Michael Dodd Communications http://www.michaeldoddcommunications.com Become An Inspirational Communicator Mon, 12 Nov 2018 18:44:03 +0000 en-GB hourly 1 Avoiding Tough Questions Can Get You Fired http://www.michaeldoddcommunications.com/avoiding-tough-questions-can-get-you-fired/ Mon, 12 Nov 2018 18:44:03 +0000 http://www.michaeldoddcommunications.com/?p=4709 Giving great answers to tough questions at work really, really, really matters for your career and your business.

There are serious consequences for avoiding giving an answer – especially if the non-answer takes place in the glare of the media spotlight.

More proof of this has been provided with the latest turn for the worse for the British house building boss, Jeff Fairburn.

You may remember this column drawing attention to Mr Fairburn’s appalling media performance – or non-performance – a few weeks ago.

Mr Fairburn was the Chief Executive Officer of the British housebuilder, Persimmon, who walked out of a BBC interview when asked questions about his highly contentious £75-million bonus.

The key word in this last sentence is the word “was”. 

Mr Fairburn will no longer remain in his job as CEO of Persimmon, so make the most of his smiling face here in this publicity picture next to the company flags and parading the firm’s branded hard hat.

After being asked to leave by the company chairman, Mr Fairburn’s quote for the press release was: “It is clearly now in the best interests of Persimmon that I should step down.”

And what’s REALLY significant is that it wasn’t so much his unwise acceptance of the £75-million bonus that caused his removal.

It was Mr Fairburn’s refusal to answer questions about it that triggered his departure!



Take a close look at the timing.

The bonus was awarded to Mr Fairburn back in April 2018 as a result of an ill-fated remuneration scheme for which no limit had been set.

It was subsequently labelled excessive by shareholders and criticised by charities, politicians, Persimmon customers and others.

Both the Church of England and the Methodist Church – which have shares in Persimmon – expressed deep dismay over the size of the incentive scheme.

This was in line with the criticism of excessive pay for bosses by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby.



But in the immediate aftermath of the controversy, Jeff Fairburn managed to hang on to his job.

What has now ended Mr Fairburn’s time at the top was his misguided approach to the media six months later in October 2018.

It was the bad publicity surrounding his refusal to answer questions  about the bonus in a BBC interview and his on-camera walk-out at the opening of a new brick factory that brought things to a conclusion.



Did the refusal to answer questions stop the adverse criticism of the massive bonus from continuing?

Quite the opposite. It fuelled the flames.



Learning points for dealings with questioners:

1. Refusing to answer questions about a big issue won’t make it away.

2. When there are big questions for you to tackle, you need to make sure you sort out your thoughts in advance so that you can give a proper response 

3. If for any reason you can’t talk about something in particular, then at the start of your response give an excellent reason WHY you can’t discuss it

4. Once you’ve given a credible reason for not answering, go on to say the most useful thing you’re in a position to say to help the questioner and any wider audience.

These are the kind of things that we help you work on in media training sessions.

There’s more about getting match-fit for media interviews here:

Often those who’ve had some initial training book an additional media-boosting session when they need to focus on a new issue that has arisen – or one they know will come up in the future.



Persimmon said Mr Fairburn was departing as Chief Executive Officer by “mutual agreement and at the request of the company”.

It said the issue was having a “negative impact” on the firm’s reputation and on “Jeff’s ability to continue in his role”.

But the company didn’t reach this conclusion when the bonus caused the initial highly predictable fuss.

It was the interview walk out which re-ignited the issue.

If you need a reminder of just how badly Mr Fairburn handled the media interview, click here:



Another important media lesson demonstrated by Persimmon is the importance of thinking things through on how something will play in the media and with the general public BEFORE making an important decision.

Here’s a book that can help you work out the answers in advance.

Click on the image

To find out about a keynote speech at your conference on dealing effectively with the media and communicating in a more inspirational way, click here:

Meanwhile Jeff Fairburn is hardly well-placed now to continue his career as a CEO elsewhere.

It seems unlikely that other companies will be rushing to offer him a new job.

But don’t feel too sorry for him.

He still gets to keep that ill-fated bonus.

And he now has time to do the media training he should have had earlier.

Being Ready For That Most Predictable Question http://www.michaeldoddcommunications.com/being-ready-for-that-most-predictable-question/ Tue, 06 Nov 2018 09:14:33 +0000 http://www.michaeldoddcommunications.com/?p=4705 There’s an endless number of tough professional questions out there that at some stage you may be required to answer.
These can range from:

  • Why don’t you resign as things went so badly on this project?

through to:

  • Why should we offer you this position when we have so many better qualified candidates?

Hopefully you won’t face these questions too often, though I can help if you have an urgent need to deal with them.
But there’s one question which is bound to come up far more frequently than these ones.
It’s a question many find amazingly difficult to answer well.
It’s the question some people actually dread?
It’s the “WHAT DO YOU DO?” question.

Equally challenging for others is the related question: “WHAT DOES YOUR ORGANISATION DO?”
Whatever you do – and whatever your organisation does – the questions come up so often that everyone needs to be ready for them.
If you stumble through your answer and struggle to think of something useful every time you’re asked, it won’t bode well for your career – or your organisation.
There are two open sessions on dealing with this challenge coming up on Wednesday 20 February 2019 in London.
These – and other options for helping you give a great answer to the “What do you do?” and related questions – are outlined towards the end.
But first here’s some early guidance.


As with all tough questions, being ready to deliver a great answer to the “What do you do?” enquiry is a learnable skill.
Some key points:

  1. What most people typically want to know when asking the question is: What can you or your organisation potentially do for me? So you need to put the “What’s In It For Me Factor” at the heart of your answer and indicate how you or your product or service helps people


  1. Focus less on the detailed features of the products or services you provide, but instead make clear the benefits. (So if you help people give great answers to the “What do you do?” question, you could emphasise how their career and business will progress so much more smoothly if they can effectively show how splendidly useful they can be every time they’re at a business meeting.)


  1. Have a range of simple pre-prepared examples that you can choose from in order to show the questioner the successful outcome of what you do – so they can effectively picture the results in their mind.

If your answer fascinates or enthuses the enquirer, it may be just the start of a longer conversation – which could end up leading to a sales talk appointment, a business deal or a fantastic new opportunity.
But to make this happen, your initial answer needs to be powerful and succinct.
This is why it’s often referred to as an “elevator pitch” – which enables you to deliver your answer that sticks in the time it takes in the lift to go from one level to another.
But do beware the term “pitch” in this context.
Most people don’t want to be “pitched at” when their involved in a first-time encounter with you in an elevator or elsewhere.
What they do want is an interesting, useful and memorable answer which can enable them – if they have the need now or in the future – to follow up and ask you more.

So rather than actually “pitching” in the elevator, it’s better to focus on getting across a potentially useful MESSAGE.


When I work on helping individuals, small groups and large audiences on this challenge, I call sessions on this subject “Your Message In 60 Seconds”.


This message they work on doesn’t have to apply to the “What do you do?” question – though it can.
What it does apply to is all those situations where you need to get across a point in a short space of time – a challenge that occurs evermore frequently in our fast-paced world.
If you plan, prepare and practise for it, it’s amazing how you can get across an effective, powerful and memorable message in just 60 seconds.
One organisation for business leaders asked me to make a video for their members about “Your Message In 60 Seconds”.
And they helpfully ran a timer on screen as I did it to help show that it really can be done.
Watch the results here:


Sessions on “Your Message In 60 Seconds” cater for two different situations.
One is where you need to give a formal talk in a short space of time – such as where you have to stand at a networking meeting and announce what you do – sometimes with a timer and a system for gonging you off if you take too long!).

The other is for those occasions where you need to get across a point in a more casual conversation, but where there’s an obvious time constraint (such as being questioned in that lift).


If you and/or your colleagues could do with some guidance on the content, structure and delivery style of your mini-presentations or short professional conversations here are some options:

  1. One-to-one or small group sessions on your premises – or in telephone or Skype calls


  1. Master classes for up to 15 people – where everyone works on their own or a collective short message which your organisation regularly needs to convey


  1. A keynote address at your conference which can, if you’re up for it, involve a lively onstage “makeover” on a few 60 second messages that everyone in the audience can learn from and utilise.



There are also two rare open sessions on “Your Message In 60 Seconds” on Wednesday 20 February 2019 in Central London.


There’s a pre-lunch 10am to 1pm session which focuses on mini-presentations where participants need to stand before a group to convey their message in the form of a mini-presentation.
The post-lunch 2pm to 5pm open session focuses on more informal situations where participants need to get across a brief message more casually to one or a few people – face-to-face or over the telephone.
The investment cost is £167 for a place at either the pre-lunch or post-lunch session – or £239 for both.
No VAT is involved. 
There’s a discount early bird offer for those who book during November 2018 which is £143 for a place at a single session or £191 for both sessions.
For bookings or enquiries for any of the above options, email michael@michaeldoddcommunications.com or call 44 (0) 7944 952835
There’s more about “Your Message In 60 Seconds” here: http://www.michaeldoddcommunications.com/get-your-message-across-in-60-seconds/
All the options listed above help you get a powerful message across in the time it takes to make a piece of toast.
Here’s a guy whose knows about making toast on time who can help you.




By the way, what do you do???
And what will you say the next time someone asks???

Ready Yourself For Predictable And Surprise Questions – Before It’s Too Late http://www.michaeldoddcommunications.com/4696-2/ Sun, 28 Oct 2018 18:56:02 +0000 http://www.michaeldoddcommunications.com/?p=4696 However brilliant you are at your job, I’m guessing that you’ve never been awarded a bonus of 75-million pounds.


And if you’re completely brilliant at your job, you’re probably wise enough to realise that taking that 75-million-pound bonus may not be the right thing to do – for your customers, your work colleagues, your investors, your community or yourself.


It’s a bonus equivalent to:


  • 106-million Euros


  • or 122-million American dollars


  • or 172-million Australian dollars.




But if you ever are awarded this kind of money, then you should at least be clever enough to realise you’ll be asked questions about it.


And you should be smart enough to make sure you’re ready to answer those inevitable questions.


Alas Jeff Fairburn, the Chief Executive Officer of the British house building firm Persimmon – embarrassingly – managed to avoid doing this in relation to his record-breaking £75-million bonus.


mage result for Jeff fairburn Persimmon Homes bonus


Mr Fairburn failed abysmally to come up with coherent, convincing comments on the topic when predictably questioned about his mammoth bonus by a TV reporter.


This could only lead viewers to conclude that the bonus – believed to be the largest ever by a firm listed on the London stock exchange – was impossible to justify.


Mr Fairburn knew his bonus was controversial – partly because it had to be reduced from the initial £100-million after a public outcry earlier in the year.


But when the BBC asked him about it at the opening of a new brick factory, all he could do was take direction from an off-camera adviser, refuse to answer the questions and walk out of the interview.


Did this stop any expression of public outrage about the bonus?


Did it stop the BBC running with the story?


Of course not.


It fanned the flames!


All the walk-out did was make sure that every other media outlet which covered the initial bonus story had even more reason to cover it again – in bigger, bolder and more excruciating detail.


If you want to look guilty, shifty and clueless all at the same time when in the firing line of reasonable questions, then Mr Fairburn’s face can show you how!


Check out the boss’s embarrassing non-answers here – but only if you’re resilient enough to withstand the unsettling agony of watching it.





The only coherent thing Persimmon could put forward immediately after the interview walkout was that it was “unfortunate” that Mr Fairburn been asked the questions.


It would be more truthful to say it was “unfortunate” that Mr Fairburn was pathetically unable to give any answers.


The lessons are clear to all in business and beyond.


If you or your organisation do something controversial or newsworthy –  good or bad – in the public sphere, then you should be able to come up with answers to simple, obvious questions about it.


And even if you’re wise and fair enough to knock back any outrageously high bonus you’re offered, if you’re leading a business you should be at least smart enough to make sure you’re trained how to answer tough media questions on other subjects.


One of the key things when asked a pertinent public interest question is to make sure you say SOMETHING that’s helpful.


Ideally that something should be a well thought out response, getting across an important relevant message and – where appropriate – backed up by a powerful example that paints a mental picture what you mean.


Throughout the interview need to make sure you demonstrate a responsible attitude and own the problem – even if it’s a problem that you didn’t cause.


And you need to make sure you adopt the right tone and project the right level of confidence and competence in the way you look – and the way you sound – when giving your response.


In keynote presentations at conferences and in smaller training master classes, I show audiences what they need to do to ready themselves for tough questions – from the media, from clients, from prospects and others.


It’s all about getting the content right, the structure right and the delivery style right.


There’s more about speaking at your event here:






Remember if you give an abysmal reaction to a TV journalist, as Mr Fairburn did, the media tend to replay it over and over.


In media training sessions, my colleagues and I equip participants to effectively answer tough questions that you know are coming up.


But we can also show you how to be as ready as you can be for surprise questions that you don’t know are going to hit you.


Occasionally I’ve done emergency training for people just hours and even minutes before they’ve had to rush off to the TV or radio studio to be interviewed.


This is way better than having had no training at all.





However, it’s far better for participants if you organise your training well before any trouble strikes – just as you take out home insurance well before there’s any sign of a fire… and in the hope that there never will be one.


mage result for house fire


Being able to understand and apply the golden formulae for answering tough questions is a learnable skill.


There’s more about being shown how to give great answers here: http://www.michaeldoddcommunications.com/give-great-answers-to-tough-questions/


Being able to deal with blowtorch-on-the-belly media questions about bad news – and potentially tricky questions about good news – is also a learnable skill.


There’s more about that here: http://www.michaeldoddcommunications.com/media-master-classes/


And here’s where you can get a free start on some comprehensive guidance that’s designed to help:



Getting properly trained and prepared to handle questions from journalists – and from anywhere – can help equip you earn you that bonus…

…a bonus that is of course proportionate, easy-to-defend and hopefully – in your case – thoroughly deserved!

Enliven Your Audiences – Simplify Those Slides http://www.michaeldoddcommunications.com/enliven-your-audiences-simplify-those-slides/ Mon, 15 Oct 2018 13:03:52 +0000 http://www.michaeldoddcommunications.com/?p=4687 Imagine you’re told that a great guru has something vital to tell you.
The guru lives at the top of a mountain – as gurus do.
You cross deserts and crocodile-infested rivers before climbing the rugged slopes to reach him.
Finally you meet.


But instead of looking you in the eye and spouting wisdom, the guru holds up a big sheet of cardboard with lots of tiny writing on it.
He expects you to read all the words.
This is difficult because, while you try to decipher the meaning, the guru looks at the cardboard himself and simultaneously seeks to explain it.
You don’t know whether to focus on what the guru says or the written words.
Eventually you give up trying to read – and give up listening to the guru.
By now you don’t think he really is a guru – and you’re almost asleep.


Alas this experience is much the same as when you sit through a poorly planned presentation with a bad set of wordy slides.


Presenters who do the equivalent of this to their unfortunate audiences may know masses of useful stuff.
But little enlightenment usually takes place – and, in the end, such presenters undermine their status as potential gurus.
This happens with particular frequency to audiences in high-tech industries.
I know because I’m increasingly asked by those in high tech industries to rescue them and their unfortunate audiences.
It’s a pleasure and privilege to do so, especially as technical experts frequently prove to be quick, keen and delightful improvers with important things to say.
But while they’re not typically what you might call “natural” presenters, techy folk like to know useful formulae, quick tips and simple guidelines to put them on the right track – and they often surprise themselves with how well they can put it all into action.


Here’s the key tip for everyone who wants to avoid inflicting bad slide presentations upon their audiences.
Make your slides better by using fewer words and more pictures!
As a real guru on presentation might say: Too Many Bullet Points Kill.
Ask yourself, how many words are there on the front of a great movie poster that you remember – or a great book cover or a great pop album?
It’s very few.
A great slide can often help you get your message across in a similar way if it’s largely pictorial.
If you look closely at the picture below you can see a speaker showing slide of a movie poster with just one word – “Jaws”.


One emotive image (in this case a set of fierce set of shark teeth) enables a speaker to grab attention visually and say something verbally at the same time without overloading audience members and while looking directly at them.
If you need to convey a lot of factual information, make a self-contained written handout that everyone can read through afterwards when you’re not talking to them at the same time!!!
A good graphic slide doesn’t need to be self-contained, because you can add information verbally as it’s examined.
But a good handout must be self-contained, so it can be understood by audience members on the train or plane on the way home.
If the graphic slides in your presentation are memorable, audience members will understand the handout all the better.


Let me tell you about one single effective slide from a colleague in the Professional Speaking Association, Derek Williams.
Derek is a fantastically positive person who has built an organisation designed to give positive feedback to those who deserve it.
Rather than catching people doing things wrong – as so many do – Derek and his organisation catch people doing things right.
Derek also reckons many companies are more geared towards dealing with complaints than to receive praise.
In his presentations, Derek conveys this with just one slide.


It just takes a quick glance at the slide, with a short verbal explanation to get point!



Derek’s business is called “The WOW! Awards”.

It helps deserving organisations and their people to avoid the problem of too many complaints and not enough praise where its due.
This is good for morale, engagement and productivity.
There’s more at: www.thewowawards.co.uk



If you want to know more, there’s a chance you can get a ticket to a hugely positive WOW! Awards ceremony at the Tower Of London on 30 November.


If you’re interested in taking advantage of this possibility, email: michael@michaeldoddcommunications.com
Warning: there will be a lot of positive “wow” stories at the Tower.
This could be a shock to the Tower Of London itself, as the venue is better known for less positive things like hanging and torturing.
But it is a place of intriguing stories.
And stories should make up a chunk of what your presentation contains – ideally supported by largely pictorial slides, or no slides at all.
Telling the right stories or informing people about real life examples is a great way to enliven presentations.
If your team would benefit from knowing how to do this, you can book a keynote speech for your conference on “Becoming Inspirational Communicators”.
There’s more at:
And to ensure you and your team fascinate your audiences – rather than kill with too many bullet points – you can book master classes or one-to-one sessions on “Presenting With Confidence, Impact And Pizzazz”.
Details are at:
Telling the right stories and giving the right real life examples are also helpful when giving great answers to tough questions – during and after your presentations, in the media and beyond.
If you’d like to know more about telling riveting effective stories, you can listen free to a key chapter of “Great Answers To Tough Questions At Work”.
The chapter is called “Harnessing The Power Of Stories” and – thanks to the Amazon company, Audible – it will be read to you in a soothing easy-on-the-ear Australian accent here:



Meanwhile there’s a new story about the paperback version of “Great Answers To Tough Questions At Work”.
It now has an updated cover, thanks to the publishers – Wiley.
The latest cover portrays a quote from the Express Newspaper article about the book which says:
“Every briefcase and bookshelf should have a copy.”
You can read the whole article by The Express columnist, Carole Ann Rice, here:
The updated cover also has the “Management Gold” endorsement from the Chartered Management Institute.

Previously this was conveyed through a sticker on the front.
The quotation that was on the front cover has now been moved to the (supposedly more important) back cover.
Apparently bookshop browsers where the book is sold – in Waterstones, W H Smith and Harrods – are inclined to turn to the back cover when they’re deciding whether to buy a book.
So now when they look at the back cover of “Great Answers To Tough Questions At Work” they’ll see the quote from Roger Harrop, the award-winning business speaker, who really is a guru.


It reads: “Keep this book close at all times. Simply vital reading for all who need to answer tough questions and enhance their reputation as a result.”

You can read the first chapter of the paperback version free on line at:



Here’s a final word on telling stories – sometimes known as “anecdotes”.
The important thing to remember about the stories you tell in your presentations is to make sure you plan, prepare and practise them in advance.
If you don’t, the stories can go off the rails, fizzle out or sink as you tell them.
Penny Haslam is a witty colleague of mine in the Professional Speaking Association who has an arresting view on this.
She used to present the business news on BBC Breakfast but now delivers keynotes on visibility and confidence and has been described as “a female Michael McIntyre who speaks to business”.



You can check her out at: www.pennyhaslam.co.uk
Penny has devised a clever word for poorly planned anecdotes that go down badly.
It’s “Titanicdotes”… and you know when you – or someone else – sets off on one of these!
Be warned: When Titanicdotes appear in a presentation, the person who tells them tends to – like the captain of the Titanic – go down with the ship.


Don’t let this happen to you!

Control Your Emotions, Don’t Let Your Emotions Control You http://www.michaeldoddcommunications.com/4596-2/ Wed, 29 Aug 2018 10:59:52 +0000 http://www.michaeldoddcommunications.com/?p=4596 How would you feel if – just ahead of a vital test for your organisation’s work – your leader held a negative, bitter, bad-tempered press conference?…
… and by doing so your leader effectively signalled to the world that your organisation wasn’t ready to handle its latest challenge?
Not great, I presume.
And how would you then feel if your organisation subsequently ended up with a terrible result – partly because of this press conference – and the leader then held another even more negative, bitter, bad-tempered press conference?
Even worse, I presume.
This is what has just happened with the historically successful Manchester United Football Club.
The team boss did the very opposite of effective motivational speaking: de-motivational speaking!
We in the professional speaking world seek to communicate in a way that leaves your audience thinking, acting and feeling more realistically positive and better equipped to handle their challenges ahead.
In my case that involves equipping your audience of team members and/or of prospects and clients you want to impress with the tools to help them become more inspirational communicators.

Manchester United’s boss managed to turn this on its head – by demoralising the members of his team and the club’s fans.
Now there are growing calls for him to go.


So after an appalling badly handled pre-match press conference, the Manchester United Manager, Jose Morinho, saw his team lose to the generally less fancied Tottenham Hotspurs.
Manchester United lost 3-0 – a pretty decisive result in football world.
It was Manchester United’s worst ever home defeat under Jose Mourinho.
This was followed by an even more badly handled post-match press conference which the manager cut short by storming out waving three fingers towards the media, while pretending it was something to do with digitally symbolising his sporting record.




He did this while simultaneously demanding respect from the sports journalists who’d been asking him questions – while showing them and their respective audiences no respect at all.
As the world doesn’t run this way, Jose Mourinho’s approach to press conferences hasn’t helped his team on the pitch or off it.
Football managers frequently get fired for bad results.
Perhaps there’s sometimes there’s a case for firing a football manager based on bad press conferences.
This should be so when, unsurprisingly, bad press conferences contribute to bad results.


When you’re representing your organisation in the media spotlight and you’re being asked tough questions, it isn’t just the CONTENT of your answers that matters.
The ATTITUDE you display is at least equally important, and sometimes even more important.
Jose Mourinho displayed a miserable, snarly, disrespectful attitude thoughout his press conferences.
You don’t need to know anything about the finer points of football to spot this.
If you watch any amount of either press conference you can see that his attitude towards his questioners – the sports journalists – and his attitude towards his audience beyond… the fans, the club, the players, the world… is atrocious.
You can check out his pre-match press conference here:


And you can check out his post-match press conference here:


If you watch either of these performances, you’ll know how NOT to do it… whether in sport, in business, or any field of endeavour.
The good news is that answering tough questions much more effectively – and more nicely! – is a learnable skill.
Help is available here: http://www.michaeldoddcommunications.com/media-master-classes/
There’s even a book on it here:

And if you’d like the book read to you (in a soothing Australian accent) on your phone or ipad you can arrange that here:



And if you’d prefer to hear that soothing Australian accent on your CD or MP3 player you can get the book in audio form on a golden disc here:


There’s an equally strong need to demonstrate the right attitude when you’re answering tough questions outside the media spotlight as well as in it.
Whatever your role and whatever your profession, when you answer tough questions it can – at times – be appropriate to show your emotions.
BUT when you’re under pressure you need to KEEP CONTROL of your emotions.
The good news is that this too a learnable skill.
Help is available here:
Coincidentally, my professional speaking colleague Mark Fritz – best known for his insightful daily thoughts – has also been thinking about the importance of controlling emotions.
Mark shares his daily thoughts through the internet each day and one of his latest ones could also apply to those who lose it in front of the media and elsewhere.



He sums it up succinctly as ever by advising:
“Don’t let the feeling (in the moment) drive behaviours that push you further away from achieving your goals!”
And, as ever, he provides a cartoon to further illustrate the point which he’s shared with us here.



If you would like to have Mark Fritz’s succinct insightful thoughts emailed to you every day, you can sign up free to become a member of his Daily Thoughts Foundation here:

You can click on the inspirational video about new thoughts triggering new possibilities and outcomes.
And if you run into Jose Mourinho looking grumpy on the streets of Manchester, you might suggest that some new thoughts could trigger new possibilities and outcomes for him and his team… if it isn’t already too late!

Present Your Message – Powerfully, Persuasively And Profitably http://www.michaeldoddcommunications.com/present-your-message-powerfully-persuasively-and-profitably/ Wed, 08 Aug 2018 11:19:51 +0000 http://www.michaeldoddcommunications.com/?p=4589 There’s a multitude of reasons why you should seek to get your vital message across in human-to-human presentations to audiences of all sizes…
…providing, of course, that you do it brilliantly.
Most of the benefits of presenting in person to live audiences are self-evident.
When you do it superbly, it’s powerful, it’s persuasive and it’s profitable.
But one of the less obvious benefits is that when people have heard you do a successful authentic presentation, they feel as though they’ve come to know you personally.
They may even get to the stage where they feel know, like and trust you – inspired in the first instance by your memorable presentation.

And marketing experts have concluded people tend to do business with those they know, like and trust.
After your inspiring presentation, audience members may feel this way about you – even if they didn’t get the chance to have a one-to-one conversation with you at the event.
Having that immediate one-to-one conversation with everyone who witnesses your presentation can be difficult – partly because a throng of well-wishers that may surround you immediately after your witty, insightful and uplifting conclusion.
Let me use, as an example, the celebrity, Stephen Fry…



I now feel as though I really know the British comedian, actor and writer.
Why do I feel I know Stephen Fry? Because I heard him speak during a literati-packed annual summer awards night at the Society of Authors in London.
One of the advantages of writing a book is that you get to join the Society of Authors and you have the chance to hear presentations from inspiring fellow authors – like Stephen Fry – and mix with literary judges like Bangladeshi British novelist, Tahmima Anam.

Since hearing Stephen Fry present, I’ve taken more of an interest in what he does.
I’ve come to learn that we share a close interest in rhetorical devices – devices which sometimes help Stephen Fry come across so effectively on TV, on radio and in person.
Many of these rhetorical devices were discovered, developed and defined by those erudite Ancient Greeks and Ancient Romans.
You can use them too!



Students learn about Ancient Greeks, Ancient Romans and their rhetorical devices at ancient seats of learning like University of Oxford, the University of Cambridge and at Sydney’s Manly Boys’ High School with Mr Goodman.



You can also find out more about utilising rhetorical devices through an audio programme Stephen Fry has made about them.
You can get the programme on your phone or ipad in the form of a talking book.
It’s called “Fry’s English Delight” and in the first series Stephen Fry explores some of these devices in a show called “Rhetoric Rehabilitated”.
If you’re tempted to get into talking books you can purchase “Fry’s English Delight” by clicking on this image:


And if you find yourself liking the new medium of talking books, you can even acquire the talking book version of “Great Answers To Tough Questions At Work” by clicking here:


Remember, the splendid thing about boosting your ability to present and answer questions in front of your audience is that they are learnable skills.


If you listen to Stephen Fry’s advice, you can pick up all sorts of ways of enlivening your presentations and your great answers to questions with the help of those Ancient Greeks and Romans.
For example, Stephen Fry explores the power of the so-called “tricolon”.
This is a rhetorical device in which just three words are used to convey a profound sense of roundness, completeness and wholeness.
The tricolon also tends to create a surprisingly satisfying effect at the end of a sentence, making it sound more dramatic.
It doesn’t tend to work in the same way with just two words – because that’s not enough.
And it doesn’t work in the same way with four, five or six words – because that’s too many.
Astute readers (that’s you) may have noticed that I deliberately used a tricolon near the start of this column when I referred the benefits of presenting – when done superbly – as being powerful, persuasive and profitable.
I then slipped in another tricolon when I spoke of people doing business with those they know, like and trust.
And you might have even noticed me referring to the conclusion of your presentation as being witty, powerful and uplifting.
Three Dodd tricolons is probably the right number, so I will stop with mine there.
But remember that William Shakespeare was keen on the device.

He deployed the tricolon in his version of Julius Ceasar’s famous speech, declaring “Veni, vidi, vici.”.
And for those very few readers of this enlightened column who are not Latin scholars (perhaps because you didn’t study at Manly Boys’ High School), this means “I came, I saw, I conquered”.



Stephen Fry explores another rhetorical device you might be able to use with great effect in your next presentation.
It’s called “hypophora”.
This is where you ask a question of your audience – and immediately answer it yourself.
“Do you know what I mean? Of course you do!”
Astute readers (that’s still you) will note that I also utilised the hypophora technique early in this column when I said:
“Why do I feel I know Stephen Fry? Because I heard him speak at the annual summer awards night at the Society of Authors in London.”
More mature readers (that may or may not be you) might recall that the hypophora technique was also used by Winston Churchill speaking in 1940 about the war against the Nazis.


“You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word. It is victory, victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory, however long and hard the road may be.”
Well, Churchill didn’t quite answer his own question in a single word as he promises.
But does he make his point effectively by using hypophora? Yes, he certainly does! 
If you need some guidance with the content, structure and delivery style for your next presentation, there’s more here about how I can help you do this one-to-one, in small groups or at your company conference at: http://www.michaeldoddcommunications.com/presenting-with-confidence-impact-and-pizzazz/
Is utilising hypophora in your next presentation optional?
Yes it is, but making a success of your next presentation should be compulsory.
Will I be using both hypophora and tricolons when I run a two-day master class in Reading on the banks of The Thames this week?
Participants will have to wonder, wait and watch.



You might now be asking: What are my master classes on presentation skills called? The tricolonic answer is: “Presenting with Confidence, Impact and Pizzazz”.
And you may ask if these three words were ever put together as a tricolon by William Shakespeare?
Or you may ask if these three words were ever put together as a tricolon by Winston Churchill?
Or you may ask if these three words were ever put together as a tricolon by Stephen Fry?
The answer, dear reader, is probably not.

Summit: Dodd Meets President http://www.michaeldoddcommunications.com/summit-dodd-meets-president/ Tue, 12 Jun 2018 08:48:40 +0000 http://www.michaeldoddcommunications.com/?p=3903 It’s been splendid to be carrying out vital communications-boosting work in glorious Singapore over the past week.


And it’s been wonderful to take part in a Presidential Summit, while working in the equadorial paradise of Singapore.


(There’s more on my Singaporean summit with the President later in this update.)


But I should emphasise at the outset – as the Donald Trump-Kim Jong Un summit gets under way in Singapore – that rumours that the American President has actually been taking one-to-one lessons from an Australian communications expert visiting Singapore have been vehemently denied.


Such lessons would clearly do President Trump the world of good as he seems to be having trouble communicating with even the easiest people to get along with and connect with in the world – the Canadians!


President Trump is staying at Singapore’s Shangri-La Hotel, and the rumours that he is getting one-to-one tuition on “Great Answers To North Korean Questions” suddenly mysteriously began circulating after the publication of this photo.



The photo was snapped outside the Shangri-La Hotel just as an Australian communications expert happened to be passing with a copy of his new disc – which can be played on CD and MP3 players – called “Great Answers To Tough Questions At Work”.


The CD/MP3 disc has been produced by the Amazon company, Audible.


Those who get hold of it are able to hear every golden word of the written version of the book “Great Answers To Tough Questions At Work” published by Wiley and read aloud for you by the author himself.


The disc is available at:

And the written version of the book is available at:


But a spokesman for Michael Dodd denied that any lessons for Donald Trump had taken place.


The spokesman said: “Mr Dodd is delighted to have many keen-to-learn, keen-to-improve students in high positions and destined for high positions around the world.”


However those who benefit from Mr Dodd’s keynote addresses to conferences on “Great Answers To Tough Questions” and those who take part in his master classes and one-to-one sessions do have to demonstrate a strong willingness to learn and an interest in being helpful to their audiences.


“While Mr Dodd has taken on many challenging cases with astounding success, it is yet to be proven that the current American President has the rigorous qualities required to benefit from such communications-boosting sessions.


“However all those who think they do meet the pre-session requirements are welcome to apply by email or discuss their possibilities of being approved on michael@michaeldoddcommunications.com  or by phone on +44 7944 952835″




Meanwhile is my solemn duty to confess that I did take part in a summit with the President in Singapore.
This was a with the President with REAL heart, REAL leadership qualities and REAL hair!!!
The summit took place in the Regent Hotel in Singapore which is located in the same part of town as the hotels where the American and North Korean leaders are respectively staying.
The REAL presidential summit was with President Shirley Taylor who is President of the Global Speakers Federation.
This is the umbrella organisation which represents we professional speakers around the world.
President Shirley, as I knew from her previous meetings when she spoke with the Professional Speaking Association in London, is a true world leader – who has written a number of books on communications, amongst others.
But as you can see from the Presidential Photo below – taken inside Singapore’s Regent Hotel – she was graciously prepared to accept another communications book from another speaker.

President Shirley is a ripsnorting success story having transmogrified from “Shirley from Sheffield” to “Shirley from Singapore”!
She is living testament to the idea of setting your sights and standards high, communicating brilliantly and getting to where you want to be as a result.
She’s been to Canada without causing any uproar with those nice laid-back reasonable Canadians who do produce fine professional speakers.
If you strive to communicate and connect more like President Shirley than President Donald – in a modest, good-humoured and charming way – you will more popular with everyone – including Canadians – than you ever imaged!

The Dodd Guidance On Handling Media Ambushes On Your Doorstep http://www.michaeldoddcommunications.com/the-dodd-guidance-on-handling-media-ambushes-on-your-doorstep/ Wed, 23 May 2018 11:56:07 +0000 http://www.michaeldoddcommunications.com/?p=3506 What will you do if a journalist – or a gang of journalists – start peppering you with tough questions as you step out of your home onto the doorstep?


Swear at them?

Run away?

Slap them on the head with a brochure?

Many people – even highly prominent ones who should know better – handle it badly when reporters and camera crews suddenly descend on them.

You will see horrendous examples of this coming up shortly – including the brochure-slapping approach.

And when media ambushes are sprung on those who are not used to journalistic scrutiny, they find it’s bad for their public image – as well as being shocking and discombobulating.

(I deploy the word “discombobulating” advisedly because it does, as it sounds, and creates a disturbing effect on the mind – just as a media ambush does).

Dealing gracefully with a media ambush is not easy.

But the good news is that playing the game well is a learnable skill – like so many other communications challenges… from speaking in public to answering tough questions from your clients and prospects.

And people who train how to deal properly with a media ambush come over way better on screen than people who don’t.

So if journalists ever decide – rightly or wrongly – that you or a member of your team are worthy of being interviewed while you’re on the move, here is some preliminary guidance.




I’m giving this advice now because a multitude of so-called “doorstep interviews”that have just been conducted for a TV programme aiming to find out who was to blame for the deaths of 72 people.

This was sparked by the horrendous Towering Inferno-style fire that engulfed London’s Grenfell Tower skyscraper a year ago.



These latest doorstep interviews – or attempted interviews – were carried out by the rottweiler-like BBC Panorama reporter, Richard Bilton.



He questioned suspects about what the programme regards as “corporate manslaughter” due to spectacularly appalling fire safety failures.

Richard Bilton blasted his targets with Australian-style “blowtorch-on-the-belly” questions as they strolled down the street or attempted to walk their dogs (which were not rottweilers and didn’t bite him back!).

There’s more on the programme’s findings – along with an example of one the doorstep interviews – on the second video clip down on this webpage:





Another interviewer who has a reputation as an indefatigable – and sometimes amusing – doorstepper is Channel Four’s Michael Crick.

Here’s a compilation of his higher profile doorstep interview efforts – including one (violence warning!!!) where he gets hit over the head with a party political brochure by his target




Rightly or wrongly, journalists tend to go for the doorstep approach when their official attempts to get a more dignified official interview are repeatedly rebuffed.

In general, if the media issue is big enough, I often advise that it’s better to do the more dignified official interview.

But of course ONLY EVER do this after finding out all that you can about the situation in advance – and planning, preparing and practising as much as possible.




The good news is that you can be trained to handle the doorstep interview better than most people do in the above footage.

Here’s some guidance if you’re ever doorstepped:

+ Be a saint! Keep calm and be courteous at all times – even if the journalist/s are not being polite to you

+ Avoid either being aggressive or running away – both of which make you look appalling on screen

+ Demonstrate a responsible attitude to the subject – whether or not you are responsible for causing whatever the reporters are asking about

+ If anyone has been hurt or killed by whatever has happened, make sure you acknowledge this and express sympathy

+ My suggestion is to nicely ask for the journalists’ name, media organisation and telephone number, write it down or put it straight in your phone and offer to call them at a specific time to discuss the issue. (If any journalist refuses to co-operate on this, then they are the ones who look evasive on camera – which means they probably won’t screen it.)

+ Whatever you do, gracefully avoid get drawn into doing an interview on the spot if you don’t know enough of the background or you need to get legal and/or media handling advice before you proceed

+ When declining the opportunity to do an interview on the run, briefly give a credible reason why you have chosen to do this – and move onto talk about when you can call the reporter to discuss the possibility of doing an interview in better circumstances. (Generally do this without committing yourself to actually doing an interview. You would normally want to know more, have time to think about it and consult colleagues before agreeing to do an interview on a challenging subject.)

+ If you do the interview at some future time, make sure you plan, prepare and practise for it – as you always should for other tough questioning situations such as job interviews and career appraisals.




And if you need some advice on giving great answers to tough questions at work, there are at least 1,117 ways to get it.

Here’s a video which outlines a number of methods…



If you want to get your fix of “Great Answers To Tough Questions At Work”, published by Wiley, by having it read to you in the calm, soothing, sophisticated Australian accent of the author, you can get it downloaded onto your phone or tablet here:


If you would like the shiny new disc version of “Great Answers To Tough Questions At Work” so you can play it on your CD or MP3 player, you can get it here:


If you follow all the advice in this issue, you should be a lot safer when you step out of your home or office – whatever journalists are lurking there for you.

Whatever microphone-wielding journalists or camera operators are ready to pounce on your doorstep or on your next dog walk, act wisely, think calmly and be polite at all times.

And never hit journalists over the head with a brochure – or worse – however tempting!!!

Keep smiling,


P.S. If you would like communication-boosting tips like these sent directly to your inbox, please email michael@michaeldoddcommunications.com to request them.

Avoid The Communications Mistakes Of Basil Fawlty – And Real People http://www.michaeldoddcommunications.com/avoid-the-communications-mistakes-of-basil-fawlty-and-real-people/ Thu, 03 May 2018 18:10:02 +0000 http://www.michaeldoddcommunications.com/?p=3488 My task of protecting the universe from appalling communications fiascos – and guiding people towards more inspirational performances – is a big one.


Sometimes there are so many high profile examples of abysmal communications that it’s hard to know where to start.


Now is such a time.


This latest communications-boosting ezine has picked out just two of the many bad examples of the past week that we can all learn from.


They are enough to remind you of one of the worst fictional communicators all times!


This is the manic, bad-tempered hotelier from the English seaside resort of Torquay – Basil Fawlty – from the BBC comedy series “Fawlty Towers”.

I’ve just had the pleasure of being on a communications-boosting mission which has taken me to Torquay – located on what’s claimed to be the “English Riviera”.


It’s a delightful seaside resort – and the good news is that the people I encountered on the mission were far more sane, pleasant and composed than Basil Fawlty.


Amongst his multitudinous flaws, Basil Fawlty doesn’t seek to understand or care about any of those around him.


As a result he makes one communications cock-up after another.


Below is video clip of how Basil Fawlty interacts with a hotel guest with a bit of “help” from his long-suffering Spanish assistant, Manuel.


Admittedly, this particular guest, a Mrs Richards, is not the most likeable, reasonable or effective communicator herself.


Please don’t model your communications style on any of these three!


I studied a lot of interactions by Basil Fawlty as part of my visit to Torquay.


Here is the Torquay beachfront video of my guidance on how to communicate in a very different manner from this infamous hotelier.





While Basil Fawlty is in a league of his own when it comes to abysmal communication, there have been some real non-fictional characters competing with him over the past week.


One is Britain’s Shadow Home Secretary, Diane Abbott.


She gained some kudos by effectively pursuing her political opposite number, Amber Rudd, who has just resigned from her important post involving being in charge of police, immigration and other things.


Ms Rudd was caught out for not giving accurate, straight answers on immigration – particularly on home office “targets” for removing illegal immigrants.


But while basking in this victory for the Opposition Labour Party, Ms Abbott came unstuck on answering a simple, but persistently asked, question about what her party’s policy was on illegal immigrants.



Diane Abbott hardly covered herself in glory with her embarrassingly long pauses, slow and confused delivery style and inability to give short punchy answers to fairly obvious straight questions.


Keep in mind that doing a live interview from outside the studio – technically called a “Down The Line” interview – is a challenging and potentially discombobulating task.


To do it well you need to plan, prepare and practise for it – something we can do in one-to-one or group training sessions.


You also should have your answers to easy-to-anticipate questions worked out in advance – not put formed under pressure while staring down the camera lens.


There’s more about doing media training for interviews here:





And finally, if you want to look good in a TV interview, don’t sing an arguably inappropriate song while you’re doing a studio sound check before you’re about to be interviewed.

This is what Mike Coup, the Chief Executive of the supermarket chain, Sainsbury’s, did before an interview about a massive merger with rival retailer, Asda.


Some of those to be affected by the deal – such as suppliers to both stores – are worried about having their incomes squeezed as a result.

So Mr Coupe’s choice of song – “We’re In The Money” – was not a fantastic choice for them.

To his credit, he did later say “I apologise if I have offended anyone.”

You can hear the Coupe song rendition here.

Mr Coupe is regarded as an accomplished musician, but that doesn’t make him look or sound any less silly on screen at the big moment.



If there were to be a “Basil Fawlty Award for Bad Communications”, Mr Coupe, Ms Abbott and so many more would be in the running.

Don’t let you – or members of your team – be future contenders for it!!!

DEALING WITH FASTER TOUGH QUESTIONS http://www.michaeldoddcommunications.com/3482-2/ http://www.michaeldoddcommunications.com/3482-2/#respond Wed, 11 Apr 2018 07:36:53 +0000 http://www.michaeldoddcommunications.com/?p=3482 The world of business is changing faster than ever before, which means…
…tough new questions can be thrown at you and your team – and members of business leaders’ groups that you run or belong to – more quickly and more often than ever before.
The answers given by you and your team – from impressive ones through to pathetic ones – can be conveyed around the office, around the business community and around the planet more speedily than ever before.



This happens with answers conveyed through mobile phones, email, social media and – with answers to big scary monster questions from journalists – on 24-hour news as well.
Business leaders from Facebook, Cambridge Analytica and others find that when something goes terribly wrong, their answers to tough questions make it big on 24-hour news.


Chairs of business leaders’ groups – and those near or at the top of companies who belong to these groups – are in an excellent position of observe how the toughest questions for any organisation typically rise to the top.
These questions can be painful enough to explain why – in the robust world of Australian journalism where I hail from – they’re known as “blowtorch-on-the-belly” questions.




My ongoing surveys among members of business leaders’ groups show that the toughest of “blowtorch-on-the-belly” questions tend to come in this order: from prospects, from clients/customers and from those within the business leader’s own team.
In line with this, the toughest questions for the chairs of business leaders’ groups often come from hesitant prospective new members.


A typical question for a chair of a business leaders’ group is: “How can I possibly afford to give up a day a month of my time running my company to spend it with you and your members?”
(I regularly help the chairs come up with their own individual dazzling answers to this question.)
But in the immediate world of business leaders’ groups in the United Kingdom, the toughest questions for group chairs are likely to come from their existing members.
This follows the acquisition of one highly successful business leaders’ group organisations in the United Kingdom by another – larger – highly successful business leaders’ group organisation which is more globally spread.
So this is, and will continue to, prompt questions from existing members of both groups and those in other business leaders’ groups as they digest news about the acquisition.
These questions to the chairs of business leaders’ groups include:

  • Why should I carry on my membership of a group which has suddenly changed hands and changed name?


  • Why do we need to be joined by all these other new members and groups?


  • How different will our group be in the future as a result of this acquisition?


  • What’s the significance of the fact that the two different organisations involved in the takeover charge members different amounts to belong?


  • Does this reduction in competition mean that membership fees will be higher and less affordable in the future for all business leaders groups?



At the heart of giving great answers to these blowtorch-on-the-belly questions is an honest, positive approach.
To help you maintain your positivity, here are five pieces of good news:

  • 1) Giving great answers to tough questions in the working world is a learnable skill


  • 2) There’s a methodology that can be applied to giving great answers to tough questions


  • 3) When you know the methodology and become skilled at putting it into action, you can apply it to ALL your tough questions


  • 4) The learning-by-doing approach which takes place within business leaders’ groups – where members and chairs are used to helpfully but robustly challenging each other – are amongst the best places to carry out such experiential learning


  • 5) Learning the art of giving great answers is also ideally suited to company off-site days



When it comes to giving great answers to tough questions your mindset is hugely important.
If you’d like some guidance on getting your mindset right, the additional good news is that the first chapter of the audiobook version of “Great Answers To Tough Questions At Work” can now be read to you free.
And it can be read to you in a charming Australian accent by a top international professional speaker!
The free chapter is called “Winning Answers Every Time”.
The company that produced the audiobook – Amazon’s Audible – has just put the chapter on “Soundcloud” which means you can listen free instantly without having to download anything.

You can listen here at:

If you prefer read the words yourself – in whatever accent you wish – from the written version of “Great Answers To Tough Questions At Work” you can look at the same chapter here:

If you’d like to have a chat about how sessions of “Great Answers To Tough Questions At Work” can run within your business leaders’ group or organisation call: 44.7944.952835.
There’s more about all the communications-boosting sessions for business leaders’ groups and companies to help participants become inspirational business communicators at:


In this column, I traditionally draw attention to examples TV interviews where someone does very badly in the face of blowtorch-on-the-belly questions.
But today I’ll point you to a challenging interview that involved some surprisingly impressive answers.
They were answers by the rising political star, British MP Jacob Rees-Mogg, who is frequently asked about business matters to do with Britain’s exit from the European Union.
Jacob Rees-Mogg is normally a pretty serious chap, as you might expect from a potential future Conservative Prime Minister.
But his challenge in this particular interview was to demonstrate that he has a sense of humour.
In a publicity stunt by the magazine “Beano” –  which you may be young enough to remember from its heyday – Mr Rees-Mogg was accused of masquerading as the comic character “Walter The Softy” who has similar glasses and hair parting.

Around April Fools’ Day, but not quite on it, the magazine accused Mr Rees-Mogg of a “clear infringement” of copyright and claimed he was being issued with a “cease and desist” letter.
You can check out the resulting BBC interview here:

I should stress that I did not media train Mr Rees-Mogg to give his uncharacteristically colourful answers.
But I can run master classes to show members of your business leaders’ group – or company team – how they can give better answers they do now.
And they can certainly be shown how to give answers that don’t sound as though they’ve come from someone called “Walter The Softy”.

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