Answering questions when you have forgotten the answer: Corbyn, childcare and the missing figures

The first question I asked when listening to Jeremy Corbyn’s uncomfortable stumbling on Woman’s Hour when he had forgotten the answer on the cost of Labour’s childcare policy was, “Does it matter?” If the policy is a good one then perhaps it does not matter whether Jeremy Corbyn can produce the exact figures on demand. On the other hand, surely he knew that the media are trying to find any lapses from Labour on figures. This is especially true after the even more cringeworthy Diane Abbott interview.

Confirmation Bias

I suspect on this question it depends on your view of Jeremy Corbyn. His supporters will say Labour are getting unfair scrutiny, his opponents will question his competence.

How not to handle it when you have forgotten the answer

The more important point for me is how he handled the question. This provides an interesting insight into how to handle questions when we have forgotten the answer. Corbyn’s approach is to start to answer, fruitlessly check his notes and then pause. “I presume you have the figures?” asks Emma Barnett. “Yes I do,” he quickly fires back.

And so starts the bigger problem. Jeremy Corbyn now has to give a precise answer. This is where the incident becomes more relevant for an undecided voter. If Jeremy Corbyn says he can do something and then immediately fails to deliver then that starts to undermine his credibility.

How you can handle it when you have forgotten the answer

So what should he have done? And what can we do when we are asked something and have forgotten the answer? Being honest before returning to your key point is often a good tactic. Something like, “I do not have the exact figure but we have costed every policy in detail in our manifesto. This is something that the tories have not done…..etc.”. If he is feeling particularly feisty he could explain that the Labour manifesto has exact figure for [insert long list of policies] and that he is more concerned that everything is properly costed than trying to memorise every single figure. Not as good as confidently rattling off the figures but at least it is going to avoid being lead story on the BBC news website.

“The cover up is worse than the crime”

As is so often the case, the cover up (in this case of the fact he has forgotten the answer) is worse than not having the figures in the first place. It would take a hard heart not to have some sympathy for Jeremy Corbyn. We have all been put on the spot about something we have forgotten. How we deal with the situation makes all the difference about how your audience will remember it.

Donald Trump: Storytelling in 140 Characters

“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

MSB Executive Client Satisfaction Survey Results – 2016

Happy New Year to all! We hope that 2017 has been successful for you so far. At MSB Executive we have been reviewing our work last year. We are looking to understand what we did well, what we can do better and work on new ideas for 2017.

Thank you to all those who completed our Client Satisfaction Survey. Here are the highlights from the results.

Improving Performance

All our coaching and training work is focused on helping people improve their performance at work. This made the following question perhaps the most important for us. The results were:

  • MSB Executive’s work with me/my team has helped to improve performance at work.
    88% of respondents Strongly Agree wth the remainder Somewhat Agreeing.

We will continue to focus on practical techniques to help people communicate more confidently.

Communications

Given what we do this is obviously an important area for us! The main points are:

  • MSB Executive communicates well with me about my progress / progress of the team.
    57% of respondents Strongly Agree wth the remainder  Somewhat Agreeing.
  • 100% of respondents Strongly Agreed that communication is good before and after training courses.

Some really helpful suggestions were received regarding feedback. People felt personal feedback was strong. With group training the request was for more specific feedback on weaker areas of the group as well as the positives. This has been noted.

Understanding our clients

This is another point we target strongly within the team. The results were:

  • MSB Executive understands what I/we do.
    80% of respondents Strongly Agreed and the rest Somewhat Agreed.
  • MSB Executive listens to our/my priorities and focuses its work on the most important areas.
    100% of respondents Strongly Agreed.

Dealing with MSB Executive

These question picked up on what it id like to deal with MSB Executive.

  • MSB Executive is easy to deal with.
    100% of respondents Strongly Agreed.
  • MSB Executive offers good value for money.
    50% of respondents Strongly Agreed and 50% Somewhat Agreed.
  • I feel that my time with MSB Executive is used efficiently.
    88% of respondents Strongly Agree wth the remainder Somewhat Agreeing.
  • The training materials I received (notes, manuals, exercise booklets) were helpful.
    100% of respondents Strongly Agreed.

Summary

Thank you to all those who replied for their thoughts, suggestions and insights. We were hugely appreciative of the many positive comments and equally glad to hear of how we could improve further.

Best wishes once again for a hugely successful 2017.

Martyn Barmby and the team.

By | January 24th, 2017|Blog, Uncategorized|0 Comments

Speaking Outside – 5 top tips for communicating in the open air

Last week we enjoyed running a day’s team-building activity in the open air with the team at Bianca Sainty Personal Training. As well as looking at body language and posture we spent a large percentage of the programme exploring the speaking outside. In particular we worked on making yourself heard above the noises in a busy open air space.

On the day the conditions were perfectly challenging. In the park there was a tree surgeon felling branches with a chainsaw and someone mowing the football pitch. Along came a basketball game accompanied by amplified music. This is fairly typical London park noise and so most days a personal trainer will need to work hard when speaking outside.

Why is it important to be heard? First and most obviously so that the client can hear what you need them to do. Personal training can be quite intense and it would be a shame to break the momentum by stopping to ask for instructions to be repeated. Secondly it is all about trust. If you give directions in a clear, confident and audible way the client is more likely to trust that you are knowledgeable. Clients of personal trainers look for support from someone who can help them build their confidence so it is useful if the personal trainer exudes confidence.

The workshop covered many areas but here are 5 top tips for open air communication:

1. Face the clients

This may seem obvious but when explaining actions it is tempting for example to turn towards where you may want a client to run rather than stay facing them. In the workplace this often happens when a presenter turns their back on an audience to read their own powerpoint slide. First of all most people do not engage well with somebody’s back. Secondly people lip-read more than is realised and make up for gaps in what they have heard with what they can see. So always face your clients especially when speaking outside.

2. Hydration

Like the body needs to stay hydrated for muscles to perform the vocal cords are highly sensitive to dehydration. Drinking plenty of water helps keep your voice strong and authoritative.

3. Voice from stomach rather than throat

Engaging the core isn’t just useful when performing physical exercises. It can really help increase the sound your body can produce. Standing in a strong neutral position, engaging the core and sounding from the diaphragm rather than the throat is key.

4. Keep the sun in your eyes, not your clients’!

It is natural to keep the sun behind us so that we can see clearly when speaking outside. This can mean clients are looking straight into the sun. As well as being uncomfortable this interferes with the lip-reading we mentioned in point.

5. Don’t stick your chin out towards your client.

We often feel the need to move closer to our clients to make ourselves heard by sticking our chin out. This puts a lot of pressure on the vocal cords which can lead to us losing our voice. Use you voice to reach out, not your chin!

By | August 3rd, 2016|Blog, Building Confidence, Presentation skills, Public speaking, Voice|0 Comments

MSB Executive sponsors Windrush Aquathlon for 2nd year

Triathlon is a sport many of our clients enjoy. It is wonderful to take part in an activity that has so much variety and a focus on the great outdoors. The Windrush Aquathlon is great way to get involved in this sport.

Windrush is our local club. It set up a Junior section in 2014 and now has over 45 kids getting focused coaching on their swimming, cycling and running. The Windrush Aquathlon includes a swim in Brockwell’s iconic lido followed by a run round the park itself. After sponsoring the kids’ Aquathlon prizes last year we were delighted to offer our support once again in 2016.

Find out more about how you and your family can get started in triathlon here at British Triathlon’s website.

By | July 26th, 2016|Performance, Uncategorized|0 Comments

David Cameron’s last Prime Minister’s Questions: rhetoric and nerves

One of our most popular workshops at MSB Executive is “Communicating Brilliantly Under Pressure”. We often like to look at famous public speakers and see what we can learn from the times when they have had to speak under great pressure. David Cameron’s last Prime Minister’s questions is a great example of how despite great pressure his rhetoric helped him to overcome his nerves.

How much pressure was David Cameron under? Well, PMQs is an intimidating environment at any time. We can then add the issue of Cameron’s legacy. By all accounts this is something that is extremely important to our former prime minister. As it was possibly the last occasion when UK and much international media would be focusing solely on him, the pressure to give the right message about legacy must have been immense. Add to that a packed house and his family watching from the gallery and it really was a major test.

How did he start? Well at first he look tense and a little hesitant. The ice was broken when he described his appointments for the afternoon: “Other than one meeting this afternoon with Her Majesty the Queen, the diary for the rest of my day is remarkably light.”

He swiftly moved on to give a particularly assured performance. The balance was very much towards humour and mockery of the opposition. He still managed to balance this with a seriousness of tone on points such as the importance of the work of MPs: “People come here with huge passion for the issues they care about. They come here with great love for the constituencies they represent. Yes, we can be pretty tough, and test and challenge our leaders, perhaps more than some other countries. But that is something we should be proud of, and we should keep at it.”

By the end, no one remembers the tense, hesitant start. As an audience we are used to people warming into their speeches and presentations. If you feel like you are taking some time to warm up to your theme do not worry. People will give you that time just as long as you have something interesting to say and say it with conviction.

It is also worth noting David Cameron’s artful use of rhetoric throughout his answers. The rule of three works neatly with phrases like: “I will miss the roar of the crowd. I will miss the barbs from the opposition. But I will be willing you on.”

Perhaps most notable was how he followed the recommendations of the father of rhetoric Aristotle by balancing logos with pathos and ethos. Logos, the logic, may have been thin on the ground for some who would have thought he was dodging the questions he was asked. Pathos, the emotion, was there throughout and brought to a crescendo when echoing his phrase to Tony Blair, saying “I was the future once.” Ethos, his principles, were repeated through his praise for fellow MPs and parliament itself.

When we are speaking we do need to have strong logic, but the emotion and principles are often what stays with the audience afterwards. Whether David Cameron’s performance will help establish the legacy he wants, only time will tell.

By | July 13th, 2016|Blog, Leadership, Nerves, Public speaking|0 Comments

Proud sponsors of Windrush Aquathlon 2015

We were delighted to be approached as sponsors of the junior prizes for the Windrush Aquathlon 2015, an event organised by our local Triathlon Club based in Brixton, South London. It was a really amazing event, excellently organised and we even made the local press. Check out this article on the Brixton Buzz here. It was great to see many novice athletes take part in their first race and build confidence in multisports. But most of all we are secretly delighted with the event t-shirt and our fabulous logo on the back!

 

By | June 30th, 2015|Building Confidence, Featured|0 Comments

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

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.

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