across. It’s what I do.

    Throughout history there have been remarkable leaders who have moved their followers to heroic efforts, to defy the odds against them, to make magic where lesser leaders would have merely presided over the same old same old.

    The Voice of Leadership is a short e-book that takes a look at the powerful speeches of:

    • Abraham Lincoln,
    • Jack Kennedy,
    • Barack Obama,
    • Martin Luther King
    • Winston Churchill and others.

    It provides a checklist of the principles of leadership and it offers some easily-remembered tips on sounding like a leader.

    In fact, it’s more than that. It will probably stimulate your own ideas on leadership. But you can read it and decide for yourself.

    I wrote it. And who am I? Currently UK Business Speaker of the Year and past winner of a cluster of public speaking titles, including UK champion a record seven times, Anglo-Irish champion three times, and second in the World Championship of Public Speaking.

    In addition, I have written eight business books on communication skills. The latest is just out. The FT Guide to Making Business Presentations. Expect to see it in Amazon and leading book stores later this month. Why not write a review?

    The Voice of Leadership is my gift to you. You may send for it without paying a penny or committing yourself in any way. Just send an email to“> with Voice of Leadership in the subject line.

    Why am I offering you this e-book as a gift? Because I believe it is always better to demonstrate than to claim. If you like my ideas in The Voice of Leadership you may consider inviting me to discuss how I could make a difference to your own leadership and communication style.

    Later this month I’ll be making available a six-module online training programme. It will simplify the process of improving your business presentation skills. Let me know if you wish to be informed when the programme is ready. You’ll be able to take any one module or all six.

    You’ll find it here: when it’s ready.

    But now, send for your free copy of The Voice of Leadership with an email to:“>

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  • Let me tell you a story …

    Make a point, tell a story; tell a story, make a point. That’s an easy enough mantra to follow in speeches and presentations, but what kind of story should you tell?

    The three factors that work in story telling are:
    1. They illustrate the point and are easy to understand and remember
    2. We are all conditioned, from childhood, to like stories
    3. They can connect with your listeners’ backgrounds

    The first two are fairly obvious, but the third one often surprises people when I raise it during my training courses. Backgrounds?

    Let’s take an extreme example, just to make the point. Suppose you are pitching to the owner of a small business. Did you stop to consider why he started that business? One such small business owner told me, only the other day, “I started this business because no one would give me a job.”

    Another (geeky) micro business owner told me his technical expertise is such that he is always in demand, and he doesn’t have to market himself.

    For people like them, you may want to avoid stories about gregarious situations and talk, instead, about self sufficiency and the virtues of independence. Talk about the injustice of bureaucracy and the triumph of the ‘small’ over the ‘large’.

    At the same time, be aware of your own background story, and avoid pleading your own position. Remember, the main purpose of the story is to advance your business case, not to entertain or to beat the drum of self interest.

    Think about how movies can touch your own emotions. That’s the power of story telling.Go ye and do likewise.


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