Michael Dodd Communications http://www.michaeldoddcommunications.com Become An Inspirational Communicator Mon, 19 Oct 2020 13:41:06 +0000 en-GB hourly 1 Get Your Message Across – Just Like Jacinda http://www.michaeldoddcommunications.com/get-your-message-across-just-like-jacinda/ Mon, 19 Oct 2020 13:39:22 +0000 http://www.michaeldoddcommunications.com/?p=5250 It’s been a magnificent year for the Master Communicator who is the Prime Minister of New Zealand.

Earlier this year, Jacinda Ardern had the honour of being named The Great Corona Times Communicator in an online competition run (and judged) on Linked In by Michael Dodd Communications.

A colourful and wide range of public nominations were put forward for great communicators around the world.

The NZ PM won for her excellent messaging about Coronavirus when – while taking a hard line against the virus with highly impressive results – she was able to communicate  while radiating massive empathy for the people who were adversely affected by the side-effects of her government’s tough anti-Covid-19 decisions.

Now 2020 gets even better for her as she’s has won her second term as the Kiwi Prime Minister in a landslide.

And being the impressive communicator that she is, Jacinda Ardern has grabbed the opportunity to get across more high-impact forward-looking messages.



Amidst her characteristically positive, optimistic victory address, were plenty of messages for the people of New Zealand – and others beyond.

One of the things that helps Jacinda Ardern stand out as a communicator is that she never misses a chance to transmit a positive message.




When people win something – whether it’s an award or something else – their immediate public comments are often focused on how they feel as a result.

Typically you hear remarks like “I’m so delighted”, “I’m so surprised” etc.

This is OK and natural, but if you ONLY do this it can mean you’re missing an opportunity to share with a captive audience – curious about you during your moment in the limelight – a wider message.

This is a trap which Jacinda Ardern avoids.

So as the leader of a small country basking in a rare moment in the global spotlight during the aftermath of her election win, she immediately seized the opportunity to deliver a big message to the world.

In particular, the Kiwi PM had a message for democracies around the globe living through such challenging and often divisive times during this Corona Age.

Jacinda Ardern’s message for the democratic world is that elections “don’t need to tear people apart”.

This is consistent with the fact that – after governing in a manner that emphasised kindness, co-operation and a safety-above-all-else approach – Jacinda Ardern won the best result for her New Zealand Labour Party in five decades.




Interestingly some people interpreted the prime ministerial victory message as a not-so-subtle reference to the divisive presidential election campaign in the United States.



You can draw your own conclusion by watching to this extract from the Ardern post-election speech here…



Whether or not you could detect a message for the people of the USA in this footage, there may have been a further subtle clue about her thoughts on the American President and US politics in her media conference later.

This was when Jacinda Ardern was asked about what congratulatory messages she’d received from her fellow world leaders – including from the neighbouring Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, who leads the Liberal Party of Australia which is far more conservative than NZ Labour.



She also graciously acknowledged the message from UK PM, Boris Johnson, who is also far more to the political Right than she is.



Listen carefully for Jacinda Ardern’s answer to a question about whether she’d received congratulations from President Donald Trump!



You may reasonably suspect that Donald Trump’s idiosyncratic, shamelessly self-promotional communications style isn’t to the modest Jacinda Ardern’s taste.



But what was impressive about her (arguably) great answer to a tough question about the American President was the apparent niceness with which it was delivered.

In line with her political record on promoting kindness, positivity and inclusiveness, it was conveyed with a smile in a way that minimised the chances for a reasonable person to be offended by it.




And speaking of inclusiveness, in a country where there are some long-running underlying tensions between the descendants of the white settlers and the native Maori community, if you listen to the full version of the Jacinda Ardern victory speech you will notice another humane touch.

At both the start and at the end of her speech, she speaks – with impressive fluency – in the language of the Maori people…. the tongue which became an official language of New Zealand in 1987.



You can check-out the longer, Maori-language-included, video of the victory speech here:


The language gesture – even if assisted by autocue (watch how her lips and right hand fingers move after she finished the opening Maori burst) – clearly has some appeal to the 16.5% of the population who identify as Maori.

Speaking in Maori at such an important moment in her political career, highlights the fact that Jacinda Ardern is who can get a message across to everyone!!!



Becoming inspirational communicators – in individual or group training sessions face-to-face or online – is a learnable skill.

There’s more about it at:


When guiding clients to become inspirational communicators, I sometimes pick out potentially useful inspirational models for us to study.

Jacinda Ardern is sometimes the right model for some people.


Because there’s so much we can learn about effective, empathetic, enthusiastic communications from this truly remarkable leader!

Avoiding Body-Swerve Responses To Tricky Questions http://www.michaeldoddcommunications.com/avoiding-body-swerve-responses-to-tricky-questions/ Tue, 29 Sep 2020 16:41:38 +0000 http://www.michaeldoddcommunications.com/?p=5245 Whether you’re a senior government minister – or someone who needs to speak on behalf of your organisation – it’s essential to think things through before you do a media interview.

This especially applies when you’re doing an interview on a potentially tricky or contentious subject.

Take, for example, the ever-so-touchy – or perhaps “non-touchy” – topic of sex during a pandemic.

This may well not be on your company’s media interview agenda, but it is on the radar of the British Government.

For health and safety reasons, the government’s message seems to be “No British casual sex please, we’re in a crisis”.

On any thorny topic like this, you will set yourself up to appear far more credible if you prepare thoroughly for the likely tough questions BEFORE you go anywhere near a camera, a microphone or a reporter’s notebook.

And when you think things through thoroughly in advance, you’ll be in a stronger position to sound and look impressively in control when you’re answering those probing follow-up questions.

One government minister – who is now well-placed to tell you that preparation before an interview on a topic like this is essential – is the British Health Secretary, Matt Hancock.



He came out the worse for wear after challenging questioning on sex during Corona Times where he gave a series of uncertain, awkward and seemingly unplanned replies.




Mr Hancock was being interviewed on Sky News by the often provocative – and sometimes cunningly beguiling – presenter, Kay Burley.




Kay Burley asked him about what she labelled as Matt Hancock’s ban on casual sex in the UK.

While Mr Hancock doesn’t exactly call it this himself, he is trying to stamp out casual sex across Britain during Corona Times.

However, Matt Hancock maintains sex is a fine activity for those who are in what he calls “an established relationship”.

So the big question which aroused Kay Burley’s curiosity involved what exactly constitutes “an established relationship”.

When dealing with her persistent inquiries about this, Mr Hancock struggled and strayed.

During a frustrating moment he defined an established relationship as, er, “one that’s well established”.

Hurrah for this gem of enlightenment!

At another point Mr Hancock’s answer to what constitutes an established relationship is: “It means you have to be sensible”.




It’s an unusual interview in that while Matt Hancock is chided by Kay Burley, it’s conducted for the most part in a largely jovial manner.

In fact, both interviewer and interviewee received social media and tabloid newspaper criticism for giggling while discussing an essentially serious topic on national TV.



Feel free make up your own mind about the giggling issue in this instance.

But be aware that the rule I teach is that your on-air behaviour and facial expressions need to be in line with the message you’re seeking to get across at every moment.

Amidst the giggles, Mr Hancock’s failure to give a more precise definition on exactly what constitutes an established relationship led Ms Burley to accuse him at one point of trying to get around the key question.

“You’ve body-swerved the ‘established relationship’, haven’t you, because you don’t really know what that means. Anybody can bend the rules on that, can’t they?” Kay Burley complained.



However, still no enlightening Hancock definition was forthcoming.

You can try to work out what the Health Secretary might be mean by “established relationship” by watching the Hancock versus Burley encounter here.






Whenever you’re advocating something that’s potentially unpopular, controversial and/or difficult to define, then preparing in advance for inevitable tricky questions is vital.

It’s something that I make sure clients are thoroughly prepared for when they take part in media training sessions – whether the sessions are conducted on line or face-to-face.

Either way, rigorous media training involving blowtorch-on-the-belly questioning for your own good enables you and your team to stand up to the worst possible questions – by helping you to work out the best possible potential answers in advance.



This equips you to give straight, effective and engaging answers which are helpful to your questioners – and also to effectively get across the message which you’re seeking to impart.

In Corona Times, to make sure media training sessions are as safe as possible, I and my colleagues can run them in back gardens, carparks or other well-ventilated places.



When sessions need to be conducted indoors for protection from the weather, then the mock interviews and other vital training exercises can be done on a socially distanced basis – just as we’re getting used to seeing interviews being conducted at a distance on TV.



There’s more on media training at:

And there’s more on great answers sessions at:

Great answers involve dealing directly with the question – and, when necessary, explaining WHY you’re unable to give an immediate answer.

When you do this, your audience can at least understand the reason why you can’t give the exact information being sought on the spot – whether it’s to do with matters of client confidentiality, or because your organisation is still researching the matter, or whatever it is.

Great answers also involve saying things that are profoundly helpful and/or fascinating for your questioners – and your media viewers, listeners and readers beyond.

Detail of the golden formulae for giving impressive responses are set out and explained in “Great Answers To Tough Questions At Work” at:

When you can give truly great answers, it’s unlikely anyone will ever be able to accuse you of conducting a Hancock-like body-swerve!

Inspiration For Your Inner-Communications Genius http://www.michaeldoddcommunications.com/inspiration-for-your-inner-communications-genius/ Tue, 15 Sep 2020 06:16:28 +0000 http://www.michaeldoddcommunications.com/?p=5238 Moments of great challenges are times when it’s ideal to have great communicators around.

And moments of great challenges are also times to BECOME great communicators.

Amidst Corona Times, the measure of success for governments, organisations and individuals is often tied with how persuasively and effectively they can communicate.

It’s also the same with the quest to solve a much longer running – and arguably even bigger – current challenge.

This is the challenge involving the rapid extinction of plants, animals and insects which has been accelerating in recent times.

There’s considerable argument around just how serious, how fast and how critical the extinction rates have become – and further argument over how much is the fault of humankind.

And in keeping with my contention that times of great challenge are times when it’s ideal to have great communicators, a truly great communicator has stepped into the argument.

He’s the natural scientist and BBC documentary-maker, Sir David Attenborough.



Sir David’s latest programme – “Extinction: The Facts” – exemplifies his extraordinary communication skills.

As ever, in examining this example of excellent practice, it’s my intention to focus on Sir David’s communications skills rather than to seek to assess exactly how right he might turn out to be.

But I suggest that there is much everybody can learn from his remarkable communication talents which, at the age of 94, seem as sharp as they’ve ever been.

Perhaps it helps that Sir David has become one of the most travelled humans in history.

If you’d like a quick flavour of Sir David’s latest video masterpiece, you can check out the short, punchy TV promotion for it here



And if this makes you think you just have to watch more, you can see the whole programme – which runs just under an hour – at:


Whether you watch or not, the programme radiates phenomenal communications skills from which we all can learn.

Here’s a few of its many strong communication features:

+ The messages are clear. They run effectively throughout the programme. Sir David’s chief message – that everyone needs to do what they can to help – becomes evident well before he reaches his final powerfully simple concluding line: “What happens next is up to every one of us.”

+ Sir David’s messages are built on a balance between factual guidance and emotion. While he deals with a highly emotional topic – the future of life as we know it on this planet – he avoids getting overly emotional in the way he writes and delivers his lines. They are all the more powerful as a result.

+ His messages are in alignment with his own personal back story. This is underlined near the start when Sir David reminds us that over his long life he’s encountered some of the most remarkable species of animals. And yet its only now, he reveals, that he realises how lucky he’s been – as many of these wonders seem set to disappear forever.


One of the things that helps Sir David to tackle highly emotional aspects of his topic without being overly emotional is that he relates beautifully told stories to bring out the emotion.

There’s the story of the last two Northern White Rhinos – the mother and daughter – who are the only ones left on the planet.


Sir David also does something which great persuaders need to do when addressing their audiences regarding situations which appear bleak and threatening.

He provides a reason for hope.

His message of hope is that if nature is given the chance it can bounce back.

Again this contention is brought to life through a story.

It’s the story about Sir David’s encounters with the gorillas in the Virunga Mountains in Africa.

He speaks – and shows footage – of his first encounter with these once-endangered animals forty years ago when he met some of the (then) few remaining mountain gorillas.



This included a cheeky gorilla called Poppy.

She distinguished herself by trying to take off the Attenborough shoes.

At the time Sir David thought he may have been communing with the last of the gorillas as they were on the brink of extinction – threatened by having their habitat destroyed by the march of agriculture.

But conservation efforts to put money from gorilla-viewing tourism into the hands of the local population helped preserve the remaining habitat.

The gorilla population has since increased.



Sir David’s documentary is able to show contemporary footage of Poppy’s daughter and grand-daughter thriving – providing a beacon of hope illustrating that positive human effort can make a difference.



Excellent messaging and excellent story-telling are learnable skills which can be combined to highlight the positive aspect of your message – whatever it is.

If you and/or your team need help to boost your communications, there are various ways to give you help.

Workshops can be provided – online and/or face-to-face, socially distanced.

Details of the ones that are especially designed for communications-boosting on Corona-related issues are at:


Online and face-to-face guidance can be given in conferences – virtual and live in the room:


There are also new ways of receiving help.

These can involve getting ongoing communications guidance – over the phone and/or online – with face-to-face involvement when required.

If you’d like to discuss how this can work for individuals and companies, email michael@michaeldoddcommunications.com to set up a call.

You and your team can yet become inspirational communicators – even if you’re under the age of 94!

Get Your Communications Agenda In Top Shape http://www.michaeldoddcommunications.com/get-your-communications-agenda-in-top-shape/ Tue, 01 Sep 2020 11:04:57 +0000 http://www.michaeldoddcommunications.com/?p=5232 Whenever you go into a professional situation where communications are vital, your success will often depend on the quality of the agenda you have before you start.
This agenda should include the important messages you need to convey – and contain a treasure chest of examples and evidence to back up these messages.

If you don’t have an agenda – or you haven’t got the right agenda – then it’s hard to achieve the outcomes you want.
This applies whether you’re going into a media interview, a sales call, a job interview, a career appraisal, a negotiation or any other kind of challenging professional conversation.



Having the right things on your communications agenda – and adapting it to each individual situation – is something that you may need to update for the “going back-to-work” phase of Coronavirus.
It’s highly likely that what your organisation is now offering – and/or what you are personally aspiring to achieve – will have been changed in some ways due to Covid-19.
So the messages you’re seeking to convey in professional conversations – and the persuasive examples and evidence that you need to illustrate those messages – may well need enhancing.
It’s the kind of challenge that I and my colleagues are helping organisations and individuals with in Corona Times communications-boosting sessions.
These sessions – online or face-to-face-socially-distanced – can be aimed at:
+ Better projecting your organisation’s updated vision – internally and/or externally
+ Persuading clients and prospects to buy into the latest version of your products or services
+ Getting you and/or your colleagues into top communications shape for whatever other challenges you face.
To summarise, my message to you is that it’s important to have a well-thought out agenda for each communications encounter – and that it needs to be the right agenda for our current times.
In line with this message, let me give you a back-up example of what happened in a very memorable situation where someone failed spectacularly by – typically – not having a well-thought out agenda…



This story goes back to the time when I was a university lecturer – and a selector of university applicants wanting to do Bachelor of Arts degrees and MA degrees in Broadcast Journalism.
There was one particularly atrocious interviewee performance from would-be BA student who wanted to proceed to tertiary education.
He was a talkative lad who looked a bit smarter than this.


The applicant had what should have been the strong advantage of having just finished doing Media Studies at college – the main reason that the university administrators offered him an interview.
I asked the applicant some easy starting questions about what he’d done on his practical assignments in college.
He told me the most important media assignment had to be done in pairs where, he volunteered, that his mark was relatively low.
He explained that this was because he’d teamed up with a female student who, he repeatedly assured me, had turned out to be absolutely terrible.
I wasn’t so interested in her efforts as she wasn’t an applicant.
But I did want to know more about the details of their joint project and – critically – what he’d learned from it.
Whatever I asked, every answer involved how she had messed things up.
One of our selection criteria was to choose students who could work successfully with others on team projects – such as jointly making radio programmes and producing mock news bulletins.
But every answer he gave indicated that he was not a team player – and was obsessively keen to blame others for anything that failed.
You probably won’t be surprised to know that I couldn’t possibly offer him one of our precious university places for fear that he’d cause havoc on our student group assignments.




There’s a lot that this applicant obviously got wrong in the interview.
But his chief underlying mistake applies to many who enter important professional conversations and who end up doing badly.
The mistake is that they don’t have their own positive agenda worked out before the interview.
When you’re going into any challenging situation involving potentially tough – and easy – questions, one of the essential preparations is to have your own well-thought out agenda.
This should involve impressive things that you can talk about that are relevant to the situation and show you and/or your organisation at your best.
When you have the right messages and back-up examples/evidence, you can then use many of the questions as opportunities to refer to appropriate things on your agenda.
A persuasive communicator can find the win-win overlap points between the questioner’s agenda and their own agenda.
This is a learnable skill that I train individuals and groups on in sessions on Great Answers To Tough Questions.
There’s more on these sessions at:


Communications-boosting can also take place through tailored keynotes in online and face-to-face conferences.


If you’d like to discuss how communications-boosting sessions can help you and/or your team during the latest Corona Times phase, please email: michael@michaeldoddcommunications.com to line up a time to discuss your requirements.




It’s always a shame to see or hear of people who mess up what could be an excellent case through poor communications.


So I’m delighted to have the opportunity to help youngsters amidst these challenging times to avoid the pitfalls that the young university applicant above fell into.


I will be offering something very shortly to enable schools to help their pupils do better in job interviews and university application discussions.


If you’d like to know more please email me on

michael@michaeldoddcommunications.com and I’ll tell you more about how it can work in schools and other educational institutions.




Fortunately, many who apply for university places and their first jobs are able to develop communication skills that are far superior to those of the unsuccessful applicant cited above.
Here’s an awards ceremony picture of successful one-time MA applicants – with their proud lecturer and two ITV presenters – who demonstrated excellent communications skills at their selection interviews … partly by having their own positive agendas which highlighted impressive aspects of their earlier studies.



These students went on to win awards by the Broadcast Journalism Training Council for documentary-making on a memorable night at the ITV studios – and have gone onto greater things in the media world and beyond after completing their master’s degrees.
Building strong foundations in your communications skills – and those of your team – can make the critical difference between failure and success.

GOVERNMENT FAILS – BUT WILL YOU PASS??? http://www.michaeldoddcommunications.com/government-fails-but-will-you-pass/ Wed, 19 Aug 2020 13:34:48 +0000 http://www.michaeldoddcommunications.com/?p=5225 Whenever things go badly wrong it’s vital that leaders both do the right thing – AND communicate effectively about it.

This applies in whatever organisation you work.

Being seen and heard talking about what’s happening – and what you’re doing to sort things out and make amends – is critical to restoring public confidence in your team.

If you do a disappearing act – which British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has done over the high school results fiasco – it doesn’t work.


So there are significant communication lessons which those outside politics can learn from how the school grades issue been mishandled.




Remember that when clients, prospects and others judge your organisation’s performance, how you communicate about the problem can be as important as what you actually do about it.

Perceptions about how your organisation has behaved will typically be linked with how well your frontline people answer tough questions about what’s happened.

Tough questions tend to go to the top – especially when a crisis has been self-inflicted.

When they inevitably do, your organisation’s words and actions need to harmonise – and be seen to be doing so.

This hasn’t been the case with the embattled Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson.




He’s been struggling to be seen to be in control of things ever since Coronavirus prevented the normal public exams from taking place.

This week he’s been seeking to avoid the very obvious question about whether he’d offered to resign over the matter – and whether he should resign.

Overtly dodging the question doesn’t work – as everyone can see in this BBC interview where the question was repeatedly asked, and repeatedly ducked.

Saying you want to build the best education system in the world can’t disguise the fact that everyone can see he’s just not addressing the question – as you can easily spot here.





When you’re seen dodging a legitimate question, people notice.

It would have been so much more admirable had Gavin Williamson said either:

“Yes, I offered to resign but the Prime Minister declined to accept it because…”


“No I won’t resign for reason X”.

If you deal straight with a tough question you’re then entitled to go on and put your answer into perspective – and get across a vital relevant message to your audience.

This is a learnable technique.

When you deploy it, you will come across as being far more honest, reasonable and comfortable than Gavin Williamson has managed.

One-to-one and group sessions on this can be run – on line or face-to-face at a social distance.


You can start to explore the thinking behind addressing the tough questions head-on to great effect in the first chapter of Great Answers To Tough Questions At Work.

The publishers, Wiley, have put a free link to it here:





Another vital thing to do when your organisation has made a big mistake is to apologise – and apologise effectively.

However, this only works when you’re is prepared to ensure that your actions are in line with the words.

Saying “sorry” only works when the right actions are also taken.

Gavin Williamson said has said he’s “incredibly sorry” for the pressures inflicted on students and universities.

“Incredibly” is a poor choice of word as the Oxford dictionary points out it means something is “difficult to believe” or “impossible to believe”.

Gavin Williamson’s apology would be so much easier to believe if he resigned from his post.

There’s a disconnect between saying “sorry” and not taking the time-honoured political step to back it up.

Besides the government’s apology would have been far more credible if it came from the very top.

If Boris Johnson stepped out of hiding to deliver it – even while holidaying somewhere secretly  in Scotland – the apology would carry far more weight.

Knowing how to give an apology – supported by the right actions and the right reassuring message – is also a learnable skill.

It can be learned online or in conference keynotes.

There’s more – as well as the latest video demonstrations – at:


Whatever crisis can befall your organisation as you struggle to deal with Coronavirus, it’s so much better if you learn the right communications skills in advance.

These skills can be – and often are –  learned on the run.

But it’s so much better if you and your people acquire and practise the techniques BEFORE trouble strikes.

Being prepared to communicate about the worst can sometimes help you avoid trouble in the first place.

In this way, you can avoid the traps that are ruining the summer of Gavin Williamson, Boris Johnson and so many frustrated British students!

Tackling The Madly-Muddled Messaging Mess http://www.michaeldoddcommunications.com/tackling-the-madly-muddled-messaging-mess/ Mon, 27 Jul 2020 15:39:07 +0000 http://www.michaeldoddcommunications.com/?p=5168 As the world moves away from nation-wide Coronavirus lockdowns towards something closer to pre-crisis norms, mega-mountains of mayhem are being caused by madly muddled messaging from on high.

Sometimes it’s been over facemasks being labelled “ineffective” by governments – and then, suddenly, becoming a key weapon in their latest anti-virus plans.

In Britain, the latest muddled messaging has been over declarations that taking a Spanish holiday had become relatively safe, with precautions, and then – hang-on? – the messaging shifts to this becoming such a serious threat that everyone who returns from Spain must suddenly quarantine for a fortnight….. But, oh dear, maybe we’ve been too hasty and this message will have to change also.

Veteran British political commentator, John Sergeant – famed for his astute observations as well as his comically atrocious footwork on Strictly Come Dancing – has made the following pronouncement about the British Government’s latest mixed messaging.

“If you’re not confused,” he declared on BBC Radio, “then you’re not listening!”



I hope your clients, prospects and others aren’t saying this in response to whatever messages are coming from your organisation!




Meanwhile the question of whether the worst of the mixed and mangled messages comes from the UK Government of Boris Johnson…



Or whether messaging is even more mangled when it comes from Brazil’s ever-shifting President Jair Bolsonaro…



Or whether the maddest of madly muddled messaging comes from America’s Commander-In-Chief of confused messaging, Donald Trump… 



…there’s enough confused messaging to stretch to all parts of the globe.

Madly-muddled messaging can be as dangerous as Coronavirus itself, only it’s possibly more infectious and the symptoms more obvious.

When muddled-messaging turmoil is generated by governments, it’s all the harder for businesses, in turn, to get their messaging right – for your clients, your prospects and for your own teams.

But there is some potentially good news…

By taking part in communications-boosting planning and training sessions, you and your team can learn how to formulate and send consistent easy-to-absorb messages – even in a fast-changing environment.

Feel free to ponder the value that a single session – or a programme of communication-boosting planning and training sessions – could bring to your organisation’s operations, its image and its bottom line.

The option focusing specifically on Clever Corona Communications – online or face-to-face – is at: 


This is what the latest online hook-up with the business leaders’ organisation, MD2MD, looked like on Zoom.




And this is what the Managing Director of MD2MD, Bob Bradly, said about the session afterwards:

“Michael Dodd has run many great workshops on different aspects of effective communication for the business leader members of MD2MD. This was the first time I’ve booked him for an Online Zoom session so I was naturally cautious. I needn’t have been. Diligently prepared and expertly presented as always from Michael, our members were very satisfied with his tips and tricks for communicating difficult messages in challenging times. From a practical perspective, his use of breakout rooms was, I thought, especially helpful in getting members to immediately apply the ideas for themselves. So highly recommended in person and now – also – online!”

There’s more about communicating in times of heightened volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity on the  MD2MD website at: 





One of the keys to clear messaging – which governments often forget when the pressure’s on – is to put your target audience at the centre of your thoughts.

If you can get yourself into the mind of typical members of your audience, then getting the right easy-to-absorb message across to them is so much simpler.

As conferences are starting to come back onto calendars, there’s some free Michael Dodd Communications guidance on giving great answers to tough questions from a live audience.

This guidance applies whether your questioners appear face-to-face or in online hook-ups.

Your guidance on some of the vital principles is in the form of video highlights from the latest conference keynotes.



Versions of this keynote can focus on the toughest questions you and your team need to tackle at your next conference.

This applies whether your event is face-to-face, online or one of those hybrid conferences with physical and onscreen participants.

Phone 44 (0) 7944 952835 to discuss your conference requirements and how best to get your team in top shape to face your toughest questions.

Anything that helps save the universe from more muddled messaging can only be helpful.

Communicating In A Whirlwind Of Change http://www.michaeldoddcommunications.com/communicating-in-a-whirlwind-of-change/ Mon, 06 Jul 2020 16:14:03 +0000 http://www.michaeldoddcommunications.com/?p=5160 Communicating effectively amidst increasingly rapid swirls of change – often involving highly emotional issues – is not easy.

Additional challenges have been added with the new Coronavirus measures seeking to combat the second spikes in Leicester, Melbourne, Florida and elsewhere.

And when statues of longstanding western heroes (to some) like Christopher Columbus are being toppled and beheaded in Baltimore and Boston, you know things are moving fast.

Communicating well amidst the accelerating whirlwind has always been highly useful skill – even prior to the Coronavirus and Columbus strikes.

You may vaguely recall that before anyone had heard of Covid-19, the world was already caught up in an explosion of disruptive change.

This has been proceeding particularly rapidly since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 which triggered a host of international ramifications that are still being felt.



It was the unexpectedly abrupt end to the Cold War which led to the invention of the word “VUCA” –  standing for Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity & Ambiguity.

The acronym was devised by the American military which had become used to the almost-comfortable normalities of the Cold War.

The speed of change since has accelerated further with the ongoing expansion of internet usage around the world.



For business, communicating in such disruptive VUCA times is not just a matter of conveying information about the latest way your company is operating.

It’s also about getting messages across to your target audiences so that you’re enticing them to respond in the way you seek – hopefully in their best interests as well as your own.

Doing this is a learnable skill – and there are tips on how to achieve it further into this column.

Two conversations I had before leaving Australia in 1988 to base myself in Europe underline how much change there has been in our recent history – and how it’s now proceeding ever-faster.




One memorable 1980s conversation was with an accountant called Trevor in Canberra. He was very proud of the new side-line business he was setting up.

Trevor’s exciting new business was like a library for people who owned video recorders – which would have been most of those living in the Australian capital city at the time.

So customers were able to pop into his shop to browse through all the videos on offer – and rent them to play in the comfort of their homes.



Can you imagine such an amazing concept?

It’s a bit like those streakers, who defend themselves about why they run around without their clothes, saying: “It seemed like a good idea at the time”.



And for those who rented videos around the world, it was indeed a good idea…. for a while.

The last video rental shop in Canberra closed in 2019. I’m not sure if it was Trevor’s.

But video shops around the world found they couldn’t compete with the internet.

Alas Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and others did to the video rental industry what the automobile did to the horse and buggy.





The second significant 1980s conversation I remember was with a Sydney journalistic colleague called Rita.

She went for a touring holiday around what was then communist Eastern Europe – and, for all the difficulties and restrictions it involved, I remember her telling me how fascinating it was.

This made me think, while planning my grand European adventures, how interesting it would be to visit Eastern Europe to see the communist world in action.

I assumed that trying to do interviews there would be especially insightful – particularly with those who were fighting against the lack of freedoms which communism entailed.

I was also keen to interview those who were regarded by the communist authorities as being equally subversive – the courageous campaigners against the horrendous, but largely un-reported, environmental damage that was going on behind the “Iron Curtain” as their economies stagnated.

Getting into Eastern Europe was a somewhat difficult thing to do, but Poland proved to be one communist country where it was easier than most.

I even managed to do interviews within the cradle of the Solidarity movement amidst the shipyards of Gdasnk, in northern Poland on the Baltic Sea – although there were signs that I was being trailed by the country’s secret service.

And – with the help of the network of anti-communist dissidents and a Polish translator – I was able to interview the head of the Solidarity Free Trade Union, Lech Walesa.



This was partly helped by the fact that the union representing garbage collectors in Canberra had, around that time, been refusing to collect the rubbish bins of the Polish Embassy to support the demands of their Solidarity colleagues.

The interview with Lech Walesa went well and the Polish secret service, even though there were signs it took an interest, never overtly intervened.

This contrasted with later missions to the then communist states of Hungary and what was called Czechoslovakia.

In Budapest, an apparent Hungarian secret agent sought to disrupt an interview I did with an undaunted Hungarian environmental activist called Andrea by yelling at her “You are nothing. You are nothing!”

And in Prague, Czechoslovak secret agents repeatedly phoned my hotel room – sometimes 30 or 40 times in succession – to make it clear they were listening to everything I sent back through the telephone system to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

But in Poland I was able to depart with the box of tapes that contained the Lech Walesa interview buried within my luggage.

The interview was incorporated in a documentary I made for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and a version I produced for the BBC.

Lech Walesa went on to play a pivotal part in bringing down communism in Poland and across the world before going on to become Poland’s President after the country’s post-communist democratic elections.

But during our interview – even though he was at the time pushing at the system by orchestrating a series of strikes in Polish coal mines – he gave no indication, and quite possibly had no idea, that he was on the threshold of seismic historic success.

When the big anti-communist push triumphed in 1989, with all the “satellite” states of the Soviet Union shaking off communism one after another, there was a massive surge of confusing change for East and West alike.

The VUCA waves of volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity it unleashed have never really stopped.





I didn’t know it at the time of the interview with Lech Walesa, but partly as a result of his efforts, I would be able to go on to open the Berlin Bureau of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation in 1990 in the thick of the post-revolutionary VUCA.

Before and after East and West Germany reunified, I was able to cross routinely from my office in West Berlin through the remaining parts of what had been the Berlin Wall.

This meant I could report on the extraordinary VUCA-crazed changes which happened as the East Germans gained access to hard currency and the old structures of communism were dismantled and replaced – amidst both joy and protest.

Communicating about anything at that time of the end of the Cold War was a particular challenge because whatever I expected to be reporting on as I set out with my tape recorder and interview schedule at the start of each day often ended up being very different by the end of it.

The speed of the changes made it a constant battle to ensure that everything I broadcast was still true at the time when I reported it.




There’s been a lot of ongoing VUCA since the end of the Cold War.

Coronavirus has ushered in changes that have given volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity an additional boost.

So communicating amidst what I now consider to be “VUCA-Plus” is a challenge for everyone.

Giving face-to-face – but socially distanced – guidance on communicating amidst the latest changes is currently easier than it has been in the last few months.

I can now offer face-to-face sessions on your premises and/or in nearby outdoor carparks, parks or back gardens where a camera operator, myself and everyone involved can remain at least 2 metres apart or more for the duration.

And I am running 2-hour and 3-hour communication-boosting online sessions on Zoom and other online platforms.

There’s more on individual and group sessions to help you and your colleagues implement “Clever Corona Communications” at: 




One of the immediate implications of VUCA-Plus is that you need to communicate more often than usual – in order to keep everyone in your circle up-to-date including clients, prospects, suppliers and members of your own team.

A key to doing this successfully is to get inside the minds of each audience, so that you’re aware of what they need to know – and how you can explain things in a way that gets and keeps them on board. 

In these crazily fast-moving times, it’s vital that you frame each message in a way that it can – as far as is humanly possible – avoid being overtaken by rapidly-changing events.

To reinforce your messages, it’s important to paint vivid pictures in the minds of your target audiences so they can effectively see what you mean – and more happily move in the direction you’re urging.




And it’s as vital as ever to anticipate and plan your response to the potential negatives you’re likely to be challenged on as you inform your various audiences of whatever changes you’re making.

Giving great answers to tough questions has never been so critical as in these VUCA-Plus times.

For those who adore the civilised feel of an Australian accent on your ears, the first chapter of a book to help on this can be read to you free online by the author at:


Details about training sessions and conference keynotes to help you give great answers to tough questions are at: 


And as the jerky pathway out of Coronavirus lockdowns proceed at different paces, in different ways in different parts of the world, there’s one tough question to which you can probably guess the answer…

That question is: Will the trend towards evermore volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity continue while Coronavirus remains a threat?

The answer to this is “Yes”.

All the best in getting ready to communicate about what this means for your business – with everyone who it depends on for its ongoing success.

Choose Your Communications Role Model With Care http://www.michaeldoddcommunications.com/choose-your-communications-role-model-with-care/ Thu, 25 Jun 2020 13:22:42 +0000 http://www.michaeldoddcommunications.com/?p=5150 As countries struggle out of Corona lockdown at differing speeds, there’s no end to the looming Covid-19 communication challenges.

For business, these communication challenges can look particularly daunting.

After you decide how to interpret and implement all the new regulations that apply to your industry, you and your colleagues have to explain how you’ll be working in the new world to:

+ Potentially bewildered customers

+ Nervous prospects 

+ Lurking officials

+ Nosey blowtorch-on-the-belly questioning journalists

+ Frustrated suppliers

+ And possibly unsettled members of your own team.

Often this will involve communicating some hard truths about how things must be different now for health and/or economic reasons.

For example, those working in the hospitality sector in the United Kingdom need to implement new rules surrounding public drinking which, for those with long memories, often used to look like this.



Landlords and their teams can now expect robust conversations inside and outside English pubs, for example, as they’re required to insist that customers can no longer drink while congregating at the bar.

And they’ll have to ask them to sit quietly at well-spaced pre-booked tables after registering their names upon entry – and queue for toilets in a way they’ve never done before.

In the face of any resistance to the new measures, hotel teams will need to convey some unpalatable truths while showing empathy to valued, desperately thirsty customers who are well set in their drinking ways.

More sobering professional business conversations will be required across every other industry.

As you seek to work out the best communications approach for you and your company, you could do well to look at the communications heroes and villains of the Corona crisis so far.

You may wish to decide whether you need to build on that potential inner Jacinda inside you and your colleagues.



And in some cases, it could mean having to restrain or refine any potential inner Donald within your team who needs to lift their game when it comes to diplomatically handling delicate and unsettling new situations.



The good news is that handing professional conversations better – and giving great answers to tough post-lockdown questions – is a learnable skill… particularly to those open to learning it.

If you click on the image below you can get a free read of the first e-chapter of a book that can help.



Amidst the challenges of Corona, I’ve been running a competition on social media to identify the Great Corona Times Communicators.

After sifting through all the nominations, the most outstanding of the award winners – ultimately decided by the esteemed panel of one – was the Prime Minister of New Zealand.

Jacinda Ardern demonstrates a splendid mix of profound empathy for her target audiences while embracing whatever tough-talking truths they need to hear and understand for their own good.



These qualities have been in evidence yet again this month, as Jacinda Ardern had to face up to a most unpalatable truth.

This was, after having celebrated leading her country to rid itself of Covid-19, that the virus managed a quick sneaky comeback thanks to travellers who brought it in after a trip to Auckland from Britain via Australia.

Embarrassingly, the Covid-19 carriers – who understandably wanted to rapidly visit a dying relative – were allowed to slip through the latest New Zealand health defence regime involving (when it works properly) quarantining and testing at government-supervised hotels.

Here’s the Prime Minister’s hard-hitting but carefully delivered response which made absolutely no attempt to hide the unfortunate realities – and, mercifully, gave no excuses either.



This is the kind of carefully thought out straight-talking which everyone running businesses could do with in your post-lockdown communications challenges.




Of course, if you would prefer to avoid facing up to unpalatable truths, or find ways to deny unpleasant realities, other high profile communication role models are available.

For example, there’s a well-known leader who tends to  communicate in particularly bizarre ways when things don’t make his record look good in an election year.

Embarrassed by the high number of people amongst his population who’ve been testing positive for Covid-19, one national leader took an approach with which Jacinda Ardern could never live.

He told an election rally in Oklahoma that the problem of the high numbers testing positive for Coronavirus was caused by the large number of tests that were being carried out.



Given that the World Health Organisation’s mantra for overcoming the Coronavirus challenge is “Test, Test, Test,” you might think that widespread testing would be something a government might take pride in.

But alas this isn’t the case in Trump World if you don’t get results that make you look good.

So the “solution” for this bad communication role model was to tell the audience that his officials had been instructed to “slow the testing down” in order to decrease the number of reported cases.

If that sounds hard to believe (it was for me), check out the video evidence here.



Afterwards the leader said his comment was “semi-tongue-in-cheek”.

However he then followed this up by denying that his comments were a joke, declaring “I don’t kid”.

If you’re ever tempted to take this zig-zagging seat-of-the-pants approach in your company on life-and-death Coronavirus matters, please lie down in a darkened room and call for a second opinion on my special helpline before it’s too late.  44 (0) 7944 952835




Before Covid-19 descended upon us, many in business and beyond were already struggling with the challenges of rapidly accelerating unpredictable change.
This was summed up by the term “VUCA” – referring to all the Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity which has accompanied the digital age.
But since the arrival of Coronavirus – followed by the tricky journey out of lockdown – we’ve been hit by what’s more like VUCA-on-steroids.
You could see it as VUCA-PLUS.

I’m now running communications-boosting Zoom sessions on how to convey your message in post-lockdown Corona conditions and communicate with all the VUCA-PLUS swirling around us.

Some of these sessions will be for business leaders’ groups such as MD2MD.

To prepare their members for the session, MD2MD has hosted an article on dealing with the communications challenges amidst the upsurge in volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity.

It’s on the MD2MD website at:






Communication-boosting sessions for individuals and teams can now be run, socially distanced, face-to-face – under certain agreed circumstances – either in well-ventilated, well-spaced indoor locations… or in the summer northern hemisphere sunshine of outdoor carparks and gardens.

Where this is not possible, communications-boosting sessions on Zoom, Teams, Google Hangouts or the telephone remain an alternative.

Indoors, outdoors, online or on the phone, sessions can move you and your teams that much further away from the unsettling Donald end of the communications spectrum and all the closer to the more uplifting Jacinda end.

Call the helpline set out above if you need to know more.

Sharpening Your Message In Fast-Changing Emotional Times http://www.michaeldoddcommunications.com/sharpening-your-message-in-fast-changing-emotional-times/ Thu, 11 Jun 2020 08:14:21 +0000 http://www.michaeldoddcommunications.com/?p=5142 Getting your business message across can be particularly challenging in fast-changing times of high emotion. 

Working out how best to say things to your clients, your prospects and your own team members as the world nervously comes back to work after Coronavirus lockdown, is hard enough.

If members of your team fear that their jobs are becoming less secure, then connecting with them in the right way can be particularly difficult – and particularly important.
Or if you need to convey a message which touches on the outrage over the killing by police of black American George Floyd it can be even more delicate.

And if your message relates to the increasing condemnation of statues to slave-owners then that can be a really tough one.



In fast-changing times there are lots of things – internally and externally – about which businesses need to communicate.

And in times of high emotion, people’s reactions are less predictable than they otherwise might be.



Whatever your communication challenge, you will do better if you can get inside the hearts and minds of those you’re targeting BEFORE you seek to convey something important.

If you have a solid understanding of how your target audience members are thinking and feeling, then you have a much better chance of saying things in the right way to achieve your desired outcomes.

There is one amazing method to find out what members of your target audiences are thinking before you launch into an important announcement.

Ask them!

This doesn’t necessarily mean asking all of them – though in some cases it may be worth sending out a survey to gauge everyone’s thoughts and feelings.



Such conversations or survey results may not influence what you’re going to say – although they might.

It’s something I typically do before a big presentation or a communications-boosting master class so that I know more about audience members before interacting with them.

But at the very least, if you can tap into the hearts and minds of a few of your target audience members in advance, it can result in a much better outcome.

Ideally you’ll already be in touch with some of your target audience members.

In some cases, it might be worth making some additional calls to probe more deeply into their latest thoughts.

This can give you an advantage when it comes to working out HOW to say what you need to say.



There’s a common misconception that communication is a simple matter of injecting a message into your target audience.



A more successful way to convey a message involves “hitting a resonant chord” inside your audience’s minds.

This is where you’re activating thoughts and feelings which audience members have already have been experiencing.

By doing so you can energise them and move them further in the direction you’re seeking.

So rather than working on an injection model, it’s more as if you’re seeking to set up a new radio station or music streaming service. 

If you know what your target audience is already listening to, and you know what they think about what they currently hear, then it’s easier to send out a signal which they’re keen to tune into.




An example of someone in business knowing what his target audience has been thinking and feeling before sending out his message is a British engineer who leads a large team in America. 

He’s Bader Khan – President of the National Grid US, which delivers energy in North America.



Bader Khan knew in the immediate aftermath of the death of George Floyd – and the highly charged emotional scenes that followed – that people in his team were feeling unsettled.

And he could presume these feelings were built upon the already disturbing aspects of Coronavirus.

Knowing this, he recorded a video message from his office to encourage everyone to continue to reach out to each other – especially to those who don’t look like they did.

There are no fancy production techniques in his recording.

But Bader Khan gives a thoughtful, professional and engaging performance from his desk.

He strengthens his message by quoting Martin Luther King.



You can check out his video here.



One thing Bader Khan does particularly well is to reference his own back story – growing up in Belfast in the times of the so-called “Troubles” of Northern Ireland.



By touching on this, Bader Khan’s message is all-the-more powerful.

We learn that he’s been through tough times of frequent public violence, so he’s well-placed to understand the troubles on the streets in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death.



In the right circumstances, you too can refer to your background or things you’ve witnessed to increase your impact.

It’s something we work on in individual and group sessions to help you get your message across in challenging times.

Many in business are seeing the advantage of making videos to help convey their Corona messages – especially when seeking to connect with members of remote teams, including so many who are or have been working from home.

Helping you and/or your team to get your messages across – by video, by email or through social media – is something I’m helping companies with.

This help can be delivered in online hook-ups, by telephone or face-to-face sessions (socially-distanced) with those who need it.

Sessions can be run outdoors where practical.

I’m currently involved in planning sessions in parks near offices and in private carparks.

One-to-one sessions can sometimes be conducted, in whole or in part, while walking.



In normal times the communications-boosting sessions run for half a day – or a day… and often two days are involved.

Because of current time pressures, compact one-hour or two-hour sessions are available on specific challenges.

These can be for company “lunch-and-learn” slots or sessions for business leaders’ groups and in-house training.

Options include:

+ Give Great Answers To Tough Post-Lockdown Questions

+ Clever Corona Communications

+ Convey Your Message In “VUCA” Times – Of Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity

+ Enhance Your Image On Zoom, Teams And Other Internet Hook-ups

+ Doing Great Media Interviews In Turbulent Times

+ Becoming That Inspirational Business Communicator

+ Transforming The Communications Skills Of Your Team



If you need help getting your content right on social media, sharpening your business newsletter, or enhancing your online or face-to-face interactions, call or email to discuss your challenge: 44 (0) 7944.952835 michael@michaeldoddcommunications.com 

Martin Luther King and Bader Khan didn’t get their communications right without planning, preparation and practice.

If you need to get your own or your team’s communications to a higher level – to deal with the new challenges of today and tomorrow – let me know.

How Does It Go When You Talk To That Zoom Screen? http://www.michaeldoddcommunications.com/how-does-it-go-when-you-talk-to-that-zoom-screen/ Thu, 04 Jun 2020 09:36:50 +0000 http://www.michaeldoddcommunications.com/?p=5134 One of the bizarre side-effects of Coronavirus is that most people in the business world now spend more time than ever before talking to the camera.

These can involve online meetings on Zoom, Teams, Skype, Google Hangouts or some other form of internet hook-up.

As you take part you’re talking to the camera that’s inside your computer, your mobile or your tablet.

So the way you’re perceived by others very much depends on how you perform when speaking to that high-tech collection of metal, glass and plastic.

Alas many people are not crash-hot at it – and often feel uncomfortable as they do it.

The good news is that talking effectively to the camera is a learnable skill.

As a recovering broadcast journalist, I’m used to talking to the camera – usually with something significant in the background.

I well remember that, when you’re starting out, it feels rather strange to be talking to the camera lens.

But when you see yourself back, you’re reminded how important it is to get it right – and the process helps iron out any repetitive quirkily distracting head or body movements.



One of the techniques I learned was that you come across better when you picture one of your viewers in your mind as you speak – and chat to him or her as if they’re just on the other side of the camera.

This means that rather than talking to an inanimate object, you’re coming across in a more human way.
It helps you to effectively connect with your audience – ideally with the right degree of warmth.

When you’re talking in an online hook-up, it’s theoretically easier to get this eye-contact right, because the people you’re communicating with appear on the screen in front of you as you talk.

But the downside of this is that if you look at the faces on your screen as you speak, it means you’re not looking straight at the actual camera.

When this happens, those you’re on a hook-up with can feel as if you’re not looking them in the eye.

At its worst, this can make you seem more distant – and even impolite.

So when you’re in any on-line hook-up, be sure to sure to know where on your machine your tiny camera is located so you can look at it and come across as fully engaged.



There are many other things to do in order to look your best – and sound your best – while on screen.

This can involve coming across in a more animated way than you might do at a face-to-face meeting.

Dealing with this aspect and others are covered in communications-boosting sessions I run on Talking To The Camera.

Sessions can be conducted face-to-face (socially distanced) where possible – or run through on online hook-ups.

As virtual meetings and events are likely to be playing a bigger part in your future than they have in the past, it’s worth going to the effort to shine out.

An additional benefit of enhancing the Talking To The Camera skills of you and your team is that it also helps when you make videos that you can put on your website or on Youtube.



These can be edited by my technical colleagues who can – if you need to do several takes – pick the best of each effort and edit them together.

There’s more about that in this video here – recorded back in the days when you were allowed to visit your barber or hairdresser.



Talking To The Camera sessions can be done 1-to-1 or in groups.

Where there’s a larger number of people to be trained, it can involve my professional speaking colleague, Nicci Roscoe, to ensure everyone gets more individual practice time.

Nicci brings the added benefit of her experience talking to the camera while leaping about on screen as a TV health & fitness presenter on Sky, BBC and ITV.

Learning-by-doing it is the best way to improve – as you get instant feedback as you go.


Zoom alone now claims to have 300-million people a day using its services.

Some of them are very very good at coming across well, and some are er…. not so good.

If you want to have a chat about being one of those who shines out, call
44 (0) 7944 952835 – or email michael@michaeldoddcommunications.com

Sessions will make you look better on screen – even if, like me, you’re in urgent need of a Corona Times haircut!