How to persuade with passion

800px-robert_ballard_at_ted_2008If you ever doubted that an argument, delivered with passion, can win people around, take a look at the clip below on TED.

Robert Ballard persuaded Congress to give him a chunk of money to “go where no man has gone before”. And that’s not space. We’re talking the oceans, and he’s been on around 120 trips to explore the icy depths, discovering The Titanic wreck amongst other things.

Listen to his TED talk and feel the energy, the evangelistic enthusiasm he has for his subject – a great lesson for business people and educators alike.

Failure – a recipe for success

Another little gem from my hero Seth Godin.

A man once asked Seth how he came up with so many good ideas. The man complained that he only managed to come up with a decent idea once every one or two months. The conversation continued…

Seth: “How many bad ideas do you come up with a month?”

The man thought for a moment and said, “None.”

Seth: “That’s your problem!”

The point is you’ve got to keep coming up with stuff – and it’s not all going to work. As Godin points out, those that keep churning stuff out and often fail will always succeed more than people who come up with no ideas at all.

Quote for the day:

“Success is an incident. Failure is an experience” (thanks to my Linkedin friends for this one!).

Getting your message across – introducing Speakeasy (Manchester)

garratscreenThe art and soul of presenting

If you’re in business, you have two massive questions to ask yourself:

First, what’s my message?
Second, am I putting it across well enough?

For many businesses, it’s not at all clear what their message is AND there’s a frustration that the audience isn’t really ‘getting it’.

That’s why I’m launching  Speakeasy – first in Manchester, then beyond!

Two groups launched in Manchester (choose one):

  • Group A
  • First meeting Mon 25th Jan (6-8pm)
  • MMU Business School, Aytoun Street, Manchester M1 3GH
  • Group B
  • First meeting Tues 9th Feb (6-8pm)
  • Offices of Horwath Clark Whitehill, Arkwright House, Parsonage Gardens, Manchester M3 2HP

What is Speakeasy?

It’s a monthly networking event where we help people develop their presentation skills:

  • 4 volunteers deliver a short business pitch (5 mins each)
  • the audience has a chance to give feedback
  • process is guided by an experienced facilitator/coach.
  • £20 per session, to include light refreshments.

We’re interested in  THE MESSAGE (was it clear and easily understood?)

We’re looking at the  STYLE OF DELIVERY (slides, body language, use of voice, etc).

We’re looking to develop  CONFIDENCE AND SKILL in the way people present their ideas.

It’s an essential skill, something we’re often called upon to do -  the initial meeting (in answer to “what do you do?”); the  10 minute guest slot (at a networking event); the  formal presentation (client proposal/team briefing); the  public speech (conference or seminar).

SpeakEasy logo for email sig

Test-drive your pitch

Speakeasy is a rare opportunity to ‘test-drive’ your proposition in front of a live audience, and in a safe and encouraging environment.  Remember, it’s more important to know how the audience received your message than how you think you delivered it.  The trouble is, you very rarely get an honest opinion.  If it’s poor or average no one says anything to you.  If it’s exceptional they might, but you don’t need help!  It means you’re operating in a vacuum – and  you never really get better!

What’s in it for the audience?

  • Network with fellow professionals.
  • Tip of the month – we focus on a different presenting skill each time.
  • A chance to absorb, and learn from, what others are doing.
  • Work together in teams on subsequent presentations – learn through doing AND supporting fellow members.

Speakeasy has TWO clubs running in Manchester, first meetings on:

  1. Present your pitch.
  2. Attend as a non-presenter.
  3. Contribute as a facilitator (coaches only) as the concept grows.

I’m delighted to say that Neil Firth, who let the barbershop group so expertly at the recent Pecha Kucha event, has agreed to share his expertise with us as a guest contributor on the this first event on 25th Jan. Neil is a voice coach and draws on his extensive musical career to help business people use their voice more effectively when speaking to groups. He also runs team and confidence-building activities, again using musical techniques like barbershop harmonies.


My aim is to establish several groups in Manchester, but we’ll start with these two.

The Speakeasy Philosophy

As the name implies, our aim is to encourage a more natural, conversational style of communication.  We believe audiences relate well to this style and experience more ‘connection’ with the speaker.

We want to provide a safe, positive and wholly encouraging environment for people to present and develop their craft.  Feedback should always be constructive and the facilitator’s role is to manage this process.

But presenters must also be ready to receive honest feedback – that’s the whole point!  It’s a safe setting to ‘test-drive’ your message and develop your presentation skills.

We want presenters to feel comfortable with the Speakeasy environment.  We expect the highest standards of professionalism from our attendees, and comments made outside the group should reflect positively on those who take part.

Presenters should choose topics and material that are fit and proper for open, public consumption (nothing confidential or business-sensitive).  Topics might include:

  • An overview of your business proposition.
  • A new product or service.
  • An insight into your industry.
  • An off-the-wall topic for which you have a passion.

Helping young people to succeed – the Career Academies

Isn’t it funny when you see someone out of context? I’m a regular at the excellent TiE Entrepreneur Network meetings and attended the recent event at HSBC, Manchester. There were some familiar faces of course, but one acquaintance took me by surprise. Jordan is 16 years old and plays rugby with my son and there he was, suited up with 3 equally youthful schoolmates. The funny thing is he asked me FIRST what I was doing there!

It turns out the three boys were there courtesy of Career Academies UK, a charitable organisation that forges links between schools, colleges and businesses, transforming lives along the way. CAU currently works with over 100 schools and further education colleges and has 87 Career Academies set up, with another 40 in the pipeline. According to their brochure, the Career Academy initiative is a, “2 year programme of study for 16-19 year olds, within established sixth forms and colleges. It combines a rigorous academic curriculum with real-life work experience, inspiring students to achieve their full education and employment potential”.

Importantly, Career Academies rely on the generosity and involvement of business to provide this valuable grounding for the kids. This comes in the form of mentoring, internships, visits/seminars and what it classes ‘guru lectures’.

Anyway, back to young Jordan and his pals! To say I was impressed is an understatement. They didn’t huddle in a corner, but got stuck in chatting to the grown ups, contrary to what real professionals often do. And when the guest speaker had finished and asked for questions, one of the lads stuck his hand up and asked a cracker!

And this morning I was privileged to meet another cohort, this time from Ashton Sixth Form near Stockport, and again they exhibited some commendable skills. One student talked about his recent trip to London’s  Square Mile and told the story in a natural, conversational style using mostly slide images – a great lesson for anyone who presents in the workplace.

I’m delighted to be a guru lecturer (an overly grandiose term for me I can assure you) for Career Academies on the topics of networking and public speaking/presenting. If you’d like to know more about perhaps mentoring, lecturing or offering an internship, e-mail

Reflections on Pecha Kucha Manchester – 1st Dec launch

pkn-logo-for-blogFor those of you who made it to Pecha Kucha Night on Tuesday, you’ll know what the experience was like – this is more for those who missed it!

PK is sometimes described as an antidote to bad Powerpoint, and boy have we all been there before! If you’re new to PK, it’s a social phenomenon running in 260 cities globally whereby 10-14 presenters talk to a large audience about topics they have a passion for – but using the unique PK technique!

By constricting presenters to 20 slides, each rotating every 20 seconds, PK’s designers (Klein Dytham Architecture in Tokyo) managed to unleash hitherto hidden creativity  – and make the experience a hugely enjoyable one. How else would they manage to get 1000 people to the more established PK venues like Melbourne?

Why does PK work so well? Well here’s some suggestions:

It’s brief and punchy. At 6 mins and 40 secs you’ve got to get your message across quickly, and if you’re pitching a business idea that’s critical. No room for rambling here.

There’s a flow to it, born of the 20 sec-per-slide rule. It means that talks have a nice rhythm and movement to them, as should a story.

By relying more on images than text, it encourages the speaker to tell the story through the slides. When an audience sees an image they’re curious to know what it means. They’re primed to want to know more – and that’s where you deliver the meaning and the occasional “ah-ha” moment. Sadly, most people rely on text and bullets. The eyes might move across the words, but there’s no real understanding gained.

Finally, it’s a great way for a speaker to truly connect with an audience. We love to hear people with a passion and a conviction, as told through images that mean fundamentally mean something to the presenter.

On the night, 11 presenters talked about a wide variety of topics, including:

  • overcoming prostate cancer
  • a life-changing trip to Sierra Leone
  • favourite authors
  • the barbershop singing technique.

All talked (or sang!) with conviction and honesty and it was wonderful to see and hear their stories.

Phil Harris and I will run 4 such events a year (all not-for-profit), and we’re already planning the second Manchester PK night (probably Feb/Mar 2010).

We’d like you to:

  • Tell us if you’d like to attend
  • Come forward if you’d like to present at a future PK
  • Join our Pecha Kucha Manchester group on Linkedin
  • Tell all your friends about PK

Thank You…

To the Contact on Oxford Road, a superb venue and well worth a visit if you haven’t been before.

To our presenters (listed below). If you’d like to contact them, either go via their web-site OR drop me a line and I’ll put you in touch. Andy Clark gave a wonderful talk about his battle against prostate cancer, and the charity he supports would welcome your help too.

To Mark Ashmore of Future Artists., who kindly took video footage of the night (more to follow on this). Mark is off to Copenhagen shortly to produce his own documentary of the G15 Climate Change Summit. Anyone wishing to support him should contact him on 07500 256968.

To all those who braved a cold night, and lousy traffic to support our opening event. You made it a truly wonderful experience.

And of course to my good friend Phil Harris, co-host of PK Manchester and source of inspiration!

More on PK Manchester to come…

Speakers from 1st Dec and their topics