I'm giving away my age and influences here, but I've found there's a critical moment in presentations and teaching that I call the Pink Floyd test.
It goes back to their song, Another Brick in the Wall, which laments the dark sarcasm and dull slogs of days at school.
To grab and hold an audience, one of the first things you've got to do as a presenter is convince them your session isn't going to be like those teeth-grinding memories of schooldays.
I gave a workshop on Mastering the Media in Cambridge this week (thanks to all who came along for such an entertaining morning.)
I started the session by simulating a mock newsroom, with stories coming at the group from all angles, and them being forced to choose which were the most important.
It's a good icebreaker because it gets people thinking, talking to each other, working together, and interacting with me.Read more
I had an important event last week, and I have to confess I was nervous about it.
The assignment was teaching media skills to business leaders in Guernsey.
That was the view from my hotel; what a stunning place Guernsey is. If you get a chance, do go visit, it's lovely.
Anyway, back to the job, which ran for three days working with some very influential people.
I was nervous because it was the first time I had taught such an in depth, extensive session, and it was one which needed to be handled sensitively.
Much of the work involved me interviewing my victims - sorry, delegates - complete with a TV camera leering at them, and playing back the results for analysis afterwards.Read more
In my BBC days, I often used to get asked - what's the secret of your success?
The questioners meant in breaking big news stories, getting access to remarkable events, and securing interviews with people who didn't usually talk to the media.
That made me think, and I came up with an answer which was so simple I couldn't help doubting it.
But, after looking at my colleagues' ways of working, and talking to the people who were kind enough to help me with stories, I realised it was right.
I've been in Cambridge for a year now, and the same approach has served me well here.
What is this miracle strategy, I hear you ask?
It's talking to people. And I mean really talking.Read more
You've got to reap (reap, reap) what you sow, sang Lou Reed on the beautiful Perfect Day.
It's a pretty thought, but does the concept of karma translate to the hard nosed world of business?
A big yes, I'd say.
I was thinking about this because earlier in the week I saw a bike in Cambridge.
Now that's no surprise - it's about as rare as rain in an English summer - but this was no ordinary bike.
Isn't that wonderful? It takes the idea of a floral basket to a whole new level.Read more
The lessons of writing are so often applicable to real life.
As I will try to demonstrate here, with the help of my new assistant and friend, a Warwickshire duck.
I met her (she didn't get a name, we weren't together long enough - all offers welcome) this weekend, teaching at the splendid National Association of Writers' Groups annual festival at the University of Warwick.
I ran courses in the importance of a strong start to a novel, how to tell a story, characterisation, and journalism.
Each was about elements of the art of writing, but could just have easily been about the ways of this wonderful old world of ours -
We've all heard about first impressions counting. So it goes with writing.Read more