Five ways for experts to fight fake news

The latest scary statistics about the resurgence of the measles virus, due – at least in high-income countries – to vaccine refusal, highlights the various ‘cognitive biases’ that lead people to base their decision-making on unfounded fears and beliefs rather than top-level scientific evidence.

They act as a timely reminder that it takes a lot more than facts to change people’s minds and move them to action.

According to a new report from UNICEF, an estimated 169 million children worldwide missed out on their first dose of the measles vaccine between 2010 and 2017, with the predictable result that ‘widening pockets of unvaccinated children have created a pathway to the measles outbreaks hitting several countries around the world today’.…

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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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