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

Proud sponsors of Windrush Aquathlon 2015

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

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!


Why doesn’t Shakespeare get tired even after 450 years?

By | April 22nd, 2014|Authenticity, Featured, Performance, Presentation skills, Public speaking, Voice|

The text remains the same, with a few spelling adjustments. People the world over have been performing and reciting Shakespeare’s words year in year out. Year upon year drama students select and perfect the famous monologues for male and female characters as set pieces for auditions.

But the words are the same, so why aren’t we bored of hearing them? The answer lies of course in the fact that it is the delivery of the words that makes them come to life. And every actor brings to the stage their own personal interpretation of the script making each performance a unique and fascinating entity.

Compare for example the St Crispin’s day speech from Henry V. The following links show Mark Rylance, Kenneth Brannagh and Richard Burton delivering this most familiar of speeches in three entirely different ways. The tonality, the rhythm and emphasis chosen by each makes the audience hear different parts of the text and consider the story in significantly different lights.

And so on Shakespeare’s birthday take a little bit of inspiration from this and remember that whatever words you are delivering  – be they a sonnet or a summary of the yearly turnover for your company you bring to it your own interpretation. There is no one “right” way to deliver any message, but you must make it your own.

5 Communication Tips for Designer Makers and Craft Stall Holders this Christmas

By | December 13th, 2013|Body Language, Featured, Presentation skills|

I’m a big fan of  designer-maker open showroom craft-fair Christmas market pop-up things, and relish the chance to get all my gift requirements for the festive season directly from the artists themselves at events like cockpit arts  open studios or the delightful Crafty Fox Market. I ran a workshop recently for some new start-ups and a few were considering the Christmas fair/craft stall option. We discussed several ways to ensure shoppers engage with the stall and of course purchase their wares and I thought it would be useful to share them here:

  1. Stand up. You may well be slightly nervous on the day and standing allows you to dissipate the nervous adrenalin that can beset us. It also shows your shoppers that you are keen and enthusiastic to meet them, as sitting creates a distance between you and the stall and can make shoppers feel as if you aren’t bothered to talk to them.
  2. Check your body language. Remember than one of the appeals of the “meet the maker” concept is that you actually get excited about meeting the maker. A scowly, arms crossed designer may fit the popular perception of the tortured artistic genius but you’ll notice that more people are shopping at the stalls where they feel welcomed. Take a moment before the day to close your eyes and check your body for tensions and try to have a strong, neutral posture. This way you’ll come over as open to meeting your customers.
  3. Small talk. Try not to jump in directly with a sales message but instead engage the shopper with chit-chat about the event (really busy isn’t it?) or ask them where they got their lovely Christmas jumper.  People just love to talk about themselves and this is why they come out to shop instead of staying at home and ordering on-line.
  4. Stay Positive. Yes this may be the year that you need to make the repayments on your kiln or your studio. But try as best as you can to keep the desperation out of your conversation. People prefer to purchase from places that make them feel positive, and are less likely to be moved to a sale by a sob story. So when asked “how is business” have an up-beat or memorable story to tell them about what you’ve been making rather than whipping out the P&L and asking for a bridging loan.
  5. Smile. As with the body language above humans respond well to a cheery smile and it makes them smile back, releasing endorphins into their bloodstream and making them more likely to purchase. Shopping is a well-known mini-high so your smile can encourage a purchase and everyone is a winner.

I’ll be on the look out for good examples of craft stall sellers who communicate well this weekend and will share them on twitter @loisireson Happy Trading!


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.

Public Speaking:Flying Without Notes

By | February 9th, 2013|Featured, Nerves, Presentation skills, Public speaking|

Public Speaking dilemmas

I met someone at the RSA AGM this week and they mentioned that they had been critiqued for referring to their notes too much during a recent piece of public speaking. They asked for my thoughts on using notes. My reply was that it depends on your  public speaking objective and how confident you are in what you are delivering because leaving notes out can be both a blessing and a curse.

Luckily there are some great recent examples of speakers not using notes for public speaking so let’s take a look at how successful they were.

Should you use notes for Public Speaking?

Ed Miliband, leader of the Labour Party, made his keynote leadership speech at the Labour Party conference this week The speech lasts for just over an hour and received praise from almost every quarter. One of the most consistent pieces of praise was the fact that he made the speech without notes. As Lord Sugar tweeted “Ed Miliband deliverers(sic) a brilliant performance for over an hour (without notes) a very powerful speech”.

Ed Miliband and all of his team knew that the outcome of this speech was going to be pivotal in whether the party and possibly the country could take this former self-confessed geek as an actual contender. And they employed some fail-safe oratorical techniques to help him do so.

Mr Miliband used the whole stage, confidently walking around and looking at different parts of the audience. He had no notes in his hand, but there does appear to be something on a lectern just in case. He takes pauses (for applause and for impact) and isn’t afraid to use his hands. He speaks clearly from ‘the now’ so that the stories, like the ones about his son and his parents are believable and genuine.  It is clear that Miliband had practiced his speech. This was no mere “ramblings of a future leader”. You do not come up with some of the phrases he employed on the spur of the moment.

But you can practice your stories and themes until they run together naturally. And this is what he did. No doubt the sheet on the stand said something like Dinosaur/Family/One Nation  – and Miliband had practiced with family friends and colleagues until every story was mastered.

Contrast this with Clint Eastwood’s speech at the US Republican Convention. For a full breakdown of what worked and what didn’t we recommend Hans Zimmer’s excellent blog on the subject

Clint’s lack of preparation and thought meant that his no notes talk would’ve been an all out disaster had he not had his Hollywood reputation to fall back on. The chair idea was a last minute thought that didn’t work out and had he planned it someone may have told him to abandon the idea.  In fact there was no real objective for his talk aside proving he supported the Republican party.

So going without notes can be hugely positive and win you a ratings leap like the one Miliband is enjoying. But it is something you should only consider if you have rehearsed to make sure that your performance is watertight. Even then having a crib sheet with your broad themes on a table nearby is an important safety net in case nerves make your mind go blank. And if you aren’t making a pitch for leadership and don’t have the time to rehearse then having notes to refer to is a very good idea.

Can you embrace Jantelov (Jante’s Law) and still be an effective when networking?

By | July 20th, 2012|Featured, Nerves, Networking Skills, Portfolio|

Networking and Jantelov

Du skal ikke tro, at du er noget

(Don’t think YOU are anything special)

The first of the 10 rules in Jantelov/ Jante’s Law

I was running a “Confidence in Networking” session last week. One of the delegates, who was originally from Scandinavia, explained that some of the impressions he had about networking were very much in conflict with the idea of ‘Jantelov’. He explained that this is a social law that promotes humility and frowns upon showing off.

Showing off and the social concerns about being seen to do so are worries that are often aired when we are coaching on communication skills. Although Jante’s Law is more extreme, most people with a Northern European background have had the ‘showing off’ aspect of their personalities squished from a very young age.

You can be confident and still almost obey Jantelov because confidence is not about showing off. Stating facts, such as an achievement that you have made or something that you can do to help someone you meet at a networking event is not showing off but being truthful. How you carry yourself, with a confident neutral posture, how you engage with others with good eye contact and an un-tense body all aid towards an air that you are someone comfortable in their own skin, not a rampant ego. In my desk based research for this blog (thank you Google and Wikipedia!) some examples of Jantelov in action are when people go as far as lying, deliberately underplaying their achievements to not appear to be bragging. In the UK and US falsifying either way is a strict no-no so stick to the truth at all costs.

The very best networkers are those who listen well, engage with interest in the person they are meeting and follow up the offers of help they have given. You may not even have to proffer your achievements. Those with a Scandinavian background may therefore be naturally better at networking because they will have been bought up not to be ‘me, me, me’ all the time. This would be such a refreshing change for many who often meet crashing bores at networking events. When we run these courses it can be the good listeners, quite frequently the more introverted delegates, who are the ones that feel that networking isn’t for them. But the reality is that those who listen well and understand that networking is farming not hunting are going to find it more successful for them than those who think that networking is a direct selling event.

So my advice to those who have been bought up with Jantelov is to go forth and network because you will be very adept at it. Try not to judge those who aren’t humble though. Many people are nervous on these occasions and that’s often when the showing off gets worse. You can be modest and a good networker but don’t underplay to the extent of lying about it as it could backfire.


p.s. Following Jante’s Law to the letter at interview however may be more problematic. I think that will make for an ideal Part II to this blog.


Overcoming fear of the audience: Be a Cheerleader not a Judge!

By | February 15th, 2012|Featured, Portfolio|

How to overcome fear of the audience.


When we ask many of the groups we train why they feel scared about speaking in public, a reason that often comes up is a fear of the audience,  and more specifically being judged by the audience.

‘People senior to me are watching me to see if I make a mistake.’
‘If I do or say something stupid people will laugh at me.’

These are phrases we hear a lot. Are audiences really out to pick apart your performance?

The good news is that the majority of audience members are not. Most people turning up to a talk or a meeting genuinely want the speaker to be interesting and thought provoking. Why would they choose to turn up to an event that they believed would be a waste of their time? In fact most are ready to view you as an authority merely because you have the floor.

Furthermore, people don’t actually enjoy seeing others fail. We have all felt that toe-curling sensation when a speaker is struggling and it is not pleasant. It is all too easy to imagine yourself in their shoes.

Unfortunately, there is a minority of our audience members who will start with a negative mindset. Maybe they have been forced to turn up against their will? More often than not, a negative approach shows an insecurity about their own presentations.

If you feel negatively about doing something, it is a natural reaction to try and spot faults in others. Company in despair you might say. If you think you have a wobbly voice when you speak, you may waste time and attention trying to spot others in the same boat. Or if you feel shaky (thanks to the adrenaline rush we all get before talking caused by the flight/fight response) you may find yourself trying to see if presenters have the same affliction. “Did you see those sheets of paper? His hands were shaking so much,” comes the relieved, almost gleeful observation.

The problem with this type of judging is that it doesn’t help you to overcome your own worries about speaking in public. It can actually make them seem worse. Once you look out for something you spot it, and you cease to remember that the majority are not actually looking out for signs of nerves or failure. Ask 100 delegates at a conference about cloud computing what they are hoping to get from the keynote talk. 99 of them will say they want to learn more about the cloud, not that they are looking for the speaker to make a blunder!

So how can we get over this judging? Before you listen to your next speaker write down a list of positive things to look for such as:

-What can I learn from this speaker about eye contact?
-What can I learn from this speaker about using real-life examples and stories?
-What new stuff did I learn from what they had to say?

Thinking benevolently about other speakers will in turn help you to think benevolently about yourself. After a while you will start to transfer these same positive thoughts to your own performance, and see practical things you can do to improve.

And finally next time you hear someone speak, try smiling at them. If they see you in the audience it will make them feel more relaxed. And if enough of us start doing that, the chances are you will be able to see someone listening and wishing you well at your next presentation. Why do they have cheerleaders at sports shows and not judges (aside the hotpants?). Because smiling supporters provoke a better performance from the team and encourage the fans to wish them well.

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