‘Tell them what you’re going to tell them …’

It’s always great to discover new angles on stuff you’ve been working with for years. As the saying goes, it’s what you learn after you know it all (or maybe you think you do) that counts.

How do you feel when confronted with a microphone?

A few years ago I was speaking about presentations at the breakfast meeting of The Business Club in Warwick. The invitation came through the good offices of my good friend and market research guru Nick Thomas. Nick tells me that the club has folded since, but he hasn’t.

The discussion during my talk reminded me that there are many ways to skin a cat. For example:

I described and demonstrated a technique for managing stress before a presentation. I’d learned it from NLP expert Dianne Lowther of Brilliant Minds. She called it “The Circle of Excellence” and it’s explained in detail on pp 68-70 of her book ‘Introducing NLP for Work, A Practical Guide’.

In the Q&A, club member Helena Lapworth commented that she’d used these NLP techniques in her own work. Of this ‘circle of excellence’ tool, she said, “we call them anchors & triggers.”

Whether you call it circles of excellence or anchors or triggers, I can attest that I’ve tried this technique and it works. If you want to know more, get in touch with me, or see the link below.


There’s an old saying about public speaking that’s been used for ever and a day: “Tell them what it is you’re going to tell them. Then tell them. Then tell them what it is that you’ve just told them.”

As that phrase used to be used by Army officers, I knew the technique as the Sandhurst method, after the famous Army staff college of that name. However, after my speech at Warwick, business club member Caroline Woodward came up to me and said “I know that technique as the “News at Ten method.”

Of course! That makes perfect sense. News bulletins have headlines both at the beginning and the end. And millions of us watch or listen to broadcast news. Not so many millions are familiar with Sandhurst, so ‘the News at Ten method’ is the description I’ve used ever since. Thank you, Caroline!

As I said at the beginning, it’s what you learn …

Further reading on The Circle of Excellence (aka anchors, aka triggers): see ’Introducing NLP at Work’ by Dianne Lowther. https://www.amazon.co.uk/Introducing-NLP-Work-Practical-Guide/dp/1848313802


My public-speaking blog thread is relatively new, so it is an under-populated country at present; but that will change. This morning (13 Sept) I delivered a talk to the Rotary Club of Bristol Bridge. The title was: “Thinking on your feet”. It had a positive response, which confirmed my view that this is a topic of interest to many people and many organisations. Here’s a summary of the topics I covered:

  • “The lion story”. (Sorry, no room here: but it is a good one. Book me to speak at your club or business and you can hear it!).
  • My subtitle: “What make a good presentation?” (not “good presenter”, as even good ones sometimes underperform)
  • Kipling’s key questions: What, Why, When, How, Where & Who.
  • Where and When are already known (that’s part of the problem), which leaves:
    • What are you going to say?
    • To Whom are you going to say it? (what do you know about them?)
    • Why are you going to say it? (Type of presentation? Desired outcome/s?)
    • How are you going to say it? (“the $64,000 question”)
  • These basic questions produce 12 “elements of a good presentation.” We focused on three:
    • Knowing your audience in advance (the why and the how thereof)
    • Speaker aids / resources on the day
    • Confident delivery, how to achieve / develop
  • Backgrounds & expectations of listeners?
  • Expectations ditto? Is there a fit?
  • Meet the meeting arranger / facilitator?
  • Get attendee list: e-mail them with mini-survey: their wants and needs from your presentation.
  • Script: OK as comfort blanket and template for next time but …
  • Don’t read it!
  • Visual aids: helps re multiple learning styles
  • PowerPoint? Limit no. of slides & amount of info per slide
  • Cue cards: my previous default but use registry tag in case of drop!
  • Mind maps: now my default aide-memoire.
  • PA: can you avoid by better projection?
  • If can’t avoid PA (size of room / audience), avoid handheld microphones.
  • Strong start & strong finish; memorise both, use cue-cards and /or mind maps for the “meat” in the sandwich.
  • Stress management, create positive expectations via two methods of visualisation:
    • Muhammad Ali and “future history”
    • NLP: method of “anchoring” positive past experiences
  • Move, and focus on audience, while speaking: both help reduce tension
  • Improvisation skills? If not, rehearse rehearse rehearse!
  • Last-minute prep: can we learn from other types performers (When and Where are known)? e.g. popular singers: Chris Martin, Stevie Nicks, Robert Plant, Leonard Cohen; finally …
  • Elvis Presley and the thousand-yard walk
  • Arrive early; set up resources; ensure water available; walk round the block.

Last word: “Most people will forget what you say; even what you do. But they will never forget how you made them feel.” How will you use that fact? How will you inject feeling, not just facts?

WANT TO KNOW MORE? If you ‘d like more information about my talks, or would like to discuss booking me for your organisation, please send me a message through this site or e-mail me: michael.43@blueyonder.co.uk


“Previously, on this subject …”

About thirty years ago, I was lucky enough to get some great advice about public speaking, which has stayed with me ever since.

I was at an industry conference in the States, where most of the presentations were on technical or business subjects; but I’d discovered previously that US conferences often have a motivational speaker of some kind too. This one was no exception; it had a football coach, who was renowned as a motivator; but it also had a man who was a million miles from being a football coach, as you will read, but was a motivator extraordinaire. His name was Kenneth Wydro …

Now read on …

In my last post I mentioned some of the tips Ken Wydro gave for terrified (and even experienced) speakers. His talk was so powerful it kick-started me on a 30-year career as a speaker, so it’s clear to me that some more of his wisdom is worthy of recycling here.

“All those eyes”

Ken has trained and consulted at many large corporations in the States. He tells the story of a senior executive who said: “I was perfectly composed … before I took the platform. I was confident, prepared … until I saw all those eyes. Then the lights went out. I went blank … embarrassed myself terribly. I was cold and sweating at the same time. My mouth was dry.” Ken’s experience has told him what a challenge this is for so many people; I venture to say that’s it’s sometimes even worse presenting to six colleagues or a small board than to hundreds of conference delegates.

Last week, at a UK meeting, the head-hunter and personal branding guru John Purkiss used a very dramatic comparison when talking briefly about this particular challenge. He said: “many people are more afraid of public speaking than they are of dying.”

So Ken Wydro, John Purkiss and scores of other experts know what a problem this is. How can we minimise the potentially scary effect of “all those eyes”?

 Push your own buttons: learning to relax

Ken Wydro says that if we are to push our own buttons, we must learn techniques for relaxing ahead of any stressful event, especially public speaking. His book contains some good tips on this and I recommend it.

You may already know that meditation, affirmations, visualisation, NLP (neurolinguistic programming) techniques, hypnotherapy, all have a place. I have known speakers who successfully used Valium to counter the pre-speech nerves. It’s a question of finding what works for you; what reduces the butterflies yet still leaves you with enough of nature’s fight-or-flight adrenaline to give you an energy boost and let your brain be a few words ahead of your tongue, which is the way I think of the beneficial effect of adrenaline.

On this blog I will be discussing a variety of techniques to handle the “all those eyes” problem; because unless we can do that it’s pointless talking about the other important aspects of public speaking, including the more practical aspects of preparation; structure; delivery, etc. You may or may not know that Muhammad Ali is not only the most famous boxer in history but was also a great exponent of using visualisations and affirmations to manage his subconscious mind before a big event. Yes, the events were boxing matches, but the principle is the same.

I shall also be inviting some successful speakers to share their thoughts as guest bloggers or as interviewees.

Watch this space!



To get up-to-date info on US author Kenneth Wydro, click here.

For info on his book “Think on Your Feet”, click here.

To find out more about my talks; or to book me to speak to your club, group or business, click here.