Drama, Detail and Depth

Presentations and public speaking are complex arts, but I was fortunate to see three of the fundamental principles beautifully demonstrated this week.

If this looks like no ordinary venue for talking about your fledgling business proposal, you would be right.

I’ve had the pleasure of teaching communications to another excellent cohort of students at Cambridge Judge Business School, but for a change this time…

Instead of hearing their presentations in one of the lecture theatres, we moved over the road to the imperious Fitzwilliam Museum.

The students made full use of the space available, starting their talks on the imposing upper level, projecting down at their audience.

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Elevators on the Buses

How do you lure people out of their own worlds and into yours?

This was the question I had to think about before I took up one of my most unusual writing assignments…

Becoming writer in residence on buses around my native Cambridge.

My new novel, The Editor, is set in the city, and I was asked by Stagecoach to join some of its services to talk to passengers about the book.

The problem… I was very aware of how most people deal with a trip on the bus.

Head down in their phone, a paper, or a book, listening to music.

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The Most Precious Currency

I have a pet hate which is a cardinal sin, an affront to civilisation, and a capital offence, all at the same time.

(Now that’s pretty bad!)

I was talking about it as part of an interview I did on my new book, The Editor, with the lovely Suzie Thorpe on Cambridge105 Radio last week. 

As a perceptive inquisitor, she asked where the ideas for my books come from.

The answer to that was simple...

Absolutely anywhere and everywhere.

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Risk, Reward and Respect

I was asked an excellent question this week, while lecturing on communications at Cambridge Judge Business School -

Why do I teach business skills, when I could earn far more money just getting on with business?

It’s absolutely true.

I get paid well enough teaching, and there are many more benefits than just financial, but I could make far more money using my time working with businesses.

So, the reason I teach…

There’s the investment in the future thing, the warm and fuzzy feeling of giving something back to a world which has treated me well.

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Myths, Research and Credibility

I went horseracing last week, and was reminded of an important lesson in the communications, business, and writing trades.

I was at Newmarket, as the guest of a business I’ve worked with, and got to see the unveiling of a statue to one of the great figures (reputationally, rather than physically, of course) of the sport, Lester Piggott.

While I was there, to get into the spirit of it, I thought I would have a small bet on a few races.

But, far from it being my thing, how to decide which horse to back?

I fell back on my instincts, and years of experience, and did some research.

Well, kind of.

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Making Your Voice Heard

Is my voice good enough to be a powerful public speaker?

That was the question I was asked this week after teaching a session on presentations.

I was at Homerton College, Cambridge, watching students give five minute talks on subjects which were important to them, and our world.

We had covered the basics of presentations earlier in the week, and I’m delighted to say they did a terrific job, with highly effective speeches on a range of fascinating subjects from the environment, to homelessness, to mental health.

But afterwards, one of the students, a young woman, raised a concern that her voice was too high to be authoritative.

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Good But Not Great... Yet

There's a big dividing line between good and great. 

But there’s also an easy measure of whether you’re able to make the jump.

I was thinking about that last week, as I talked to students at Homerton College, Cambridge about the art of powerful presentations.

It was the launch of the Changemakers programme, which teaches students the skills they need to thrive in the world, alongside their academic education. Hence my presentations session. 

I’ve done the talk a few times, and when you have experience like that it leaves you with a choice.

If it goes well, and seems to do the trick, do you sit back, put your feet up, rest on your laurels, and bring out the presentation again and again, exactly as it was, every time it’s required?

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The Nourishment of Nervousness

What's the best way to handle those jingle jangle nerves before a big event?

Again this week I was asked a question which often comes up...

Whether I get nervous before a presentation, lecture, or talk.

I've done so many now, the thought goes... surely I don't?


No matter what size or shape the event, I still get that electric buzz of nerves. 

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Taking the Fear out of Feedback

I had some difficult feedback to give this week, and had to think carefully about how to do it.

After all, I didn’t want the kind of response that could be summed up by this exhibit I saw at a display in Cambridge.

My client had requested feedback by email, but…

I’ve seen that go horribly wrong so many times.

And this wasn’t just a client, but someone who I like, and have shared a beer with.

So it was double jeopardy if I didn’t get the delivery right.

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Smiley Messaging

I carried out an unusual experiment this week.

I decided to try hitchhiking, to see whether I could get a lift.

But I also wanted to put my communication skills to work to try to stack the odds in my favour.

I needed to get to Madingley Hall, on the outskirts of Cambridge, to talk about some business and writing teaching.

I could have cycled, but it would’ve taken at least half an hour. 

There were also some annoying hills, and that would have meant I arrived hot and sweaty for important meetings.

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