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Fake news! Beware the wisdom of crowds

Fake news! Beware the wisdom of crowds

If you ask a thousand people to guess the weight of an Easter egg, the average mean guess will be very close to correct. But answers to some questions aren’t so easy to fact check, and sometimes we only get the answers we want to hear. If you Google ‘NASA moon mission’ for example, you’ll see compelling evidence of humanity’s most audacious adventure. But if you Google ‘moon landing hoax’ you’ll see equally compelling evidence that The Eagle didn’t venture beyond Stanley Kubrick’s Californian cinema set. Which do you believe? In this this case, the truth does not – cannot – lie somewhere in the middle.[1] So pick your side. Continue reading →

April 7, 2017 -

Discover Nadine Dereza’s Desert Island Disc choices

Discover Nadine Dereza’s Desert Island Disc choices

We’re huge fans of Desert Island Discs at PS Programmes and, to celebrate the 75th Anniversary of the iconic show in 2017, I have been casting away a different member of my team each week to the far-flung shores of the BBC’s mythical desert island, never to be seen again. Well, at least not until our next team meeting.

In previous posts I have cast away Denise Fryer, Ross Edmonds, Rasheed Ogunlaru, Tom York, and Ian Hawkins – and I’m pleased to say they have all since been rescued.

Before I introduce my final cast away – a recap for anyone not familiar with the Desert Island Discs format. In each episode of the BBC Radio 4 show a guest is invited to choose eight recordings they would most like take with them if they were to find themselves stranded on a desert island. Guests are also given the Complete Works of Shakespeare and either the Bible or another religious or philosophical work. They are then invited to select a third book and one luxury item to take with them. Continue reading →

April 3, 2017 -

Desert Island Discs at 75: Denise Fryer’s selection

Desert Island Discs at 75: Denise Fryer’s selection

To continue our celebrations of the 75th Anniversary of Desert Island Discs in 2017, we are casting away another member of the PS Programmes team this week to the far-flung sandy shores of the BBC’s mythical desert island.

Before we introduce this week’s castaway – a recap for anyone not familiar with the Desert Island Discs format: in each episode of the programme a guest is invited to choose eight recordings they would most like take with them if they were to find themselves stranded on a desert island. Guests are also given the Complete Works of Shakespeare and either the Bible or another religious or philosophical work. They are then invited to select a third book and one luxury item to take with them. Continue reading →

March 27, 2017 -

Desert Island Discs at 75: Ross Edmonds’ selection

Desert Island Discs at 75: Ross Edmonds’ selection

To continue our celebrations of the 75th Anniversary of Desert Island Discs in 2017, we are casting away another member of the PS Programmes team this week to the far-flung sandy shores of the BBC’s mythical desert island.

Our castaway this week is… Ross Edmonds

Ross spends much of his life travelling around the world of conferences and workshops. Continue reading →

March 20, 2017 -

Desert Island Discs at 75 (Rasheed’s selection)

Desert Island Discs at 75 (Rasheed’s selection)

To continue our celebrations of the 75th Anniversary of Desert Island Discs in 2017, we are casting away another member of the PS Programmes team this week to the far-flung sandy shores of the BBC’s mythical desert island.

Our castaway this week is… Rasheed Ogunlaru

Rasheed co-delivers our radio and TV media training with PS Programmes Founder Nadine Dereza and he is an accomplished life coach, motivational speaker and business / executive coach. Rasheed is author of the acclaimed Soul Trader – Putting the Heart Back into Your Business and is life/business coach for the British Library Business & IP Centre. His many media appearances include: ITV News and BBC Breakfast. Continue reading →

March 13, 2017 -

Desert Island Discs at 75 (Tom’s picks)

Desert Island Discs at 75 (Tom’s picks)

We’re huge fans of Desert Island Discs and to celebrate the 75th Anniversary of the iconic show in 2017, we are casting away a different member of the PS Programmes team each week to the far-flung shores of the BBC’s mythical desert island, never to be seen again. Well, at least not until our next team meeting.

In our previous post we cast away writer turned-comedian, presenter, award-winning public speaker and PS Programmes coach Ian Hawkins. We are reliably informed that Ian, together with his luxury item (an electric guitar and amp), is back home and dry after his rock rendition of the mayday call was picked up by the search and rescue team. Continue reading →

March 6, 2017 -

Desert Island Discs at 75: A PS Programmes tribute

Desert Island Discs at 75: A PS Programmes tribute

Eric Coates’ By the Sleepy Lagoon orchestral and the sound of seagulls have, since 1942, been transporting radio listeners to the far-flung sandy shores of a mythical desert island where more than 3,000 guests have been cast away.

Seventy-five years since Desert Island Discs was first broadcast we’re sure its creator Roy Plomley could never have imagined how his simple idea for a radio programme would go on to become one of the BBC’s longest-running and most loved programmes.

We’re huge fans of Desert Island Discs at PS Programmes so to celebrate its 75th Anniversary this year, we have decided to (temporarily) cast away members of the PS Programmes team over the next few blog posts. Continue reading →

February 23, 2017 -

The Power of Charisma (Part 3) – Hints, Tips & Tricks

The Power of Charisma (Part 3) – Hints, Tips & Tricks

In our third and final instalment of our series on charisma, we’re going to give you some tips and tricks on how to inject more charisma into your stage presence and suggest an approach to speaking that may be new to you.

The story so far

We’ve explored what makes speakers charismatic and impactful. We’ve considered how charisma can be both a positive and negative force, and we’ve examined how charisma is brought about in a live event. In summary, charisma is not so much a judgement on the speaker, but rather a comment on the relationship between the speaker and the audience; for the successful speaker to master the tricky element of charisma, he/she needs to understand the importance of controlling this relationship, and calling the shots without turning the audience against him/her. (Part of this is realising that you can’t please all the people all the time!) Continue reading →

February 20, 2017 -

The Power of Charisma (Part 2) – What is charisma?

The Power of Charisma (Part 2) – What is charisma?

In our previous blog we set a series of questions to find out whether you might need help building your charisma, and if you haven’t read the article, take a look at our ‘charisma help’ questions.

Let’s return to the last question on that list: ‘Are you suspicious of charismatic people?’ If yes, it could be that you have misunderstood what charisma really is. So let’s pull it apart and examine how charisma functions. Continue reading →

January 31, 2017 -

The power of charisma

The power of charisma

We are nearly three weeks into 2017. How many resolutions have you kept? It’s easy to make a bold proclamation about doing more exercise, being more careful with money or quitting a bad habit on New Year’s Eve (we blame the champagne) but if you don’t know how to do something, you’re probably going to struggle to achieve it. Continue reading →

January 17, 2017 -

Stand up for Women in Comedy

Stand up for Women in Comedy

This week, I chaired the Royal Television Society (RTS) ‘Women in Comedy’ event at ITV Studios in London.

The panel included Sophie Taitt (Head of Production, Comedy, BBC, about to move to a new role for Netflix in LA); Saskia Schuster (Commissioning Editor, Comedy, ITV); Lynne Parker (Founder and CEO of Funny Women); and Harriet Braine (Stage Award winner in the 2016 Funny Women Awards). Continue reading →

November 28, 2016 -

Unlucky Number 7 for Samsung

Unlucky Number 7 for Samsung

The writing was on the wall for the Samsung Galaxy Note 7, and I had an inkling that all might not be well when I returned from the Sibos financial conference in Geneva last week. As the plane prepared for takeoff, the cabin crew advised passengers that ‘all electronic devices should now be switched to the airplane safe mode’… but advice for anyone in possession of a Samsung Galaxy Note 7 was different, ‘please switch off this device immediately’. Continue reading →

October 13, 2016 -

Is the art of political oration a thing of the past?

Is the art of political oration a thing of the past?

After a summer of political upheavals, parliament itself could be about to move. Yes, the dingy, ‘asbestos-riddled’ Palace of Westminster is in need of a refurb and current proposals would see MPs dispatched to Richmond House and Peers moved to the QEII Conference Centre for up to six years, while the resident rats and mice will be forced into retirement. If plans are agreed, by the time our elected representatives will walk back under the bomb-damaged lintel and into the chamber, we will have had at least two general elections, Labour will have hopefully resolved its leadership issues, and we may even have a dim understanding of what ‘Brexit’ actually means. Continue reading →

September 21, 2016 -

‘Insider Secrets’ on Clinton vs Trump

‘Insider Secrets’ on Clinton vs Trump

It’s not in the remit of this blog to take party lines, and so we are approaching the US elections with, if not cool detachment, then certainly warm fascination.

Donald faces Hillary in November, and depending on your pollster you can find the election predictions going either way. While their political enemies criticise them as a thoughtless, blowhard, imbecile (Trump) or a devious, cold, political robot (Clinton) it can’t be denied that they are both savvy players to have made it this far. Though they appear to have little in common, step back and notice: both candidates have placed public appearances as a key part of their campaign. Continue reading →

August 8, 2016 -

Brexit, Bremain, Breject? Whatever the decision – Bret-a-move-on!

Brexit, Bremain, Breject? Whatever the decision – Bret-a-move-on!

Following the Brexit vote on Thursday, it’s hard to know what to write now. And as the fall out from the vote has spread, from the annihilation of the Labour front bench to the calls for Jean-Claude Juncker to resign my response has gone from a sort of ‘keep calm and carry on’ stoicism to head-holding despair.

Every time I started to write this article, further news and opinions were continuing to emerge, and while I always tread the line of impartiality, the confusion has raised the practice of neutrality to the level of an extreme sport. Continue reading →

June 28, 2016 -

Come fly with me: without disruption or delay!

Come fly with me: without disruption or delay!

The more complex the machine, the more likely it is to go wrong. And with that thought in mind, we’ve been through a forehead-furrowing number of airports in the last few months as conference season really gets underway.

As millions of people go through the system, thousands of planes come and go, and untold numbers of workers seen and unseen make it all happen. Somehow. Throw in the variables of human error, wear and tear on plane parts or just poor weather and chaos can break out from where it was being held delicately in check. Continue reading →

June 15, 2016 -

Coming Up Down Under: a new ICC for Sydney

Coming Up Down Under: a new ICC for Sydney

The punishing heat of the long Australian summer has given way to a cooler slant of sunshine, punctuated by downpours in Sydney, NSW, but nothing that could stop the crowds of tourists from hopping between the cafes around Darling Harbour. Darling Harbour, if you don’t know it, is right under the bridge, just along from the more flashy Opera House, and is home to the aquarium, IMAX – and a new International Conference Centre, due to open in December 2016. Continue reading →

April 14, 2016 -

Hotpoint: hung out to dry?

Hotpoint: hung out to dry?

As a million advertising and sales gurus will tell you, ‘instil fear in the customer and you’ll create demand’. Whether you find being given the hard sell intimidating or an imaginary audition for QVC, this sales technique doesn’t float our PS Programmes boat anywhere near as much as a company building a relationship with a client, finding out what a client needs and bringing our experience to bear on solving their business problem. Continue reading →

March 17, 2016 -

How to be politically neutral until the EU referendum

How to be politically neutral until the EU referendum

The date for the UK’s historic referendum on continued membership of the European Union has been set, and those of us who are politically neutral by profession are going to have to watch our mouths closer than usual. Neutrality is sometimes an uncomfortable place to be – you’re more likely to be viewed as an enemy than an ally, and the more argumentative the person you’re dealing with, the truer this is. But take it from us; although neutrality is great for the interviewer, it’s also very helpful to grease the wheels of social interaction, particularly over something as divisive as the EU. Continue reading →

February 28, 2016 -

Dealing with a crisis – one size doesn’t fit all

Dealing with a crisis – one size doesn’t fit all

Dispatches from the Gorkana & Eventopedia Crisis Media Management Masterclass – February 2016 – Nadine Dereza, Media Director, PS Programmes

Nadine and Ian took a PS Programmes team trip to the Langham Hotel in London on Tuesday 9 February to deliver a crisis media management masterclass exclusively to some of the UK’s most senior PR industry figures.

Hosted in partnership by Eventopedia, the event industry search engine and reviews site, and Gorkana, a media intelligence company, the masterclass was attended by more than 200 communications specialists from a diverse range of businesses and organisations. Continue reading →

February 18, 2016 -

4 key questions to answer before booking the right speaker for your event – part two

4 key questions to answer before booking the right speaker for your event – part two

In Part 1, I looked at the questions: What’s the job? and What’s your budget?
The next two questions focus upon the right fit and the right avenue for finding and gaining the greatest value.

2. Does the face fit?
Once you have a selection of potential candidates in the right fee range who can actually do what you are asking of them, you need to narrow down a couple of individuals to approach for a diary check.
This is the part where booking a speaker becomes more art than science…

A conference on a serious subject might need a presenter with gravitas. Or you might feel that it needs someone who has a light touch to stop the day from getting too heavy.

Will booking a comedian be seen as a ‘thank you’ or frivolous expenditure? If half the audience doesn’t speak English, would a musical artiste make more sense than spoken-word comedy? Continue reading →

February 12, 2016 -

4 key questions to answer before booking the right speaker for your event

4 key questions to answer before booking the right speaker for your event

As presenters and speakers, we often take the process of getting booked for granted: we are usually the last to know about a great deal of planning that has gone into an event. But long before we turn up with our presentation slides/visuals on a stick or have a chance to inspect the green room treats for brown M&Ms*(see footnote) someone has to pick us out as a suitable person to go on stage in the first place. And that person might be you. So how do you decide who is right for the job?

It’s usually quite easy to know who you don’t want, but what are the questions you should be asking before committing to booking a speaker or presenter? (For this blog, we’ll generally be using the word ‘presenter’ and ‘speaker’ interchangeably to mean anyone who is booked to appear on stage, be they conference moderator, awards host, speaker, cabaret artist or that great catch-all: ‘other’). Continue reading →

January 28, 2016 -

Bowie remembered

Bowie remembered

David Bowie wore many outfits, but the one that never really fitted was nostalgia. Posted on social media timelines following the news of Bowie’s passing were endless YouTube videos from a long career, including a recent performance of Heroes that (leaving aside that voice perched right on the edge of breaking) sounded nothing like the original. Despite being the inspiration not just for other performers but entire sub-genres of popular music, Bowie never took the easy road of copying himself. Reinvention rather than self-parody was the preferred option. Continue reading →

January 13, 2016 -

3 Golden Principles of Public Speaking: #3 – Authenticity

3 Golden Principles of Public Speaking: #3 – Authenticity

To mark the first anniversary of our book, ‘Insider Secrets of Public Speaking’, we are looking again at the core advice we’ve given. This week: AUTHENTICITY.

Authenticity provides the crucial third dimension to any speaker’s toolkit, although ‘being yourself’ isn’t what comes naturally to most people when they are in the spotlight. We are going to consider how you can make your speaking more authentic, but first, why do you need to bring your own personality to the stage? Continue reading →

December 2, 2015 -

3 Golden Principles of Public Speaking: #1 – The Audience

3 Golden Principles of Public Speaking: #1 – The Audience

It has been over a year since our book, ‘Insider Secrets of Public Speaking’ hit the shelves, and in that time we’ve delivered dozens of workshops, training programmes, speeches and coaching sessions off the back of it. In the run up to Christmas, we thought it would be helpful to look back at the core advice we gave, and examine a few examples of how we’ve put it into use in 2015. Learning, after all, doesn’t just stop on the publisher’s deadline. Continue reading →

November 7, 2015 -

Who should your first hire be? #FFE15

Who should your first hire be? #FFE15

Even when attending an event (#FFE15) with a lanyard marked ’SPEAKER’ – it’s important to remember to keep your ears open: the whole point of live events is to share ideas and remember that nobody has all the information. PS Programmes’ Nadine Dereza and Ian Hawkins were invited to run their public speaking masterclass in Bristol this week, speaking at the Festival of Female Entrepreneurs 2015 – a truly inspiring event put on by Enterprise Nation and chaired superbly by Emma Jones in the city’s iconic Colston Hall where we learned definitively who the entrepreneur’s first hire should be if they want to take their business from the kitchen table to the boardroom. Continue reading →

October 23, 2015 -

JPQs (Joe Public’s Questions)

JPQs (Joe Public’s Questions)

Former Foreign Secretary William Hague, canny political operator that he is, used to coach the then leader of the Opposition David Cameron for Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs). The trick, Hague says, is to phrase the question so that it is unanswerable, as an example: ‘Does the Prime Minister believe in Father Christmas?’ A ‘yes’ will be reported with scorn. A ‘no’ will be reported as the PM ruining Christmas for millions of children. Continue reading →

September 19, 2015 -

Picture Power

Picture Power

The memory does not like complexity. When we are coaching speakers or work- shopping crisis media management, our advice often boils down to: keep it simple. Whether it’s a speech or a statement, you often have to frame your message just as you would a picture. You can’t put brush to canvas until you know how big the canvas is; when you speak, ask yourself, ‘What is the one thing I want your audience to come away with?’ Harsh reality time: one thing is all they are likely to remember – at best.

Whether you’re speaking at a conference or spearheading a political campaign, you need to be aware of these takeaway moments. Politicians like a sound-bite (‘Education, education, education’ anyone?) but the best wordsmiths of all create pictures that stay with the audience. Think about Churchill with nothing to offer but ‘blood, toil, tears and sweat,’ or even ‘it’s the economy, stupid’ – a sort of boiled-down wise answer to a naive question. Coined in 1992, it’s being wheeled out to this day in the run up to the US Presidential Election. Continue reading →

September 8, 2015 -

All the News About Bad Reviews

All the News About Bad Reviews

Nadine Dereza was asked to facilitate the HBAA Forum last month. And if you haven’t heard of the HBAA before, well it’s a dynamic trade association for the hotel booking agency, apartment and venue community, and so the audience was formed of the great and good from the industry, eager to share knowledge and ideas. One of the benefits of writing a book called Insider Secrets of Public Speaking is that we are often asked to talk about the contents, and as result HBAA asked Nadine and Ian Hawkins to also present a session on Crisis Media Management specifically for hotels and venues.

To put a twist on the old advertising slogan, we didn’t make a drama out of a crisis, but we did manage to make a PowerPoint presentation out of several bad news stories that struck a chord with our audience.

It’s a well-established approach to speaking at a conference: take your general points, research for industry-specific examples, and always be on the look out for things that contradict your tried and tested principles. Oh, and try to avoid clichés (full marks in this case for not mentioning Fawlty Towers). During the research and build of this particular presentation, it became clear that hotels and venues had a particular issue that standard Crisis Media Management sessions didn’t really cover: the ubiquity of online customer reviews.

Before Nadine and Ian began their presentation, Jonathan Bradshaw from Meetology opened the day’s proceedings with an energetic and provocative look at some of the research that’s been done on human interactions. What are the nudges that can get someone to say ‘yes’ to a deal or change their mind about something? Jon offered some great practical insights, such as the finding that people are more likely to agree to buy when they’ve been given a warm caffeinated drink, or give more money to a charity tin rattler who is standing at the top of an escalator. The take-home message from Jon’s presentation was that there are lots of things you can do to make a positive impact on an interaction, whether it is for business or pleasure (Jon himself left us in no doubt as to what scents we should be picking up next time we have time to kill in a departure lounge).

Picking up on some of these themes, Nadine and Ian were able to talk about some of the big themes (and subtle ‘pushes’) around Crisis Media Management. Whilst it’s fair to say that the obvious examples of this are big stories on big media (think of the Costa Concordia dominating the front pages of the newspapers or Nick Varney, CEO of Alton Towers owner Merlin Entertainments being given the hairdryer treatment from Kay Burley on Sky News), the PS Programmes team were pleased to find that their section on responding to bad TripAdvisor reviews chimed with so many of the other presentations at the Conference. Condensing a day-long course of crisis media management training into a 45-minute presentation with audience interaction was always going to fall short of being comprehensive, but not only did audience responses reassure the team that the content was useful, it also gave PS Programmes food for thought when designing future training days.

In a session called ‘Why Bad Reviews Are Good For Business’, Thomas Landen of Renivate talked through some of the facts and figures that are appropriate for hotels and venues, but which should raise eyebrows for anyone who has a customer online (hint: everyone). For example, 72% of travellers who complain on Twitter expect a response within an hour. Would a customer have different expectations if they were buying, say, a toaster rather than a holiday?

Thomas next showed that customers are searching for businesses in social media rather than Google – and sites like Facebook push results to the top based on the experiences of our friends, not simply the best fit for that individual search. So if you’re looking for a Chinese restaurant in Chester, or a hairdresser in Hartlepool, the ones your Facebook friends rated should come up higher on the list than those rated by strangers.

It’s worth thinking carefully about online reputation, because your definition for what counts as a crisis might change: according to Thomas’s figures, a hotel room that is scored 4.1 on TripAdvisor can expect to earn £45.99 more per night than one rated 3.9. And for every 1 point increase in rating, bookings increase by 14.2%. That 0.2 score makes a big difference to the profitability of a hotel, and it may only take the attitude of one member of staff to tip the balance in either direction. Does that count as a crisis? Even if you think that it doesn’t, is the resulting loss of revenue any different from a bona fide disaster?

Between the three presentations, a clear strategy was unwittingly set out for delegates: Thomas showed the potential cost of failing to address reputational damage. Nadine and Ian gave some pointers of what to do in an emergency situation. And Jonathan provided helpful advice on building better relationships before and after such an event.

A few days after the conference, Nadine was sent a copy of a 1974 speech – ‘Think Strawberries’ given by James Lavenson, president of Plaza Hotel – we are indebted to Maarten Tromp of Silversea for the tip – and what a relief that it chimes with some of the advice outlined in Insider Secrets of Public Speaking – proof, if it be needed, that some things don’t get old. Mr Lavenson talks about transforming receptionists, waiting staff, bell hops and cleaners into salespeople, and turning around the attitude from ‘if the guest wants something, they’ll ask for it’ to ‘always offer an opportunity to spend more’. It was regarded as ahead of its time when he originally said it, and although some may see it as old hat now, it’s still a lesson yet to be learned in some quarters. Read his obituary in the NY Times and in the light of the HBAA Conference, wonder what fun he would’ve had with TripAdvisor.

The conclusion we can draw is that there are crises and there are crises: your company might find itself in the eye of an old fashioned media storm, with board members being doorstepped, unwary colleagues speaking out of turn, and customers telling you they’ll never darken your business again. More insidious, though, is the low-level social media grumbling that turns off new customers and repeat business and eats away at your margin. And who causes these grumbles? Frontline staff who face the customer. You can have all the strategy you like, but if the people on the ground don’t care about the customer’s experience one way or another, you’re going to find the points dropping off your score before you can say ‘hashtag’. The top of the company can prepare for media crises, but the bottom of the company is going to be directly responsible for how the social media reviewer reports back to their peers.

This article appears on Nadine Dereza’s website as well as PS Programmes.
Nadine Dereza is the co-author of the best selling Insider Secrets of Public Speaking.

August 7, 2015 -

Positive impacts: sustainability in events

Positive impacts: sustainability in events

Taking care of the planet is a bit like any good habit: you diligently recycle the papers and sort out the plastics, but once in a while, you’re working late, it’s bin day tomorrow… and those black bags are opaque, aren’t they? Most of us try to do the right thing, and let ourselves off the hook for special occasions. But what if you work in events, where every day is by definition a ‘special occasion’? Continue reading →

July 17, 2015 -

#DistractinglySexist

#DistractinglySexist

It isn’t every day that we let the blog slide into cinema review mode, but last weekend, myself and the popcorn addicts of the PS Programmes team took in a British movie called Pride.

During the film, the fundraisers find themselves at the sharp end of a smear campaign by the right-wing, anti-gay tabloids. The lead actor Ben Schnetzer, playing activist Mark Ashton, reads out an editorial which you’d hope was a product of the writer’s imagination but which was in fact published in The Sun, headlined ‘Perverts support the pits’. Continue reading →

June 20, 2015 -

Business Behaving Badly

Business Behaving Badly

It’s been a rough few months for Thomas Cook, but not as rough as it’s been on the parents of Christi and Bobby Shepherd, the two children killed my carbon monoxide poisoning from a faulty heater in their hotel bedroom. In the face of human tragedy, it feels very wrong to broach the subject of money – which is probably why the £3.5 million payout to Thomas Cook and the £10.5 million bonus for their executive officer leaves most of us speechless. Continue reading →

June 6, 2015 -

A woman’s place is in the House of Commons

A woman’s place is in the House of Commons

So the votes have been cast, the results have come in, and Britain is slowly finding out what a majority Conservative government is going to mean for the next five years. Gone are the LibDems (a soft-hearted check on the political rudder or an ineffectual nuisance, depending on your view), but while they and Labour root around for a new leader, and UKIP do their best to recreate the murder of Rasputin (Nigel Farage seems impervious to earthly weapons, and throwing him bodily into a freezing river is starting to look like the only option for getting rid of him), the opposition is effectively being led by the SNP and Nicola Sturgeon, ‘the Most Dangerous Woman in Britain’ (not my opinion, but Piers Moron, sorry Morgan). Continue reading →

May 18, 2015 -

And the winner is…

And the winner is…

Soothsayers and oracles knew that the hazard of prediction was that if you live long enough, you’ll find out how wrong you were – so better to couch the future in metaphor and symbol. And if you’ve ever read or seen Macbeth, you’ll remember that even if the news is delivered in plain English, what is left out can be as important as what is said. Continue reading →

April 30, 2015 -

Campaign special: ticks and tropes

Campaign special: ticks and tropes

With the General Election in the UK on the horizon, here are things to look for from the candidates who will be appearing soon (too soon; and possibly, for too long) on the media outlet of your choice as they vie for your vote.

The problem with blanket coverage, is that it can make you want to crawl under the duvet – and the people who appear on the ballot papers aren’t immune to this. At election time, you’ll also find rhetoric out in full force, and politicians love to use arguments that appear much more attractive and convincing than they ought to be. So here we present our list of things to look out for. Continue reading →

April 13, 2015 -

Enterprise Nation: Speak so the audience listens

Enterprise Nation: Speak so the audience listens

Coaching is our bread-and-butter here at PS Programmes Towers. Client confidentiality is something we take very seriously, and as such we wouldn’t dream of spilling the beans on our dazzling roster of celebrity clients, however many times they are on TV and radio or however many international businesses they run. Our silence is sacrosanct: we prefer to let innuendo do the talking. Continue reading →

March 19, 2015 -

How to handle a tough crowd

How to handle a tough crowd

Stand up comedy is the bear-pit of public speaking. On the average club night, you’ll typically see between three and five acts, some of them pros and some of them newbies, all trying to achieve one thing: audience laughter. If public speaking is up there on popular phobias (if phobias can be popular), ‘stand up comedian’ is a job description that has fear running through it like a stick of rock. Continue reading →

February 18, 2015 -

Careers of the future

Jobs Photo
Careers of the future

Our very own Nadine Dereza was asked to do a speech last week, with a slightly unusual brief. The subject – an overview of the careers environment we can expect in 2025 – isn’t such a surprising topic – though it involved a fair bit of interesting research which included getting information from the UK Commission for Employment and Skills; the eyebrow raiser was the audience of nine- to thirteen-year-olds at Chesham Preparatory School. Continue reading →

February 4, 2015 -

In the event of a crisis…

In the event of a crisis…

When bad things happen at Christmas, they chime a particular note in our consciousness. Hearing bad news for other people just as we are occupied with hanging stockings or wrapping presents, opening cards or peeling the potatoes makes us remember that the important part of the holiday is the people who are closest to us – even if they are streaming with a cold and interfering with the gravy. Continue reading →

January 7, 2015 0 Comments

WEA Awards 2014

WEA Awards 2014

R H Tawney: The WEA’s business ‘…is not to organise classes for whom, in the circumstances of today, it may for one reason or another be easiest to attract. It is to create a demand for education in individuals and bodies who at the moment may be unconscious of its importance to them, but who, if a tolerable society is to be created, must be won to believe in it.’  Continue reading →

November 11, 2014 0 Comments

Out of the shadows: Monica Lewinsky speaks

Out of the shadows: Monica Lewinsky speaks

Monica Lewinsky’s speech to the Forbes Under 30 Conference this week coincided with a trip by Ian Hawkins, one of the PS Programmes team to New York City. Lewinsky, even today, is something of an enigma. A public figure – who hasn’t spoken in public for over a decade. Although she had a profound (if unwitting) influence on politics, she’s not a politician either. Continue reading →

October 27, 2014 0 Comments

Insider Secrets of Public Speaking Book Launch – Kings Place London October 2014

Insider Secrets of Public Speaking Book Launch – Kings Place London October 2014

This serious-minded and business-oriented blog may be your first port of call for thoughtful discourse on the current trends in communications and public affairs, but that doesn’t mean we don’t know how to let our hair down, and this week, we had a great reason to do so. ‘Insider Secrets of Public Speaking’ is officially out – and we had the party to prove it! Continue reading →

October 12, 2014 0 Comments

A Roaring Silence

A Roaring Silence

By a strange coincidence, the leader of the Labour Party, Ed Miliband faced the nightmare that according to our recent survey, most terrifies people: he forgot a key part of his speech. Normally forgetting your words isn’t a big deal, we tell clients. Only the speaker knows what’s missing – unless of course, you’re a party leader making the most important speech of the year under the gaze of the media and your political enemies. Continue reading →

September 30, 2014 0 Comments

In Bob We Trust

In Bob We Trust

On Thursday 11 September, we attended the Global Trust Conference at the Grange Hotel, Tower Bridge. The day was a balance of interesting speakers, break-outs and networking opportunities (among the new business contacts, we met a plumber – it was an eclectic crowd), and reflected along the lines of the conference theme, that there is scarcely any activity between two or more people that doesn’t contain an element of trust. Not least when you suddenly need a plumber. Continue reading →

September 12, 2014 0 Comments

Ice Bucket Challenged

Ice Bucket Challenged

To successfully complete the Ice Bucket Challenge, you will need a bucket, a tap, a deep freeze, and two vindictive friends: one to nominate you, and one to get their hands dirty (figuratively; wet, literally) dumping cold water over your head. Anything that raises money for ALS/Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (known as MND/Motor Neurone Disease in the UK) is good news to us, and it’s been reported that the Challenge has raised northwards of US $80million and counting. Continue reading →

September 6, 2014 0 Comments

Our Survey Says

Our Survey Says

‘Public opinion is no more than this: what people think that other people think.’ Alfred Austin, Poet Laureate.

Surveys – be they on issues of vital importance or profound triviality – are a seemingly endless source of intrigue: are you in or out of step with how others feel about the EU, do you hold the majority view on capital punishment or the favoured flavour of ice cream? Are your opinions reassuringly in line with others – or proudly independent? Does the rest of humanity shock you with their lack of taste and common sense, or have most other folk got it about right? Continue reading →

August 19, 2014 0 Comments

About Face

About Face

Politics, the old joke goes, is showbusiness for ugly people. But that joke might be on the way out: if you have a great face for local radio, that might no longer be enough if you aspire to hold public office. Continue reading →

July 31, 2014 0 Comments

Tough Questions About Remote Workers

Tough Questions About Remote Workers

What motivates employees to do well at work? A Gallup poll, conducted regularly since the 1940s, points to an unequivocal answer – and it’s not the answer that most bosses think. Bosses have been asked to answer what they think motivates their employees, and they tend to answer wrong. ‘High wages,’ they say. ‘Opportunities for promotion.’ ‘Job security.’ Continue reading →

July 25, 2014 0 Comments

E.T. – Extra Time

E.T. – Extra Time

When the first railway track was laid between London and Bristol (one of her richest satellites), an unexpected problem arose: midday in the capital came several minutes earlier than it did in the west. Before the trains or telegraph – let alone email – this hardly mattered. As communications got faster, it quickly became clear that clocks in Bristol and London ought to strike midday at the same time. And in the USA, as the final rivet was hammered into the railroad from New York to San Francisco, the country had to decide whether they were going to split into time zones or stick to ‘railroad time’ that was the same whether you were in Portland, Oregon or Portland, Maine. This raised the horrifying prospect of having elevenses at 1pm. Continue reading →

July 19, 2014 0 Comments

Commentators: a commentary

Commentators: a commentary

“That was only a yard away from being an inch-perfect pass.”
Murdo MacLeod

It’s the World Cup, and at PS Programmes Towers we are very excited by the drama and spectacle of the Beautiful Game. We don’t expect everyone to share our passion, but we had hoped that Phil Neville would be on our side. His ‘monotonous’ and ‘dreary’ style of commentary on the England vs Italy match prompted 445 complaints to the BBC. It was was his first ever live commentary, and he sounded like a hungover Monday morning. He was on much better form a couple of days later when Gary Linkear mentioned that the use of social media was getting fans closer to the players than ever before. Phil, with a huge grin on his face responded with ‘I used to love social media until 24 hours ago!’ Continue reading →

June 30, 2014 0 Comments

Losing the Script to Find the Audience

Losing the Script to Find the Audience

Speaking to a group of students, we were asked what qualities were necessary to be a writer. The library in which the event was taking place was intimidating: shelf after shelf of books from anthropology to Zoroastrianism, millions of minds contributing from antiquity to the latest Tweet. What connects them all? ‘You won’t be a writer,’ we agreed, ‘until you’re really comfortable with rejection.’ Continue reading →

June 5, 2014 0 Comments

No such thing as bad publicity?

No such thing as bad publicity?

So what do we in the media make of the significant gains UKIP have made in this week’s local and European elections. It’s a big achievement for a small party – and even more impressive when you look back through the recent UKIP appearances in the media and notice that they attract bad stories with the gravitational pull of a collapsed sun. Continue reading →

May 26, 2014 0 Comments

Spot the Difference

Spot the Difference

Whatever you think of Jeremy Clarkson and Russell Brand, a significant minority of young people think either of them would make a better Prime Minister than Nick Clegg, though it’s hard to imagine any of them getting the trains to run on time. Continue reading →

May 6, 2014 0 Comments

The Precious Awards 2014

The Precious Awards 2014

Sometimes, it’s hard to be a woman,’ sang Tammy Wynette, decades before The Spice Girls hinted that being a woman might be fun, too. And despite knowing that the next few months are going to see an awful lot of hard work as part of the organizing team of an awards bash, it’s with a happy heart that we crack open the diary and can block off 23 October, because there is something very rewarding about rewarding others, and PS Programmes are delighted to be involved with the 8th Annual PRECIOUS Awards, which recognizes women of colour in the business environment. (www.preciousawards.com)

A quick history hit: founded in 2007 by Foluke Akinlose MBE, the British Library have supported the PRECIOUS awards since their inception. The Library’s outstanding Business and IP Centre has been home to many a start-up, over half of their current users are women, and a third of those are from black and ethnic minority backgrounds. Continue reading →

April 25, 2014 0 Comments

3 Top Tips for Happy Collaborations

3 Top Tips for Happy Collaborations

Busy times at PS Programmes Towers: the contracts are signed, the editors are furiously blue-pencilling adjectives, and the inky-sleeved printers are awaiting the first pages of copy to be sent down for typesetting. We are writing a book.

‘We’ is crucial. The process is entirely collaborative with parties pitching in ideas, shaping text, doing the paperwork. A good collaboration should be more than the sum of its parts, yin and yang creating a harmonious whole (critical opinion pending).

Collaborations are, however you cut them, business agreements, and it’s smart to get things clear from the get-go. Unhappy collaborators are only too happy to share their horror stories, and from these, we are delighted to present our three top tips for happy collaborations. Continue reading →

April 20, 2014 0 Comments

Fillers – how to avoid saying um and er

Fillers – how to avoid saying um and er

It’s, um, like, y’know?

Every eye is on you, the microphone is live, and the stage lights are so bright, you can’t see beyond the first line of the audience. But you can see the floor manager twirling their finger in the little circle that the world over means ‘you’re going to have to fill for a bit.’ Whoever was supposed to be coming on from stage left hasn’t – so you’ve got a couple of minutes to busk. Continue reading →

March 28, 2014 0 Comments

Tweet in Pique

Tweet in Pique

Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Vine, Google+ (if that’s still a thing)… The beauty of social networking is that your message can be up online for all to see at a speed impeded only by your typing speed. The downside is that once published, it will leave a fossil record of your moods for as long as an electron can pass through a hard drive. You can delete Tweets, but the higher profile you are, and the more controversial your statement, the more likely it is that someone will screen grab your faux pas and RT it before you can say ‘Whoops.’ Continue reading →

March 14, 2014 0 Comments

Poker Faces

Poker Faces

The racist, xenophobic, and thoroughly buffoonish Major from Fawlty Towers once pronounced that he ‘hates Germans…love women.’
‘What about German women?’ asks Connie Booth, mischievously.
‘Good card players!’ is the Major’s immediate response.

When we watched Angela Merkel talking to parliament this afternoon, we looked at each other and were grateful we weren’t the gambling types. Continue reading →

February 28, 2014 0 Comments

Game Changers

Game Changers

The recent passing of Shirley Temple at the age of 85 came only a few days after what would’ve been the 101st birthday of Rosa Parks. Both names conjure an immediate, powerful image: the dancing girl, all dimples and ringlets, and the footsore unmovable passenger who started the Montgomery bus boycott, and hence the Civil Rights Movement.

Few readers of this blog have probably seen a Shirley Temple picture, start to finish, as the straightforward piece of entertainment it was intended to be. And yet we all have an idea of who she was. Rather more readers may remember Rosa Parks’s unfolding story, or if not, will be familiar with the ending of apartheid in South Africa, and empathise with the justice of her cause: segregation in the United States today feels utterly unbelievable, and yet it is a few short decades past. Continue reading →

February 14, 2014 0 Comments

Wellygate

Wellygate

The opposing sides of the House of Commons face each other across a strip of carpet two rapier lengths wide. When you stand at the dispatch box, you realise it looks a lot bigger on the telly.

There was a time when MPs had a full dressing-up box to reflect their personality: periwigs, jodhpurs, top hats . Bernie Grant once attended the State Opening in full African drag (Betty Boothroyd sent him down a note: ‘You look splendid,’ it said, and he did). So spare a thought for Environment Secretary Owen Patterson who stepped out of his ministerial car, dressed in regulation MP’s uniform, and found himself in a town called trouble. Continue reading →

January 30, 2014 0 Comments

Lost for Words

Lost for Words

At the risk of being called Luddites, whenever a client asks us to teach them how to use technology to enhance their speaking, we tend to start with ‘What to do when the technology fails, as it most assuredly will at some point.’ So you won’t be surprised to learn that Michael Bay’s autocue mishap had us sharpening our quills and straightening our periwigs. Here’s the link to the Samsung product launch in question: http://youtu.be/R4rMy1iA268 Continue reading →

January 14, 2014 0 Comments

Into 2014: The Meeting Game

Into 2014: The Meeting Game

Everyone hates meetings, except for the people who make meetings hateful for others. That’s not fair is it? But at PS Programmes, we took inspiration from the Christmas season, and realised that meetings in 2014 have the potential to be a really good game of Monopoly – minus the board, cooking sherry and sensation of having eaten an entire supermarket aisle of ham.

If your meetings are a chore that suck the energy out of you for the rest of the day, be playful – but remember games have rules… Continue reading →

January 3, 2014 0 Comments

Tom Daley’s News Revolution

Tom Daley’s News Revolution

One of the challenges of a blog like this is that in commentating on a story in the news, we run the risk of walking a well-worn path, and the mere mention of ‘Tom Daley’ puts us in mind not so much of a path as a six-lane motorway. But if we take a moment to pull off into the services, we might get a rather different perspective on this very modern media story… Continue reading →

December 11, 2013 0 Comments

Watching What They Say: 4 tips on learning from other speakers

Watching What They Say: 4 tips on learning from other speakers

‘Always learn from your mistakes,’ my dad would say, before adding: ‘unless they are expensive, in which case learn from someone else’s.’

If you are speaking or presenting, it can be valuable to watch someone else do it. Obviously if they are excellent, you can pick up an idea of ‘best practice’, but even if they are not, you can look on and think ‘Well, I won’t be doing THAT when it’s my turn.’
So here are some things to look out for when you’re in the audience – particularly if you’re the next person due up on stage.
Continue reading →

November 27, 2013 0 Comments

Do Your Messages Match?

Do Your Messages Match?

In the world of communication, it can be tempting to think that the message received is the same one that you transmitted. When David Cameron announced this week that austerity was here to stay, some applauded the belt tightening. Others felt that he should have chosen a different occasion to a white tie banquet, with the onlooking Lady Judge Lord Mayor Alderman Fiona Woolfe sitting on a giant gold chair.
Continue reading →

November 14, 2013 0 Comments

Anatomy of a Quote

Anatomy of a Quote

It isn’t often that we come across a really good quote, from someone who is quoted a lot, that we hadn’t heard before – an occupational hazard of seeing motivational speakers on an almost daily basis – but it happens occasionally. Allow yourself a feeling of superiority if this has a familiar ring to it:

‘The British nation find it very hard to look up to leaders who keep their ear to the ground.’
WINSTON CHURCHILL

This is a slightly doctored line from within a much longer review of the War given to the Commons on 30 September 1941, but this version keeps the sense of it with a little careful editing – the full paragraph is below, and the speech from which it is taken is here: http://www.ibiblio.org/pha/timeline/410930awp.html Continue reading →

October 31, 2013 0 Comments

Success Stories: 3 themes

Success Stories: 3 themes

Success Stories: 3 themes

We are naturally drawn to successful people. But what is success? We were at the CMI (Chartered Management Institute) conference last week, doing the on-stage links between successful people talking to the audience, and it was hard to pin down what all these success stories had in common. Fortunately, three themes emerged during the day which seemed to be good strategies for success – whether you define success by counting true friends or the number of cars on your driveway.

So here are the strategies, for which we can claim no originality. Continue reading →

October 18, 2013 0 Comments

Catching the Zeitgeist

Catching the Zeitgeist

A tote bag designed to look like Mrs Thatcher’s favourite handbag was the must-have accessory for men and women alike at the Conservative Party Conference this year, and, like the pint of milk left among the floral tributes outside her home when she died, it seemed a suitable and affectionate tribute to her memory.

Would that the same could be said for the Royal Baby tat I’ve seen advertised recently – everything from spoons (OK, traditional) to, er, a commemorative 5% off car insurance. No, really. There is a difference between being in tune with the times, and piggybacking on current events, and if you’ve ever seen Alan Bennett’s vicar compare life to a tin of sardines (http://youtu.be/UOsYN—eGk), you’ll know where this is coming from.
Continue reading →

October 3, 2013 0 Comments

Shining in Conference Season

Shining in Conference Season

The Liberal Democrats are in Glasgow having their annual party conference – which means that for the next few weeks, each political party will enjoy some time in the glare of the media spotlight.

It’s an attractive proposition for a party: get a room, fill it with people who support you, and tell them what they want to hear. It’s a soft audience, a guaranteed good reception, and (in British politics anyway) probably the only opportunity in your diary to say what you want without being interrupted by a dissenter. For some politicians, it’s the only chance they have of an unalloyed standing ovation. Continue reading →

September 19, 2013 0 Comments

Off-Brand

Off-Brand

There is a good reason why certain people get invites by the van-load to events from awards to book launches. Any enterprise that needs a bit of publicity to work will chase the participation of a small number of people who will guarantee column inches, and an even smaller group of individuals who don’t so much read their press as weigh it. Now who could that shadowy figure be buying a new pair of ultra-robust scales? Why, it’s Russell Brand. Continue reading →

September 6, 2013 0 Comments