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Ian Hawkins

Speaker, author, conference moderator & coach

Insider Secrets of Public Speaking – on sale now

Best man’s speech? Presenting to the board? Speaking at a conference? If you want to speak like a pro, learn from them with Insider Secrets of Public Speaking by Nadine Dereza and Ian Hawkins.

Recommended by the UK’s top speakers and agents, #ISOPS gives practical solutions to real-world problems – from hecklers to broken microphones.

Available now at Amazon UK and amazon.com.

Featured post

Whose story now?

If the UK general election was ‘all about Brexit’ what does the current confusion tell us?

Theresa May, as the facts show, took a lead in the polls to call an unnecessary early election (according to the Fixed Term Parliament Act of 2011 there were three years still to run on this parliament) and was returned to – well, not exactly power... Her approval ratings slumped, her majority gone, and leaning heavily on the support of DUP flat-earthers (and amazingly, that’s not much of an exaggeration), rivals for the top job are making the kind of supportive statements that rivals always trot out, hoping someone else will draw the first blood. But most of the serious commentators agree that the Theresasurus Rex is about to become extinct.

It’s a mess, but I think we all feared it might be. What we need is leadership, and what happens when leadership fails? New leaders take their place.

Look at Trump, whose unlovely presidency is uncrumpling like a crisp packet in a puddle. Unable to control even his own Twitter feed, he stamped his foot and pulled out of the Paris Accord. It hardly matters. He did it to thumb his nose at the other world leaders who laughed at his silly hair. Well, two can play at that game, and now California has thumbed her nose at the President.

So while the UK government moves the deckchairs around and HMQ waits for the ink to dry on her speech (and amazingly, that’s no exaggeration at all) it falls upon the shoulders of businesses to step in and do what needs to be done.

How to cut through this chaos? A clear story. Politicians, despite what you may believe, don’t actually lie as often as they are asked to say ‘yes or no’ to a question that doesn’t have a yes or no answer; but they often take a selective look at whatever figures they find favourable, and deal with verbal ambiguities that don’t pin them down to any particular side. They’re not slippery themselves (with notable exceptions), but they often find it necessary to tell a slippery story, serving more than one master. Look at Jeremy Corbyn: he could’ve rescued a puppy from a burning building during the election campaign, and some sections of the press would’ve hung him out to dry for it.

The advantage that businesses have is that they operate in a free world, can set their own agenda, and be more honest than the politicians. With politicians we want to have our cake and eat it. With businesses, we accept that if we want to have the cake we have to pay for it. We have a much more straightforward and honest relationship with businesses than we do with politicians. Successful companies don’t have constituents, they have customers, and understand what it is that makes those customers loyal (or not). Companies don’t worry about hard/soft Brexit trade negotiations or Keynesian economic models: they are too busy Just Doing It, taking you Where You Want To Go Today, or assuring you that Every Little Helps.

So, as a business leader, it’s straightforward (I never use the word easy, I’m not daft). What’s your story? Boil it down to the shortest articulable phrase that even Donald Trump couldn’t mess up. If your brightest people can’t nail it down, give it to your stupidest people, they have a way of cutting through the nonsense. Whatever you’re selling, sell it. Promise no more, and deliver no less.

How you deliver your promise is the stuff of MBAs and clever middle managers and elegantly structured commissions for your people. But the story buck stops with the person in charge. What’s it all about? You can pay a consultant to come up with a list of tag lines and cutesy logos, but you’re going to have to be the one who picks the final design. You have to be the one who knows what the organisation is all about. You have to tell the story. What you mustn’t do, though, is lie. A story is a narrative, not a series of untruths. When a bully defends themselves saying that their hurtful words were ‘just a joke,’ they misunderstand what a joke is: a joke is a story, and the story has to be true or it doesn’t work. Look at BA: their story is ‘to fly, to serve.’ But the reality is that they are reducing the frequency of in flight meals and outsourcing the computers. Even if they hadn’t had their epic IT meltdown, there would still be the impression that they are charging top end prices for budget airline service. Result: disappointed customers. Budget airline customers, on the other hand, are usually pretty happy, because you pay for what you get: the passengers know they’ll treated like cattle, but what do you expect when you’re flying from Luton to Turkey for £5? The only difference between BA and the budget airline? The story.

What you mustn’t do, though, is lie. A story is a narrative, not a series of untruths. When a bully defends themselves saying that their hurtful words were ‘just a joke,’ they misunderstand what a joke is: a joke is a story, and the story has to be true or it doesn’t work. Look at BA: their story is ‘to fly, to serve.’ But the reality is that they are reducing the frequency of in-flight meals and outsourcing the computers. Even if they hadn’t had their epic IT meltdown, there would still be the impression that they are charging top end prices for budget airline service. Result: disappointed customers. Budget airline customers, on the other hand, are usually pretty happy, because you pay for what you get: the passengers know they’ll be treated like cattle, but what do you expect when you’re flying from Luton to Turkey for £5? The only difference between BA and a budget airline? The story.

If you are running a successful company, it is because your customers know what to expect from you. If your company is faltering, this relationship may be unclear. Fixing the problem may be as simple as revisiting your brand story, and telling it more honestly.

Frankly my dear, I don’t give a ****

There are many things in the world today that can get one’s ire, and so I am always delighted that I stop at the apostrophised plurals and malapropisms rather than getting into a proper lather about, say, the US election. Continue reading “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a ****”

Slacktivism

I so wanted Bernie but settled for Clinton

And now I am landed with Trump.

I made my own meme

I retweeted HuffPo

I liked your status and forwarded fact checks,

Called up the podcasters

Clicked on the link

And forwarded

Liked

Retweeted

And joked

And told everyone that it

Just wasn’t possible

And Clinton would be

The first woman president.

So I didn’t

Actually

Vote.

Exam Results: an adult writes

As trembling teenagers the length of this land rip open envelopes with expectant fingers, I think it’s time to play Bad Uncle and reveal a small truth that is often denied to young people. Continue reading “Exam Results: an adult writes”

Practice What You Pecha Kucha: 3 real-world lessons

Theory is all very well gentle reader, but the saying goes that the best theory is no match for observed data. Beware, then, of those in the peanut gallery who tell you what you should be doing onstage without troubling themselves to stand in the spotlight themselves.

Mea culpa: I have just done exactly this. Almost.  Continue reading “Practice What You Pecha Kucha: 3 real-world lessons”

RIP…email?

So recently, we said goodbye to Ray Tomlinson, the man who took the hither-to little-used ‘@’ symbol and put it at the heart of modern communications. In any single email I send, there are at least four of the little curly characters: Continue reading “RIP…email?”

Old Jokes: Humour & History

How many times do we see a historian on TV pull a shard of pottery out of the ground and describe the social milieu in which it was shaped, fired and used? Answer: thanks to dumbing down, a lot less often than we used to. Continue reading “Old Jokes: Humour & History”

Trump Town

New York doesn’t need me to tell her she is one hell of a town. To avoid all doubt, I can confirm that yes, the Bronx is up, and the Battery is most unequivocally down. Which brings us round to the holes in the ground.

Continue reading “Trump Town”

The Fury and The Anger

I may have acted hastily in clicking the e-petition to get Tyson Fury off the BBC Sports Personality of the Year shortlist. Continue reading “The Fury and The Anger”

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