Michael Dodd Communications http://www.michaeldoddcommunications.com Become An Inspirational Communicator Wed, 15 May 2019 14:38:11 +0000 en-GB hourly 1 Getting It Right In The Big Moment http://www.michaeldoddcommunications.com/getting-it-right-in-the-big-moment/ Tue, 14 May 2019 18:34:26 +0000 http://www.michaeldoddcommunications.com/?p=4865 The higher you soar in your career, the more you’ll find that big moments play a critical part in your progression.

What you say and how you say it at such times is often crucial to what happens for you next – for better or for worse.

These big moments can include:

* Job interviews and career appraisals

* Presentations to vital audiences – inside and outside your organisation

* Times when you’re cross-examined by members of the board 

* Media interviews

* Being grilled by a public inquiry 

* Needing to utter some words of acceptance when you win that major award.

In fact, speaking when you win that award can be particularly daunting – especially if it’s something as high profile as a “BAFTA” (British Academy of Film and Television Arts) Award and millions are watching on TV.




There’s one key thing that separates those who do well with their big moment challenges and those who don’t.

It’s effective preparation.

This can even include what you choose to wear for your big moment in the spotlight – ideally something that reflects the real you.

At this year’s BAFTA Awards night, the exuberant host Graham Norton managed that – though his spotty tastes may not necessarily suit you!


And when it comes to what you say in such spotlight moments, whoever came up with the line “Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance” was right.


Being prepared for whatever can be thrown at you is so much more effective than the opposite – just saying whatever pops into your head at the time!

Here’s a video – recorded amidst the glorious springtime sunshine in the English county of Hertfordshire – to help encourage you to prepare for whatever can hit you or your organisation.




The real question for most people is not so much whether to prepare, it’s HOW to prepare.

Often it’s a matter of preparing quickly under time pressure.



One of the things we sometimes do within communications-training sessions is to practice preparing under time constraints.

Until you’ve practiced it effectively, figuring out how to prepare can be such a challenging prospect that you feel as though you need prayer.



So here’s a method of rapid preparation which is appropriately called the “AMEN” formula.

This enables you to focus on what you need to work through in advance – even if it’s just a little bit before your big moment.

This is what AMEN stands for:

A = Audience. Whether you’re preparing for a one-to-one conversation or a large gathering, always focus your preparations on what audience members require and what you can do to help them.

If you don’t know the composition or thinking of your audience then make some inquiries.

I send out “pre-session forms” to event organisers in order to get a sample of participants’ views ahead of the occasion.

M = Messages. Every big communication moment is an opportunity to get across one or more messages. So work out in advance your headline message – and any additional messages you wish to convey.

Ideally sum up each message in a single positive sentence such as: “The key to our future growth will be to sell more of our products globally”. 

E = Examples. Select illustrations – including “real life” stories, pertinent statistics or other examples that back up each of your messages. In this way you can paint the right pictures in the minds of your listeners.

N = Negatives. Write down all the negative questions that you need to consider. Don’t hold back here. Phrase the negative questions in the most ferocious way you can. Consider the best thing you can say regarding each negative.

If you prepare for the harshest conditions, when it comes to the reality of the big moment it will probably be easier than what you prepared for – and you should perform all the better as a result.

In communications-boosting training sessions you can be guided through each element of the AMEN formula in relation to whatever challenges you face.

And in the sessions you can be tested out on what you prepare, to ensure that you’re ready for whatever is thrown at you in that big moment.

Details about communications-boosting sessions for individuals are here:


Information about programmes for teams is here:




As far as possible, I seek to enable those I train to have their big moments without any preparation notes on display.

However, it’s often handy to have your key AMEN points written on a small card somewhere on you – so you can glance at it just beforehand if you need a reminder.

 But please keep it out of public sight if you can – as you don’t want to seem dependent on it.

The exception to this is if you have the acting talent and on-stage charm that Olivia Colman demonstrated when accepting her Leading Actress BAFTA Award.

She managed to flourish her notes in the spotlight in a way that got a series of laughs as she did.



Even if she didn’t know in advance that she was going to win, for all her dizziness on stage, Olivia Colman clearly had done the right thing and been (at least partially) prepared for her big moment.

If you don’t quite have Olivia Colman’s performance talents, and you’d like some help preparing for your next big moment, do get in touch.

And there’s still time to prepare if you’re in with a chance of having to make an acceptance speech after this year’s Eurovision Song Contest.

Atrocious And Inspiring Answers – And An Opportunity For You http://www.michaeldoddcommunications.com/atrocious-and-inspiring-answers-and-an-opportunity-for-you/ Tue, 30 Apr 2019 16:59:53 +0000 http://www.michaeldoddcommunications.com/?p=4849 Today’s issue highlights some of the worst answers from a national leader under pressure so far this millennium!


And there are contrasting heroic answers from another national leader in similar circumstances which rate among the millennium’s best so far.

Both leaders have had to react to sudden appalling violent tragedies in their respective countries.
As heartfelt sympathy, support and good wishes continue to pour out for all those affected by the terrible events in Sri Lanka and New Zealand, their leaders’ contrasting approaches provide lessons on to how to respond to tough questions in severe adversity.
But first, let’s focus on turning bad answers to tough questions in your workplace into great ones.
I’m developing a new way to enhance the content, structure and delivery style of answers throughout the business world – and giving you an opportunity to influence its final form…


It’s my ambition to save the business world – as far as is humanly possible – from atrocious answers to tough questions.
This includes answers to questions such as:
Why should anyone do business with you?
Will you resign?
How can you possibly justify a pay rise?
Do you really deserve this job?
How do you – and those around you – respond when you have to answer these kinds of questions now?
Here’s world-class professional speaker Frank Furness, on the left, role-playing how people can look uncomfortable and perform badly while being asked “blowtorch-on-the-belly” questions at a London book launch by a provocative character on the right.



When people are asked blowtorch-on-the-belly questions for real, they can feel, look and sound very uncomfortable indeed.
Careers can go up or down depending on how you, and your team, perform in such moments.
I’m creating the online video learning series “GREAT ANSWERS TO TOUGH QUESTIONS IN THE BUSINESS WORLD” to give everyone the tools to formulate impressive, bombproof and confident replies to challenging questions at work.
You can exert your influence on the development of this video series by answering some easy questions in the link to the short survey below.
If you’re happy to give your thoughts to help me and my colleagues at the production company Five On A Bike to hit the right spots with the new video series, it would be greatly appreciated.
(There’s even the prospect discounted offer for those who complete the survey!)


Please respond to the questions set out via the link below:


Google Market Research for


Online Video Course


Many thanks for any thoughts you’d care to give.
Here’s to your great answers to the survey questions!



Hearts around the world have gone out to those affected by the horrific bomb attacks which have claimed over 250 lives in Sri Lanka.

It’s not easy to lead a country in the aftermath of such horrendous events.
BUT despite the obvious pressures, some of the answers given by Sir Lanka’s Prime Minister must rate as the worst of the millennium by a national leader (so far).
They underline why leaders – of nations, companies and other entities – need to prepare in good times for answering tough questions in bad times.
In a BBC interview after the bombings, Ranil Wickremesinghe, answered questions as if he were an out-of-touch bystander rather than a leader determined to protect his people and take action to stop a further repetition of the bombings.
His answers may have contained moments of commendable honesty.
But when you’re meant to be in charge, it’s hardly reassuring for a Prime Minister to merely say he was “out of the loop” when it came to intelligence warnings that the authorities knew about ahead of the deadly bombings.
At the moment, the most shocking parts of the interview are not available on the internet – including the point where the PM makes the cardinal mistake of seeking to respond to a question with a question.
But there is an extract available which is enough to show how un-reassuring it is when a leader responds to questions defensively without going on to say what he’s doing to tackle the urgent problems.
The interviewer is the BBC’s admirably persistent Clive Myrie.



The excerpt of the interview below begins with Mr Wickremesinghe responding to a question about the intelligence warnings which the Sri Lankan police received but which the PM says were not passed on to him.





And if you want to be inspired by some more responsible answers from another leader under similar pressures, have a look at the heroic approach of New Zealand’s Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, in the wake of the similarly terrible Christchurch shootings which left 50 people dead.



Here below is an interview – also conducted by Clive Myrie – where Ms Ardern’s answers indicate that she was totally within the loop and prepared to own the problem which she was not responsible for creating.
As a result, she gives a highly impressive set of answers.



While I’ve had the privilege of training many leaders on the art of giving great answers under pressure, alas I can’t claim the credit for guiding Jacinda Ardern on her approach.

But any guidance she’s received has clearly helped her reach great heights – in a way that provides an enlightened model for all.

Writing Press Releases That Make A Media Splash For Your Business http://www.michaeldoddcommunications.com/writing-press-releases-that-make-a-media-splash-for-your-business/ Wed, 24 Apr 2019 10:18:17 +0000 http://www.michaeldoddcommunications.com/?p=4844 On the two-day international course I was running in Budapest, there was a there was a highly enthusiastic delegate from an exotic part of the former Soviet Union we shall call “Independent Country X”.
The course was on how to write effective press releases and give great answers in media interviews in order to help participants attract positive free media publicity across Eastern and Central Europe.
This was why it was being run on the banks of the Danube.


One of the things I do on such courses is to ask participants to send in advance examples of their recent press releases.
This is so we can examine what they’re doing right and what needs to be refined in order to maximise their prospects of making a bigger, better, bolder media splash.
If there were a prize for the worst press release contributed ahead of the Budapest course, alas, it would have gone to Independent Country X.
Of course, Australian professional speakers are far too warm, sensitive, caring and diplomatic to offer such a prize!
Besides, in this particular case the press release was so outstandingly bad a prize wasn’t necessary to make the point.
I came to believe that the key reason for the enthusiasm of the Independent Country X delegate was that he had an inkling of how dire his office’s press releases had been – and he was as eager as I was to solve the problem.

The awful Independent Country X press release had been aimed at publicising a forthcoming visit to the capital city by a group of British business representatives.
The crucial first line of the press release – which often determines whether the story will make it to the top of the news agenda or miss out altogether – would hardly have set newsrooms alight!
It said something like:
“Once again, a delegation of British businessmen will be coming to the capital of Independent Country X.”
It was the “once again” reference that was the killer.
The fact that the visit was being presented as merely a repetition of what had happened before made it all the less exciting and less newsworthy.
It became a bit of a running joke on the course, with visions of journalists crawling yawning from newsrooms saying things like: “Oh no, the British businessmen are coming yet again!”


While press releases must only contain truth, one of the tricks is to avoiding cluttering them with unnecessary background information at the start in a way which clouds the real story.
Fortunately, our conference room discussions uncovered a much more newsworthy angle which we focused on.
The British businesses were seeking to build trade relationships, develop partnerships and strike deals with fledgling Independent Country X businesses.
So all the participants on the course were able to see how – by focusing on these potential benefits – they could come up with a much more powerful press release with much lower chances of, as we say in journalistic world, being “left on the cutting room floor”.
Once you know what journalists need to fuel their stories and captivate their audiences, you can write press releases that command more attention – and win more column inches on the page, screen and airwaves with more captivating headlines.
This publicity can, in turn, lead to more inquiries and more sales.
Better press releases also trigger more invitations for a company representative to be interviewed where – if impressive answers are given to the journalists’ questions –  you can capture still more media space!


Speaking of interviews that result from good press releases, my high-tech colleagues and I are developing a new online video series to help you and your team give great answers to tough questions in all challenging business conversations.
This includes conversations with clients, prospects, investors, job selection panels, journalists and others.
Details of how you can influence the nature of the video series are at the foot of this column.
And in this quest there really is a prize for the best contribution!


When running sessions on “Position Your Business For Free Media Publicity”, I draw attention to some bad news and some good news regarding press releases.
The bad news is that newsrooms for TV, radio, newspapers and their associated online and multi-media empires are flooded with press releases – and they only have space for a limited amount of news.
The good news for your prospects is that most of these press releases are appallingly written.
They are routinely full of jargon, bureaucratic-style waffle and miss the real story – if indeed there is a real story to miss.
This means is that if you and your team learn how to write effective press releases then – when you’ve got a real story about your business – this can shine out in newsrooms ahead of all those terrible press releases.
To write an effective press release, you need to know what factors to highlight which will grab the attention of editors and journalists.
These include factors like topicality, economic impact and emotional impact.
When you know what to look for within your own organisation then you’re well on the way to writing press releases which will make it in the news.


Here’s what can happen with a press release that works.
The publishers of “Great Answers To Tough Questions At Work” – John Wiley And Sons – put out a colourful, well-crafted press release just before publication which attracted the interest of The Daily Express among others.


This led to the author being invited for interview in a London hotel lobby with the Express star columnist, Carole Ann Rice.


The resulting story – which concluded that “Every briefcase and bookshelf should have a copy” – happily remains online at: https://www.express.co.uk/comment/columnists/carole-ann-rice/688061/Happy-Mondays-Hindsight-provides-100-per-cent-clarity
It must be stressed that this resounding endorsement was the judgement of The Express, and was not something Wiley put in the press release or that I claimed in the interview.
Press releases – and the media interview responses they can generate – need to maintain a certain aura of objectivity.
Leave it to the columnists or editors to make their own judgements.


One of the areas where you have enormous scope for free business publicity is through your local news media – on paper, on air and particularly on line.
This is, sadly, partly because local newsrooms have far fewer journalists than they used to.
It means that time-strapped journalists are more dependent on press releases to inspire stories to fill their pages than they used to when reporters were out and about more sniffing out more news for themselves.
So well-written press releases with a strong local angle are gold dust for local journalists.
If your company is based in Birmingham or Frankfurt or Sydney, and you develop a revolutionary new product or service, then where are the news outlets that will be most interested in running the story?
The answer is Birmingham, Frankfurt or Sydney respectively.
If this local aspect is highlighted in the headline and in that vital first sentence of the press release, then it can leap out as a priority story.
I live in the village of Bovingdon on the outskirts of London – served by the newspaper based in the bigger neighbouring town called the Hemel Hempstead Gazette.

So after the launch of “Great Answers To Tough Questions At Work”, we sent the Gazette a locally-angled press release about the book highlighting the fact that, by virtue of my address, I’m a local author (despite having being born 12,000 miles away!).
Local news media outlets love stories about local people.
So we also sent a photo of one of the high profile speakers at the launch, Carole Spiers, having her book signed by the local author.
The paper ran the story and the photo – and both remain on line at:

Book aims to help people cope with ever tougher questioning in workplace

    Michael Dodd at the launch of his new book
When you get that mention in the local news, you can then magnify the impact by spreading the link through social media.
And once one outlet has run something the media, being somewhat incestuous, will often pick it up and spread the story further.


Another skill imparted in sessions on publicising your business equips you to go beyond a press release and pitch and write articles directly for the media yourself.
Here’s a “by-lined” article by my professional speaking colleague, Nicci Roscoe, who provides “Mind Medication” to help people manage pain, stress and anxiety and build confidence.

I’m in constant pain, but I’ve learned to love every day… and you can too, says chronic pain sufferer and health coach NICCI ROSCOE


Natural solution: Nicci refuses to rely on painkillers for her condition

Note how the article touches on emotion and highlights potential benefits for readers.
The Mail On Sunday couldn’t resist it.

The article remains online long after it first appeared on the streets in paper form.


Writing press releases and your own by-lined articles to boost publicity for your business is a learnable skill.
If you’re interested in discussing customised master class sessions for your team – or getting one-to-one guidance on generating free media publicity – then email michael@michaeldoddcommunications.com about your aspirations and requirements.
Feel free to identify the media outlets you’d like to target – and what your business is doing or planning that might interest their audiences.
I can then give you details of how we can boost your ability to supercharge your organisation’s publicity-generating skills to achieve your aims.
A well-written press release identifying a real and relevant story can make a splash in the trade press for your industry, the national media and, if it’s big enough, even the international media.
And if you identify a powerful local angle, you can most easily gain that first burst of free publicity for your business at the local level – whether in Birmingham, Frankfurt, Sydney, Hemel Hempstead… or even in Independent Country X.
Keep smiling,
P.S. Your Chance To Help Shape The New On Line Video Series:

This series will provide online videos to equip you to give better answers… to help you
* Get promoted
* Inspire your team
* Impress prospects
* Reassure clients
* And give great answers in media interviews…
The series will consist of videos you can access online – and which will contain demonstration bad and good answers for you and your team to learn from.
There will be practical exercises designed to take your answers to a higher level and enhance your confidence.
The series will be made in conjunction with the video production company, Five on a Bike: www.fiveonabike.com

It will aim to help those who’ve never taken part in a face-to-face session on giving great answers – and to be a valuable refresher for those who have.
We will be conducting a quick and easy-to-complete survey to get wide-ranging views in order to make the series as helpful as it can possibly be.
If you’re interested in taking part in the survey to help shape the video series, please send a “count me in” email to york@fiveonabike.com and to michael@michaeldoddcommunications.com
Feel free to include any thoughts you have on anything you would particularly like to gain from the online video series to help you and your colleagues give great answers.
And please identify any particular question-answering challenge that you would like the video series to help you overcome.
A prize – an author-signed copy of “Great Answers To Tough Questions At Work” – will be sent to the respondent who makes the most useful suggestion!
Five on a Bike and I look forward to hearing from you.

Convey Your Messages In Volatile, Uncertain, Complex And Ambiguous Times http://www.michaeldoddcommunications.com/convey-your-messages-in-volatile-uncertain-complex-and-ambiguous-times/ Mon, 15 Apr 2019 18:16:51 +0000 http://www.michaeldoddcommunications.com/?p=4831 Communicating in volatile times, uncertain times, complex times and ambiguous times is one of the big challenges of our age.
This is so much so that there’s been a revival of the buzzword to describe such times.
That word is VUCA.
It’s the acronym for Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity.


The term VUCA came into being with the rapid changes at the end of the Cold War – symbolised by the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.



Being based as a foreign correspondent in Berlin in the aftermath of communist domination of Eastern Europe, it meant that every day there were extraordinary new events for me to cover.
These included the introduction of hard currency to eastern Germany, the blossoming of previously banned private businesses and the mass movement of liberated migrants across Europe.
Recent developments since then have created even higher VUCA levels.
If there were an official VUCA Index, the United Kingdom’s jerky, cumbersome and seemingly never-ending departure from the European Union would certainly have raised it.
In line with VUCA, even the latest date just set for Brexit of Halloween 2019, could end up being earlier or later than that – or still may not happen at all.
The erratic nature of President Donald Trump’s decision-making would have lifted a VUCA Index higher still.


So, too, would the disruption brought about by the impact of high technology on traditional industries.
For some useful guidance on how to manage in a VUCA world, check out this video.



When it comes to communicating amidst high levels of VUCA, the advice in the video – about making things crystal clear when you communicate – is commendable.
The good news is that communicating effectively and clearly in times of VUCA is a learnable skill!


One important aspect of communicating well in these VUCA times is to be as consistent as possible.
With the speed of communications in the digital age, what you said in the last hour, the last week and in the last decade often lives on in cyberspace.
The internet also makes it very easy for people to re-visit what you said before your latest statement – making the need for consistency in communications all the more important for your credibility.
When situations change wildly amidst the VUCA, your important utterances need to be designed to withstand it.
Alas in this respect the American President sets a particularly poor example.
This applies to what President Trump has said on the currently contentious subject of WikiLeaks after the arrest of the organisation’s founder, Julian Assange, inside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London.


But in this following clip you’ll see that, unbelievably, President Trump claims to know nothing about WikiLeaks.



Yet here’s what Candidate Trump said when WikiLeaks disseminated adverse information about Candidate Clinton in the 2016 election campaign when Donald Trump declared his “love” for WikiLeaks:


Surely you can’t be in love with an organisation that you know nothing about!
Even though the time to organise your communications on fast-moving subjects is often pressured in the VUCA age, it’s nonetheless important to ensure you plan, prepare and practice when there’s something important you and your organisation need to say.
As you do so, one of the vital things is to include necessary caveats in what you’re saying so that your utterances maximise your prospects of remaining truthful.
So, where appropriate, ensure you are speaking truth by including caveats such as “from the latest information we have…”, “as far as we know…” and “based on assumption X, then…”
This applies to whether you’re making a presentation, answering questions or conducting a media interview.
Consistency is also important when you’re communicating in one of those most modern of methods – talking straight to the camera.
This is one of the ways where – as a former broadcast journalist who was schooled in the art of talking-to-camera – I can provide help.



The good news is that talking directly to the camera – to get your message across on the web – is a learnable skill.
Some people mistakenly think you have to be born with the knack of doing it.
But talking to the camera lens about your expertise in a user-friendly manner is something that you can be trained to do at a higher level.
It used to be a skill almost exclusively practised by TV reporters and presenters.
This puts one-time TV reporters in a good position to show you the tricks.


One of these tricks is to picture a friendly face – ideally of a specific friend – listening to your golden words as you say them.
When you do the talking-to-camera training first, followed by rehearsals, you’re then well-placed to do real recordings to be disseminated on the web.
Completing these steps can be done over one or two days.
Below is a sample of video that was recorded on this basis – thanks to the expert on automatic gate systems, Alan Smith of Gate-a-Mation, and the production skills of my technical colleagues at Fiveonabike.
Having Alan Smith demonstrate one of his automated gate systems while he talks to the camera makes the video easier and more interesting for the viewer to follow.



There’s more about sessions on talking-to-the-camera – and of producing videos capitalising on your newly developed skills – at:
Here’s a familiar face talking directly to the camera about the art of addressing your audience through the lens of a camera.


When you master talking directly to the camera, it can be an efficient, effective and powerful way to get your message out there – to your people, to your potential customers and to the world.
Because you can potentially do recordings on your mobile phone, you can use your talking-to-camera skills to get your message out there with considerable speed.

This is something especially important in fast-moving VUCA times!

The Connection Between Your Content And Your Confidence http://www.michaeldoddcommunications.com/the-connection-between-your-content-and-your-confidence/ Tue, 02 Apr 2019 18:08:20 +0000 http://www.michaeldoddcommunications.com/?p=4826 When people seek help to improve their presentations, the most common thing they want is to overcome a lack of confidence.
They typically want to feel more confident both before and during their time in the spotlight.
The good news is that there’s much that can be done to structure and deliver your presentations in a way that makes them confidence-enriching.
There’s a range of simple things to work on to help make you look and feel more confident – such as taking a few big slow calming breaths just before you go on stage.
There can be adjustments to the way you stand – often involving positioning your body in a more upright manner with both feet flat on the floor to make you look and feel more “grounded”.
Here’s a not-so-tall person who always stands tall on stage.


There can be changes made to the way you position your arms and hands – often shifting them from a defensive approach covering parts of your body to having them more up and open to show your keenness to engage with your audience.
Here’s someone who tends to speak with her arms and hands apart during presentations and who deploys them with great effect.



There’s also a range of techniques you can use to help visualise your confident success and then put that vision into reality.
But the thing which empowers you to have the biggest boost in confidence is the knowledge that you’re imparting just the right CONTENT for your audience.
Below is someone who often addresses the topics of anxiety and yet speaks with supreme confidence – at least in part because she works out the content for her audience so effectively.




Now it may come as a shock to you to discover that, while I’ve had the privilege of helping a lot of people boost their presentation skills, Oprah Winfrey hasn’t been one of them.
So you can’t credit me for all the things she does right – or blame me for anything tiny that she ever does wrong!
Oprah Winfrey’s latest big speaking performance – announcing that she was returning to the airwaves through the Apple TV+ offering – was another presentation triumph from which we can all learn.
It was a potentially tough gig – at the end of the recent “Apple Event” in the Steve Jobs Theatre in California – and broadcast live around the world to millions.
It could have been difficult for Oprah because she appeared towards the end of the event which ran for almost two hours and, despite a high standard of presentations by others before her, did go on – in my humble opinion – a touch too long.
And there was so much hype throughout the event, that the appearance of Oprah Winfrey could have ended up being anti-climactic.
Instead, she managed to take things to a new high.
After all the razzmatazz that preceded her slot, the relatively low key but effective introduction to her by Apple boss, Tim Cook – followed by simple black and white words on the big screen with a gentle musical backing – helped set up Oprah to hit the right note.
You can check out Oprah’s performance here:


One of the reasons Oprah was able to sound characteristically inspiring – and sufficiently confident that she bounced back from a couple of tiny verbal slips without missing a beat – was because she had the right content for the occasion.


There’s a simple way of helping you to pick out the right content for your future presentations.
After finding out as much as you can about your audience members and their requirements in advance, draw two overlapping circles like this.

In one circle write down what that audience needs to know – which is the Audience Agenda.
In the other circle write down what you can potentially tell that audience in the way of messages – with facts and stories to back them up. This is Your Agenda.
Then work out, from all the things you can say, what falls within the zone where the two circles intersect.
This is where the win-win points between you and your audience lie.
If you get this right, you can feel supremely confident that you have the content your audience needs – which enables you to feel confident before and during your presentation that you’re dealing with exactly what they require.


You are much better off starting your preparation with the two circles – not beginning where so many presenters get it wrong, by asking themselves: “What slides will I use?”.
Any slides, if you choose to use them, should be decided upon further into your preparation time, not at the start.
But do be aware that you can do highly effective presentations WITHOUT slides.
And you can also do highly effective presentations WITH slides – though be aware that this is a bit more complex.
This is why, when I’m helping audiences boost their presentation skills without and with slides, I seek to do it in two parts.


The ideal is to boost your skills in presenting without slides first.
Then you’re in a better position in the second part to handle the added complexity of designing the right slides and interacting effectively with them.
I particularly like to run the sessions in this order when working with business leaders’ groups – where typically fast-learning chief executives gather together for day-long meetings with up to 15 participants.
It’s great to work on presentation skills with such groups as MD2MD, the Academy for Business Leaders And Entrepreneurs, the Yorkshire Leadership Group, the London Leadership Club and the Academy for Chief Executives among others.
I’m delighted that the biggest of the business leaders’ group organisations, Vistage, has now put both my presenting sessions on its website – so that its members have the chance to boost their presenting skills in two parts, as follows:
Part 1: Presenting With Confidence, Impact And Pizzazz (Performing Without Slides)
Part 2: Presenting With Confidence, Impact And Pizzazz (Performing With Slides)
The details of these two sessions – available for Vistage and other clients – are set out at:
There’s more on boosting presenting skills – with large audiences, small groups or one-to-one sessions – here: http://www.michaeldoddcommunications.com/presenting-with-confidence-impact-and-pizzazz/
You may or may not seek to reach or surpass the astronomical levels that Oprah Winfrey has managed in her dazzling career so far.
But if you can pick up some clues from her consistently impressive high impact performances, then you could be well on your way to hitting your own stratospheric heights!

Can You Pass The Brexit Tough Question Quiz? http://www.michaeldoddcommunications.com/can-you-pass-the-brexit-tough-question-quiz/ Mon, 18 Mar 2019 18:27:33 +0000 http://www.michaeldoddcommunications.com/?p=4820 Amidst increasing chaos over Britain’s departure from the European Union, ever-tougher questions are being thrown at the politicians involved.

But tough questions are also cascading on to businesses potentially affected by Brexit impasses – as you may have already noticed.

To help guide you towards a better understanding of what makes great answers to such questions in these times of uncertainty, here’s a simple single-question quiz…

It focuses on the kind of question companies are getting about whether –  while the erratic Brexit roller coaster ride continues – they can provide the same goods and services in the future as they have in the past.

So let’s look at a British manufacturer which assembles products from parts procured across various places inside the European Union and beyond.

Suppose a customer rings up and says: “Will you be able to you continue to supply us with the same products in May, June and July this year as you’ve done in the past?”.



Assuming the Brexit conditions mean that the ideal answer of “Yes certainly” is out of the question, which of the following would qualify as being a great answer in the circumstances – and why?

“A”) “We haven’t got a clue?”

“B”) “With all this uncertainty about how Brexit will affect the import and export of goods required to make and sell our products, your guess is as good as ours.”

“C”) “Unfortunately we can’t give an absolute guarantee at the moment because of the political uncertainties surrounding the  imports and exports from the EU. We will be sending you regular messages to keep you updated. But what I can assure you is that we’ve been building up stockpiles of our entire range of finished products, so if you let us know as soon as you can what you’ll be needing, we are confident we will be ready to send you at least some of the products you require. And it may be possible to meet all your requirements between now and July. 

Hopefully choosing “C” as the best answer is a no-brainer.

But the important thing is to understand WHY it’s superior to “A” and “B”.

The “A” – “haven’t got a clue” answer – is the kind frequently given in this situation. While it may appear to be refreshingly honest and direct, it is flawed. This kind of answer is often given when it’s not exactly true. Of course most people running the manufacturing company would have some idea as to what the future supply situation might be – even if the question can’t be answered definitively. So by not giving any guidance at all, it’s a poor response. 

The underlying message behind the “A” reply is “We can’t be bothered to go into any details with you, so it’s easier to be completely non-committal.” This answer could immediately prompt a customer to search for an alternative, more helpful supplier.

Answer “B” contains pretty much the same flaws as “A”. It’s slightly superior because it gives a reason why the respondent is unable to give a more precise answer. But nonetheless it’s not particularly helpful to the questioner and sends out a similar message to the first answer.

Answer “C” is more virtuous than both the others because it’s more caring, more informative and more realistically positive. By starting with “Unfortunately” it acknowledges the legitimate concerns of the customer and is thereby touching appropriately on the emotions of the questioner. The answer also explains why a more exact response can’t be given.
Importantly, the answerer in “C” is taking more responsibility for dealing with the situation and explains what the company is doing to positively address the challenge. And while not overpromising, the answer appears to give the questioner as much hope as is reasonable in the situation. At the same time the answer is giving some useful information as to what the confidence behind it is based upon.

The message underpinning “C” is “We’re doing everything we can to help you – and will keep doing so – to ensure you get the products you need despite the challenges.” This answer is shifting the conversation to the potential win-win point between the asker and answerer. It switches the discussion of a potential negative to a potential positive. 

The answer could even result in a series of sales being made even earlier than would otherwise be the case!

This exercise seeks to illustrate there’s multiple elements which you need to get right in order to give a great answer to even a simple question in times of uncertainty.

The good news is that giving great answers amidst chaos is a learnable skill.

When you are familiar with the methodology, you can plan, prepare and practise to be ready for tough questions in times of uncertainty in master classes or one-to-one sessions.


And a keynote presentation entitled “Give Great Company Answers In Times Of Uncertainty” can be given at your conference or away day to show your team the methodology behind impressive responses to tough questions in challenging times.


There’s a book that introduces you to the secrets behind great answers.

Please Click On Image To View


And you even can have the methodology explained to you verbally from your phone in what some might describe as a “charming-yet-sophisticated-southern-hemisphere accent” in this audiobook version.

Please Click On Image To View



Careful planning, preparing and practise isn’t just required for great answers.

It also applies to a situation when making a prepared statement on behalf of yourself or your company.

By not doing this properly before an internal event, Herbert Diess, the Chief Executive of the German car-maker, Volkswagen, has just plunged himself and his company into pit of outraged emotion.


Herr Diess caused widespread offence by making an utterance which borrowed key emotive words from the infamous Nazi slogan “Arbeit Macht Frei”.

The slogan – meaning “Work sets you free” – infamously appeared on wrought-iron gates above the entrance to the Auschwitz concentration camp, and some others.


Beyond this, there was a particular reason for the VW boss to tread far more carefully on Nazi-related matters than he managed.

This is because Volkswagen has such strong historical connections to the Nazi leader Adolf Hitler.

The founding of Volkswagen in 1937 was part of Hitler’s vision to enable German families to acquire a car. 

And during World War Two the firm made vehicles for the German military, exploiting thousands of slave labourers from the concentration camps.

Hitler’s enthusiasm for Volkswagen led to the staging of photos such as this one below with the dictator being driven in the back of a VW Beetle.



To his credit, Herbert Diess has apologised.

But planning, preparing and practising ahead of time – in a communications-boosting workshop or, at the very least, in a rehearsal involving colleagues – could have spotted and eliminated the problem before it was allowed to start.

The gaffe was particularly remarkable and unusual as, to their credit, the overwhelming majority of the post-war generation of Germans – especially those from the western side of the country, but many from the formerly communist eastern side, too – have a strong understanding of the crimes of the Nazis and a heroic determination to do what they can to avoid anything that could lead to their repetition.

I found this while based in Germany as a foreign correspondent from 1990 to 1993 – in the immediate aftermath of the fall of the Berlin Wall. 

It became clear to me, from countless conversations, that the majority of relatively younger Germans feel an endearing burden of responsibility for the atrocities committed by the Nazis – even if they were born after World War Two, which applies to the Volkswagen CEO, Herbert Diess.

As he was born in 1958, Herr Diess is among those born well after World War Two and so can in no way be blamed for the Nazi’s massive crimes against humanity.

But his mistake, in invoking memories of the worst of the Nazis shows how – even those surrounded by so many enlightened folk – can fall into traps if they don’t run things past others before big communications moments.

The BBC’s written coverage of the story is set out here.

If you may ever have to speak on behalf of your organisation, it’s worth checking out the story.

If there are any skeletons in your company’s closet, don’t fall into Herbert Diess’s trap of making uncalled for references to them when you make your speech!

Getting Yourself Ready For That Big Moment http://www.michaeldoddcommunications.com/getting-yourself-ready-for-that-big-moment/ Mon, 25 Feb 2019 19:09:16 +0000 http://www.michaeldoddcommunications.com/?p=4806 In everyone’s professional life there are big moments when you need to ensure that your communications approach is spot-on and that you perform at your absolute best.

The higher you climb the more such moments you can expect.

Common amongst these moments are career appraisals, crucial phone calls, sales pitches and interviews for that top post.

They can also include more widely scrutinised moments such as presentations to vital audiences, court appearances, giving evidence to tribunals, answering questions at inquiries and doing media interviews.

And they might even involve uttering some hopefully well-chosen words when you win the glittering trophy – whether it’s Best Business From The Back Of Bourke, a Brit Award or an Oscar.




Under the pressures of the occasion, we can all make mistakes including unhelpful slips of the brain and tongue.

This edition features someone who managed to do exactly that live on TV.



But planning, preparation and practise can eliminate so many of these mistakes.

In the communications-boosting sessions I run to prepare clients for big moments, one of the key aspects is to replicate the realities of your specific situation ahead of time.

In the world of theatre, actors do dress rehearsals to give themselves the chance to run through just how things will be on that critical opening night and beyond.




Further into this edition there’s more on a star-studded actress who tackles her rehearsals with fierce dedication.




In the world of sport, professional players undergo regular training to master key moves ahead of the big match. 



Communications-boosting sessions can also get you and your team ready for your big moments on the same basis.

When you plan, prepare and practise under realistic conditions, you have good reason to feel so much more confident during your big moment.

It can be especially beneficial when we have a camera operator involved, so there’s the opportunity to play back, scrutinise and refine everything that’s attempted during rehearsals.

In this way, the content of what you say, the structure of your words and your delivery style can each be polished until they sparkle.

Here’s a story of someone who stepped into the spotlight during the past week without doing adequate planning, preparation and practise…




Amidst the current political hothouse of Brexiting Britain, it had long been predicted that various parliamentary members on both sides of Westminster were going to quit their parties.

So for those involved, there was ample time for planning, preparation and practise in the lead-up to the big moments which finally happened over this past week.

Alas, one of the defecting Labour Party MPs, Angela Smith, presumably now wishes she had taken that opportunity to prepare more carefully what she was going to say in advance.

In the immediate aftermath of her announcement, she was invited to take part in a live TV panel discussion to talk about her reasons for leaving.

As alleged party racism was among her concerns, Angela Smith took the opportunity to discuss the challenges faced by those classified as “BME” – that’s members of the Black and Minority Ethnic communities.

But in the heat of the moment Angela Smith ended up describing such people as having “a funny tinge”.

Oh dear!

At a time of a heightened focus on so-called politically correct language, this went down extremely badly.

Another panellist immediate queried: “A funny what?” 

And while the TV moderator didn’t draw attention to it, viewers noticed.

The slip and critical comments about it were soon trending on Twitter.

Labour MP Rupa Huq – a member of the BME community – complained “This is, at best, the casual racism of the 1970s that I thought we’d long left behind. But it will strike many as an appalling, racist comment.”



To her credit Angela Smith had the good grace to apologise for what came out, saying “I am very upset that I mis-spoke so badly”.

If you need to get your words right on a big occasion – whether it’s on TV or in another important professional moment – click on the following link to be reminded not to let a lack of proper preparation lead you into an unintended Angela Smith-like gaffe:




A very different big moment will soon be taking place for a group of highly talented film-makers.

These are the creators of the independent feature film, “The Redeeming”, brought together by the movie’s director, Brian Barnes.




Readers of this column with good memories may recall that I’ve taken a particular interest in this enthralling twisting-turning pyscho-drama which keeps viewers on the edge of their seats throughout.

This is not just because it’s a great movie.

It’s also because the star of the show, Tracey Ann Wood, lent her extraordinary acting talents to the production of an on-line video which demonstrates the key differences between appalling answers in the business world and great ones.

Tracey Ann did this as part of a pre-release promotion for “The Redeeming”.




The big news for those behind “The Redeeming” is that the movie has now been nominated for Best Thriller in Britain’s National Film Awards.

This is a particularly impressive achievement as it’s up against films with massively larger budgets.

“The Redeeming” – with a U.S. dollar budget of around $150,000 – is pitted against the movie “Annihilation” with a budget in the region of $50-million.

So it’s a classic David versus Goliath contest.

I was fortunate to witness the London premiere of The Redeeming at a cinema off Piccadilly Circus.



But if you happened to miss that glittering occasion, you can now watch The Redeeming in the comfort of your home.

Options enabling you to do this are set out at: www.theredeeming.com

If you’re convinced that “The Redeeming” should indeed become the 2019 Thriller Of The Year, you can register to vote for it – and/or other movies of your choice – at: 


Votes can be lodged until 20 March 2019.

And if you want to watch Tracey Ann Wood’s atrocious and great answers to tough business questions – and glimpse that scary early promotion for “The Redeeming” – you can check them out at:




Details on sessions to prepare individuals for big career moments are at:


Information about training to boost the communications performances of whole teams are at: 


And keynote presentations to inspire everyone at your next conference to become inspirational business communicators can be checked out at:


Focusing in advance on getting your communications performances pitch perfect will minimise the prospects of you and your colleagues having any of those Angela Smith-type moments when you’re in the spotlight.

Boosting Communications When You’re Under Pressure http://www.michaeldoddcommunications.com/boosting-communications-when-youre-under-pressure/ Mon, 04 Feb 2019 14:25:24 +0000 http://www.michaeldoddcommunications.com/?p=4790 Have you noticed how whenever you get a big new challenge you end up having not one, but two things to sort out?

The first thing is what to do about the actual problem – or what to do about taking advantage of the potentially tricky-but-rewarding opportunity.

The second thing is how to communicate in order to put your decision into action and connect in the right way with the people affected.

This can be especially difficult when the challenge puts you under personal pressure.

But the good news is that doing the communications side of the challenge more effectively and confidently is a learnable skill.

This post contains two contrasting examples.

In one case the communication goes spectacularly badly.

In the other case the communication goes impressively well.

The one that goes well is where a prominent politician speaks directly to the TV cameras and microphones outside an Edinburgh courtroom about a set of serious allegations made against him.

The one that goes badly is where a prominent spokesperson in Brussels gives a highly evasive performance to a room full of journalists.


Let’s look at the bad one first…



You might expect that someone who had the eminent role of official spokesperson for the European Commission would be pretty good at dealing with challenging questions.

But sometimes the ineptitude of official representatives in Brussels can be breathtaking.

In my one-time position as a foreign correspondent, I had the occasional dubious privilege of covering media briefings in Brussels for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

It was back in the time when the big organisation headquartered in Brussels was called the European Economic Community.

I was struck by how arrogant the official spokespeople could be when under pressure from the hungry media pack. 

But the arrogance I witnessed back then has just been taken to new levels.

The latest bout was triggered by questions over the vexed issue of the post-Brexit future of Gibraltar.



The response was a gobsmackingly inept demonstration of how to look both arrogant and silly in front of an international audience.

The spokesperson, Alexander Winterstein, managed to shoot himself repeatedly in both feet when questioned about a European Commission document which referred to the area on and around The Rock of Gibraltar to the south of Spain as “a colony” of Britain.

It’s a pejorative term in this context which may well have been accurately applied in the distant past.

But the colonial description is nowadays something both the British Government and the overwhelming majority of Gibraltarians reject.

The pride most Gibraltarians have for being linked with Britain while simultaneously having their own independent government, headed by their own independent chief minister, is something that visitors pick up quickly.

Even this cheery explorer on the Rock of Gibraltar managed to pick it up.



At a Brussels media briefing, Sky News reporter, Dominic Waghorn, persistently questioned the use of the word “colony” which he suggested was an “erroneous” description of Gibraltar.

The European Commission spokesman, Alexander Winterstein, gave the impression of seeking to be as unhelpful as possible.

Mr Winterstein said he has absolutely nothing to say on the matter.

This is never a recommended approach when there are things you can say.

Nor is it a desirable approach to insist that your organisation’s position is clear, but then refuse to divulge what that (allegedly) clear position is.

And it’s even less impressive to use your powers to switch off the microphone of the reporter whose questions you’re struggling to face.

You can witness how it all unfolded here.



Whenever you’re communicating on behalf of your organisation, I suggest you always answer the question, or at least say WHY you can’t answer directly. Immediately after this, move on to say something extra that is helpful to the questioner and any wider audience beyond.

This will enable you to come across with a far more positive helpful image than the European Commission managed to project.



Now let’s move to that commendable example of how to talk to the media while showing exceptional grace under pressure.

This was a performance by former Scottish First Minister, Alec Salmond, who fairly or unfairly, is currently under enormous personal pressure.

In commenting on Mr Salmond’s media approach here I will be careful to say nothing about the very serious charges against Mr Salmond as, in a democracy, such matters can hopefully be left to the court system.

Speaking to journalists in Edinburgh after being charged with attempted rape and sexual assault, Mr Salmond was a highly articulate model of composure.

Because of the laws governing court cases there was very little he could say to the media.

But in contrast with the earlier example, Mr Salmond did the essential thing which was to explain WHY he couldn’t answer media questions on this occasion. 

And without engaging with any questions he did say something useful for the media in his declaration of innocence:


If you are ever in the unfortunate position of needing to talk to the media before, during or after a court case, always take advantage of legal and media response expertise on what you can and cannot say before you speak.

Where there is scope to say something, it’s generally wise to do just that.

What particularly impressed about Mr Salmond’s performance included:

+ His unflappability while in a difficult and very public situation

+ His refusal to be distracted by the shouting in the background at the start of his media address

+ His avoidance of lapsing into negativity despite the pressures.

Mr Salmond has always been an accomplished media performer and this skill has stuck with him during the latest turn of legal events.

I should point out that while I do quite a bit of training in media response skills in Scotland and I did once meet Mr Salmond, I have never trained him.

But clearly, for his performance in front of the cameras, he planned, prepared and practised in advance – just as anyone with an important message to get across should rehearse before they step into the spotlight.



Learning how to communicate effectively while under pressure – in media interviews and face-to-face before large and small audiences – is something that individuals and teams can learn.

I can help through:

+ Keynotes at conferences to empower audiences to better understand how to get your organisation’s message across in all kinds of circumstances

+ Master classes for smaller groups to tackle whatever communications challenges your team faces now – or needs to be ready for in the future

+ One-to-one sessions to help boost individual confidence and effectiveness when communicating under pressure.

The full range of possibilities is set out here:


And there’s a book that can help if you click on this image below:


I mentioned at the beginning that when you get a new big challenge there’s both the actual decision to make as well the need to communicate about that decision.

The two aspects are naturally intertwined.

So as you decide how to approach the challenge, to be really effective you need to work out what to tell people about the matter – and how to potentially deal with their questions.

When workshopping this with clients, sometimes a bonus benefit arises.

By going through what you should and should not say in the circumstances, sometimes the process itself throws up a solution to help sort the actual problem.

I can’t guarantee this will always happen in a training session, but when it does it’s inevitably a pleasant surprise.

Brilliant Business Communication – For Your Group http://www.michaeldoddcommunications.com/brilliant-business-communication-for-your-group/ Mon, 21 Jan 2019 18:52:49 +0000 http://www.michaeldoddcommunications.com/?p=4760 Announcing A New Communications-Boosting

Workshop For Business Leaders Groups


This post is for those who chair business leaders groups…

Wouldn’t it be brilliant if your business leaders group members could:

+ Unveil new offerings with the impact that Steve Jobs once did for Apple

+ Convey the case for their company’s mission with the effectiveness that Anita Roddick once did for The Body Shop



+ Deal with an unexpected business crisis while demonstrating the calmness and humanity that Richard Branson manages on behalf of Virgin when things go wrong.


The new workshop is called:


The workshop is a fun exciting experiential learning opportunity to test out the way business leaders come across verbally in a range of critical situations – and to guide them towards new levels of success.




Members get to enhance their individual communications style across a range of skillsets while picking up clues from master business communicators – past and present.

As they develop their own individual communications style, participants may end up being inspired by the way the legendary Apple boss, Steve Jobs, launched the iPhone back in 2007 – in a presentation which lives on in cyberspace long after his sad early departure from this world.




It’s worth noting how, in his distinctly un-traditional business attire of jeans and a black shirt, the Steve Jobs’ showmanship – and the odd spark of humour – helped make his case all the more powerful.

Did it work? How many people do you know with an iPhone in their pocket?

Your members may also be inspired by the conviction with which Anita Roddick conveyed the policies and aspirations of The Body Shop – that’s remembered long after her untimely exit from her mission to encourage business and consumers adopt a more environmentally-sound and animal-friendly approach. 

This Anita Roddick interview below starts with an answer that outlines her view on what success in business should – and should not – be about:



It’s worth noting how Anita Roddick shines a light on her own colourful back story and in doing so makes her point more engaging and memorable. 

And when it comes to dealing with a surprise turn of events, your members may be inspired by Richard Branson’s humane and caring response when he visited the site of a Virgin train crash in Cumbria after one person was killed and dozens injured.



It’s worth noting the way Richard Branson touches on emotions – while at the same time putting the tragic result in a wider perspective. Also note how in the appalling circumstances he does not fall into the trap of sounding too slick. His lines have clearly been thought out in advance, but come across as if he is thinking of them on the spot.

As members of your group work their way through the experiential learning exercises in the new workshop – and are critiqued along the way – they will become more aware of their own strengths and areas for improvement as communicators.

Participants will discover more about capitalising on their strong points and about turning their weaknesses into strengths.

And they’ll become ever more prepared for the real challenges they need to be ready to communicate about in their ongoing business life.



During the Brilliant Business Communication session, every participant puts forward – and then defends – a proposition on behalf of their company.

They can work on anything which their business will need to be communicating about to identifiable target audiences – internally or externally.

Their colleagues around the table perform the role of the notional audience and give feedback on their reactions.



Individual company challenges are identified on pre-session forms that are routinely sent to members ahead of all Michael Dodd Communications sessions.

Specific plans for the workshop are refined during the pre-session telephone conversation with the group chair after the forms have been returned by members.

Participants work through three stages during the session.

Stage 1: Announcement – where members do a mini-presentation on their chosen proposition… either to a notional large audience, a small group or a single crucial individual.

Stage 2:  Questions – where members respond to queries from their audience.

Stage 3: Challenge – where members need to react to a projected mock development where something goes very differently from how it was originally planned. It could be a project turning out way better than expected – bringing with it a problem of dealing with success, such as a shortage of supply. Or it could be something going terribly wrong. Whichever it is, participants need to communicate what they would do to deal with the surprise development.

At each stage performances are critiqued and guidance is given. 

Where time permits, after the critiques, there’s a chance to adjust to their performance and the opportunity do it again at a higher level.



There are two ways for chairs to deploy Brilliant Business Communication workshops:

1.    If your members have yet to do a communications-boosting workshop before this session, BBC can be run as an initial diagnostic tool. This will identify individually and collectively what are the member’s strengths and potential improvement points in their communications performances as they make a start on building on them. 

2.    If your members have already done one or more communications-boosting workshops, then this is a way to test out their enhanced skills and take them to a new high.

Exactly how the workshop should best be run with your group will partly depend on the number of participants and the nature of their various communications challenges.

If you’d like to discuss how a session could work best for your group, email: michael@michaeldoddcommunications.com or call: 44 (0) 7944 952835

The full range of communications-boosting workshops for business leaders groups is set out at: 


If your members can take a step towards becoming as calm and warm under pressure as Richard Branson… and as personally engaging as Anita Roddick… and as persuasive as Steve Jobs – while remaining true to themselves – it can only help their careers, their teams and their business results.

And they may be able to express their appreciation for the heroic efforts of the chair of their business leaders group EVEN more effectively than they do now!

What Style Of Communicator Will You Be In 2019 – And Beyond? http://www.michaeldoddcommunications.com/what-style-of-communicator-will-you-be-in-2019-and-beyond/ Tue, 01 Jan 2019 21:41:41 +0000 http://www.michaeldoddcommunications.com/?p=4742 When it comes to the communications approach you adopt during 2019 and beyond, would you like to come across in the style of:   * United States President Donald Trump?



* American Businessman Elon Musk?



* And ex-Manchester United Football Manager Jose Mourinho?



Or would you prefer to be projecting yourself more in the manner of:

* Former U.S. President Barack Obama and/or Former U.S. First Lady and best-selling auto-biographer, Michelle Obama?



* British Businessman Sir Richard Branson?



* And England Football Manager Gareth Southgate?



While you could choose between the general approach of these two contrasting groups, other communications styles are available.

Over the past year the two groups of personalities listed above provided a treasure chest of brilliant – and atrocious – communications performances to examine.

Links to some of the greatest and the worst of these are set out further into this New Year ezine.

Ultimately it serves you best if you communicate effectively in your own style – on the way to projecting the most ideal version of yourself.

Studying the communications styles of those you admire can help you achieve this aim.

And knowing who you don’t want to resemble can also assist the process.



But rather than model yourself on the exact approach of any individual communications icon, what’s more helpful is to seek to learn from the specific communications traits from all the ones you admire.

In this quest, it can be very useful to choose several adjectives and other describing terms which you would like to define the ideal image you wish to project.

Might they include any of the following: “thoughtful”, “exciting”, “caring”, “enthusiastic”…

It’s best to select what works best for you – and for the kind of people you most want to influence.

Your choice of describing terms may well be guided by the kind of work you do – or want to be doing in the future.

Chief executives may want to project that you are energetic and discerning with a clear vision.



Accountants may want to project that you are dedicated and organised with an eagle eye for detail.



Head teachers may want to project that you are learned and altruistic with high ambitions for your students.



The high profile communicators identified so far may give you more ideas – for better and for worse – as we look at some of their key 2018 performances.

You can then seek to reflect – or avoid – their traits when you’re giving future presentations; doing media interviews or answering questions from clients, prospects, colleagues or members of the public.

Moving in the direction of your chosen ideal communication traits is something that you can learn.

It’s something that planning, preparation and practise can help bring about as you seek to become the most impressive communicator you can be.



The relatively quiet period (for most) at the start of the new year can be a good time to contemplate the image you’d like to project for when things hot up.

If you need guidance along the way, you can check out the details of “Become That Inspirational Business Leader In 12 Hours” at:



And if your team needs a communications upgrade, there are details of tailor-made programmes that can be drawn up to achieve it here:




Details of a special offer on 90-minute individual communications-boosting coaching slots by telephone or Skype on Thursdays in January appears at the end of the post at:




As you contemplate your ideal communication style, let’s consider the two groupings identified above.

The Trump-Musk-Mourinho approach is characterised by frequent bouts of “say whatever pops into your head at the time”; recurring lapses into uncontrolled negative emotion and the treatment of challenging questioners and with defensiveness and aggression.

The contrasting Obama-Branson-Southgate styles are characterised by thinking out things in advance before saying them; keeping a firm reign on one’s own emotions while effectively touching the emotions of others and treating challenging questioners with respect and good humour.

Below are some clips of each to look over as we re-visit some of the communications low points – and some of the high points – from 2018.

  1. Donald Trump versus the allegedly “rude, terrible person” from CNN

It’s evident that neither the president or the reporter (whose job at press conferences is meant to be to ask questions, not make statements) cover themselves in glory in this ugly clash:



  1. Elon Musk versus himself – while demonstrating the downside of doing a live marijuana-fuelled broadcast

This is a reminder that taking any mild-altering drugs (alcohol included) before or during an important communications moment is never a good idea.



  1. Jose Mourinho versus the media – showing how not to respond to challenging questions

This interaction – back in August while he was still the Manager of Manchester United –  helps explain why he no longer holds that post.



Fortunately, 2018 provided some much better role models for us all.

  1. Barack Obama reminding us what it was like in the days of having a thoughtful, modest, calm communicator in charge in Washington

This was the former president’s first talk show interview since leaving office.  Watch for the endearing self-deprecating moments that we don’t experience much of from the White House these days.



  1. Michelle Obama presenting to London students

The author of “Becoming” shows how to inspire an audience with her own back story.



  1. Sir Richard Branson gets his points across

The boss of Virgin demonstrates how interview responses with CNN can be polite, considered and fascinating while expressing some hard-hitting thoughts.



  1. Gareth Southgate World Cup Interview

The England Football Manager avoids getting carried away after his team overcame a long-standing curse by winning its first ever World Cup penalty shoot-out against Columbia in Russia.



Hopefully you can spot some key differences between the approaches of the first three video clips compared with the final four.

The Trump-Musk-Mourinho approach is fine if your only aim is to capture headlines – though the headlines created from their outbursts aren’t always what they might like to see the next day.

If you share the Michael Dodd Communications view that “all publicity is not good publicity” then the choice between the two groupings is simple.



Hopefully the more thought-out, better controlled and more calmly implemented Obama-Branson-Southgate approach provides you with more desirable pickings when it comes to choosing the ideal traits for your communications future.

If your organisation’s 2019 conference or away day would be enhanced by a keynote or master class on “Becoming An Inspirational Communicator” or “Giving Great Answers To Tough Questions”, check out the details on:



At its heart, excellent communications is about getting messages across – powerfully, effectively and memorably – in your own distinctive style.

Here’s to the success of your powerful, effective and memorable individually-styled messages throughout the next 12 months – for a great all-round 2019.