Bem Brasil event in aid of After Adoption (7/9/2011)

Based in Manchester (UK), After Adoption has provided over 100,000 people with adoption support of some kind since the voluntary organisation was formed in 1980.

On Wed 7th September, Manchester restaurant Bem Brasil is hosting a special night in aid of After Adoption and I’m delighted to bring you the details (see poster below).

Described as a riotous celebration of Brazil’s Independence Day, this Carnaval do Brasil features drummers, dancers and Caipirinhas and of course the trademark Bem Brasil charcoal grill.

At the time of writing, a limited number of tables were still available for groups of either six or eight, priced at £40 per head. Each diner guarantees £10 per head to the charity, plus all proceeds from the raffle and auction. The organisers hope to raise £5,000 and with a main auction prize of a trip to Rio they’ve got every expectation!

To reserve a table, call 0161 830 2023 or email


Why vocal tone makes a difference

I was listening to Andy Murray being interviewed on the radio this morning, and my goodness that man can sound boring! I’m sure he’s perfectly good company, but his voice is unbelievably flat and monotone (more so because of the serious tone he was using to speak about the effects of the hurricane in New York City). 

It underlines once again the importance of your key communication tool – your voice – and how influential it is in determining what our audience thinks of us. You can say some great things and deliver information that ought to be useful, but if you don’t intone it well it loses its impact, and we’re less inclined to warm to you. It’s crucial that there’s an alignment between what you say, and how you say it. If you say you’re thrilled to be addressing an audience, but sound like the cat’s just died, no one will believe you! 

But equally important (as highlighted in Julian Treasure’s brilliant TED presentation on listening skills) is that humans are hard-wired to detect ‘differencing’ in sound. If we’re subjected to a continuous noise at a steady pitch for any length of time, it’s not long before we don’t even hear it. But we’re more likely to pay attention to sounds that vary in pitch, strength and rhythm.  

So take your vocal delivery seriously, record your voice and listen back to the way you say things. Work to extend your vocal range, letting yourself go a little, and see how much more enjoyable it is to listen to.

As a footnote, you may ask whether it really matters that Andy Murray’s got a boring voice! After all, he makes a good living playing tennis and just need to grunt occasionally to do that well. But all athletes need 2 careers – he’s unlikely to go much beyond 30 as a singles player (there’s no money in doubles). Look at those who’ve gone on to do well in the media – John McEnroe, John Lloyd, Sue Barker, Annabelle Croft, Boris Becker. They’ve all got nice vocal delivery, allow their personalities to come through and they’re highly sought after commentators.

So look to the future Andy!


How to present a pitch – Lymphoma Association

I was driving along the other day, listening to Radio 4, when I caught the last half of an appeal for the Lymphoma Association (click on link and listen). I have no particular interest in this cause (although it’s a worthy one), but the reason it grabbed my attention was the storytelling technique used to promote the charity.

I think there are some great lessons to be learned here for anyone looking to persuade an audience to ‘buy’ their proposition.


It was presented by James Landale (pic above), the BBC’s Deputy Political Editor. He was diagnosed with the disease and is well qualified to speak about it. For an audience to buy what you’re selling, it helps if the messenger has an authentic link to the topic (rather than a sales-person who’s picked some random product to promote for a while). And because Landale is a journalist, he tells the story in a clear, crisp and compelling way.

A direct opening

So many presentations begin with a long preamble – “Hi, my name is George and today I’m going to talk to you about…” But Landale opens with, “For me it began, as it does for so many others, with a lump.” He’s straight into the story and as an audience we’re hooked from the first moment.

Emotive and expressive words

He talks about, “this seemingly innocuous noggin of flesh…the little thing had staying power…the offending piece of grissle was teeming with cancerous cells…I’ll always remember the shiver of mortality I felt…” These words help us connect with his feelings, and are everyday language and not medical or (in the workplace) corporate-speak.

Great vocal delivery

Again, you’d expect this of a journalist, but it’s important to remember that the way we say things has as much impact (if not more) than what we say. No umms or errs, clear diction, not too fast or slow, time for the words to land, changes of pace, volume and tone. Julian Treasure makes a great point in his TED talk about the sounds we pay attention to. We use a thing called ‘differencing’ – in other words we’re looking for variety or a change to the norm – and this is absent in monotone voices like those of tennis player Andy Murray.

Letting us in

Landale allows the audience to share his thoughts and feelings as he gets his diagnosis, and struggles to make sense of his predicament. This degree of openness builds trust in an audience and we empathise with what he’s going through. There’s an element of vulnerability to this, but it helps us warm to a speaker and we somehow feel involved in his journey. In a movie, this helps us invest emotional capital in a character – we care what happens to them.

A call to action

If you plan your talk with the outcome you want, you’ll remember to insert a call to action at the end (many forget!). Make it simple – audiences don’t want too many choices.

I know I’ve rather hi-jacked this appeal for another purpose, but hopefully my thoughts will get shared so the charity gets talked about, and supported.

To support the Lymphoma Association…

Donations to Lymphoma Association should be sent to FREEPOST BBC Radio 4 Appeal, please mark the back of your envelope Lymphoma Association. Credit cards: Freephone 0800 404 8144. You can also give online at If you are a UK tax payer, please provide Lymphoma Association with your full name and address so they can claim the Gift Aid on your donation. The online and phone donation facilities are not currently available to listeners without a UK postcode.

Registered Charity Number: 1068395.

Is it possible to find mojo in a day?

Judging by the feedback we received after the recent Mojo-in-a-Day workshop, the answer is YES! Truth be told, the delegates on the workshop had a passion for what they do anyway, but in each case we were able to help them craft and deliver that story in a more compelling way.

Mojo-in-a-Day is delivered as part of the MojoLife programme, a concept founded by Sara Knowles and myself a few months ago, as a result of us sharing our stories.

We’d both undergone life-changing (and rather traumatic) experiences but, quite independently, we’d also managed to re-invent ourselves and take our lives in a direction of our choosing.

MojoLife celebrates the opportunity we all have in the modern world to pursue goals that fulfil us. Our belief (borne of personal experience) is that by discovering the true value and purpose of what we do, we come alive as an individual and positively attract opportunities.

It’s this approach that makes some job seekers more marketable than others, some businesses more vibrant and distinctive than their rivals and some organisations more productive and motivated than the rest.

So what do we deliver in Mojo-in-a-Day? There are 4 key elements:

1) Finding your Voice

Some people who get involved with MojoLife are at a cross-roads in their life – perhaps through redundancy or some other significant moment. We help them reflect on who they are, what they’re really good at and what future they might want to engineer for themselves. This might involve setting up a new business or social enterprise, or simply making themselves more marketable in their preferred employment sector.

Others know what path they’re following, but want to improve the results they’re achieving. They might be running a business that needs to attract more clients, but they realise it’s tough to stand out in a crowded marketplace.

In both cases, MojoLife helps them ‘find their authentic voice’. This means they identify what they’re really good at (and have a passion for). And when this gets crafted into a compelling story, they grow in confidence and attract more opportunities. This is what people with mojo have – they know who they are and what they offer; they literally become more attractive!

2) Developing your Personal Brand / Telling your Story

It’s not just companies that have brands – people can have them too. The management guru Tom Peters is often cited as the originator of the term back in the late 1990’s. For him, a brand is simply an expectation of what you’re going to get. When you hire Ricky Gervais to host an awards ceremony, you should know it’s going to be a bit controversial and not necessarily right for a conservative audience!

But the important thing about a brand is consistency and congruence. Tiger Woods was seen as a role model for young, aspiring people throughout the world, squeaky clean and the epitome of professionalism and dedication. I say ‘was’ because we all know what happened next! His brand was badly dented because his behaviour was at odds with that image; sponsors pulled out in droves.

So at Mojo-in-a-Day we ask people how they see their own brand. We ask, “what would you want other people to say about you?” Many things go into your brand:

  • Your professional expertise
  • Your personality
  • Your ‘way of doing things’
  • Your history or ‘back story’

But if you’re going to establish your brand, you’ve got to ‘start the rumour’ so-to-speak. In other words, you’ve got to continually tell the story of what you’re about.

This would often start with a basic ‘elevator pitch’, that 30-60 second overview that summarises who you are and what you do. If you nail that, you’ll get a reaction from your audience – ideally they’ll want to know more. This is when you need depth and a really good ‘story vault’ (a mental library of case studies, personal experiences, media stories or pieces of research). Your ability to pull these out of your mental locker and weave them into conversations or presentations is a terrific social skill. It makes you memorable, likeable and helps to establish your distinctive ‘signature’.

Becoming a KPI

You’re probably familiar with the acronym KPI as meaning ‘key performance indicator’. But as Australian speaker Daniel Priestley suggests, it can also mean Key Person of Influence.

When you develop confidence in your own story, when you start telling it in a compelling way, you start moving up the ‘ladder of influence’. From the person who’s ‘just there’, you begin to be seen as ‘someone worth knowing’. Your story stands out from all those other vanilla versions. Your brand and reputation precede you and people begin talking about you. You start to develop ‘pull’ and ultimately you’re seen as indispensable.

3) Spreading your Reputation – Networking & Social Media

It’s all very well having a great story, but if nobody knows about it you’ve still got a problem! In Mojo-in-a-Day we explore some sound techniques and strategies for spreading your word.

It’s amazing what a poor brand networking has, especially amongst people just starting out. Again, there seems to be a gap between what it purports to be, and the experience people actually have of it. We encourage our delegates to become smart networkers, to strike a balance between speaking passionately about what they do, while affording others time and space to talk about themselves.

For us, networking is not so much WIIFM (what’s in it for me?), but WIMFY (what’s in me for you?). It’s about building relationships which last beyond the event itself, taking a genuine interest in others, developing a sense of curiosity and the ability to see possibility wherever you go. As an American trainer once put it, the secret to networking is to do what your mother told you not to do when you were little – speak to strangers and use the F-word (that’s FOLLOW UP!).

Social media remains a mystery to many, but its pulling power is beyond dispute. Those who don’t use it feel they’re missing out, but there’s a lack of understanding about how it works and what it’s for.

Without doubt, social media has fundamentally changed the way we communicate in recent years. We used to rely on good old fashioned word of mouth, but that’s a bit ponderous.

Platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube provide extraordinary speed and reach – and cost virtually nothing to use. It’s levelled the playing field, allowing anyone to self-publish – we all have a megaphone now.

But that presents a problem too. With everyone shouting, there’s a hell of a lot of noise out there. Our defence mechanism is to ignore things and develop a natural sense of distrust and scepticism. That’s why conventional methods of push marketing are less effective these days.

At MojoLife we believe in pulling power. What are you saying and doing that’s worth paying attention to? Is your message authentic…but also about us, the audience?

Seth Godin a great point in this interview about social media – that it’s essentially an opportunity to lead. It’s a free platform for you to create influence. Think of social media like another networking space. The same rules of interpersonal etiquette apply – don’t shout too loud; be polite and respectful and interested in others; find common ground and build relationships; make some interesting points that spark a debate; be seen in the way you’d want to be seen; get people talking about you.

4) Setting goals and writing your manifesto

We ask our MojoLife members to write their manifesto. This is not so much a CV or a bland mission statement, but a deeper representation of who they are, what they can do for people and what they believe in.

The global recession and the advent of social media has changed the landscape of work and business. What people seek now in providers is authenticity and transparency. What we seek in ourselves is a sense of purpose and fulfilment.

MojoLife helps people find their authentic voice and pursue something they have a passion for. When you discover what that is, and you start telling that story in a way that resonates with people, the possibilities are endless. That’s why MojoLife is really about self-empowerment and the realisation of people’s potential. And that’s why we get excited about it!

For more on the Mojo-in-a-Day programme, and other related products, click here.

Taking the Mojolife message to Whitehall

A few months ago, when the idea of MojoLife was first taking shape, I told my kids we’d be presenting the idea to the Prime Minister within a few months time. “Yeah right, dad,” came the reply. Well we didn’t manage to get in front of Mr Cameron last week in London, but we did attract the attention of the Cabinet Secretary and one of TV’s infamous ‘dragons’.

The occasion was Civil Service Live, a 3 day exhibition at Olympia aimed at inspiring the public sector to deal with the unprecedented challenges coming from the global meltdown and the inherited debt of the last government. The concept was to introduce recession-busting ideas from the private sector, so MojoLife got the call! 

Because Sara Knowles and myself (MojoLife’s co-founders) have both emerged from challenging experiences of one sort or another, we believe we’re in a unique position to put the spark back into people, companies and organisations. When change forces itself upon you (eg through redundancy), it’s tempting to blame the things you can’t control and bemoan the fact that money is tight. But that’s exactly the time to think creatively. 

We had to raise money to exhibit at the show, and through the sponsorship of companies like Cassons Accountants (big supporters of Speakeasy and MojoLife), and some co-exhibitors who shared our stand, we were able to mix with the likes of BT and the Post Office and punch above our weight. In more than the obvious sense, our exhibition stand spoke for what we represent. It was a collaboration with 3 other companies, and one of the most colourful and active stands despite a budget that was probably 10 times lower than any other. 

Thanks to Ashley Boroda, we were the only exhibitor to run a stand-up comedy class. Our flowers (mojo colours) were the envy of the hall. But most of all, the message of hope and empowerment which underpins MojoLife was enthusiastically embraced by the hundreds of delegates who came our way. 

They divided into 2 main camps:

  • Those who were facing forced or voluntary redundancy
  • Those who were searching for strategies to manage change within their departments. 

What was interesting was that those lower down the pay grade were asking for the mojo-approach, and those at the top (including Cabinet Secretary Gus O’Donnell, pictured left) were equally receptive to our ideas. Many of the ‘guru speakers’ at the event were espousing similar philosophies of self-empowerment and creative thinking – on the one hand good to hear, but on the other we felt we could have done a better job of getting the message across without quite so many bullet points! 

Ashley didn’t provide the only comedy moment. On the final day there was a rumour that TV Dragon Peter Jones was in the building. We got ourselves in the zone, and soon enough there was a scurry of activity – nervous security men and busy paparazzi – and a very smart, extremely tall businessman headed our way. The only problem was he was looking the wrong way as he passed our stand.  

I hate mithering famous people, but Sara has no such qualms (as evidenced by her recent encounter with Sir Ken Robinson). “Oi, Peter!” she yelled (or words to that effect). She got his attention. Slightly flushed but otherwise on good form, she pitched the MojoLife concept to the fearsome investor. Peter Jones’ teeth flashed that TV smile. He turned to me and I blurted something out about the business concept and our hopes for the future. “So your business shrinks,” opined the Dragon. I was lost for words. I was thinking, “No it doesn’t! It’s going to grow and grow…” Thankfully at this point, the comedy genius of Ashley Boroda ‘got it’ and suggested (if you’ve read Lynne Truss’s excellent Eats Shoots & Leaves you’ll understand) that a grammatical error might explain my confusion.

 There’s a world of difference between, “Your business shrinks” and “You’re business shrinks” and of course, in a way, we are business psychologists! 

Now that the dust has settled we can look back on a hugely successful week. Our round-table discussion had a fully engaged audience, and it seems we’ll get another chance in the Autumn to host a discussion – this time in the Cabinet Office itself. 

Ashley, Ameena Ahmed from Direct Path Consulting and Lesley & Chris Kay from Parallax Consultancy were fabulous companions on the MojoLife stand and I like to think we spread a degree of optimism and positivity throughout the entire hall.  

There are some brilliant people within the Civil Service and the Public Sector at large, but the world we live in has changed dramatically in the last 3-4 years. People moving from the public to the private sector have to think about packaging their expertise and telling a compelling story about who they are and what they offer. It’s a different language to pay grades and job titles, policies and procedures. It’s now about what problems you can solve, what you’re really good at, what you believe in and what motivates you. 

And for those public sector servants who remain, it’s now a matter of doing more with less – and that includes getting the most from the workforce. I recall listening to Daniel Pink’s RSA talk on motivation. Apparently, in jobs which require intellectual input rather than simple laborious tasks, as long as pay isn’t perceived as a source of injustice, offering someone more money makes them less productive. Yes, that’s LESS productive. The three things that make people more productive are AUTONOMY, MASTERY AND PURPOSE.  

A large part of the MojoLife philosophy is that people should develop their natural capacities and pursue things they feel strongly about. This gives them purpose and helps them come alive as a human being. Where people in an organisation feel they’re contributing to a wider purpose, they become revitalised and more productive than ever. But this culture starts at the top. As Sir Ken Robinson puts it, good leaders are like farmers. They don’t make things grow themselves; rather, they create the conditions under which things can grow naturally. 

I hope you’ll join us at MojoLife in some capacity – as a client, a sponsor, an associate training provider or just an individual who believes in creating a future of his/her own choosing. If that’s a journey you want to start, we’re with you all the way!

Where are you on the ladder of influence?

I’ve written a lot recently on how to use your story to differentiate yourself from your rivals and make it easy for them to choose you. It’s a crowded marketplace after all. A strong story helps you get noticed and leaves people intrigued.

But you want more than that. You want to become important to people – indispensable in fact! Along the way you move along a continuum:

  • People know you exist (networking by ‘being there’).
  • People see you as worth knowing (they begin to recognise your value).
  • People can’t do without you (you’re part of them – a WE relationship).

In the video below I’ve suggested a pathway towards becoming more influential and attracting a tribal following. It all starts with your story – you understanding what it is FIRST, then helping others ‘get it’ too.

Let me know where you are on the ladder of influence…and where you’d like to be.

Click here to view the clip (this is the second of 2 and suggests six levels of influence – the first clip sets the scene and can be viewed here).

Is Corporate Social Responsibility at the heart of your story?

Just occasionally when you’re listening to a speaker or reading an article, something clicks.  I had such a moment whilst listening to Julia Worthington and David Pollock (DP pictured in the bin!) talking about Corporate Social Responsibility at the recent Directors’ Briefing hosted by Saffery Champness Accountants.

I’m writing a new book at the moment entitled “Choose Me!” which explores the dilemma faced by many buyers these days – how to decide whether to buy from this or that provider?  It’s a thorny problem for employers looking to fill a vacancy; they’ve got a sack-full of CV’s sporting first rate educational and technical credentials, so how do you distinguish one candidate from another?

It’s much the same in the business community, but sellers don’t make it easy for buyers to choose them because they all sound a bit similar.  So many people think marketing involves pushing a bland, factual message far and wide on the assumption that sales will be generated.  It’s all a bit vanilla – “we’re based here, we do this, we’ve got 6 offices and deal with these sorts of clients”.

Simply telling more people what you do has always worked as a marketing strategy to a certain degree, but it’s fast becoming a broken system.  There’s way too much noise out there and we tend to switch off and ignore stuff.

What DOES work, however, is having a strong story.  Instead of pushing an unremarkable message on people who haven’t given you permission to talk to them, a PULL approach involves saying things that are worth listening to and doing things that warrant people’s attention.  I loved what David told us about his company, Chess Telecom, one that’s consistently listed in The Times Top 100 Companies to Work For.   It’s got a strong story.  Part of that story are the excellent products and services they supply.  But if it was just that, they’d be no different from anyone else.  What makes their story really interesting (and distinctive) is what their people do, and their many CSR activities are a key component of this.

So many people claim to have a USP, but in my experience it’s more of a CSP (Common Selling Point)!  But here are the things that really are unique in a business:

  • your people
  • the relationships they have with others
  • the stories they generate

If you build your message around these things you really WILL be unique because you’re in them! As David pointed out, most corporate communications make for dreary reading – latest offers, new offices opening up, etc.  The MD might think this is news, but that doesn’t mean it’s newsworthy.  What people like to read about are good stories – how you transformed a client’s situation in a novel way, how an employee raised £15,000 for his daughter’s hi-tech wheelchair by reaching out to the local community, or in the case of Herdy, how you paid for some apprentices to be trained as dry stone-wallers to maintain the local landscape.

Take a look at the Herdy web-site and you’ll see a clear message.  It’s not focused around the product list or special discounts.  It’s, “This is what we believe in, want to join our tribe?”  The real story of that company is what led the directors to set it up, how they challenged perceptions about pricing and fair trade and did something to retain the distinctive nature of the environment and support local farmers.

Simon Sinek describes how powerful this approach is through his concept of the Golden Circle.  Most people communicate their message by starting with their WHAT; they might get on to their HOW but few talk about (or even know) their WHY.  And by why he doesn’t mean to make a profit, he means your cause, your purpose, the wrong you’ve set out to right, the reason you get out of bed in the morning.  In his experience, the most revered leaders and companies communicate the other way around – they start with their WHY.  He cites Apple as a great example – I’d also add John Lewis to that list, as well as Chess and Herdy of course.

The key, he says, is not to find people who need what you offer.  It’s about finding people who believe what you believe.  When you have a strong story, when you know your why and instil a culture based around it, you attract the right type of customers and employees.  These people find something in your message that resonates with them.  They come to you ‘pre-warmed’ and they’re easy to motivate and more likely to stay loyal and spread the word.  Your message centres around your beliefs and values and this becomes your main marketing tool.

Companies with a strong story-based culture (driven by their why) find it easier to retain staff, reduce absenteeism, increase productivity, attract and retain good clients and are generally more fun places to work (and buy from).  They develop a ‘story vault’ which provides fantastic material which people want to read. It all goes into creating their distinctive personality as a company.  In short, it makes it easy for (the right) buyers to choose them.

So thank you to David, Julia and Safferys for giving me even greater clarity about the importance of your story, your culture and the huge benefits of putting CSR at the heart of things.

What you can apply from TED Talks

At Speakeasy we regularly refer to the amazing library of talks at TED, a wonderful resource for anyone looking to improve their presenting and storytelling skills. TED stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design and has evolved over the years into one of the most influential communities on the planet.

A platform for people with something to say, TED attracts thousands of attendees to its main conferences @ $6,000 a ticket – and there’s a lengthy waiting list! Speakers have included Bill Clinton, Bill and Melinda Gates, Jamie Oliver, Madeleine Albright, Steve Jobs and Peter Gabriel. Thanks to a Creative Commons license, TED talks are available to anyone for free via the internet and millions (including myself) regularly log on to find fresh inspiration and spiritual and intellectual nourishment!

But what I’m concerned to do here is demonstrate how anyone looking to improve their communication/presenting skills can find relevance from this extraordinary resource. So here’s my guide (a personal view) to getting the most from TED.

Presenting University

A lot of Speakeasy members ask me if there are any books or other resources they can study between sessions. I put together a simple e-book, the Speakeasy A-Z of Presenting a while back, but to be honest you could do a lot worse than simply watch and learn from the TED presenters. I played golf for my country when at university and from an early age I learned a lot by simply watching great players. My brother is a pro and I played with him and caddied at the highest level. I developed a swing largely by mimicry.

Within reason, you can adopt the same approach with presenting and speaking. Learn from wonderful speakers like Sir Ken Robinson and Ben Zander and Brene Brown. For example, both Sir Ken and Brene Brown open with a self-deprecatory remark or story. It puts the audience at ease and makes them immediately likeable. I’m not saying you should copy them and not be your authentic self, but you CAN learn so much from these talks – treat them as homework and test-drive some of their techniques and principles in your own presenting.

Authentic Storytelling

TED speakers leave you in no doubt that they passionately believe in their message. It’s often representative of their life’s work so it’s personal, raw, insightful and compelling. Others speak of more recent experiences that have affected them – like Ric Elias whose outlook on life changed forever when his plane came down in the Hudson River. These days people are distrustful of slick, polished pitches. You’re on safer ground if you’re open and honest about who you are and what you believe in. It comes down to knowing your own story and being totally true to your convictions.

Message over Oratory

You don’t get speaking gigs because you’re a good orator. People ask you to speak because you’ve got something to say. Know your message and develop sound presenting/storytelling skills to do it justice.

Ideas Worth Spreading

This is such a clever strap line because it’s exactly what TED is about. And it also epitomizes the Speakeasy philosophy.

  • Idea – have you got a message?
  • Worth – is it something worthy of our attention?
  • Spreading – are you doing enough to get it known/talked about?


TED reminds us that we have the power to influence others and effect change, as long as we communicate a strong message. William Kamkwamba became a powerful voice for the global environmental movement despite being a poor young man in famine-torn Malawi. But he had a great story that resonated with people. TED celebrates endeavour and struggle and reminds us of what’s possible with limited resources.

Painting the Picture

Some people find TED a little dreamy and idealistic, but sometimes you really do have to sell the sizzle and paint a picture of what might lie ahead. Martin Luther King used it to good effect in his, “I have a dream…” speech. Audiences like to be inspired, to imagine there’s a bigger story still to unfold. You may present a logical, intellectual argument but without the emotional buy-in you’re unlikely to get your audience to act on your suggestions.

If you’re serious about developing into a persuasive and influential person, learn from great storytellers and apply some of the techniques on display at TED.

Doing justice to the legend of Seve Ballesteros

For the best part of 30 years, golf has been a big part of my life and one of my great heroes passed away this morning. The Spanish golfing legend Seve Ballesteros was only 54 when he finally lost his battle with brain cancer, a fight he described as the biggest of one of many in his life. Loved by millions of adoring fans around the world, he was a charismatic player in the mould of Arnold Palmer and spearheaded the growth of European professional golf in the 1980’s and 1990’s.

BBC radio ran a feature on the great man today and asked golf correspondent Iain Carter to split his summation into 2 parts – the tournament record…and then the man. The record is impressive: 5 major championships, over 80 tournament victories worldwide and of course his spectacular performances in the Ryder Cup. Moving on to the man himself, Carter used the terms commonly associated with Seve – charismatic, swashbuckling, genius, bold, passionate, handsome, determined and stubbornly single-minded.

But it struck me that neither his stellar record nor those descriptive terms did the Ballesteros legend justice. On their own they failed to explain why people so adored and revered him, even those Americans he so desperately wanted to beat in his many Ryder Cup battles.

As ever, it was the stories that summed up the essence of the man. It seems everyone has a story about Seve, but just two will do for now.

I recall when he led the European Ryder Cup team when the contest was held in his home country for the first time in 1997.  The beautiful Valderrama course in Southern Spain played host to this most eagerly awaited battle with the USA, and the Spaniard was at his most determined, even as a non-playing captain.  His presence was felt everywhere and it was clearly difficult for Seve to contain himself as a non-combatant. During a practice round he watched Darren Clarke attempt a bunker shot. The Irishman messed it up, leaving the ball in the sandy pit. Seve shook his head, grabbed Clarke’s club, pushed him aside muttering, “No, no…like this.” He proceeded to play the most exquisite shot to within inches of the hole.

The second story I heard for the first time today. Being rather passionate and single-minded, Seve was something of a nightmare to caddy for. He went through bag carriers like babies go through nappies, but Yorkshireman Billy Foster managed to last 5 years while the Spaniard was in his prime.  During a European Tour event the magician from Pedrena was charging down the home stretch, with birdies at the 14th, 15th, 16th and 17th. Now in the lead, Ballesteros was ready to attack the tricky final hole, but Foster advised caution.  The Spaniard ignored him and thrashed a 3-wood with all his might, ending up behind the wall of a villa!

He was in an impossible position – restricted backswing, trees everywhere, a tiny gap through which to thread the ball, 150 yards to carry over a wall and a swimming pool. Again, his caddy advised caution, “Just play out sideways,” he begged, almost down on his knees. His boss was not for turning, “You sonofabitch, this is Seve…watch this!” He went on to play the most outrageous shot which sailed over all the trouble and landed just short of the green. And to cap it all, he chipped in for a birdie three!

My point is this Seve tribute really only worked when the facts were married with the stories. The facts alone don’t paint the picture of his charismatic personality. They don’t explain why he accumulated so many adoring fans around the world. Those 2 anecdotes capture the essence of the man and it’s a lesson we can learn when we’re putting across our OWN message. The factual overview of our business won’t capture any hearts. It’s the stories that convey the character of our business and its people and THAT is what makes the buyer feel good about choosing US as opposed to one of our competitors.

Adios Seve – you’ll be sorely missed but the memories linger on.

The Speakeasy User Guide (Part 1)

I’ve been running Speakeasy Groups for 16 months now, and it dawned on me that I’d never produced a ‘user guide’ to help people get the best from it.  But I think a good starting point (this is effectively the ‘Intro’) is to suggest ways in which Speakeasy can help you, especially if you’re in the networking/micro/SME community.

Naturally, Speakeasy can and will help you present yourself better.  But it’s far more profound than that and hopefully this explains why.

As always with training, it’s what you do between your sessions that counts. Some suggestions would be to get into Ted Talks, listen to some good storytellers and take an interest in basic human psychology.  But even if you do NONE of the above, provided you embrace some of the principles shown below you’ll gain more benefit from attending our sessions.

The 3 key goals of all the work I do are:

  • Help people know their own story
  • Help them tell it better (so it’s compelling)
  • Help them build a network around it and PULL people to them

There’s too much bland networking and pitching going on.  It’s pushy and unremarkable and people just switch off.  Too many people have the mind-set of:

  • Be seen in as many places as possible
  • Deliver my basic factual message
  • Wait for the business to come in

The trouble with this is everyone starts to sound the same.  The question is: why should they choose YOU? The Speakeasy message is:

  • Do you and your story justice.
  • Be worth listening to.
  • Get people talking about you.

So here’s a few ways in which Speakeasy can help you.

Improve your Elevator Pitch

This is something you do all the time when you network, sometimes formally (the round-the-table), sometimes in conversation.  Develop something that’s punchy, memorable and makes people want to know more.  I believe you should have not one, but many variations of your pitch.  But the key is that it always relates in some way to your expertise in whatever niche you occupy.

Deliver a better presentation – one that has impact

Many people shy away from the 5-10 minute ‘spotlight’ – where they have a chance to expand on their 60 second pitch.  But it’s a wonderful opportunity to convey the essence of what you’re about and win over an entire audience in one go.  Use Speakeasy to test-drive this presentation and aim to deliver it 2 or 3 times during your initial 6 month membership.  It’s a safe environment to experiment with some new ideas and methodology.

Make it easy for buyers to choose YOUR company

Your pitch or presentation is really your ‘story’.  But so many people use it to deliver facts – “we’re a printing company, we’re based in Stockport, we’ve been in business since 1978 and we do a wide range of printing jobs…” zzzzzzzz!  Your task is not really to tell us what you do; the challenge is to give us a reason to choose YOU.  Speakeasy helps you know your own story, which might include why you do what you do, how you’ve transformed a client’s situation or what ambition you have for the future.

Become more persuasive when pitching to prospective clients

There’s a saying that facts make people think, but emotions make them act.  If the purpose of your pitch is to trigger a behaviour (ie buy from you!), start thinking in terms of how you want your audience to feel.  Of course, you’ve got to present a logical, rational argument for them buying your product or service.  But they’ve also got to feel good about doing it.  Speakeasy helps you take prospects on that emotional ‘journey’.

Network with more confidence

A lot of people approach networking with apprehension, but in a funny sort of way Speakeasy helps people realise how interesting they are!  There are many things about you and your work that you wouldn’t expect to be a typical brochure, but they add colour and depth to your ‘brand’.  We help you recognise things that you can use as material for your ‘story vault’ and of course these anecdotes and personal reflections make you a much more interesting conversationalist.


Develop better material for posting on social media

A few years ago if we wanted to publish something we’d look to the local newspapers or print some leaflets.  But social media like LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook (and the ability to post blogs) means we’re all authors – but that doesn’t mean what we produce is worth reading!  Speakeasy helps people recognise what’s newsworthy.  It helps you develop a ‘nose’ for a good story. And of course it all helps you stand out from your rivals – you’re developing your own distinctive signature.

Build some terrific relationships

As well as a personal development club, Speakeasy is also a networking community.  But because you’re all learning something together (and presenting is a fundamental human frailty), our members tend to develop deeper, authentic relationships.  There’s an element of vulnerability with Speakeasy, but that means the removal of falsity and the discovery of who we really are.  And that paves the way to true connection.


I hope that’s painted a clearer picture of the depth of this concept.  It’s fundamental to your success in networking and marketing because it’s about people truly appreciating what you (as opposed to your rivals) have to offer.

See you at the next session. See Speakeasy dates & venues here.