Donald Trump: Storytelling in 140 Characters

By | January 31st, 2017|Blog, Featured, Perception, Performance, Presentation skills, Public speaking, Storytelling|

“Our country needs strong borders and extreme vetting, NOW. Look what is happening all over Europe and, indeed, the world – a horrible mess!”

So says President Trump. Whatever you think about the personality or the policy, one thing is for certain: Donald Trump knows the art of storytelling.

Villain, Victim, Hero

One of the classic storytelling techniques we cover in our workshops is the Villain, Victim, Hero formula. It is so familiar to us that our brains expect it and respond to it. From bedtime stories as a child to Star Wars, the formula’s power is used again and again.

To summarise how it works:

Villain: this could be person, think Lex Luthor, or a “thing” such as the shark in Jaws or a volcano about to erupt.

Victim: the poor, innocent victim.

Hero: Superhero or ordinary person doing extraordinary things  (or both in the case of Superman/Clark Kent).

To make the story more dramatic, make the Villain more dastardly, the victim more worthy of our pity or the hero more compelling.

Donald Trump uses this formal in a relentlessly consistent and simple way:

Villain: the establishment, “crooked Hilary”, “the swamp” in Washington.

Victim: You! The honest, decent hard-working ordinary soul.

Hero: An outstandingly successful businessman with stellar talents and dealmaking prowess…….

Instead of varying the message, Donald Trump is a master at giving more impact to his storytelling by repeating and strengthening the formula. He makes his villains ever more villainous. The victims and their suffering, “the horrible mess” from the tweet above, is presented in colourful and dramatic ways. And of course, the more dangerous the villain and the more wronged the victim, the more impressive the hero is!

Using storytelling in your presentations

We may not want to emulate Donald Trump but we can certainly learn from how he tells stories. If you have to present data and facts in a way that will have your audience paying attention, try to think about:

  • Who is the Villain?
  • How bad is that Villain?
  • Who is suffering because of the Villain?
  • What is the impact on the Victim?
  • How can this be solved?
  • What are the qualities of your hero?

Next time you hear a speech from Donald Trump listen out for Villains and Victims. You will hear what an impact storytelling can have.

Martyn Barmby

Tips from an Olympian to tackle the Fight/Flight/Freeze effect

By | May 19th, 2015|Building Confidence, Difficult conversations, Interview Skills, Nerves, Perception|

We talk to every client about the effect the nervous adrenaline produced by our amygdala can have on our bodies. Our brain senses fear and our system rapidly produces a defence – flight/fight or freeze, in short a way to get ourselves out of imminent danger. This short extract from the BBC shows former Olympian Matthew Syed, author of Bounce , explain how in a difficult situation getting into a conversation can help you to work through the nerves and focus on the subject in hand. Great advice and one we are happy to share.

Inspirational Public Speaking: Caroline Taylor

By | January 29th, 2014|Authenticity, Blog, Building Confidence, Leadership, Nerves, Perception, Personal Profile, Presentation skills, Public speaking|

Caroline Taylor, VP Marketing, Communications and Citizenship, IBM Europe.

Caroline Taylor, VP Marketing, Communications and Citizenship, IBM Europe.

b>Part 2: If you enjoy Public Speaking it can provide a great boost to your profile, plus some top tips for building confidence and overcoming nerves.

Q: What do you look at when you speak?

A: I always look at the audience. In the past at a big conference the lighting often made it look as if you were talking to a vast empty dark space. Luckily these days lighting is better and it allows me to look around at different people in the crowd. As I like to use a bit of humour in my talks I look to see if it has got a response or reaction. One of the hardest gigs I have encountered is hosting our annual “Bring Your daughters to work Day” which is a scheme we introduced at IBM to show young women that technology is a career option open for them. 12-15 year old girls are quite a hard crowd, and an adult trying to make them laugh is probably the last thing they want to hear!. So I made sure I shared eye contact around to encourage them to engage with me and see that I want to communicate with them. So your audience reaction can help you to adapt your style to be as effective as you can with them.  When you are doing a talk it is a great idea to go along to the pre-event dinner, lunch or coffee and mingle with the audience. Share what your topic is and sometimes they will give you a great opinion or example that you can share during your talk. This really makes your topic come to life as you are talking about something that one of their colleagues has shared. You can look for the people you spoke to beforehand during your talk and that gives you a friendly reaction which boosts confidence levels as well.

Q: What do you hear when speaking?

A: I hear myself saying “Slow Down Caroline” ! I’ve always been a fast talker, something which people have commented on for years. In my new European based role slowing down is especially important as many of my new colleagues have English as a second language. I also try and keep an eye on the time. Although I’m therefore conscious of being slower I still speak relatively quickly because that is who I am. At IBM we talk a lot about personal eminence and about being consistently authentic in every method of communication. For example if each of your digital personalities are in conflict with each other or at odds with your public personality you will not gain the trust of your audience. So of course it is important to adapt your style of speaking so that is clear and easy to understand but no-one wants to listen to a public-speaking clone so always remember to stay true to yourself.

Q: Does public speaking help you?

A: Definitely. Thanks to my public speaking appearances I’ve been invited to do extraordinary things. One of these was being invited to be a adjunct professor at a Business school after being spotted by the Dean at a conference where I was a guest speaker. Public speaking boosts your profile and offers another angle on you, which of course must be true to who you are and what your values are. It increases your network and introduces you to others who you can learn things from. It is extremely valuable.

Q: Do you think public speaking is important for women?

A: It is just as important for women as it is for men, perhaps more important as women often struggle to build their profiles to help them achieve success in business. But don’t try and ape the guys. Trying to be something you are not will back-fire as it isn’t authentic. If you are someone who has a quiet squeaky voice then seek out some voice training but only if you really want to improve your voice. If not you can make a name for yourself in other mediums like print or on digital platforms where you can still share your knowledge and expertise. Audiences welcome someone who is knowledgeable and enjoys sharing that knowledge. Find the subject you are passionate about and public speaking can be a really enjoyable and valuable skill.

My thanks to Caroline for explaining her public speaking experiences so openly and for sharing some great tips to help people take to the stage.

About Caroline Taylor : Caroline Taylor is Vice President Marketing, Communications & Citizenship, and Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) for IBM Europe. Based in London, Caroline leads the teams responsible for all aspects of marketing, communications and citizenship for IBM throughout Europe.With 28 years of professional marketing experience, Caroline is an Adjunct Professor at Imperial College Business School in London and is also a Business to Business Ambassador for the UK’s Marketing Society, to which she was appointed Fellow in September 2012.

Caroline is a passionate advocate for equality and diversity, particularly in the workplace. She is executive sponsor for Gender Diversity for IBM in the UK. In 2012 she was shortlisted for the Opportunity Now Champion Award, recognising her contribution to advancing, promoting and embedding a diversity culture within the workplace.

 

Are PMQs a good demonstration of Authority?

By | November 14th, 2013|Authority, Blog, Body Language, Leadership, Perception|

“PMQs are basically a modern form of cock-fighting, and not a show of great leadership”

So said Stein Ringen last week in a very lively Royal Society of Arts lunchtime lecture entitled “What is Power”. His talk centered on the misconception that power gets things done and reminded the audience that “there is more to the doing than the bidding it be done”; that power actually lies in the ability to persuade and authority is contained in the willingness of those who are led to be persuaded.

Stein’s talk was so good I even bought his latest book  “Nation of Devils – Democratic Leadership and the problem of Obedience”(nicely available outside the talk with a chance to get it signed). But the last mention he made before the end of his talk was the one that made me think the most.  He wondered aloud if party leaders ever looked back at the footage of PMQs after the Wednesday debate. If so he stated that they must be embarrassed to see themselves as two grown men shouting at each other. He likened it to a modern form of cock-fighting: a good spectator sport but hardly an impressive show of real authority.

We sometimes watch PMQs as the body language employed is fascinating.  It is an excellent barometer of leadership confidence and the swagger or display of the leaders can often look like two cockerels before a fight.  But in some ways that reminds us that the power of these leaders lies in the hands of those who carry out their decisions.

We would never advocate some of the bellowing and braying tactics as valuable transferrable skills to use in the boardroom. Shouting over others opinions and derisory guffawing at another’s suggestions are unlikely to increase your authority at work and thus will diminish your power of persuasion to get things done.  Are PMQs another reason why voters are often said to be losing faith in politicians because what it actually demonstrates is a lack of authority and control?

Thanks to the RSA for organising such a fascinating debate, looking forward to reading the book.

Stein Ringen’s book “Nation of Devils – Democratic Leadership and the problem of Obedience” is out now.

Neil Woodford: why Rock Star investors show we should focus more on the rest of the band.

By | October 16th, 2013|Asset Management, Marketing, Perception, Presentation skills|

Time to concentrate on the whole of the band, not just the frontman.

Investment news is buzzing with the story of Neil Woodford departing after 25 years with Invesco Perpetual to set up his own fund next year. It has prompted consternation on forums with investors worrying if they should leave without him at the helm.

His announcement has even had a negative impact on the FTSE with several of his large holdings being adversely affected.

Invesco is full to the brim with talented investment professionals so why should this outfall be happening? The answer lies with the marketing technique often used by major funds. Despite the actual strength of a well performing investment trust being in the complete team behind it: back office staff, chosen analytics systems, analysts and sector specialists the personality driven approach has been the quick win for marketing teams in this world.

A better approach is to define a core investment philosophy and ensure that everyone in the fund, from top to bottom demonstrates this to investors. It may be less edgy and appeal less to the ‘get rich quick/beat the market investor’ but for investors looking for a long term gains a sound and reliable investment philosophy (no matter who is at the figurehead) it is a better strategy.

Coaching all of the team to present it in a consistent and confident way is the next step towards making this come alive. It is a longer process and daunting for fund managers who shy away from presenting, preferring to leave that to the superstars with the ‘gift of the gab’. But it is the best way for the industry to avoid these costly ripples when one of the superstars leaves.

In the spotlight,expect your body language to be under scrutiny

By | August 2nd, 2013|Blog, Body Language, Featured, Perception, Performance|

We were lucky enough to get tickets to the Anniversary games at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Stadium on Saturday. It was an amazing day, with great weather and a festive atmosphere as the entire stadium leaned forward to make sure the athletes felt our support.

One of the highlights of the anniversary games, especially for my young daughters, was a chance to see Jessica Ennis-Hill in action. Her achievements in 2012 and the positive role model that she presents make her a media favourite and with that comes pressure. On the run up to the Olympics the pressure was immense. She was after all ‘the face of the games’ and the whole country wanted her to win. Which she did. But does that release the pressure? No, it can make it worse as long as you are still desperate to win.

When you are in the spotlight you can’t avoid your body language being scrutinised.

On Saturday inside the stadium the giant screens showed the athletes being presented before their races and on a screen split showed parts of races being completed. However for Ennis-Hill her every movement seemed to be projected onto camera. Whether she was chatting to the other competitors under the awning during the long jump or coming over to chat to her coach there was a camera focusing in on her every move. So we saw smiles and waves but we also saw giant screen shots of a bottom lip being bitten or a concentrated frown after an attempt. I’m sure this added to the coverage that came the day after such as this.  Someone else who knows what media scrutiny after success is like, Usain Bolt, almost seemed to court the camera as he was warming up back stage, joking with the presenter and sending the message with his body language that he was relaxed and ready.

You couldn’t help but wonder how things might have gone if the attention had been better shared around. Katarina Johnson-Thompson won the Long jump but her jumps were barely on the big screen, with her last being during one of the men’s track races.

As you start to do better in whatever discipline, be it sport or presenting at work you will naturally be under more scrutiny. For leaders this means you will be watched by your team even when you are not ‘on stage’. Appearing calm and assured for the annual meeting and then acting slouchy and slumped at a direct reports meeting can cause your team to suspect all is not well. 24/7 scrutiny is not pleasant and nor is it fair. But people do make judgment calls based on how your body language yourself so be ready for it. This is just as important when we are offstage as on.

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