Why communicators should always start with ‘why’


Working with a series of groups last week, I suddenly understood that the essence of my communication skills training can be summed up in one word – WHY.

When I am preparing people to communicate with media or other stakeholders about a product, a service or a function they nearly always want to start by talking about what the product is for, who the service serves, how the function works.

But all this is meaningless unless you start with why. To take one typical example, a journalist cannot hope to grasp the significance of a new drug for a hard-to-treat disease unless they are first confronted with the unmet need – the suffering that drug is designed to alleviate or remove.…

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End every presentation with a call to action

In my last blog I talked about the importance of making a powerful first impression when you present to an audience.

But endings are just as important as beginnings, and the professionals I coach seem to find them just as challenging.

Typically, they get to the end of their slide deck, summarise the data (although not invariably) and then end with a slide that reads ‘Thank you – any questions?’

The crucial step most, if not all, ignore is the ‘call to action’ – the compelling statement that tells your listeners how you want them to change their behaviour and/or their attitudes in the light of what you have said.…

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When did you last change your mind…

…about something really important?

 This week I read something very unusual in my daily newspaper. A former practitioner – and passionate advocate – of naturopathy described how she changed sides and became an equally passionate sceptic after she discovered evidence of fraudulent claims in relation to cancer treatment.

‘Once I realised that, everything changed virtually overnight’, Britt Maria Hermes told The Guardian. ‘By Monday morning I had hired a lawyer and I quit the practice.’

Earlier this month I heard something equally unusual on the radio.…

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How to be persuasive in 3 simple steps

How to be persuasive in three simple steps

 Of all the forms of torture inflicted in corporate life, Death by PowerPoint is the most pervasive.

It’s not just because the software encourages a lazy approach to presenting, with the speaker usually playing a poor supporting role to slides loaded with text, dripping with bullet points and peppered with impossibly complex visuals.

It’s also because PowerPoint presentations tend to rely on factual information alone to convey their messages and move their audiences to action.…

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Persuasion: why facts don’t work

As a communication skills coach I work regularly with individuals and groups to identify, prioritise and illustrate the key facts that support the arguments they need to put forward in presentations, media interviews, negotiations and other critical meetings.

There is an assumption that facts are the ultimate, undeniable persuaders, in the face of which the strongest opposition has no choice but to melt away.

But in our ‘post-truth’- era, the power and the primacy of factual information is looking increasingly dubious as a tool for persuasion.…

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